Craftsy Has a Fabulous Class on Pie Crust
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What is it about pie crust? The prospect of making it strikes fear in bakers. I learned by watching my Nana and she never measured. She would scoop flour into a bowl, add Crisco (that she kept cold in the fridge) and then used orange juice for liquid. She mixed with her hands and a manual pastry blender. Worked every time. I have to admit over the years I have had a few failures – and many people do. Not all of us are blessed with my Nana’s touch! Luckily making great pie crust can be taught. You can sign up for a Craftsy class called Perfecting the Pie Crust and download a free All-Butter Pie Crust Recipe from the class right now. Then you won’t have to be wondering if your next round with dough is going to work. Craftsy teacher Evan Kleiman aims to take the mystery out of making classic pie crust by presenting ingredients, techniques and recipes.
As with all Craftsy food technique classes you get several “Lessons” within the one class that you can go to at any point, but they are laid out in order: Getting Started, Making Pie Dough, Rolling Out the Dough, Blind-Baked Crust, Thickeners, Pie Decorating and The Ultimate Apple Pie.
Evan has some great tips about rolling pins – she likes 16” minimum width, which is a good recommendation. For a standard 9-inch pie plate you will be rolling out dough to about 12 or 13-inches and you want the pin to be larger. If you are new to baking and shopping for a pin, you probably wouldn’t have thought of this. Speaking of pans I agree with her love of Pyrex. We both like being able to see the browning of crusts.
Her introductory discussion of ingredients is interesting. If you are looking for an exact formula, you will not necessarily get that here. She talks about how different flours and different liquids and fats combine in unique ways and how you have to use your sense of touch and observation. Don’t let this scare you. It is what my Nana did to great effect and Evan is encouraging. She helps you relax with this approach and by being able to see it in video format, you will truly understand what she means.
She mentions using kosher salt because she is used to its saltiness and therefore knows how it will enhance a dish. She suggests that you use the salt you are familiar with. Makes sense. This is real cooking and baking. One must taste and experiment and use their senses as they go along.
As far as general formulas she likes to use the 1-2-3 Ratio, which is her Golden Rule (she doesn’t like using the word “recipe”): 12 ounces of flour, 8 ounces of fat (butter, lard and/or shortening) and 4 ounces liquid (water, apple juice etc.). She not only uses these various ingredients but also shows us how to create the dough three ways: hand, manual pastry blender and food processor. Her thinking, which is quite sound, is that by experimenting with various flours/fats/liquids – using the ratio as a guide – and trying your hand at the mixing techniques, that you will be ready to make pie crust anywhere and anytime. And as she says, “repetition is the road to mastery”. Download the free pie crust recipe today and get baking!
To give you a specific look into her ideas she likes to use a scale, not measuring cups, and she likes to keep her fat larger than many chefs do. Her fat pieces are worked in and left in sizes varying from walnut to pea (you can see the pockets of fat above in the rolled out dough). This is where a video really comes in handy because you can see what she means. I was watching with a friend and at this point in the video she exclaimed, “she’s like our digital Nana”!
One point that Evan made that I really appreciated was in reference to pastry cloths. My Mom used one and I never quite understood their use at the time. Now I know better but their usage had fallen by the wayside. Evan reminded me why you should have one and also a sock to cover your pin. The pastry cloth creates your rolling surface. You gently rub some flour into the cloth and it makes a fairly nonstick surface and keeps the flour from absorbing into the dough, which can toughen it up. But the tip I actually had never thought of was, that as she put it, if you have a pastry cloth you can roll out pie crust anywhere regardless of the surface! So if you are in a rental house on vacation or visiting a friend or whatever the situation, the cloth provides a constant! Brilliant. My favorite tip, which I will pass along even though it wasn’t in her video, is about one of my favorite tools – the mini roller seen below. These are a great adjunct to a large pin.
There is much more to this class that you will have to check out yourself like the use of vinegar and apple juice in the dough and what she says is the chef’s secret weapon – baking powder! Evan also covers decorative pie crust techniques like appliques and how scissors will help you make a clean look to your double crust pies.
Her dough was so easy to work with that when it came time to fold the edges under the process went cleanly and easily.
Same with the crimping, seen in our top image. No cracking! The crust is a dream to work with. Once you try the Free Pie Crust Recipe from Perfecting the Pie Crust you will be on the road to making truly great pie.
Images: Peter Muka