Thanksgiving is one of those tough holidays as far as the menu. Sure, everyone wants to try new recipes and experiment, but there is so much tradition wrapped into the holiday, it’s often hard to do. Thanksgiving is all about nostalgia and family, and nothing else can bring back memories like food. One of those traditions in many houses, and certainly ours, is ending the meal with pies…delicious pies. The fillings may vary, but you always need a buttery, flaky pie crust, and that’s another place tradition comes into play for me.
Several months ago, I shared a recipe for crab quiche, and mentioned I used my Aunt Angie’s recipe for pie crust. I know several were not thrilled about my withholding, but it just felt right to talk about pie crusts before Thanksgiving. Aunt Angie was my grandmother’s sister, and she was the pie maker. No matter what occasion or holiday, she brought the pies. From lemon meringue to coconut cream, from apple to cherry, and everything in between, they were amazing. Sadly, I don’t have many of the recipes for the fillings…well… that’s not completely true, I have the recipes, but it’s really a list of ingredients, making it a little hard to follow. J But, thankfully, I do have her pie crust recipe.
There’s always lots of talk about pie crusts and how difficult they can be. I have to tell you, I think it’s pretty easy, if you follow a few rules. Keep the butter and water cold, work quickly, and chill often. Several years ago I started making pies using a food processor, and I have to admit, it makes the process even easier. But, don’t worry, you can still follow the recipe without a food processor.
Start by adding 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon baking powder to the bowl of a food processor, or any bowl if you don’t have one. Stir to combine. Next, cut 2/3 cup butter into small pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Pulse a few times to combine and integrate the butter thoroughly, or use a fork to mash the butter into the flour. You want to end up with tiny pieces of butter all throughout the flour. This is how you get a flaky crust. And you want the butter cold. I find if you’re combining by hand, cut the butter into very small pieces before adding to the flour, almost slivers, so it’s easier to combine.Next, you want to add about 9 tablespoons ice water. Don’t add all 9 to start. I usually start with 6, give it a whirl then add more if needed. Depending on the humidity and moisture in the flour, you may need more or less. For the food processor, just run until the mixture forms a ball. It should happen in a few seconds. If it doesn’t come together just add more water. If by hand, just stir with the fork until it sticks together but isn’t too wet.
Divide the dough in two, wrap in plastic, and store in the refrigerator. I usually make the dough the night before I’m going to use it, but you can refrigerate for an hour or two to cool it down. In a pinch, I have been known to stick it in the freezer for a little while to speed things up, but don’t forget about it!
Roll out the dough about an inch or two bigger than your pie plate. Also, spray your pie plate liberally. You don’t want the crust to stick. Then just fold it to transfer to the plate, and you’re set. I like to refrigerate the dough again once in the plate to firm it up before baking, especially if it is a 1 crust pie. Just stick it back in for a little while as you prepare the filling.
No matter what the filling, this one is a keeper, and I think Aunt Angie would be proud her crust lives on. This year, her crusts will be filled with caramel apple, pecan, and, of course, pumpkin. Happy Thanksgiving!