Thursday, February 14, 2008

Perfect Pie Dough

Recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies

I will always be forever grateful to Martha Stewart for teaching me how to make perfect pie dough. Of course, I didn't have a private lesson, but I've seen her make this on television numerous times and I've read all of her cookbooks. For my 40th birthday, my teaching buddies gave me the Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts Cookbook. I'd highly recommend this book as a good resource if you are interested in making good pies. This particular recipe uses a food processor, so it's especially easy. Be sure to read the tips at the end of the recipe.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
½ cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. (Pressing the dough into a disc rather than shaping it into a ball allows it to chill faster. This will also make the dough easier to roll out, and if you freeze it, it will thaw more quickly.) Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
By following these seven simple rules, you can produce a flaky, tender crust every time:
1. When making the dough, make sure the butter is very cold.
2. Handle the dough as little as possible. Both the stretching of the dough and the warmth from your hands will further the development of gluten -- long, stringy protein molecules that form when flour is blended with liquid -- resulting in a tough dough that's difficult to roll out.
3. Since our pie-dough recipe yields two single crusts, divide the dough in half, and pat each half into a flat disk before wrapping it in plastic and chilling. This will make it easier to roll out each crust into a perfect circle.
4. Chill the dough thoroughly (at least 30 minutes) before rolling it out, and use a minimum of flour to dust the rolling pin and work surface. Brush excess flour from the rolled dough with a dry pastry brush before transferring it to the pie plate.
5. For an extra-crispy piecrust with a golden color, brush the unbaked top crust with water, and sprinkle it with sugar.
6. For a shiny piecrust, brush the unbaked top crust with an egg wash made from one egg and 2 tablespoons cream.
7. Cut decorative vents in the top of a double-crusted fruit pie; vents allow steam to escape and prevent the fruit juices from overflowing.

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