Some advice on good piecrust
Now that the election business is over for a couple of years, I can drop a note about something important: how to make a decent pie crust. Well, OK, really good.
The history of this is my Danish grandmother, who made lovely, delicate victuals, as opposed to a Belgian grandmother who made “stick to your ribs” heaviness upon the dinner plate. I supplemented with many cookbooks — all of which so far have done it wrong — and many years experience. Let me just say that when we are invited to holiday gatherings, we are requested to bring pies.
To start with, make sure you have a nice wooden rolling pin, one with nylon bearings that turns nicely. You will need a pie crust blender, and do find one with the wires and not solid bars. I found the one I use in an antique shop and cleaned it up. Buy the best flour you can find and the good brand of white, pure vegetable shortening. Don’t you dare use lard! Don’t skimp, the savings will not be worth it.
In a bowl you will sift 2 cups of flour. It says pre-sifted, but when you sift it you will see the pellets in your sifter that put a lie to that. Sift the flour. To 2 cups of flour, you will use 1 full cup of shortening. I have not so far seen a recipe that calls for this ratio. Usually they say less shortening. Two cups of flour to one full cup of shortening.
A bit of salt is added in the bowl and then some ice water. Add the water a little at a time as you need it. Just blend the whole thing until you get a nice ball forming in the bowl, You may want to use an ordinary table knife to clean the blender as you work. Don’t overwork the crust.
When the ball is forming, flour your hands and make a ball. Cut the ball in half and put half aside. Take a half and roll it on a floured surface. I use a plastic sheet that I bought from a homewear party plan that has been around for many years. Cute how I avoided the T word and a free ad, right?
Keep your hands floured. Keep your tools clean. Don’t fret a mess in your kitchen. You have a vacuum cleaner right?
Use a pie pan to judge the size as you roll it. When it looks right both in size and thickness, use a thin spatula to force flour under the crust and free it from the sheet or surface. Gently and slowly works best.
Now the kicker: This crust is delicate and will not easily stay in one piece. Do you know any good swear words? Just put it in the pie pan in pieces if necessary. Piece it together. If you have a partner as good as my wife, they will slide the pan under as you pick the crust up just enough. Cut around the edges with a paring knife. Save the excess.
Now roll the top crust with the other half if you need one. Or use both halves for two open pies. If it is a covered pie, you can pinch the edges together and then trim again with the knife.
Now if you choose, roll the excess and make some cute little decorations to apply right on top of the pie. Make some air vents in the top crust. Bake it. Your filling will determine baking time and temperature.
Accept compliments. Don’t skimp on ingredients, especially filling. Don’t make a thin pie.
Just eat it and take the compliments. Get ready to be known for your pies. Call me if you get in trouble. Or come and watch most of the day Christmas Eve. I will be making about eight pies for the family. Happy holidays.