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Pie crust primer: Follow these tips for a flaky crust

October 11, 2010

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A sweet pie crust, sometimes called a cookie crust, is used in this recipe for a Chocolate Cherry Clafoutis Pie. If you want a truly wonderful pie crust, something truly worthy of the trouble you will go to when making the filling, the only way to go is to make your own.

A sweet pie crust, sometimes called a cookie crust, is used in this recipe for a Chocolate Cherry Clafoutis Pie. If you want a truly wonderful pie crust, something truly worthy of the trouble you will go to when making the filling, the only way to go is to make your own.

With holiday pie season upon us, it’s easy to be intimidated into outsourcing your crusts. Face it, buying a boxed, refrigerated or frozen crust is easier and faster. Too bad it doesn’t taste better.

Because if you want a truly wonderful pie crust, something truly worthy of the trouble you will go to when making the filling, the only way to go is to make your own. Here are two popular types, the flaky and sweet pie crusts.

Flaky pie crust

Makes 2 crusts (for 1 double-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold, cut in 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 cup shortening

1/3 cup ice water

In a large bowl, toss together the salt and flour. Add the butter chunks and the shortening, then use your fingers to smear them into the flour. The goal is not to mix the fat into the flour, but to break down the large chunks.

When the chunks of butter and shortening all have been pressed into the flour, drizzle the ice water into the mixture, tossing it together. It will not resemble a cohesive dough.

Pour the mixture onto the counter, then form it into a pile in front of you. Using the heel of your hand, smear the mixture against the counter. Work from the side of the mixture farthest from you and press away from your body, smearing a bit more of the mixture with each press.

Once all of the mixture has been smeared with the heel of your hand, gather it together again and repeat the process. At this point, your mixture should look like a shaggy dough. Gather the pieces and gently squeeze together into 2 discs, each about 1 inch thick. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to make the pie, on a lightly floured surface roll one of the discs into a 13-inch circle. Always roll from the center of the disc and turn frequently to prevent sticking.

Fold the dough in half, then again to form quarters. Lift the triangle of dough into your pie pan, putting the folded point in the center of the pan. Gently unfold the dough to cover the whole pan. You should have a generous overhang once the dough is all settled into the corners of the pan.

If using a top crust, fill the bottom crust with your pie filling as directed, then repeat the rolling, folding and moving technique with the other disc of dough.

Trim the overhang of dough to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pan. Fold the edge of the dough under itself, pinching to seal. Using either a fork or your fingers, crimp the edge of the dough around the pie and against the top of the pie pan.

If using a single crust recipe, fill your pie after crimping the edges of the crust. Bake as directed for your pie recipe.

•••

Sweet pie crust is similar in texture to a delicate butter cookie. It should be somewhat crumbly, buttery and lightly sweet, similar to a cookie. As a result, this pie crust is best left for sweet fillings, such as chocolate or banana cream pies.

Though the raw dough does tear easily as it is being shaped into the pan, it is easily patched. This dough can be used in a traditional pie pan, but also works well pressed into a tart pan (though you will need less dough). And while this dough can be used for a double crust recipe, it is most frequently used for single crust pies.

The classic clafoutis is a custardy concoction straight from the countryside of France. This version adds a touch of chocolate that is nicely offset by the crisp sweet crust.

Sweet Pie Crust

Makes 1 crust

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1 egg yolk

In a small bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the sugar and butter. Add the egg yolk and beat just to combine. Stir in the flour mixture until completely incorporated. The dough will be quite soft. With your hands, form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to make the pie, on a lightly floured surface roll one of the discs into a 13-inch circle. Always roll from the center of the disc and turn frequently to prevent sticking.

Fold the dough in half, then again to form quarters. Lift the triangle of dough into your pie pan, putting the folded point in the center of the pan. Gently unfold the dough to cover the whole pan. You should have a generous overhang once the dough is all settled into the corners of the pan.

Trim the overhang of dough to just beyond the edge of the pan. Using either a fork or your fingers, crimp the edge of the dough around the pie and against the top of the pie pan. Bake as directed for your pie recipe.

Chocolate cherry clafoutis pie

For the filling:

2 tablespoons butter

Two 10-ounce packages frozen sweet cherries, thawed

2 tablespoons sugar

For the batter:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1 unbaked sweet pie crust fitted to a deep 9-inch pie pan

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the cherries and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the juices become syrupy, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter. In a blender, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and milk. Blend thoroughly.

Pour a 1/2-inch layer of the batter into the bottom of the pie crust. Spoon the cherries over the batter, then top with the remaining batter. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. A toothpick inserted at the center should come out clean. Serves 8.

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