I went out into the Twitter corner of the Hinternet yesterday seeking inspiration for today’s post. I asked this question unto my followers: “Oh, followers, in the pastry kitchen, what is it that strikes fear into your heart?” And the followers tweeted back with one voice: Pie Crust. Damn you, pie crust! What is it about you that makes grown folks quake in their boots? The Daring Bakers might take a deep breath and leap into a frozen-creme-brulee-and-nougatine-center-Buche-de-Noel, but some will hide in a closet whenever anyone wants them to make a pie.
I wrote about this very topic some time ago, and at great length. It was a question from reader Will from Recipe Play that prompted me to write. Re-reading it, I think it’s a pretty exhaustive primer. Go and read it, now. As a matter of fact, print it out. Not for the glorious prose, but for the advice. To summarize, if you make a crust with oil, it will be so tender that you might not be able to roll it out, but it won’t shrink. If it won’t roll, all you have to do is press the dough evenly in the pan. If you want to make a pie crust with solid shortening (butter, lard or vegetable shortening), you’ll want to work the dough as little as possible to keep gluten from forming and causing your dough to shrink. Go on now and re-read, or discover it for the first time!
Looking over the post last evening, I thought to myself, “Wow, Jen–not bad. I think you covered all the bases.” So, then, I was forced to ask myself, “Why, oh why isn’t it enough?! Why are people still afraid of four ingredients?” And then, I remembered one of The Seminal Scenes from The Wizard of Oz. Let’s watch together, shall we?
I hope you get my point, folks. It’s not that you can’t do it–it’s that you’re afraid that you can’t do it. And guys, believe me–I understand. I have made dough that shrank alarmingly. More than once. But I learned how, and you can, too. Seriously, how ridiculous do you think I felt asking the owner of the restaurant to let me watch her make the pate brisee? Knowing that I’ve been where you are, let me just tell you that You Can Do This. I have found a marvelous little video on You Tube to help you. I still recommend that you use my roll-out-then-chill method, but do watch the video. The woman making the dough has a perfect consistency. You’ll be able to see that her dough still looks all crumbly and dry until she squeezes it together.
Now, you are armed with a great recipe and primer, courtesy of Moi as well as a great video to help you get a feel for the consistency you’re looking for, courtesy of The Nice Expert Village Lady. All you need now is a certificate: pie-crust-courage. See? If you click where it says pie-crust-courage, it takes you to another page. Then, if you click on pie-crust-courage again, you get a Special Certificate (in MS Word)! A little convoluted, but there you have it.
That’s it, folks. You’re ready. I’m not saying that you’ll get it right the first, second or even the third time. I’m saying, “Make small batches until you get it right.” Seriously–scale the recipe down to 4 or 6 oz. flour at a time, and practice until you get it. If you have an issue with warm hands, work quickly, throw your bowl of ingredients back in the freezer for a few minutes, or wear a couple of pair of latex gloves for insulation. If you are nervous, laminate your certificate and slap it up on the fridge right next to the Rules of Engagement for Pie Crust, drink some wine, and get to it. No excuses, people. You are smarter than flour, butter, salt and water Put Together. And, you’re Certified, so go forth and make some pie crust.