Last updated: August 24. 2013 9:58AM - 44 Views

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By ALISON LADMAN



For The Associated Press



 



With holiday pie season upon us, it’s easy to be intimidated into outsourcing your crusts. 



Face it, buying a boxed, refrigerated or frozen crust is easier and faster. Too bad it doesn’t taste better. 



Because if you want a truly wonderful pie crust, something truly worthy of the trouble you will go to when making the filling, the only way to go is to make your own. And with our quick introduction to pie crust technique and styles, it will be much easier than you think. 



 



Lesson No. 1: There are four basic styles of crust: Crumb, mealy, flaky and sweet.



 



Lesson No. 2: Flaky, mealy and cookie crusts must be rolled, then fitted into a pie or tart pan. Crumb crusts are dumped into the pan, then pressed into place. 



To roll a crust, it is best to start with chilled dough that has been allowed to rest about a half hour after mixing.



Start by lightly dusting your counter and pin with flour. Place your dough on the counter and roll from the center, turning it every couple of rolls to prevent sticking and to keep it round. Roll it big enough so it extends about 2 inches beyond the pie pan all the way around. 



To transfer the dough from the counter to the pie pan, fold it in half, then again to form quarters. Gently lift the dough and place it in the pan, with the point at the center. Unfold carefully to fully cover and fill the pie pan. 



If it tears, it’s OK! Just patch it with some scrap dough from the side.



 



Lesson No. 3: Flaky, mealy and cookie crusts need to be edged. 



And the prettier the edge, the prettier the pie. To crimp, begin by trimming the excess dough all around the pie so that you have just 1/2 inch of overhang. Gently roll the overhang underneath itself so that it sits on top of the rim of the pie pan. 



For an easy and rustic look, gently press all the way around with a fork. For a more decorative and classic finish, you can pinch the edge of the dough between your fingers.



 



Lesson No. 4: Whatever variety crust you use, it’s a good idea to set the pie on a baking sheet when you place it in the oven. It helps conduct heat, it’s easier to transfer the pie and it catches spillage.



 



Lesson No. 5: Blind baking is your friend 



Some single crust pie recipes call for “blind baking” the crust. This means the crust dough is placed into the pie pan and fully baked before the filling is added. 



Just before placing the empty crust in the oven, line it with a sheet of foil, then fill with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of dry beans, coins or uncooked rice. Unless directed otherwise by your recipe, bake the crust at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove the crust from the oven and remove the foil and filler. Lower the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10 minutes or until golden. 



 



Lesson No. 6: Most crusts can be prepared ahead of time and stored until needed. 



Virtually all recipes for mealy, flaky and cookies crusts call for preparing the dough, then shaping it into a disk, wrapping in plastic and refrigerating before rolling out. At this stage, dough also can be frozen for several months (either fitted into pans or in a disc) or refrigerated for about 36 hours.



 



This indulgently rich and creamy chocolate pie is perfect for a crumb pie crust, one of the easiest styles of crust to make. 



For a spiced crust, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and a pinch of nutmeg.



CRUMB PIE CRUST 



Start to finish: 25 minutes (10 minutes active) 



Makes one 9-inch crust 



1 1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs 



3 tablespoons sugar (granulated or brown) 



6 tablespoons butter, melted 



1/2 cup toasted, finely chopped nuts (optional)



In a medium bowl, toss together the cookie crumbs and sugar. Stir in the melted butter until all of the crumbs are moistened. Using the back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup, press the crumb mixture into a pie pan across the bottom and up the sides. 



The pie now can be filled and baked as directed, or blind baked. To blind bake the crust, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.



TUXEDO PIE 



Start to finish: 2 hours (30 minutes active) 



Servings: 8 



For the white chocolate ganache: 



1/2 cup heavy cream 



8 ounces white chocolate chips 



1 chocolate crumb pie crust, blind baked 



For the dark chocolate ganache: 



3/4 cup heavy cream 



5 ounces dark chocolate chips 



For the vanilla mousse: 



1 cup whole milk 



1 egg yolk 



1 whole egg 



1/4 cup sugar 



3 tablespoons cornstarch 



1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste 



1 1/2 cups heavy cream



Berries for garnish



To prepare the white chocolate ganache, in a small pan or a microwave-safe dish, heat the cream until simmering. Add the white chocolate and let sit 2 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour into the pie crust and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. 



To make the dark chocolate ganache, in a small pan or a microwave-safe dish, heat the cream until simmering. Add the dark chocolate and let sit 2 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour over the white chocolate ganache layer and refrigerate until firm, about another 30 minutes. 



To make the vanilla mousse, in a medium saucepan over medium, heat the milk until simmering. 



Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the yolk, whole egg, sugar and cornstarch. When the milk comes to a simmer, slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan and whisk continuously over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. 



Transfer the mixture to the bowl, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate until no longer hot, about 30 minutes. 



When the custard has cooled, stir in the vanilla extract or paste. 



In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream to firm peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the cooled vanilla custard. Repeat with the remaining whipped cream, folding gently but thoroughly to avoid deflating the cream. Spoon the vanilla mousse over the chocolate ganache, then refrigerate until ready to serve. 



