Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Flaky Pie Crust

Happy Thanksgiving! Tomorrow may be just another Thursday in Spain, but that will not stop me from celebrating my favorite holiday. Would you believe me if I said I love Thanksgiving more than Christmas? It's true! Each year I look forward to the menu planning, grocery shopping, baking pies late into the night on Wednesday, waking up early on Thursday to roast the turkey and watch the Macy's Day Parade, and finally, timing the many side dishes perfectly so they are steaming hot when the glorious turkey is removed from the oven! My family is full of cooks and we LOVE slaving away all day in the kitchen before sharing an oversized meal with our friends and family.

My Thanksgiving in Spain will take place on Friday this year. We have invited all the Americans we know to have a Thanksgiving feast at our apartment. We had plans to recreate the traditional menu we all grew up with, until we ventured into the supermercado! There are no pecans, no pumpkin puree, no cranberries, no cream of mushroom soup or fried onions (there goes the green bean casserole!), and no sweet potatoes. So, it seems we will have to be a little more creative and resourceful with our side dishes. Fortunately, we were able to get our hands on a 17 lb turkey through a special order at a carnicerĂ­a.

"Turkey, raised in Galicia. The flavor of tradition." At least we will have a golden, roasted bird at the center of our Thanksgiving table!

True to my sweet-tooth form, I have appointed myself "Chief Pie Maker." I originally planned to stick to the basics: pumpkin, pecan, and something sinful and chocolatey. However, the aforementioned lack of pumpkins and pecans in the Spanish supermarkets presented a major obstacle. I was able to track down a sugar pumpkin from which I made my own pumpkin puree, and the pecan pie will likely become a walnut pie. (Stay tuned to see how that turns out!) Combing the grocery store for my ingredients was exhausting, frustrating, and depressing. I was worried about finding any ingredient other than sugar and flour for my pies until I made my way to the refrigerated section where I found stacks upon stacks of butter-the key to a flaky pie crust. Thank goodness butter is well-loved around the world!

Back home in Utah, I am constantly switching between making pie crust with butter or Crisco.  I like the flavor butter lends to pie crust, but sometimes I find Crisco produces a flakier final product. This has led me to experiment with all butter, all Crisco, and half butter half Crisco. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. If you are a butter person, this recipe can be made with all butter. If you love Crisco, use all Crisco. If you are on the fence, try half and half. I found butter at the Spanish grocery store before I found Crisco, so I stuck with butter this time!

**This recipe can be made by hand or in a food processor. I like to make mine by hand because the dough is more likely to be overworked in the food processor. That's my opinion! If using a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add cold butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles gravel (not sand). Add the ice water 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove from the food processor, separate into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out.**

The key to flaky pie crust is keep the butter cold. The colder the butter (or Crisco) the better. When cold butter meets the heat in the hot oven, the butter will melt quickly creating steam. The steam is what forms the flaky pockets of pastry in the pie dough. Cut your butter into small cubes and place in the freezer. Fill a liquid measuring cup with 1/2 cup water and a few ice cubes. Set aside. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar together with a wire whisk.

Remove the butter from the freezer and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, fork, or your hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it reaches the consistency of gravel, not sand. You want to leave larger chunks of butter in the dough. The larger pieces of butter help to form the flaky layers in the dough while it bakes, so don't pulverize them all to achieve the sandy texture.

Remove the ice cubes from the water. Sprinkle the cold water over the pie dough 1 Tbsp at a time, while mixing gently, until the dough comes together to form a ball. Separate the dough into two balls.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour before rolling. The dough will stay fresh in the fridge for one week or up to three months in the freezer. Make sure the dough is wrapped very tightly if refrigerating for more than 1 hour or if freezing.

Flaky Pie Crust

Recipe by Sweet & Savory


2 cups flour, spooned into measuring cups, NOT packed   
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
      OR 1 scant cup Crisco, cold, broken into small pieces
      "scant" cup=unpacked cup. Realistically, it equals a level 3/4 cup
1/2 cup ice water


Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer. (Alternatively, place the measured Crisco in the freezer and break into small pieces just before mixing with the dry ingredients) Place a few ice cubes in the 1/2 cup water and set aside. 

With a wire whisk, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter (or Crisco) over the flour mixture. Using a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles gravel.

Remove the ice cubes from the water. Sprinkle the water over the pie dough 1 Tbsp at a time while mixing gently. Stop adding water when the dough will hold a ball shape. Do not overwork the dough!

Separate the dough into two pieces and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling. Makes enough dough for a double pie crust.

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