Tag Archives: pie crust

Pie or Pastry Crust

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Behold my flaky layers!

There’s nothing that seems to scare the crap out of people more than flour, salt, solid fat (butter, lard, shortening), and cold water.  In other words, pastry.   When I bring pies to places people cannot believe I have made my own pie crust.  It’s like a bucket list item:  Climbed Everest, Visited Easter Island, made own Pie Crust.  Done.

The Food Industrial Complex has made people so complacent that most don’t see the need to make their own crust.  Just unroll the crust from the refrigerated section of your grocery store and BAM! pie crust.  But is it really?  Gummy, lacking any snap or palpable flakey layers, is it really pie crust?  Or something lesser.  Let’s look at the competition.

Pillsbury Rolled Pie Crust ingredient list:

Wheat Starch, Lard Partially Hydrogenated, with BHA and, BHT To Protect Flavor, Wheat Flour Bleached, Water, Sugar, Rice Flour, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate Preservative, Sodium Propionate Preservative, Citric Acid, Color(s), with Yellow 5 and, Red 40

My ingredients?  Seriously: flour, sugar, butter, lard, salt and cold water.  No competition.  I’m not even sure what Wheat Starch is and why it is the largest ingredient on the list.  Flour is a distant third.  What’s wrong with their ingredients that they need to add food coloring?  Oh, that’s right, there’s no butter to give the “pie crust” a warm golden color.

The competition is rather sad.  A pale imitation of real pie crust.  In The 1892 Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer (yes, she was a real person), there is an entire chapter dedicated to pastry.   In this chapter Fannie Farmer divides pastry by duty.  Puff pastry was suitable for rims and upper crusts of pies, vol-au-vents, patties, rissoles, bouchees, cheese straws, and tarts.  But is never for lower crusts!!  Puff pastry is made exclusively with butter, according to Mrs. Farmer.   Plain paste, with a mix of lard and butter, was more suitable for lower crusts.  James Beard detailed various pastry in 9 pages of his American Cookery published in 1972.    Today, sadly, most people don’t make pies much less pie crust.   After reading these books, it is easy to see why.  The first few sentences of Mr. Beard’s introduction are flat out intimidating:

Flaky, tender pie crust must have a delicate balance of fat and flour and not too much liquid.  For this reason, measure the ingredients carefully. Too much flour can make a tough crust; too much fat, a greasy crumbly crust; and too much liquid will in turn require more flour and result in a tough crust.

But persevere!  Look at the Pillsbury ingredients.  There are no liquids.  What do you think you have there?  A tough, non-flaky mess.  That is your competition.   If your dough is “tough”, seriously, who’s going to know?  Few people expect a flaky crust anymore because most are used to the industrial stuff.  That’s the worse that happens.  You make a crust with no preservatives that is still better than what you can roll out of a package.  Fear not!

The recipe is super easy and if you have a food processor, it’s laughably easy.  You will scoff at yourself for ever being too intimidated to try.

My goal here is to get you to make a great crust.  Give it a go, so to speak.  You don’t have the time?   Is 10 minutes too long?  If you take out the time it takes to assemble the ingredients, it takes 2 minutes, tops to actually “make” the crust.  Then it rests.  Then you roll it out.  Done.  I make mine the day before I need to make the pie.

This recipe is adapted from Paula Deen’s Perfect Pie Crust.  It is a sweet, but not too sweet crust and very aptly named.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/4 cup lard, very cold (may substitute vegetable shortening)
12 tablespoons butter, very cold and cubed
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Hand mixing directions:

Sift the flour, salt and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Work the lard into the flour mixture with your hands. Work quickly so that the lard doesn’t get too warm. Add the cold butter and quickly work into the mixture until the flour is crumbly, like coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water slowly until the mixture comes together, forming a dough. Gently shape the dough into a ball. Divide the ball into two, shape into disks, wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to use.

