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MAKING PERFECT PIE CRUSTS
(From Fine Cooking Magazine, Sept. 2001)

I know it's not easy when first learning how to make pie crusts. I always envied my Mom who could practically make them in her sleep (at leat I thought so)! Begin by blocking out an entire afternoon----banish everyone from the house---unplug the phone---drum up all the determination you have---take a valium if necessary (no, not really)---and dive right in! Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work out at first----just keep on trying!!! It will all work out---I promise!

RECIPE
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup cold unsalted butter (8 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water
DIRECTIONS:
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Mix for a couple seconds to blend the dry ingredients. Add the butter pieces and, with mixer on low, work the mixture until it's crumbly and the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than a pea (about 1/4 inch). (f mixing by hand, use a pastry blender or two knives. The butter should remain cold and firm; if not, put the bowl in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
With the mixer on low speed, sprinkle the cold water evenly over the flour mixture. Work the dough until it just pulls together as a shaggy mass. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to pull it together gently. Cut the dough in half and pat each piece into a thick flattened ball. Regrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutres. Roll the bottom crust with rolling pin to the size of a 13-inch circle to fit your pie plate plus 1-1/2 inches. Roll from center outwards each time. Smooth edges with hands to keep it round.
Fit the bottom crust loosely into pan and gently press the bottom edge into the corner with the flat back of your finger.
1. For a single crust, flute the edges; keep chilled if filling is not ready.
2. If preparing a pre-baked crust, prick crust in several spots with a fork. Pat out any air bubbles. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before filling.
3. For a double crust pie, roll out the second half of dough to another 12-inch circle and place on top of the filling. Wet the edge of the bottom crust with a little water, place the top crust on, fold under the edge of the bottom crust and press firmly to seal. Flute the edges and cut vents in the top. Follow baking temperatures and times for individual pie recipes.
Butter MUST BE COLD right from the refrigerator (or pop it into the freezer for a few minutes).Cut your butter into the flour until it looks like this. The larger pieces are about 1/4-inch (pea size) and the smaller pieces firm a mealy texture with the flour.
Squeeze the butter to see if it's cold enough. Pinch off some of the flour and butter and mold it into a square. Check your fingers---if they're greasy, the butter's too warm and the mixture needs about 15 minutes chilling. If your fingers are dry, go ahead and add the water.
Add the water and stop mixing while the texture is still shaggy (whether using a food processor or stand mixer). Don't try to get the dough smooth or you'll develop too much tough gluten.
Shape the dough into two disks and get ready to start rolling now; you can chill the dough later (unless of course your butter has gotten too soft, which requres chilling 15-20 minutes). This method, while unconventional, makes the most tender result because you don't have to struggle with chilled hard dough.
Before rolling, flour the surface (board, counter, etc.) and slide the dough around. When rolling, place rolling pin in the center and roll outwards with gentle but firm pressure; stroke in all directions aternatively to achieve a full circle. After every few strokes of the rolling pin, free the dough from the surface by sliding and turning it.
First fold the round of dough in half so you can easily gauge where to position it. Use two hands with fingers wide apart for easy lifting that won't stretch or tear the dough. The top crust should extend farther than the bottom one by at least 1 inch all around the edge.

For the top crust, make a strong seal by pressing the two layers of dough together. Get a thick uniform edge by folding the top crust over the bottom one, and then tucking under.
To make a vertical "flute" lift up a section of dough and press down on eitgher side. The shape will settle a bit during cooking but still look nice.
The steam created from moist fillings during baking needs somewhere to go, so give it an easy escape to avoid leaks and/or bubbling over. Cut some vents in the top crust to let out steam.

QUESTIONS? Try me----e-mail me at shaboom@shentel.net!

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