Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Easy As Pie

Easy as pie? Who coined that term, anyway? Had he ever tried to make a pie crust?? I think not.

I love to make pie. It's my one food I can make, and make well. But making a homemade pie crust is anything but easy...or so I thought. This year my Grandma let me in on the family pie crust recipe. Passed down from generations. Well, I actually don't know if that is true. But it sounds cool. It has been at least 4 I think I'm allowed to say that.

So my pie fillings are no longer thrown in store bought, refrigerated pie crust (which are actually a great alternative), but now are dressed in the flakey, crumbly goodness they deserve.

Recently, my husbands step-grandmother lost a hard fought battle with cancer. A neat woman who has stories upon stories of witty pranks, and free spirited adventures. I never got to know her very well, but I figure that she has to be a pretty special woman to have married into a family of 8 children, and mother one more in addition to the 3 that she already had. As the family all trickled in, I had the opportunity to learn more about her, and hear many of the wonderful memories they had of her.

I have never been a person who is good at dealing with people who are grieving, and I think because I am an in-law, it ads another dynamic to the awkwardness that I am. So I loved on them the best way that I know how-- by feeding them.

And, this is where our pie crust lesson comes in. I am about to share with you the best thing that has happened to me in my baking realm.

Grandma Mecozzi/DeSerf's Amazingly Tasty and Wonderful Pie Crust

 Okay, the first thing that you do when you are cooking a pie is to pick out a cute aapron. This is essential for baking confidence. I chose this one because of the polka dots and ruffles, good combination form me.
Next, In a large bowl, sift 3 cups flour. I didn't know what sifting was the first time I made this, so basically it's putting the flour though a fine colendar. I just got this one (above), but the first time I made this pie I used our silverware tray. They actually have sifters, but anything with tiny holes will work fine. But you can not skip this step, it is essential.

Then, add 1 tablespoon sugar to the bowl.

and 3/4 tsp salt (Yes, I know, this picture sucks. But it is really hard to take photos of of yourself on the timer when you are cooking! I washed my hands about a billion times. I have much more respect for the cooking bloggers who do this all the time.)
Next, add 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1.25 cups shortening (Crisco). I spared you the picture of the crisco because I didn't want you to barf.
The next step is to chop the above ingredients. This, I also did not know how to do. But an easy way to do this is to take two table knives, and hold them next to each other (like above -- don't mind my creepy hands), and then run them through the bowl. Like so:
Do this until about all the flour seems attached to some crisco. Then, set this aside for a bit.
In a small bowl combine 1 beaten egg, 5 tablespoons water, & 1 tablespoons vinegar. Yes, I said vinegar. I think that's the magic ingredient that keeps the dough very soft and easily moldable.
At this point, and you are me, you call your mom to try to figure out how to half and egg because you are making 1.5 times this recipe. Crap.
Once you have that figured out, mix the egg mixture into the bowl, and mix together. I just use my hands, because the next step is to...

Form them into dough balls. I make one slightly larger than the other because the top of my pie doesn't need as much dough as the bottom.

Then put them in a ziplock baggie and let them refrigerate for a couple of hours, right between your pickles and butter. I will try to make my dough the night before I have to make the pies to give them at least 8 hours. But this particular day, I only did 4 hours, so it's okay to do less than that, I guess.

After they have chilled for a while, it is time to roll out the dough. Mama Mecozzi taught me a nifty little trick to roll the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper. It helps the dough to not get stuck to the counter and the pin, and easy to peel off to put in the pie pan.

So, roll out, put in in pan, and wal-ah! Pie crust. If you're making a filled pie, like an apple pie, bake on 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until crust looks nice and golden. I'm not sure for an unfilled pie. I'm sure Betty Crocker would, so you might refer to her.

Also, if you are making an apple pie, I would suggest this little ditty:
Um, it kind of revolutionized my life. Not only does it peel the apples, but cuts them into nice even piece, and cores them, ALL IN ONE FOUL SWOOP. Incredible! It also makes great spiraled potatoes.

And there it is, the best and easiest pie crust. I hope I'm not shunned from the family for sharing all it's glory...

Here's a rundown of the ingredients: 
3 cups flour sifted
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1.25 cups shortening (Crisco)
Mix above chopped up.
1 beaten egg
5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoons vinegar
Mix to form balls and refrigerate

And no, I will not share my apple pie or strawberry pie filling recipe. Secret, top secret. 

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