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Pie Season Is Here, Put Your Best Crust Forward

The season for pie is upon us, whether apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, or pot pie with chicken or turkey.  I get many clicks on my entries that have pie crust or pastry.  This demonstration will yield the flakiest crust you can imagine.  With four simple ingredients you probably already have, it can be done…easy as pie as they say.  To begin you will need:

  • Two cups all-purpose flour (plus about 1/3 cup to dust the rolling surfaces)
  • One teaspoon salt
  • One cup shortening (or a lump roughly the size of a baseball)
  • 3/4 cup ice-cold water 

In a large glass mixing bowl (I like glass because it allows light all around and keeps the dough cool) add the flour, salt, and lump of shortening.  Cutting in the shortening is the most important part so take special care to make flakes of shortening with a sturdy fork.  Use the fork to shave off curls of shortening and shake off the shavings into the other side of the bowl and get them covered in flour.  This takes a while to whittle down the ball of shortening but I promise it will be worth it!  You should have lots of smaller lumps of shortening shavings covered in flour all over the bowl.  Continue smashing these flakes into the sides of the bowl.  This creates thinner and thinner flakes.  Don’t just stir, smash the lumps and swirl the bowl around so the flakes almost resemble pencil shavings.  Just flick them into the middle of the flour and continue around the bowl until there are no longer large lumps but just flakes of flour dusted shortening throughout.

Next add the cold water but not all of it.  Add just enough to get the flour and shortening to come together.  Add the rest only if necessary.  Stir very gently to just  incorporate everything.  You don’t want to destroy those delicate flakes.  When the dough nearly cleans off the sides of the bowl, push it to one side to collect the dough, again, very gently.  This recipe will make two 9″ crusts but I used it here, to make one large crust for an apple gallette on a 12″ pizza plate.  Place what  ever size crust you choose on a generously flour dusted counter, dust the top of the crust as well, and even the rolling-pin.  Just make sure there is enough flour under the crust at all times to keep it from sticking.  Roll out the dough as close to 1/8 inch as you can and in a circle a few inches larger than your pie plate.  In the case of the gallette it will be 4 or 5 inches larger than the plate.  A regular bottom crust of a pie need only to be 2 inches larger.  You can always trim if it’s too much. 

When transfering the dough I like to fold it into fourths, pick it up at the point, support the rest with my other hand, put the point in the center of the pie plate, then carefully unfold and balance the edges if you need.  If you get a tear, you can patch it with a scrap of dough. 

For the gallette, I prepared the apples first.  The crisper drawer was overflowing with autumn’s bounty of Jonathan apples, a nice tart pie apple.  I really needed to use these apples as they were getting spotty and I would need the space after my shopping trip tomorrow.  Some would just throw the apples out but with some strategic trimming these were just fine for the cause…still nice and crisp for the most part…not a bit mealy.  To keep them from getting brown while I prepared the crust I poured some lemon juice on them and tossed them around a bit to coat them with it, then I turned on the oven to 350° and made the crust.

So with the pie dough on the plate I was ready to add the apples.  With all 5 cups of them in a big pile on the dough I sprinkled about 1/3 cup of flour over them, one half cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and a good sprinkle of cinnamon.  I gently tossed everything together with my finger tips, careful not to dig into the dough.  I spread the coated apples around evenly to the edges.  The middle of this gallette would be exposed while baking so I arranged the apple slices into a little rosette in the center to make it pretty.  The last steps were to fold the edges over the apples a section at a time, then a sprinkle of turbinado (raw washed) sugar here and there for sparkle and a nice brown sugary taste.  Now it was ready for the oven. 

I baked the gallette about 40 minutes, took it out to brush egg white over the crust, then I popped it back in for five more minutes at 400°.  This gave the gallette a lovely brown color with a nice sheen.  It was hard to wait for dessert the rest of the evening, but the pie was still a bit warm after dinner.  We were lucky to have some vanilla ice cream in the freezer because that really took it over the top.  You could literally hear the flaky layers of crust collapse when you sliced into it with your fork, much like the sound of stepping on a pile of crisp autumn leaves.  The filling was just right, the apples were tender and the taste of it all was worth waiting for.  I hope you who are looking for the secret of flaky pie crust, will go no further than your own pantry.  I’ve never found anything in the store that compares to this method.  Don’t give up until you try this.

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