Oh gosh I want an iPhone. Not for angry birds or even for Google maps (which I actually do need given how often I get lost), but for all those gimmicky chef-y apps. My bank account/frugality/stinginess forbids me from getting one though.
If you've got one though, do get the Ruhlman Ratio app- "Forget about teaspoons, ounces, cups and (shudder) fractions; it's all about the 'parts'. This is a refreshing, illuminating and perhaps even revolutionary look at the relations that make food work. " I think it's ingenious! And I'm not saying this in hope that he comes across my blog and decides to give me the app (and come to think of it, the iPhone) for free, though that would be nice.
Pie is supposed to be as easy as pie, but everyone's kind of scared of it, and so was I, but it's really not that scary. According to Ruhlman, it's as easy as 1-2-3 -- 1 part liquid, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour, plus keep everything cold. And with that you're pretty safe. You can then start thinking about all the additional things to do to make it different or better:
Liquid- cold water's fine, but I sub some of it for apple cider vinegar for a flakier crust, some people suggest vodka too which sounds like a great idea!
Fat- Lard will give a flakier crust, but butter gives more flavour. You can do half half. I like mine all butter and I find it flaky enough. You can use unrefined coconut oil (it's also a semi-solid) for a vegetarian version. Don't use shortening, hydrogenated vegetable oils are horrible.
Flour- White pastry/AP flour (organic, unbleached if possible) is the standard. But the brilliant wonderful people behind the Gluten Free Canteen confirms you can make this totally gluten free too, as long as you keep to the ratios BY WEIGHT. I'm not celiac, but I notice a worrying pattern with pimples when I eat too much wheat (unless it's in sourdough but I don't think sourdough will work here, as much as I love it). I've made normal pie crust a lot of times and so I decided I'll just do the same thing with their suggested gluten-free flour blend, since the ingredients called for are quite simple, no unpronounceable things like xanathan gum. In fact, when making shortcrust pastry, you want to reduce gluten formation, so gluten-free is quite fine.)
Homemade Shortcrust Pastry
for a 9" pie with top and bottom crust, or a quiche with lots of leftover dough for convenient future baking
300g flour (white pastry or spelt or gluten-free flour, really, they will all work fine!)
200g grassfed butter
30g apple cider vinegar
pinch of sea salt
1. Extra steps, to be done in order before you start, for the obsessive compulsive:
- Stuff the mixing bowl, a fork, and the bag of flour into the freezer.
- Chop up butter into little cubes and put into the freezer. If you freeze it before cutting, you're going to have a hard time.
- Put a cup of water into the freezer (it won't turn to ice that quickly don't worry)
2. Measure out flour and sift into the mixing bowl.
3. Add the chilled butter cubes and "cut" them into the flour with the help of the fork and rub/toss with your fingers quickly, until you get a mixture resembling coarse crumbs. Or you can use a food processor, even Martha Stewart does.
4. Make a well in the centre, and mix in the vinegar and ice-cold water slowly. Combine till it just comes together into a ball of dough, be flexible with the ratios, I sometimes find I need more or less to form a dough. Don't overwork, don't knead, see it's easy.
5. Split into half, wrap with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 2h or for a quick fix, freeze for 30 min. You can also just conveniently leave your dough to freeze till whichever day it is you feel like baking.
From here on you proceed with whatever pie recipe. This is what usually happens as a guide:
6. Flatten ball of dough into a disc between 2 sheets of clingfilm, flouring if necessary (with tapioca starch if GF), before rolling out from the centre (roll, turn, roll, turn... don't go over the edge or you get flimsy edges) until it's bigger than your pie pan.
7. Place dough into pie pan. You can partially roll up the dough with the rolling pin to pick it up, if it breaks or if your dough doesn't want to be picked up, just press it into the pie pan, whatever, it will still taste good!
Make-Do Kitchen 1: The clingwrap roll-ing pin..
8. Trim the edges (keep the extra for patchwork). If it's a quiche pan, use a chopstick to fit dough into the ridges. If it's a pie pan, crimp the edges by pinching. Refrigerate for at least 30 min.
Make-Do Kitchen 2: The chopstick
9. If it's a quiche or tart, poke holes, pre-bake the pastry at 180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes, with parchment paper placed over, and dried beans or rice poured over to weight it down. If it's a filled pie, you don't have to because the crust definitely cooks, but do remember to cut slits on top if it's a fully closed pie or your pie will explode.
Make-do Kitchen 3: The kitchen towel pastry brush
Brush surface with an egg beaten with some water or milk for a glossy bakery-like finish.
(Make-do kitchen 4: Dried green beans as baking beans)
For filled pies
(you can also do a lattice or have fun forming the top crust with cutout shapes, as long as there's 'ventilation')
And a close-up of the result:
Delicious, buttery, light, flaky pie crust!
And yes a recipe for a pie of sorts is coming up soon!