William Sonoma Perfect Pie Crust
I've finally gone back to my mother's old standby, the Betty Crocker Cookbook pie crust, and they're coming out perfectly every time. It's just 2 c flour, 1 tsp salt, 2/3 c + 2 tbsp shortening, and 1/4 c water. No resting period. The only differences are that I keep my shortening in the refrigerator and use ice water, even though my mom never did.
Everyone warns beginning pie crust makers not to add too much water, so I kept erring on the side of too little, which was horrible to work with -- it would crack and break far too easily. Now I add enough to make a soft, pliable dough from the start. Chilling the dough is supposed to improve the texture, but being cold and stiff makes it more difficult to roll, and it didn't seem much improved to me. So now I roll it right away, like my mom did, when it's pliable and easy to work with. It comes out nice and flaky.
Supposedly adding part butter instead of all shortening improves the flavor (well, it would have to, wouldn't it?). So I may try that next, now that I seem to have the texture down.
Anyhow, it boils down to the fact that pie crust is, like ExercisetoEat says, just flour and salt plus shortening/butter and water. So what are you really getting from the W-S package?
It might be worth a try, however you'll likely be paying a fair amount for just flour and salt! If you can pick up a copy of the book "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten, I would highly recommend reading the chapter on pies. It's pretty much changed my pie making life forever. I have been struggling to make the perfect pie crust for over 10 years and making pie crusts seemed like one of those deceptively simple accomplishments that always alluded me. The book outlines not only a recipe but spends about four pages describing the technique, which is so easy once you give it a try, that I've made pies every week for the last month because I couldn't believe that it wasn't a fluke. I've pretty much been a giddy pie crust maker where before I'd only make a crust maybe three times a year because it was always so much work and never turned out right.
Here's the recipe from a different source. But as I said above. it's not about the recipe; it's about the technique. From JS's description, it was the devil may care, cavalier approach of Marion Cunningham that knocked him over. It was that approach that made his tale so funny and encouraging at the same time. Put the recipe, the approach, and a few relaxing giggles together and you have:
NO FEAR PIE CRUST
This recipe, from "Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham (Alfred Knoff, 1999, $29.95), yielded the best result:
Marion Cunningham's Pie Crust
1-1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cold water or a little more
Put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl and stir them around to mix.
Fill a 1/4-cup measure with shortening. Scoop the shortening out of the cup with your fingers and put it in the bowl with the flour. Rub some flour on your hands, then roll the shortening around in the flour so the fat isn't too sticky to handle.
Break the shortening into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and coat them all with the flour in the bowl. Now lightly rub small pieces of the shortening and the flour together with your fingers for about a minute to make little lumps. If there is loose flour at the bottom of the bowl, scoop it up to the top with your fingers and rub shortening into it to make more lumps.
Continue scooping up and rubbing, working lightly, letting the bits of shortening fall back into the bowl. When most of the flour and shortening have been transformed into lots of little lumps and the dough looks like grated cheese, you've mixed enough.
Sprinkle the cold water over the dough and stir with a fork all around the sides and bottom of the bowl so no dry flour remains hidden. Stir until the water is mixed into the flour and has disappeared. Reach down to the very bottom of the bowl and gather up all the dough. Pat and press the dough until you have a ball of dough. If some of it is still so dry that pieces fall away, sprinkle that area with a little more water and gently press and pull the dough apart, sprinkling a little more water on it. Pat it into a ball again.
Sprinkle a large cutting board or a counter top lightly with a small handful of flour. Spread the flour into a circle bigger than your 9-inch pie pan.
Put the dough in the center of the circle of flour. Flour the rolling pin. Flatten the dough a little with the pin, then begin rolling from the center out to the edges to make a circle. Don't roll back and forth. Move the dough now and then to make sure it isn't sticking.
If it is sticking, slide a metal spatula in a wiggling motion under the dough to loosen it. Sprinkle more flour on the surface, then continue to roll the dough into a big circle, about 1-1/2 inches larger all around than your pie pan.
To make sure, put the pie pan upside down in the center of the dough and check that your circle is about the right size. The dough will be about as thin as a cracker.
Roll the dough around the rolling pin. Lift the pin up and center it over the pie pan, then unroll the dough into the pan with the fold in the center of the pan. Now unfold the dough against the inside of the pan and pat the dough all around the inside edge to fit snugly.
Now fold the hanging dough back up onto the rim to make a double thickness of dough around the edge of the pan. Be careful not to tuck the dough under the edge of the pan, which would make it hard to dislodge after baking.
When you have neatly folded the dough all round the edges, press indentations into the dough, squeezing the edges together, to make a scalloped edge.
Your crust is ready for filling.
As I've said before about other things, it takes longer to talk about than to do.