Thanksgiving Baking: How to Make Perfect Homemade Piecrust
Sigh! Pie. So comforting. So old-timey. Such tradition, and such a great way to take all that love that is just bursting out of your heart, put it in a dish and feed it to your family.
And at this time of year, we all have our eyes on pies, as we are hurtling headlong into Thanksgiving baking, and what is arguably the most pie-centric time of the year.
So I thought this would be a good time for me to share my absolute favorite piecrust recipe and method.
Piecrust can often be a bit challenging, but over the years I've worked out a formula that I love, and I think you will too! It's pretty simple, although there is a bit of downtime while it chills, and the result is always flaky, tender, buttery and delish!
Image: Courtesy of Baking a Moment
All-butter piecrust sounds just wonderful, but I have found that it's often a bit tough. A little bit of vegetable shortening goes a long way to tenderize the piecrust. Shortening = Tender; Butter = Flaky. A little bit of both has always been the way to go, for me.
That is, until Robin Roberts had to go and rain all over my piecrust parade, alerting me to the reality that trans fats are even worse for our health than originally thought, and all things partially hydrogenated are likely to be banned from supermarket shelves in the very near future. This got me thinking about substitutions, and I remembered about the olive oil sampler that was recently gifted to me by Oregon Olive Mill. I gave each of their three varieties a taste, and found the Arbequina to have a lovely, light and floral flavor that would complement a sweet filling in such a beautiful way. Just a few tablespoonfuls added to the flour and salt, stirred in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, and you have a heart-healthier piecrust with all the tenderness of your granny's classic.
When the dough comes together into a ball, divide it into two equal portions, and give each one a quick roll, to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Then fold into thirds, like a letter, give it a quarter turn and another fold, and roll again. Refrigerate for about an hour. All this folding and rolling is what makes the gorgeous flaky layers. It's perfection.
Be sure to keep everything really cold while you're working. You don't want those layers of butter to soften or melt. They should be cold when they go into the oven, so steam is released and the layers open up. It's a lot like puff pastry.
At this point the dough can be frozen. I often make my crusts a few weeks before Thanksgiving and freeze them, just to make the holiday prep a little easier on myself. They can be defrosted in the refrigerator a day or two before you're ready to roll them out. Or, if you have the room in your freezer, you can roll and place in the pie pan, and freeze it that way.
This recipe makes enough for two single-crust pies, or one double-crust pie. Or you could do a lattice-top pie! So pretty...
The proof is in the pudding! This is the mark of true piecrust success, to me:
Can you even get over those flaky layers???
Next time I'm going to show you my favorite apple pie filling. It's so good! I mean it's basic but all the important stuff is there, and you can dress it up with whatever fancy ideas you might have (salted caramel, just sayin'). I love how it's totally stuffed to capacity with the most juicy apples, that are firm and toothsome, not mushy or watery. Just wait! You're going to love it!