Monday, November 9, 2009

A Week of Pie Crusts #1: Best Ever Flaky Pastry Dough

Welcome to Off the Wheaten Path's first-ever Week of Pie Crusts! And not a moment too soon, I'm guessing for most of you. We've talked about Thanksgiving and pie crust before, during our In Praise of Pumpkin series. For most people who don't eat wheat or it's cousins, Thanksgiving can be one of the most dreadful holidays of the year. "Don't eat that gravy! I made it with flour!" or, "I'm sorry I don't have any pie you can eat. How about ice cream instead?" are some of the more popular phrases we hear this time of year. Some of us hear them from our own families! But ice cream? On Thanksgiving? (Someone out there has a family tradition where they eat ice cream instead of pie on Thanksgiving, I just know it.) Give me a break. This year, don't be the victim and skip dessert in the corner like a sad little deprived person, get into the kitchen and make your own! Bring a dessert you will be sure to eat instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for a spoon and some cool whip. I guarantee you if you make any of the crusty desserts I have for you this week, your peeps will love them. And you won't feel so left out. So get out your rolling pins, because we're pie crusting up a storm this week!
My first crust is a basic pastry dough you can use for any pie. For those of you who watched me make this crust on KJZZ this week, please note that I totally messed up my water measurement on the show and I completely spaced the vinegar. No wonder the crust wouldn't roll out during the segment! I was about 5 tablespoons of water off. So anyways, I'm gonna chalk that up to a rookie mistake and tell you how to really make a good crust. And, let me introduce you to your new best friend when it comes to making a pie crust in no time flat:
I've always pooh-poohed the idea of using a food processor. I would use my little pastry cutter and work that butter in by hand because that's how the pioneers did it. Then I actually used a food processor and I was like, "Where have I been for the last 20 years?" Treat yourself or have your husband buy you one for Christmas. You will never regret having one.

Gluten Free Pie Crust
(for a 9 inch pie tin)
1 1/4 cups Grandpa's Kitchen Flour (I highly recommend this brand for the best possible tasting crust. Do not use any flour with garbanzo or fava bean flour. The taste is not superb.)
5 T very cold butter
1/4 +1 T very cold water
1 tsp white vinegar

Place flour and butter into the food processor. Pulse a few times until the mixture resembles coarse meal, like little peas. Add about half of the water and pulse again. Add the teaspoon of vinegar and pulse. Add the rest of the water gradually until your mixture mostly comes together into a ball. You may not need all the water, or you may need a little more. It depends on humidity and stuff like that. Dump out dough onto a piece of waxed paper that has been lightly floured and knead into a complete disk. Place another piece of lightly floured waxed paper on top and roll out to desired thickness and width. Take your pie pan and invert it over the dough to see if it's big enough. When it is the size you need, remove the wax paper from the top layer and place your pie tin upside down over the dough disk and flip over in one fluid motion. This will not be perfect! You will still have to manhandle your crust a little bit and you may have to press together some cracks. This is okay. And if you have a little piece of crust that is not quite covering your pan, take a piece of the excess off and press it onto the missing part. It's okay to pretend you are using Playdoh. Gluten Free crusts are not as pliable as regular flour crusts, they need more water, and they bake up pretty much just like you set them in. So if you have to play around with them a little bit, don't worry about it. As the Nester says, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." Amen.
A note about crimping the edges: my suggestion is to simply press the edge with a fork over the edge of your pie dish. This is the simplest way to get a decorative gluten free crust. If you really rolled well and you have quite a bit of crust hanging over the edge, you can trim your crust and do a fluted edge like this, but don't worry if you are barely making it to the rim. Do the forked crust edge, you'll be fine.I think it works easier to crimp the edge and then trim the excess, just because the dough is a little finicky.

Another suggestion: this crust tastes the best when rolled thin. If you want a flaky crust, use butter. If you want a softer crust, use shortening. But it will be stickier and need less water. I think the shortening crusts are a little difficult to work with, but that may be just my inexperience talking.

With a little practice and a lot of patience, you can get a crust like this with a fabulous lemon meringue filling that tastes just about as close to regular pie as you can get. Tune in tomorrow for another great crust recipe!

Happy eating!

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