Food processor directions:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the processing bowl, pulse until combined and aerated. Add the lard in pieces and pulse until incorporated. Add the cubes of butter a few at a time, pulsing between additions until the additions are incorporated. Slowly drizzle the water into the bowl and pulse. Stop adding water when the dough comes together in the bowl. Turn the dough out on a floured surface, gently shape into a ball, and divide the ball into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to use.

It’s really that easy.  Use for almost any recipe that requires a crust.  This recipe makes two 9 inch pie crusts.

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Not the course meal like texture already developing.

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Chicken Pot Pie

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It’s 5 o’clock and I’m staring the fridge, hoping for a revelation as to what to make for dinner.  I’ve got left over chicken thighs.  Every other protein source is froze solid.  So, I thought, what to do with you?  The kids can’t stand chicken salad.  So, I decided to make Chicken Pot Pie.  There were a variety of old recipes that involved the entire chicken being in the pot and covered with crust.  That seemed a little, um, rustic.

I remembered the pies of my childhood.  You know the ones in the box of the freezer section.  Crust, bits of chicken and random veggies with a creamy broth in a pie shape.  As a kid, these things are amazing.  As an adult, well, here’s the ingredients for Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie:

Ingredients (75):

Water, Flour Enriched (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1),Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)) , Chicken Cooked (Chicken Meat Dark, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Carrageenan, Food Starch Modified, Sodium Phosphate, Spice(s) Extract) ,Carrot(s), Potato(es), Sodium Pyrophosphate, Shortening (Lard, Lard Hydrogenated,Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated) , Chicken Cooked Mechanically Separated, Food Starch Modified, Chicken Base (Wheat Flour Bleached Enriched [Barley Malted Flour,Potassium Bromate, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)] , Salt, Maltodextrin, Whey Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, Soy Lecithin, Yeast Extract, Onion(s) Powder, Annatto, Spice(s), Turmeric Extract, Xanthan Gum) ,Contains 22% or less Peas, Chicken Fat, Dextrose, Flavor(s) Natural and Artificial Chicken(Salt, Chicken Powder, Chicken Fat, Yeast Extract Autolyzed, Water, Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Sugar Invert, Chicken Broth, Onion(s) Powder, Flavor(s) Grill [Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated] , Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Tocopherols) , Salt, Dough Conditioner(s) (Sodium Aluminosilicate, Salt, Wheat Gluten Vital, Enzyme(s), Soy Protein Flour,Ammonium Sulfate, Fumaric Acid) , Caramel Color, Annatto for color retention

Oh my.

So, I gathered my ingredients on hand and transformed tired leftovers into something that used to be quite common place, but is now very exotic:  a chicken pot pie.  The kids were amazed at the transformation of such humdrum ingredients.  In going through the historic cookbooks, “pot pies” were rather common place.  I find them to be an efficient use of leftovers!! I’ll put measurements on here, but really, it’s all about what you have on hand.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6

1/2 recipe Pie Crust, or a 9 inch pie crust

1/4 cup high heat tolerant cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil)
3 carrots, sliced thin
3 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium onion, small dice
1 8 ounce container of mushrooms, sliced
1-2 pounds cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and Pepper

1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Place the cooking fat in a sauté pan over medium heat. When heated, add the carrots, celery, onion and mushroom. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery are soft (or the texture you like them), about 15-20 minutes.

Add the chicken, sage and thyme, cook until fragrant. Add the flour and cook for a bit until the raw flour taste is cooked out.

Add the heavy cream and cook. The sauce will thicken. You want the sauce to continue to thicken as it cooks, about 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Place the mixture in a oven proof pan (I used a large soufflé dish) and smooth the top.

Roll out the pie crust and drape over the top of the baking dish. Pinch the crust over the top of the dish to hold the crust firm.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and water together and brush on pie crust.

Cut a vent slit in the crust, and place the dish on a cookie sheet. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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