Saturday, December 17, 2011

All Better Butter

Slog. That is what it is lately. Slog myself to work, work. Slog myself home, walk and train the dog. Slog myself through the dark winter garden, avoiding dog poop as best as possible. Slog myself to the kitchen, make dinner. I try to get some grading done. I go to bed.

I marvel at parents who can hold full time jobs, at people who have careers and still manage to write every day, and at all the people who can do so much more than I can. I don't know how they do it. Whenever my hands get too full, my glands swell and my nose runs. I get sick with stress. Right now E is down for the count too, sick with pneumonia.

There are things I can do without thinking, though, things that cause me no stress. I've done them enough times that they're automatic, and in their brainlessness, they are comforting. Pie crust is one of those things, and gershdarnit, I make a good pie crust. It's buttery, very flaky, and it is something I can be proud of. When not much else is working the way I'd like it to, at least there is pie crust.

There is nothing unique about these ingredients. To make this crust well, it is all in the process.

All-Butter Pie Crust 
This recipe makes enough for a double-crust pie.

You will need:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-8 teaspoons cold soda water (preferable) or still water

To make the crust:
Chill your bowl. Because it is easy to spin and gets cold quickly, I like to use a metal bowl. Drop ice into your cold water.

Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces. Use a fork and toss the butter, flour, and salt together in the bowl until each piece of butter is coated with flour. With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into smaller pieces until there are many gravel-sized pieces of flour and some that are smaller. Scrape the cutter off into the bowl, and set aside—you're finished with it.

Using your hands, scoop up the flour mixture, leaving your fingers spaced at least a quarter inch apart. Using your thumbs, push the mixture over your fingers. Much of it will fall through your fingers, and some of the butter chunks will be flattened against your fingers as they roll off your index fingers. Repeat this process eight or so times, until you have about an even mixture of flattened butter chunks and gravelly butter chunks.

Drizzle half the ice cold (soda) water over the flour mixture and use a fork to toss the mixture together. Drizzle the remaining water over the mixture and toss together more. Use your hands again and work to bring the mixture together, scooping the dry parts over the wetter parts and trying to mash them together a bit. The mixture will not hold together as a ball; the parts must be worked into each other. Push the crumbly dough into a loose disk, then fold it over on itself. Flatten and push it into a disk again, and fold it over on itself again. This process will create a very nice flakiness. After eight or so times the seperate ingredients will have incorporated, and you'll see what will become flakes during baking. Break the disk in two, flatten each into a disk again, then place them in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours. Refrigerating the dough will allow the gluten to relax, preventing a tough crust.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out for the pie. Fill with whatever is good, and bake, according to whatever recipe you're using for the filling.


Wendy said...

Hope life becomes less of a slog sometime soon and that you feel better, Christina. Best wishes to E too. x

michele Zack said...

Yr recipe very like mine! My crust improved when I stopped over-mixing it, so that you see little globs of butter in in when you roll it out.

michelle said...

Mmm, that looks wonderful. I have a similar method for making pastry, although I'm more a fan of galettes than pie. I do hope that you get through the stressful events and feel better. I'm already feeling happier now that the days will be getting longer rather than shorter. :)

Doug Barnard said...

Looks awesome, thanks for this! Great food sensory !