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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Perfect Pie Pastry

Heck, use it for whatever you want, really.

As soon as she was legally able (and possibly before), my mother passed off the pastry making duties in our home.  She started out subtly, and eventually it just became my job.  You know how it goes "But honey, you make pastry sooo much better than I do!"  And there you are, sucked in.

At any rate, making good pastry has never seemed like a mystery to me.  I will not pretend to compete with French pastry chefs, but then again, I can make a pie, including the pastry and filling, from scratch, and not need to buy anything more exotic than lard.

If you follow a few simple steps, there's nothin' to it.

This is the recipe we use.  By 'we', I mean every woman in my family.  Bar none.  Don't ask us who Margaret is, we don't know.  Probably a neighbour at some point.  But we don't care.

This recipe is a little different from most in that it makes a quantity of pie crust (as we referred to it) and it uses milk.
Here's all you need to make it.  Don't forget the vinegar.  Yes, I said vinegar.

This is one egg in a one cup measuring cup.  Beat the egg up a little bit with a fork.  Then add enough milk to make one cup of liquid.
The vinegar coagulates the milk and you get this nifty clumping thing going on.  Don't worry.  It's supposed to do that.

From here, add four cups of all purpose flour, the baking powder, and the salt, into a mixer.

Back in the old days, I didn't have a mixer.  I had to do this by hand.  With a pastry cutter.  Don't know what one of those is?  What has this generation come to. My, my, my...

Next, bring out the lard.  Now here's the important part.  Use cold fat.  Vegetable shortening can be used, but it must be cold.

Next, slice it both lengthwise and widthwise.  This will give you the right size pieces to drop in the mixer.  Flour will fly.  Wear your apron.  Don't be a wuss.

Let it mix, on stir or a low speed, until you get a crumbly mixture.  Don't over mix.  Some bits will be bigger than others, but no huge glumps, please.  They are unsightly

Then slowly pour in the milk mixture, with the mixer running. 

Don't pour the milk mixer with the mixture running.  That could get messy.  And weird.

It will be sloshy.  It's OK.  It's supposed to do that.

Keep your mixer running and steadily add more flour, until the entire thing comes together in a ball.  Keep an eye on it.  It will happen fast.

Ta da!  Presto!  Turn off the mixer.  Quickly.  When you pull up the kneading hook, most of the dough should fall off.

Scrape the dough together, gently, and get it into a bag that you can close tightly around the ball.

Don't over squish the ball, the dough will get tough.

I don't recommend a zip top bag - I don't find they wrap around the dough close enough.

I don't like plastic wrap - I can just never seem to get it to work without making a mess in my fridge.

I usually do use an old bread bag.  See?  I am all about the environment.

Keep it in the fridge and use it chilled.

When you go to roll it out, let it sit 5-10 minutes and flour your surface and rolling pin well.

And most of all, don't worry if you don't turn out the perfect pie crust the first few hundred times you try.  I promise you, no one has ever eaten bad pie.
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