This post is part of the monthly link up-party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Francesca over at Fearless Kitchen. I’ve ripped this blurb, the links and this logo directly away from her.
I’ve been away for a while. It’s not that I don’t love you, O Pie-oneers; it’s that I took some time to fly to England with Clarice and Dr. Lecter for Christmas and get married. That’s right: I’m Mrs. Earl of Pie-ish Town now. Already the mystique of our relationship is waning, and someday soon we’ll be sitting around with our hands tucked into our waistbands, comfortably farting in each other’s presence.
I’m kidding. I’m a woman, and he’s English, and everybody knows that neither of those demographics fart.
I returned to the States an honest woman and when that got a little old after a few days, I found a fun invitation in my inbox to join this link-up party, asking if I might like to blog about a new food experience. It was rather coincidentally and fortuitously timed because just the day before, my children asked if I could make them a chicken pot pie, “but not that one with the crumbles on top. Can we have a REAL pie?” My heart burst with pride. We went shopping and got all our ingredients, and I got ready to make a crust when I realized that I hadn’t restocked my pie supplies before I flew to England. Nor had I replenished them when we’d just gone shopping 10 minutes prior. I was completely out of shortening. Which meant no Foolproof Pie Dough.
I find trying to make something while missing crucial ingredients incredibly great fun. It’s like jerry-rigging temporary solutions with PVC and duct tape, but with food.
The workaround was fairly simple: make an all-butter pastry, which I had plenty of recipes for but had never made. Frankly, the idea of Crisco is pretty gross. It’s highly processed and very chemical-y, and terrifyingly it never seems to go bad. But it works so well in the Foolproof Pie Dough that I’ve never thought to question it. Out of necessity, I made our chicken pot pie crust without it, and the results were quite pleasant but not completely ideal. Recipe (naturally from Ken Haedrich’s Pieble) as follows, followed by my notes.
1½ cups (187.5 g) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons (6.3 g) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.84 g) salt
½ cup (1 stick (113.40 g)) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch (.635-cm) pieces
¼ cup cold water
2¾ cups (343.75 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (14 g) sugar
1 teaspoon (5.69 g) salt
1 cup (2 sticks (226.81 g)) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch (.635-cm) pieces
About ½ cup (118.294 mL) cold water
1. To Make in a Food Processor: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse 7 or 8 times to cut the butter in well. Remove the lid and fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle half of the water over the dry ingredients. Pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Fluff the pastry and sprinkle on the remaining water. Pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the pastry starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl.
To Make By Hand: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of split peas. Sprinkle half of the water over the dry mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water in 2 stages and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl.
To Make with an Electric Mixer: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, tossing it with the flour. With the mixer on low speed, blend the butter into the flour until you have what looks like coarse, damp meal. Turning the mixer on and off, add half of the water. Mix briefly on low speed. Add the remaining water, mixing slowly until the dough starts to form large clumps. If you’re using a stand mixer, stop periodically to stir the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Do not overmix.
2. Test the dough by squeezing some of it between your fingers; if it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the dough and work it in with your fingertips. Using your hands, pack the dough into a ball (or 2 balls if you are making a double crust) as you would pack a snowball. If you’re using this to make a double-crust pie, make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into ¾-inch-(1.905-cm)-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.
So how does it compare?
- You don’t have as much time to work with the dough. The butter starts softening as soon as you start cutting it up into ¼-inch (.635-cm) pieces, so unless you’re pretty quick with rolling out your dough, I would take steps to work in a frigid kitchen with frigid bowls and such or stick to going halfsies with butter and Crisco.
- When it says “cold water”, I make a big glass of ice water and measure the ½ cup (118.294 mL) only as I’m about to sprinkle it. Every degree of chill helps.
- The pastry ends up super flaky, even flakier than the Foolproof Pie Dough, almost to the point where it lacks structural integrity. It’s so soft and tender that it took on an almost cake-like quality when I reheated the leftovers the next day. If super tender and flaky doesn’t appeal to you and you like a little more rigidity, the all-butter crust is probably not for you.
- It was really fucking delicious. Dr. Lecter finished her portion of pot pie and was too full to eat another, but the pot pie sat there in front of her at the dinner table while she patted her little tummy. She glanced at me, and I could see the gears turning in her diabolical head as she sat on her hands, willing them to behave. Then, unable to resist further, she darted her little hand towards the plate. Before I could say anything, she’d wrenched off a chunk of the crust, crammed it in her mouth, and started munching away at it happily with crumbs cascading down her chin. She caught me staring at her and said, “What? This crust is the best part.”
I’m sure there are many pie aficionados out there who’ve known all along what I’m only now discovering, but I am now quite the fan of the all-butter crust. I’m not so sure it would work well for pies with a viscous filling (like fruit pies), but for more solid fillings like set custards or icebox pies, it would complement the texture of the filling very nicely. Next up: performing my wifely duty and trying this hot water crust pastry English people seem to love so much. That’s what wives do besides farting or not farting, right?