Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gearing up.

It's November, which means the holidays and - more importantly - the baking of many, many pies are upon us. I can almost taste the buttery, flaky goodness right now.

I make at least two pies at Thanksgiving: one for my office's potluck lunch (which is today) and one for Thanksgiving dinner. This year, it's looking more like at least three pies, since we'll have a crowd at dinner. (Yay!) At times like these, I'm reminded of how nifty it is to have an easy pie crust recipe in my back pocket.

My recipe is super-simple, and can easily convert from a pâte sucrée (a sweet crust) to a pâte brisée (a savory crust) by simply removing the sugar from the mix. I use it for everything from galettes to quiches to tarts to old-fashioned deep dish apple pie. It takes about five minutes to blend together, but you must (must) allow time for it to rest in the fridge before rolling it out; this gives the gluten you've activated in the blending a chance to relax, and will ensure a flaky crust in place of a tough, chewy one.

As for rolling this sucker out, I've recently become enamored of Food52's ingenious technique: place the dough between two floured sheets of plastic wrap and go to town. This method makes turning the crust for even rolling simple as can be, and also helps ensure a smooth transfer to the pie plate. Amazing, right? Right. You can see it in action in this video!

Queenie's Pie Crust (Pâte Sucrée or Pâte Brisée)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbs. granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, very cold and cut into 1/2 inch dice
5-8 tbs. ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar (omit the sugar for a savory, pâte brisée crust) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the butter and pulse several times, until the mixture turns mealy and the butter is mostly in pea-sized chunks.

With the processor running, add the water a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just begins to come together into a coherent mass. (There will still be a smattering of mealy crumbs. That's okay.)

Dump the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a ball. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours, before using. If you've left the dough in the fridge for more than an hour or two, you should bring it out and set it on the counter for 30 minutes or so before rolling it out.

Makes two nine-inch crusts.

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