© 2017 by Mimi's Kitchen

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Pastry! Pastry! Pastry!

July 31, 2017

 

 Pie pastry has an undeserved reputation as a difficult endeavor. Sometime long, long ago in a land far away someone told a tale concerning the complexity about this vintage and southern kitchen basic. "I just can't make pie crust," became the mantra of great cooks everywhere. The truth is, pie pastry is not difficult and you  do not have to resort to the store bought stuff.

Pie pastry is essentially a fat cut into flour and salt with a little liquid added to pull it together. See? It is that simple!

There are, however, a couple of tricks to making great pastry. These tricks are not difficult to master.

The first step to making great pie pastry is to chill all of your ingredients before mixing. Pie pastry does not like a hot kitchen. In the summer I typically mix my pastry only after the house has cooled down in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rises. I place my ingredients in the refrigerator hours before I will actually mix my pastry. I even chill my bowl and pastry blender on a hot day.

The second trick is to know how long (or short) you want your flakes to be. If you want a very short (almost crumbly) pastry then cut your fat into the flour until it is a sandy texture with no obvious pieces of fat. If you want a longer flake pastry then cut your fat in until it is the size of peas.

Finally you need to be mindful that developed gluten makes pie pastry tough. Gluten begins to develop only after liquid has been added to flour. Once you add liquid to your flour and fat mixture then you must use a soft hand and avoiding working your pastry any more than necessary to just pull it all together.

The following are vintage standards but some are better for traditional pie and some are sturdier and therefore better suited for southern fried pies.

 

Basic Pastry 1: Great all purpose pastry for double and single crust pies. It is also sturdy enough for fried pies. 

 

This is the most basic of all pastry recipes. It is suitable for double or single crust pies. One recipe makes enough pastry for one double crust pie. It can easily be doubled and freezes well when tightly wrapped in plastic.

 

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

¾ cup cold water (more if needed but add only a teaspoon or two at a time)

 

In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour and salt. With a pastry blender cut shortening into flour mixture until coarse meal forms for shorter flakes or no bigger than a pea for longer flakes. (Shorter flakes are for a crumbly crust and long flakes refer to a flakier crust)

Add  water all at once and using a spatula mix in just until the pastry begins to hold together. Do not work the pastry any more than needed to just bring together.

Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a knead or two to make it into a ball. Split the dough in half. Pat each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill and relax at least one hour and up to 2 days.

These disks freeze well, making it easy to always have pastry on hand.

 

*Note to remember: Gluten is the enemy of pastry. It does not develop until you add water to the flour mixture. You are free to cut and blend and even play with your fat and flour mixture but as soon as you add water play time is over. Mix water in quickly, efficiently, and with a light hand.

Pie crust does better when it is allowed to chillax a while before being made into a pie. It will be much easier to handle after a chill time.

 

Basic Pastry 2: Great all purpose pastry for double and single crust pies. It is also sturdy enough for fried pies. 

 This is a common update to Basic Pastry 1. The vinegar and egg add liquid to the flour and fat mixture to bring it all together but the vinegar hinders the gluten development and the egg makes for a smoother texture.

 It is suitable for double or single crust pies but I prefer it for single crust pies. One recipe makes enough pastry for two crusts. It can easily be doubled and freezes well when tightly wrapped in plastic.

 

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

⅓ cup water

1 egg, lightly beaten in water

1 tablespoon vinegar

 

In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour and salt. With a pastry blender cut shortening into flour mixture until coarse meal forms for shorter flakes or no bigger than a pea for longer flakes. (Shorter flakes are for a crumbly crust and long flakes refer to a flakier crust)

Lightly beat 1 egg into cold water. Stir in vinegar. Add  water mixture to the flour all at once and using a spatula mix in just until the pastry begins to hold together. Do not work the pastry any more than needed to just bring together.

Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a knead or two to make it into a ball. Split the dough in half. Pat each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill and relax at least one hour and up to 2 days.

These disks freeze well, making it easy to always have pastry on hand.

 

*Note to remember: Gluten is the enemy of pastry. It does not develop until you add liquid to the flour mixture. You are free to cut and blend and even play with your fat and flour mixture but as soon as you add liquid play time is over. Mix water in quickly, efficiently, and with a light hand.

Pie crust does better when it is allowed to chillax a while before being made into a pie. It will be much easier to handle after a chill time.

 

If All Else Fails Pie Crust: A pastry with side benefits. This is a great pastry for double and single crust pies. 

 

This specific pastry recipe came from America's Test Kitchen but the use of a tasteless and odorless alcohol to make a flaky crust is nothing new in the rural south. More than a few grandmas dipped into their stash of moonshine to make a great pie. They knew that the best pie crust begins with a bit of the recipe. Some goes into the pastry and some goes into grandma. Just saying...

BTW do not worry about feeding your Littles this pastry. All of the alcohol bakes out leaving you with a flakier pastry. I suggest you purchase the cheapest, least drinkable vodka you can find for this put it in plain view in your pantry. Save the good stuff for yourself.

 

2½ cups flour (unbleached all-purpose)

1 teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

½ cup cold shortening

¼ cup cold vodka

¼ cup cold water

 

In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut butter and shortening into flour mixture until the flour and fat form pea-sized chunks.

Sprinkle vodka and water over the flour mixture. Using  a rubber spatula mix flour and liquid just until the pastry comes together and is still tacky. Do not work the pastry any more than needed to just bring together.

Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a knead or two to make it into a ball. Split the dough in half. Pat each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill and relax at least one hour and up to 2 days.

These disks freeze well, making it easy to always have pastry on hand.

 

 

Of course if all else fails then drink the vodka and forget about the pie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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