Friday, January 9, 2009

pie crust. the final frontier.


All right, maybe I'm being dramatic, but I can say that in past years, before I tried to be so... exact... about baking (weighing ingredients, using senses of smell and touch to tell when things are done instead of just sight), I baked much better pie crust. I'm not sure where I went wrong, but I experimented with pie several times this fall, and not once was I happy. Even my aunt's tried-and-true crust recipe fell short.

The Amateur Gourmet had a terrific (and timely) post about pie crust today. He said, "After many years of trying to make successful pie dough, I've reached the following conclusion: to make a successful pie dough you have to have a successful pie dough personality." I think that's what I'm trying to get at here. In trying too hard to get it right - trying new recipes, new techniques - I lost the touch I had before, when I didn't think about it nearly as much.

But that's not what this post is about. In addition to all my futzing around with recipes and methodology, I had another first this year: baking an unfilled pie shell. I know you have to use weights or beans so the crust doesn't shrink, but even that was a dramatic failure. One recipe called for lining the crust with waxed paper before filling it with beans. I've already talked on this blog about the smell of waxed paper in the oven. Not a good idea. The next recipe called for covering the dough with foil before filling it with beans. Great, until the dough STUCK to the foil as I was trying to remove it! And I'll point out that even though the bottom of the dough didn't shrink, the sides totally did. Like boys in cold water.

It was such a disaster, it was unusable, but I pulled it out of the pan and plopped it on a plate so I could memorialize it for you, faithful readers. I don't even remember which recipe this was, but I wasn't a fan of the suggestion to brush it with egg yolk before baking. I didn't like the yellow color as it baked up. But at least it was flaky, right?

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