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Volume 16, Issue 45 - November 6 - November 12, 2008
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Trial & Error
Easy as Pie?

by Sandra Olivetti Martin

Like my mother, I am not at my culinary best as a pie maker. Is crumbling dough and tough crust my fate? I know what a good pie should be. I just haven’t made one, yet.

In recent years, I’ve given up. I buy my pies, give Thanks at the home of my pie-able son or share in friend Farley’s new dedication to her grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe.

This Thanksgiving, I vowed to try again. And try early.

I even had a recipe. Dotty Doherty had given it to me and you in Bay Weekly’s Summer 2008 101 Ways to Have Fun (see below).

Yet when the fruits of summer tempted, I retreated again to the comfort of cobbler.

Excuse? I have no food processor.

Think that way, I told myself, and when Thanksgiving comes, you’ll have had no practice. Thanksgiving is a bad day to start from scratch on perfection.

November came, and I still had no food processor. But I had another mighty tool, a KitchenAid mixer.

Would “the ultimate cooking tool” make piecrust?

Yes it would, said the recipe book. And it looked easy as pie:

21⁄4 cups flour (I used half whole wheat)
3⁄4 tsp. salt
stirred together by the mixer.
1⁄2 cup chilled shortening (I used rendered duck fat, regarded as the queen of baking fat)
2 Tbs. chilled butter
chopped by hand and stirred into the flour by the mixer.
5 to 6 Tbs. cold water
stirred into the mixture till the size of peas.
Chilled 15 minutes in two flattened balls.
But could I make pie?

My mother’s rolling pin and I managed to roll out properly thin (one-eighth inch) crusts between sheets of wax paper. The edges were lacy and wanted to crumble. But the crust folded inside the wax paper into decent quarters. The flop into the pie dish was rough, and both crusts took more than a bit of mending. Nor was my edge crimping first rate.

But both raw and baked, the crust was rich and flaky, and in appearance the pie was more homey than homely. It was also delicious. Thanksgiving, here I come.

Dotty’s Food Processor Method
(One 9-inch double crust pie)
• 11⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp. table salt
• 2 Tbs. sugar
• 12 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄4 inch slices
• 1⁄2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
• Another 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1⁄4 cup cold vodka
• 1⁄4 cup cold water

1. Put first three dry ingredients into bowl of food processor and pulse two to three times until combined. Add butter and shortening and process until mixed, about 15 seconds. Dough should look uniform with no uncoated flour. With rubber spatula, scrape sides and redistribute dough around bowl.

2. Add next cup of flour and pulse quickly, four to six times, until all is evenly distributed. Put dough into a medium-sized bowl.

3. Sprinkle vodka and water on the dough. Use a rubber spatula to fold and press dough until it sticks together. It will be slightly tacky.

4. Divide dough into two equal balls, and flatten into four-inch disks. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to two days.

5. After chilling, roll out, and use with your favorite pie filling.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated: November/December 2007.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.