Monday, November 5, 2007

Pie crust is my arch enemy

If I had to choose a recipe that I feel like I should be able to master as a fairly accomplished baker it would be pie crust. Pie crust has driven me to tears before and I have loudly proclaimed my surrender on more than one occasion. However, the strawberry rhubarb pie I made this summer made me think I could do it. That recipe was a very good attempt -- not perfect, but pretty damn close all the same. So I bought a book called Bubby's Homemade Pies and I started my adventures with pie crusts once again. The descriptions in the book of how the pie dough should look and feel at each step in the process are incredibly easy to understand and I started my first crust with confidence. I even took Bubby's advice and made it all by hand, since that's the time-honored way to do it -- no food processor for me! The first all-butter crust I made was flaky and tasted good, but had the disturbing texture of plastic. Presumably I did something wrong, but for the life of me I don't know if it was over mixing, too much water, warm ingredients or a combination of all three.

I attempted another one last night for a pumpkin pie. The whole process was pretty much a disaster. It seemed to be going well through the mixing and rolling out stages -- which are usually pretty traumatic -- but I forgot to line the crust with foil before pre-baking it and I forgot to put it on a rimmed baking sheet to catch all the butter dripping off the edges. The smoke boiling out of the stove when I pulled the pie from the oven nearly drove us out of the house, and I had to throw the whole mess away because of the rice stuck to the bottom. I tasted the beautifully golden brown edge though and the plastic texture was still there.

So for my next attempt I tried a Rebecca Rather all-butter crust recipe from The Pastry Queen. I used the same mixing techniques though and while the plastic texture was less pronounced on the finished product -- the whole thing was tough and chewy, even though the flavor was still pretty good. Nothing like using a serrated knife to saw through the crust on the edge of the pan...

I'm going to use the same Rebecca Rather recipe and mix it in the food processor -- see if that helps any with the texture. And after that I'm going to start playing with shortening/butter pie crusts and see if I can make one of those pie crusts work.

Stupid pie crust. And I don't even like pie...

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