Friday, November 20, 2009

Buttery Wheat Pie Crust

Next week, less than a week from today it will be Thanksgiving! I absolutely love Thanksgiving! You get to cook all day making fabulous food that you only make and eat once a year. What's not to love? Cleaning up is even fun when our family friend Frenetta is there. She is the most regal and beautiful African American woman I have met and I think I was ten when she first became friends with my mother. After her family moved away and her husband died, she began sharing Thanksgiving dinner with us. Every year she arrives with her handmade apron in one hand and a Sweet Potato Pie in the other. Her laughter and stories echo through the house and then I know it's really Thanksgiving, Frenetta is here. Making pie crust is one thing that was a given with Frenetta's generation and is a lost art in mine. One of my personal missions is to bring back homemade, flaky, tender, golden pie crust. It's not hard and you don't need to be intimidated by something made out of 4 simple ingredients. Now, I'm not saying you should be spanked for using a pre-made crust but if you are going to the trouble of making a pie from scratch, it's easy (and inexpensive) to make your own crust. If you've never made a pie crust before, prepare to be amazed at the difference it makes in your final creation. Besides, you will know how simple it was and everyone else will think you are a domestic goddess. I mean, that's a win-win situation there!

Buttery Wheat Pie Crust
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can substitute white flour if you want)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter
5 Tablespoons ice water

Stir together the wheat and white flours and the salt. Crumble the butter in with your hands (easiest) or with a pastry blender (cleanest). You want to work it in until it has coarse crumbs like the photograph below.
Sprinkle in the ice water until the dough just just comes together in a shaggy ball. Be careful not to add too much water, add it a tablespoon at a time until you can pinch a clump of the dough together and it sticks in a ball. I toss it gently with a fork after each addition of water so it doesn't get compacted or tough. There is gluten in the flour that you don't want to activate or the crust will be hard to roll out and it will be tough after you bake it. This is really the only part you have to take care with, adding the water and mixing. Once you get a feel for that you can make incredible crust in your sleep. I've been making pies since I was about eleven years old and even my "mess-ups" were yummy so don't be nervous. Also, I used to make all white flour crusts with shortening. We don't use any shortening now and about a year ago I started making part whole wheat crusts and the flavor is unbeatable.

After you get a rough ball of dough like you see above, turn it out on a lightly floured countertop and lightly knead 4 or 5 times to smooth out the dough. Divide it into two pieces and you are ready to roll. Literally. Here is my poor wooden rolling pin. I can't tell how many times I have rescued it from the boys as the "steamrolled" around the house chasing their sisters. Who needs expensive toys when your mom has a rolling pin?

You want to roll it in one direction only, away from you, then towards you. After about 4 rolls, gently turn the dough a quarter turn, that is, turn the side on your right to the top side. Counterclockwise turns. Four more rolls and turn again. This pattern should result in a fairly good circle. You want to roll until the circle is a couple inches bigger than your pie plate. You may have to add a dusting of flour as you go to keep it from sticking to the countertop or your rolling pin. When it's the right size, gently fold it over and lay it over half of your pie plate. Unfold and adjust it to fit the plate. If it tears just lightly moisten a scrap and stick it in the tear to patch it. I trim it to overhang the edge about 1/2 to 1 inch then fold it under to make an even edge.
This crust had several patches on the edge that you can see in the photograph. If you are making a luscious pumpkin or pecan pie just fold the edge under and crimp it like the first photograph or whatever you think looks pretty. If you are making a sweet apple pie with a top crust the fill the bottom crust after you roll out the second ball of dough and fit it over the pie filling. You can moisten the edge so the top crust sticks well then fold under the extra part and crimp it. Then you should cut a few slits in the top, brush it with milk and sprinkle with sugar. It bakes up crisp and beautiful. I tell you, it can make a grown man cry!


Kristin said...

Oh you did not! This is something I cannot, I mean cannot, figure out. I'll have to give it a go between now and Christmas. Hugs.

stitching under oaks said...

thanks so much! I've never had great experience with pie crusts...I'll have to try this sometime over the holidays! It looks delicious!