Make the perfect pie crust

AKRON BEACON JOURNALNovember 27, 2013 

FOOD TARTS 3 MO

Bake premade piecrust and, while still warm, scatter with dark or white chocolate chips. Once they melt, spread them thinly on the crust. Once cool, fill with pudding or pie filling. (Sharon K. Ghag/Modesto Bee/MCT)

SHARON K. GHAG — MCT

Michele Stuart, owner of Michele's Pies in Norwalk and Westport, Conn., and author of the new book Perfect Pies & More, offered these tips for holiday pie-baking:

-- Pie fillings aren't hard to master, so focus on the crust.

-- Pie baking takes patience. Try not to get frustrated and keep trying.

-- Stuart prefers to use Crisco brand vegetable shortening for her crusts.

-- Make sure to use ice-cold ingredients, especially the water.

-- The biggest mistake pie bakers make is over-mixing the crust. Stop mixing when the shortening is the size of peas, gather the dough into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

-- Refrigerate pie dough for at least a half-hour before rolling it out.

-- Dough that cracks when rolled out is probably too dry. Next time, add more water when mixing. Cracking means a problem with the dough, not a problem with the rolling technique.

-- Invest in an oven thermometer to check your oven temperature for accuracy.

-- Stuart brushes her crust with heavy cream before baking to ensure a golden brown finish.

Traditional Pastry Pie Crust

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon Crisco vegetable shortening, cold
5 tablespoon water, ice cold

In a medium bowl, mix together flour and salt. Add Crisco to flour mixture. Either with a pastry blender or with fingertips, mix ingredients together with an up-and-down chopping motion until dough forms coarse, pea-sized crumbs.

Add the ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, delicately incorporating each tablespoon into the flour mixture before adding the next. You may have to use 1 more or 1 less tablespoon of water than amount recommended, depending upon humidity in your kitchen. You will know you have added the right amount of water when the dough forms a ball that easily holds together.

Use your palm to form dough into a dish shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

-- Perfect Pies & More, Michele Stuart

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