Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pie War

I'm trying to start a pie crust war with Lance. I have doubts that it will actually work--those who have met him know that he's generally unflappable--but it's still fun to try.

You see, Lance is a improvational, free-style cook except for two recipes: cornbread and pie crust. He uses the same recipes (or ratios, really, since he has been known to substitute different types of flour in the pie crust) that his grandmother taught his mother, who in turn taught him. Anyway, these two recipes border on the sacred for Lance, and I agreed to follow them as well. I've made other cornbread recipes, but he always complains about them.

Pie crust, however, is fairly standard: butter, flour, salt, and ice water. Technique is actually the most difficult part of pie crusts. We have been experimenting with our mixing and rolling techniques with great success.

Yesterday, I decided to bake a pie for his grandmother. I was reading Molly Wizenberg's (of Orangette, a fantastic cooking blog) book A Homemade Life*, and I told Lance's grandma about Molly's Hoosier pie, which contains chocolate, bourbon, and pecans. Lance's grandmother proceeded to hint about it throughout the evening, so I showed up with one yesterday, and we had it for dinner. It was delicious.

What got me going about the pie crusts, however, was Molly's pie crust recipe for the Hoosier pie was significantly different from our standard crust. It had apple cider vinegar in it! Also sugar! I was intrigued, to say the least. So I diverted from our recipe--and I really liked the results. The crust was tender and flaky, with a nice crispness. I think Molly is onto something with the vinegar. Lance's grandma also declared it delicious, and she really knows her pies**.

Both crusts are good--dont' get me wrong--but I think I'm now interested in experimenting with crust recipes. I think I'll leave the cornbread alone. It really is an excellent recipe, which I will share with you when next we make it. For now, here are the warring pie crusts:

Lance's Grandmother's Pie Crust
  • 1 cup flour (I like a mix of 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry and 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose)
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water
Blend flour and salt in a bowl. Add butter and mash up with a fork or a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of peas. (Alternately, use your food processor--but the hand method does work a bit better. But everyone can be a little lazy sometimes.)

Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and stir. Add a bit more if your dough is dry--it should hold together but not be sticky. I usually use all 4 tablespoons and maybe a bit more if I'm using whole wheat pastry, since it can take a bit more moisture.

Roll out or wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator until ready for use--you can make pie crust a little ahead of time since it does well when chilled (it is important not too handle it too much or the butter will begin to melt).

Molly Wizenburg's Pie Crust
From A Homemade Life's Hooiser Pie recipe

  • 4 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry and 1 cup all-purpose with great results)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut up
Mix together ice water and apple cider vinegar and set aside.

Mix together flour(s), sugar, and salt. Add in butter and cut into flour (using fork, pastry cutter, or food processor) until the butter is the size of peas. Mix in water, adding more if needed--you are looking for the pie crust to hold together, but not be too damp. Shape into disc, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator until ready for use.

*Much more about this book later. I'm really, really enjoying it.
**When I make a pie, and it meets with his grandparents' approval, I know that I've succeeded. They have eaten/made a lot of pie in their lifetime, and they know good pie when they taste it.


Lance said...

You forgot the recently discovered method for the making any pie crust more awesome. Or maybe you didn't....

Jenn said...

Oh, I didn't--I just didn't want to mention it. Maybe a future post, with pictures :)

Kerry said...

Justin can just mix random things together and make it taste good. It's a talent I would love to have...but don't. Perhaps one day, I will try to get into cooking -- if you follow enough recipes, I would guess that you would begin to discover the trends...and experimentation is always fun.