Easy as pie.
For all of you who are intimidated by pie crust, don't be. I know you've seen it said that you have to do everything just right to get a flaky and tender pie crust. That's just somebody who's either been told that and believes it because someone told them it was right, or someone who wants to intimdate you into believing that he/she is an amazing cook.
Last night, I put all of the mumbo-jumbo to the test. I purposely threw together a strawberry/rhubarb pie, with top and bottome crust, and threw away the rule-book. The pie came out as I expected it to, with an extremely flakey crust, and a great filling. Here's Goodweed's rule book for perfect pie crust. And remember this, because it's important. Keep it simple.
For a cake, or a single loaf of bread, or a two-crusted pie, start with the following ingredients;
3 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp. salt
From there, things start to vary a bit. Here, we're talking about pie so here's the recipe.
Pie crust for a two crust pie (top and bottom crust, 9 inch deep dish)
3 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp. salt
Mix the flour and salt together with a wire whisk. Add about 3/4 cup of lard to the mixture and cut in with a pastry cutter until all is well combined. The dough should look wrong. That is, there should be loose flour hanging around that isn't mixed in yet. Add about another 1/8 cup of lard until after it is cut in, the mixture has the look of pea-sized granules. Add about 1/8 cup of ice water to the mix and stir with a wooden spoon until the water is absorbed. Test the dough by making a snowball-sized ball with your hands. It should slightly stick together, but still feel dry to the touch. If it is too loose, add a splash more water and repeat.
Divide the dough into two equal halves. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Dust the rolling pin with flour. Flatten one of the dough-balls with your hands and place it onto the work surface. Roll from the center outward to form a circle that is 1 inch larger than the top side of your cake pan. Fold the dough in half, and then in half again. Place the corner in the center of the pie pan and unfold the dough, gently pressing it into the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Poke the bottom with a fork to make small holes all over. Set the pie pan aside. When the pie is filled with your favorite filling, make the second doughball into a crust using the same procedure. Fold it like you did the bottom crust, and place on top of the pie. Fold the edges behind the edges of the bottom crust and crimp together using the index finger and thumb.
Make an egg wash by mixing 1 raw egg with 3 tbs. water and stirring until smooth. Brush the top crust with the egg-wash. Sprinkle sugar all over the top. Make vents with a sharp knife and bake at 425' F. for 30 minutes. Remove and cool.
Wash, then slice 5 stalks of rhubarb into 1 inch pieces. Place into a saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and simmer for 15 minuters. REmove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinamon until wll mixed. Clean and hull 16 oz. fresh strawberries. Add them to the rhubarb sauce and heat over medium heat for 20 nminutes, covered. Taste and correct the sugar and cinamon to your taste. Add a slurry of 2 tbsp cornstarch and t tbs water. Stir gently to distribute without mushing the strawnerries. Use to fill a deep-dish pie crust. Cover with the second crust and bake at 425' F. for 30 minutes.
I didn't cool the work surface with ice, or chill the pie crust, or the lard. I didn't refrigerate the rolling pin. I didn't follow a recipe. The only things I did do were to use 3 cups flour, and enough lard to create the pea-sized granules. I also used ice water to bind the granules into a workable dough. The filling could be any kind of berries, or fruit. But I would suggest that if you are a beginner, make it taste great, and thicken on the stove-top with cornstarch slurry, adding about 2 tbs. at a time, and simmering until it thickens. Do this until it is thick enough to resemble a canned pie filling. When the pie cools, it will stiffen to just the right consistancy to keep everything in place without becoming rubbery.
Now I do have to bow to some wisdom. There are certain baking recipes that require you to follow what's written down. Otherwise, you will end up with something that is, shall we say, less than perfect. Cheesecake is one of those things, as are sponge cakes, and some of the more famous desert cakes and tortes. But for most baking, I have found that I can usually "wing it" and tayloy my cooking to what I'm trying to achieve.
Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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