Work on this week’s issue of Gourmet Live, Pi(e) Eyed, got me bakin’ some pies, and that got me itchin’ to share some tips.
Don’t Knock Convenience:
- Your handmade crust may be the flakiest ever, but your food processor deserves a love hug. It makes a consistently great dough, as long as you pulse and don’t overblend, and it does it all in a matter of seconds. When adding the ice water, stop the machine, remove the lid, and drizzle it evenly over the mixture. Then pulse until the dough begins to come together, but not as far as a solid mass.
- If you don’t have time to make dough, go ahead and use the refrigerated pre-rolled crusts. They cook into a darn good pie.
What’s Old Is New:
- Rediscover what my grandmother swore by for rolling out dough: A pastry cloth and rolling pin sock. Even my local supermarket sells them. By rubbing some flour into the cloth, it holds the flour without forcing it into your dough.
- Ditto with the cotton “sock” that slides over your pin.
- Cleanup is a breeze; just fold up the cloth and sock, and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer.
Choose Your Weapon:
- Ovenproof glass pie plates are preferred by many cooks, because they conduct heat well (some recipes suggest dropping the oven temperature by 25°F. when using glass). Plus, you can see if your bottom crust is golden.
- Metal pie pans are standard and inexpensive. They allow you to take your chilled unbaked crust directly from the fridge and put it right onto a hot baking sheet that you’ve preheated at the same time as the oven, which helps the bottom crust cook through. Don’t try this with ovenproof glass pie plates.
- Ceramic plates bake evenly, but they may take a bit longer.
Chill, Chill, Chill:
- The dough, that is, at every stage. It’s your mantra for tender flaky pastry. For a double-crust pie, chill the bottom crust while rolling out the top crust, and keep both cold while assembling the filling. Then slap that pie together, crimp the edge, and don’t forget the slits in the top.
- If your crust warms up too much during assembly, freeze the pie just long enough to firm up the dough.
- Pies, like tempers, need time to cool off. If your apple pie took an hour to bake, it’ll take at least 3 hours to properly cool. Set it on a rack and walk away. The thickeners in fruit pies—flour, cornstarch, or tapioca—need plenty of time to do their job.