I have always been intimidated by pie crust. I know, laugh it up. I used to joke that the expression “easy as pie” is the most ridiculous statement ever. I set these occasional roadblocks for myself, always with a food task that I have deemed too daunting or difficult, convincing myself that no matter what, I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. As if countless women and men haven’t been making the same thing happen with flour, salt and butter for centuries. I had relegated that transformation of a few simple ingredients and a little bit of technique akin to alchemy, or magic. It simply wasn’t for me to know. How I have managed to convince myself all of these years that it simply wasn’t something I could accomplish delves into a part of my psyche that is better left unexplored on a Sunday evening, thank you very much. But suffice to say that it is the part of my nature that sets myself up for failure before I have ever attempted. Silly me.
My mother-in-law has laughed at me every time I said it, saying, “It’s not hard, you just have to do it.” What simple, wonderful advice. Thank you, Claudia. She’d dead on.
I poured over the cook books we have in the house, much are many and varied. I have had great success with Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Ronalto Poliafito. I love them, and their book is so welcoming, the tone so easy-breezy, ‘this-is nothing, anyone-can-do-this’. They remind me of my sassy grandmother if she was a pair of adorably charming boys from Brooklyn with the BEST BROWNIES IN THE WORLD. Well, you get the idea. They break pie crust down to the basics, and while they caution you to take your time, the recipe couldn’t be easier. It also helps that I inherited a really nice food processor. I have a chef for a husband, who hates to bake, but admits that pie crust isn’t hard. I was running out of excuses.
I cleared a spot on the kitchen table for a rolling surface (my kitchen is painfully tiny), and three hours later from scratch to done, had a perfectly done scratch chicken pot pie. BOOM.
It really is that simple, if only to give you the confidence to try new things and feel that thrill of accomplishing something that you thought you couldn’t do, coupled with that bliss of doing something that people up until the 1950’s did EVERY TIME they wanted pie. I’m already planning my next one, and I probably won’t buy a frozen pie crust again. I’m going to make two next time to freeze so I will have it any time I want. There are a lot of versions, but they all revolve around a central theme – flour, salt, and fat. Three things that make the world delicious.
I used the Baked pie dough recipe to the letter:
You will need:
- 3 Cups AP flour
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) Unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- ¾ Cups ice water
- 2 12” sheets of wax paper
- Plastic wrap, or gallon-size Ziploc bags
In a food processor with the normal blade attachment, combine all dry ingredients, adding butter while pulsing in 5-6 second bursts until the flour and butter are thoroughly combined and resemble a coarse meal. The grains of flour will feel buttery when it is combined properly, and there will be no remaining chunks.
Pulsing in short, 5-second bursts, slowly pour in the ice water through the pour spout until the dough comes together in a ball. When said ball is formed, remove onto a sheet of wax paper, split into 2 equal halves, and wrap each ball in it’s own sheet of wax paper. Smoosh it slightly into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap or place in Ziploc, and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
This will keep in the fridge for 3 days, or you can freeze the dough balls for 3 months.
Chicken Pot Pie Filling (these measurements are pretty arbitrary, if you don’t like celery, scale back on the celery! If you LOVE carrots, go buck-wild!)
You will need:
- Medium pot
- Large skillet
- 2 Cups frozen “Fancy” mixed veg. (If you have fresh, by all means, use them, but I keep these handy in the winter to bulk up the amount of veg because they are good for you.)
- 4 Tbsp salted butter
- 2 Cups celery, cubed-diced
- 3 cloves garlic diced
- 5 med-large carrots, cubed
- 1 ½ Cups yellow or white onion
- 1 Cup broccoli
- 1 Tbsp Better Than Bullion ™
- 1 whole roasted chicken (my sweet husband was kind enough to do this step for me – he slathered the whole chicken in olive oil, salt and pepper and baked it – you can always cheat and use the frozen, pre-cooked strips/breasts, I won’t tell.)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
- ¼ Cup milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Enough pie dough for a 9” pie (top and bottom crust)
In a medium pot, bring 16 oz. water to a boil. Whisk in 1 Tbsp. bullion until fully dissolved, turn heat to medium, add frozen veg and pulled/cubed chicken meat (you want it in bite-size pieces) and cover.
In the skillet over medium-high, melt butter, add celery, carrots, onions, broccoli, and garlic, sauté until onions are transparent. If they are getting dry or sticking, stir a drizzle of olive oil in and continue to sauté.
Add contents of pot to contents of skillet, combine thoroughly, and cover.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove your pie crust from fridge, and roll out on a floured surface, using floured hands and a floured rolling pin/bottle/Santeria candle (a favorite at my house… I really need to get a rolling pin), to make a crust large enough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate with enough to drape over the edge. (Aside: I really love Pyrex/Anchor glass pie plates. I pick them up at Goodwill for cheap all the time. They are virtually indestructible – great for a novice baker.)
Gently transfer the rolled crust into the pie plate, either by rolling around the rolling pin and rolling back out, or very gently using both hands.
Trim edges with a butter knife, leaving some hang-over – pie crust shrinks, and you want an edge. Gently pinch the edges into a pattern you like. I am not the most gifted pie crust sculptor.
If you have pie-weights, you can of course use them, but in a pinch, pinto beans work as great pie-weights. You should also pierce the bottom with a fork to prevent air pockets.
Make a pie-crust shield out of aluminum foil to prevent the edges from burning.
Par-bake your bottom crust for 15 minutes at 350.
Remove pie crust from over, remove “pie-weights” and tin-foil hat. (You are going to need it again, so do this delicately!)
Fill pie with filling, and repeat process of rolling and cutting with second crust for the top. Cut small slices in the top crust to vent.
Place a cookie sheet in the bottom rack to catch drips. Bake at 350-375 for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown.
Let pie rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.
As a bonus for the chef and whoever she wants to share it with – cut rolled out excess pie crust into strips and brush with melted salted butter, cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes.
We call these “crispies” and they are a long-standing pie-making treat in both the Green and the Eaton families.
If you want to get extra fancy, you can roll out excess pie dough, brush with butter and heavily sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, roll up, cut into slices, and bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes. Ice these babies with cream cheese icing made with ½ Cup cream cheese, ¾ Cup confectioner’s sugar, and a Tbsp of milk. Hoo-whee! Share them or keep them all to yourself.