Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to make a great crust

This is the recipe I used for making a great crust. I have used this for apple pie and chicken pot pie. It is not sweet and works everywhere.

4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 stick Crisco vegetable shortening (cut into small pieces and chilled)
1 stick unsalted butter (cut into small pieces and chilled)
1 cup ice cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix for a minute. Add the butter and Crisco until it looks like little pebbles. While still mixing, slowly add the very cold water. Stop when it has turned into a ball of dough. Divide dough into pieces. Form into discs and keep in plastic wrap in the fridge for an hour to overnight. It is easier to work with when well chilled.

When you go to use it, let it sit out for 5-10 minutes, then work on a floured workspace to roll out.

I had a little dough left over after making pies. I rolled it out, sprinkled some cinnamon on it, spread some chocolate chips down, then rolled it back up into a long tube. Then I baked it at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes and had a very nice doughy chocolate snack.

And the winner is...

Not me. Don't feel bad for me, I really wasn't expecting to win. I was proud of the fact that I turned in a pie and didn't quit after my 2nd failed attempt.

After making 4 practice pies and consulting with numerous people, cookbooks and recipes, I am surprised I am not sick of apples or the pies they are baked in. I was just thinking about giving it another try but putting in some tweaks. Sunday, I made my best pie so far for my friend, Audra. This one had a great crust, nicely cut apples (if I say so myself), and a great caramel sauce. I topped it with a yummy crumble and was beaming with pride until I went to take it out of the oven. I ask you, what am I doing wrong? Every pie I make is SOGGY. The apples tend to maintain a nice bite, but swim in a bath of apple juicy caramel (then again, don't most of us want to swim in a bath of apple juicy caramel?). The liquid turns my cup of butter dough into mush. I was thinking I need to add 1-2 tablespoons of flour to the apples before I add them to the crust and pour on the caramel. Please let me know if you have the answer.

Well, here's how the day of the contest went. I didn't go into this thinking I could win. OK, maybe I had a few daydreams of how cool it would be to get 3rd place and offset the cost of all the flour, butter, Crisco, sugar (white and brown), cinnamon and apples. However, positive thinking was not going to save me from the fact that my entry pie had a river of apple juice running through it.

Saturday was a typical day for my family. It was filled with chaos from the moment the first child woke up. I jumped out of bed at 5:15 totally pumped to make a kick ass pie. I had made the crust the day before and it had been chilling in the flimsy disposable foil pan all night. (See how I'm already blaming everything but myself!) I was peeling, coring and slicing my apples (I can almost do it in my sleep at this point), when I heard Squirt wake up. My 22 month old got up at 5:30 and was not happy enough to be with daddy. He was dumped into the kitchen with me, asking/crying "Hey you". That is his very special way of saying "Momma, pick me up now or I will throw a tantrum". Reasoning with him didn't work (not that it ever does). But a pie needed to be made! So, daddy came back and threatened to put Squirt back in his crib it he didn't stop waking up rest of the house and I got back to my pie.

With a pie in the oven (not to be confused with a bun in the oven), I went about to get my family dressed and out the door in time to enter into the contest. And for those of you who think “If she got up at 5:15, sliced up her apples, made a caramel sauce, assembled then baked it for 50 minutes, why does she have to rush out the door at 8:45? Isn't that 3 ½ hours to get everything done?” Well, getting kids ready is very much like herding cats. It never goes as planned and takes way too long.

Finally... To the Farmer's Market!

There were a total of 11 pies entered. All very different. Some with crumble tops, some with no tops, just really cool pastry cut outs. Some with pie crust covers and then mine with the lattice top. It looked very nice (they were judging on appearance). I'm sure I got one or two points for that!

Here's the fun part. Between 9:00-10:00, I had planned on running to the post office, then hurrying back with plenty of time to play in the park with two of my kids before watching the judging and planning an acceptance speech or a really great way of humbly walking away with no prize at all. Diva, my 6 year old was positive I was going to win. She's my #1 fan :)

Yeah, so we get to the post office and my cell phone rings. It is my 4 year old, Blondie. She has called on behalf of her father, who's hands are covered in caulk and he can't figure out how to get it off. He is also unable to get dressed, let alone drive a car, to get her to her morning class. So, Squirt, Diva and I turn around, head home to take Blondie to her class. Then we rush to the park and under much pleading and begging, we go to the market to wait by this open sided tent that has 11 pies, 4 judges and tons of bees. It is 10:15 and they are just cutting into the pies.

While waiting, I learned that two of the pies were made by 8-10 year old sisters who were using their grandmother's recipe. I was torn between thinking how sweet that they did this with their family recipe and then thinking how much it would suck to lose to an 8 year old.

In the end, some very old lady won with her last minute entry. By the time the announced the winner, Diva was having a 5 star pouting/tantrum (academy award winning performance), Squirt wanted a nap and Blondie to try all the pies. My husband did get most of the caulk off his hand after trying soap, rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover. It ends up old fashion elbow grease worked best.
I have told my children that I will continue to try to make a great apple pie so that maybe next year my chances of winner are a little better. Or at least I can kick some 8 year old's butt. Not that I'm bitter.