Vegetarian recipes, healthy foods, kitchen tips and shortcuts interest Liz, but she also likes desserts!
Pie Crust the Old Way: Time-Consuming and Difficult
Pie? Umm . . . I’ll go buy some Sara Lee from the store’s freezer section, thank you. I’ve never been much of a baker—cookies and package mix cakes have always been about the extent of my efforts in the dessert and pastry department.
Pie crust, though, has always been my real nemesis. It will not adhere to itself; it crumbles into little bits; it sticks to the rolling pin until I’ve floured the surface and pin to a point at which the pie dough becomes (a) unworkable and (b) too tough to eat even if I did manage to get it into the pie plate. I gave it up as a futile effort and an exercise in frustration.
My mother, rest her soul, was a bit more patient, though she too had her struggles with traditional pie crust. But one day, she stumbled upon a kitchen miracle! An easy-to-make pie crust that avoided all of the problems inherent in trying to mangle together dry flour, cold butter, and ice water.
Gone were the trials of attempting to have all the ingredients and rolling pin at the same temperature. (Have you ever tried to chill a wooden rolling pin?) Gone was the need for a messy flour-coated rolling surface and the frustration of trying to piece together quarter-inch scraps of pie dough. Do you hear the heavenly chorus yet?
Pie Crust the New Way: Quick, Easy, Painless
Actually, this is an old recipe; you can see my mom's old recipe card, below, showing all the years of spilled ingredients. Really, there are only four! But in our family, if anything can be spilled, it will be, and probably in the worst possible location—like obscuring a vital part of your recipe page.
The trick to this pie crust is the substitution of plain old vegetable oil (of whatever type you wish) for the solid shortening used in the traditional way of making crust. This recipe makes a single crust. For a double-crust pie, you'll either need to double the recipe and divide the dough, or make two batches.
Here, then, is my mother's recipe in all its simplistic glory:
- 1 1/3 cups flour (no need to sift)
- 1 teaspoon salt (less if on sodium-restricted diet)
- 1/3 cup plain vegetable oil (NOT olive oil!)
- 3 tablespoons milk, very cold
Step 1: Make the Dough
- In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, add the oil. Then add the milk, but do not mix.
- All at once, pour the liquids into flour and salt mixture. Mix until blended. It takes virtually no time at all to mix this dough until it has formed a coherent ball and is ready to roll out. A few quick strokes with a spoon, and you're done.
Step 2: Roll It Out and Fit It in the Pan
- Place the dough between two sheets of waxed paper. That’s right—you read correctly—between two sheets of waxed paper! It will roll out like a dream, with no extra dough-toughening flour needed; and no sticking to anything.
- Peel off the top layer of waxed paper, put the pie plate upside-down onto the rolled crust, and by sliding one hand underneath the bottom paper, and holding the plate with the other, flip them over together.
- Alternately, you can roll both paper layers, with the dough still between, over the rolling pin, carefully releasing the top layer of paper from the dough—that will become the bottom—then letting it drop into the pan. (I tend to use this method only for the top crust.)
- Is the dough sticking? Sometimes, if you have rolled a little too firmly, or made the crust too thin, it may stick a teeny bit to the paper at the edges, but this is very easily pulled apart, and once you have it started, the rest follows easily, and it can be fitted into the pie pan by whichever method you prefer.
- Is the waxed paper slipping? Sometimes, depending on your countertop surface, you may find that the waxed paper wants to slip and slide all over, and instead of rolling the dough, you are merely shoving the whole works around the counter. To stop this from happening, sprinkle just a few drops of water on the counter under the waxed paper, and it will hold still nicely.
Tips for Handling the Dough
With traditional pie crust, dealing with rips, cracks or tears in the dough is a nightmare. At least, that is true for us non-professional, non-pastry chef home bakers. Well, at least it is true for me—and by extrapolation, it is unlikely I am the sole person on the planet to have these issues.
With Mom’s oil-based dough, however, the crust can rip to its heart’s content, and patching it back together is child’s play. In fact, this is an excellent pie to allow kids to help with. They cannot do any damage.
As you can see by my photos, I got it into the pie pan just a bit lopsided, and there is more dough on one side, and a large split as a result. The next photos show how easy this is to fix. Simply take an appropriate-sized scrap from the trimmings, and press it into the hole or tear. In the case of the lopsided rip, I was able to pull that dough down to meet up with its intended other half. You can’t even tell where patches were made.
Run a table knife around the edge to trim overhanging dough, and repeat, if necessary with the top crust. Save the scraps for the kids! (See below for a kid-friendly treat after you’re done making the pie.)
How to Make a Two-Crust Pie
Just before the pie heads for the oven, it is very easy to crimp the top and bottom crusts together in the same way as patching boo-boos. No need for a calculation of how much ‘excess’ to leave for tucking the top under the bottom, and trying to use a fancy crimping tool.
Nope—just crimp it the way Grandma did: push-pull the dough together by perching the thumb and index finger of one hand atop the edge of the pie, and pull the edge of the crust between the stationary fingers. Gently push/pull the dough toward the center point of your fingers, to create a nice, scalloped edge. Rotate the pan as you go, moving the fingers along as needed. Easy, and in the process, the two crusts are bound together as one.
A Special Treat for the Kids (Using the Scraps)
Small bits of leftover dough, rolled out to about palm-sized, can be buttered, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, rolled up and formed into a crescent of sorts, and baked for about 5 or 8 minutes. My mom used to let me help do this, and trust me, kids think this is "the coolest." Mainly, because they got to do it themselves!
Step 3: Bake
Baking time depends on the filling you have chosen. Follow the directions for that. I use canned pie fillings for baked pies, again, because I’m not much in the baking department. I hope my husband doesn’t get spoiled by my need to bake a pie for purposes of this article!
If the pie looks as if the edge will brown and turn too dark too fast, you can always take it out partway through the baking time, and use the time-honored trick of fitting a strip of foil around the edge of the pie. This keeps it from darkening any further by reflecting the heat back away from that area.
A Word About Spices and Flavorings
Since I was baking for an article, I decided to experiment, and used a mixture of peach and apple pie fillings. It sounded like something deliciously different. I left it “plain” as it came out of the can.
That way, everyone can have their pie any which way they like, with no flavor conflicts. Cinnamon might not be a great spice for those who like cheddar cheese with their pie, so I serve the cinnamon-sugar shaker along with the dessert toppings . . . cheddar, whipped cream, ice cream or cream cheese.
Lots of choices!
What Do You Think?
Step 4: Serve and Enjoy!
When pie is done, remove from oven and cool thoroughly before attempting to slice. Pie can be sliced while still slightly warm, but not “very warm,” or you’ll serve up a couple of layers of empty crust , the filling having slid right out. I’ve found this to be true of any pie regardless of crust type.
Now, you may ask, is this pie crust flaky? Well, friends, the thinner you roll it, the flakier it is. It might not be puff-pastry flaky, but yes, it's so doggoned flaky it barely holds together to get it plated. It's almost a crumb topping! Roll it thicker if you like it to be not quite that flaky.
But, if it falls apart while serving, just remember what my dad used to say, "You're not going to eat it whole, anyway!"
Bon appétit !!
Now That You Have a Crust...
You might be interested in trying out this yummy-sounding peaches and pecan pie recipe by fellow author Denise Handlon.
© 2011 Liz Elias