Pie, Oh Pie

BY DEBBIE MATTHEWS, The Curious Cook
Posted 5/1/20

My mom makes amazing pies. Her apple, pecan, and lemon merengue are pies of family legend.

But she never makes her own crust. She uses the boxed Pillsbury crusts found in the dairy section of the …

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Pie, Oh Pie

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Posted

My mom makes amazing pies. Her apple, pecan, and lemon merengue are pies of family legend.

But she never makes her own crust. She uses the boxed Pillsbury crusts found in the dairy section of the supermarket.

That’s what I always did as well until I discovered pastry making is way easier than I’d thought. Just use a good recipe and avoid overworking the dough. That’s it.

I’m still struggling with sweet, traditional pies. But I can turn out a killer savory hand pie. I’m sharing my Tex-Mex chicken filling, but I strongly urge you to use your imagination and get creative.

Good luck, and happy pie-ing.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at dm@bullcity.mom.

Drunken Pie Crust

Vodka is added to lower the chances of gluten developing. Gluten is the protein that makes bread dough stretchy. It can also make a disappointingly chewy pie crust. The secret of a light flaky crust is to stop kneading the second you can press a bit of dough in your hand and it keeps its shape.

The crust should be cold when it hits the hot oven. This accomplishes two things. The butter will melt all at once, and the steam that is produced will create little air pockets, which contributes to a flaky mouth-feel. And there will be very little shrinkage before the pastry is set, so the pie crust won’t retreat down the sides of the pan.

1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed and chilled

2 1/2 cups + 1/2 tablespoon cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons very cold vodka (Vodka is tasteless in the cooked crust. But feel free to add another kind to lend flavor to the finished product; bourbon for pecan or apple for example, or tequila for the Tex-Mex pie.)

5-8 tablespoons ice water

Put the butter, flour, and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly just until mixture resembles wet sand. Add vodka, then water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each spoonful. Keep adding liquid until the dough just begins to gather into larger clumps. Pour dough onto flat surface and lightly knead just until it comes together.

Divide dough in half and transfer into re-sealable plastic bags and pat into disks. Let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Or freeze for later.

Before baking, chill formed dough for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 425° until golden; timing depends on size and shape of product.

Tex-Mex Chicken Filling

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken

1/2 cup frozen, thawed corn (fire-roasted, if you can find it)

1 can chopped green chiles, drained

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/4-1/2 cup salsa of your choice

Salt & pepper

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Stir together first four ingredients and add salsa until just moistened.* Season, taste and reseason, if necessary. (*If the filling’s too wet, product will end up gummy and unbaked.)

Divide each dough disk into two pieces and roll each piece into a circle approximately 1/8-inch thick. Put one quarter of filling on each circle and paint the edges with a little water. Fold dough over and seal with a fork, making sure there are no gaps or tears.

Before baking, paint the tops with a little heavy cream, sprinkle with a tiny bit of cheese, and season. Cut 2-3 small slits in top to vent, after sprinkling and painting.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 3 days (You can also double wrap separately and freeze for up to six weeks, then thaw in fridge overnight).

Bake at 425° on parchment-covered baking sheet 30-45 minutes or until browned and filling inside reaches 165°.

Serves four.

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