 



This pie was inspired by the classic sticky pecan pie.



FLAKY PIE CRUST 



Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active) 



Makes 2 crusts  



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 



1 teaspoon salt 



1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold, cut in 1/2-inch chunks 



1/4 cup shortening 



1/3 cup ice water 



In a large bowl, toss together the salt and flour. Add the butter chunks and the shortening, then use your fingers to smear them into the flour. The goal is not to mix the fat into the flour, but to break down the large chunks. 



When the chunks of butter and shortening all have been pressed into the flour, drizzle the ice water into the mixture, tossing it together. It will not resemble a cohesive dough. 



Pour the mixture onto the counter, then form it into a pile in front of you. Using the heel of your hand, smear the mixture against the counter. Work from the side of the mixture farthest from you and press away from your body, smearing a bit more of the mixture with each press. 



Once all of the mixture has been smeared with the heel of your hand, gather it together again and repeat the process. At this point, your mixture should look like a shaggy dough. Gather the pieces and gently squeeze together into 2 discs, each about 1 inch thick. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate. When ready to make the pie, roll out a disc, fit it to the pan and bake.



CRANBERRY ALMOND PISTACHIO PIE 



Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (30 minutes active) 



Servings: 8 



1 cup dried cranberries 



1 cup water 



1 cup dark brown sugar 



1 cup maple syrup 



1 tablespoon molasses 



1/4 cup heavy cream 



1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter 



6 egg yolks 



1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted 



1/2 cup pistachios 



1 uncooked flaky pie crust, bottom only 



In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the cranberries and water. Microwave on high for 1 minutes, or until very hot. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, drain and discard the water. 



In a medium pan over medium-high, heat the brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, cream and butter until boiling. Remove from the heat. 



In a medium, heat-safe bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. While whisking continuously, slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the egg yolks, allowing the yolks to heat up gradually until the entire mixture is incorporated. 



Fit a single pie crust into a pie pan, trimming and crimping the edge. 



Sprinkle the almonds, pistachios and drained cranberries evenly into the pie crust. Pour the filling mixture over the nuts and cranberries, making sure they are evenly coated. Place the pie on the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the filling is slightly puffed and the crust is golden.



 



The classic clafoutis is a custardy concoction straight from the countryside of France. This version adds a touch of chocolate that is nicely offset by the crisp sweet crust. 



SWEET PIE CRUST 



Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active) 



Makes 1 crust 



1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 



1/4 teaspoon salt 



1/2 cup powdered sugar 



1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature 



1 egg yolk 



In a small bowl, sift together the flour and salt. 



When ready to make the pie, roll the dough out, transfer to pan, trim, crimp and bake.



CHOCOLATE CHERRY CLAFOUTIS PIE 



Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (20 minutes active) 



Servings: 8 



For the filling: 



2 tablespoons butter 



Two 10-ounce packages frozen sweet cherries, thawed 



2 tablespoons sugar 



For the batter: 



1/3 cup all-purpose flour 



1/4 cup cocoa powder 



1/2 cup sugar 



1/2 teaspoon salt 



1 teaspoon vanilla 



3 eggs 



1 1/4 cups whole milk 



1 unbaked sweet pie crust fitted to a deep 9-inch pie pan 



Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 



To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the cherries and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the juices become syrupy, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. 



Meanwhile, prepare the batter. In a blender, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and milk. Blend thoroughly. 



Pour a 1/2-inch layer of the batter into the bottom of the pie crust. Spoon the cherries over the batter, then top with the remaining batter. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. A toothpick inserted at the center should come out clean.



 



This custard pie filling is reminiscent of a classic egg custard crossed with a butterscotch pudding. Serve with whipped cream dusted with freshly grated nutmeg. 



MEALY PIE CRUST 



Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active) 



Makes 2 crusts (for 1 double-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies) 



2 teaspoons sugar 



1 teaspoon salt 



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 



1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold 



1/4 cup vegetable oil 



1/2 cup whole milk 



In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the sugar, salt and flour. Add the butter and oil, then pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle in the milk and pulse until the dough starts to come together. Divide into 2 discs. Wrap each in plastic, then refrigerate. 



When ready to make the pie, roll it out, fit it to the pan, trim the edges, crimp and bake.



BUTTERSCOTCH CUSTARD PIE 



Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active) 



Servings: 8 



3/4 cup dark brown sugar 



3 whole eggs 



1 egg yolk, white reserved 



2 1/2 cups whole milk 



1/4 teaspoon salt 



2 teaspoons vanilla extract 



1 tablespoon rum (optional) 



3 tablespoons butter 



1 uncooked mealy pie crust, bottom only In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs and egg yolk. 



In a small pan over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Slowly pour the hot milk into egg mixture while beating continuously. Stir in the salt, vanilla, rum (if using) and butter. 



In a small bowl, beat the egg white until frothy. Using a pastry brush, paint the bottom and inner sides of the crust with the egg white; this helps prevent sogginess. Pour the custard mixture into the crust. 



Bake the pie for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the mixture is set and just barely jiggles in the center. Allow to cool at room temperature. Leftovers should be refrigerated. 


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