Ahh, February…the shortest month of the year, and usually the coldest month as well! We celebrate Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, both George and Abe’s birthdays, (not to mention my son Mark’s birthday!) and we keep checking the calendar to see when spring starts. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for it! While we have had a relatively mild winter (until recently), I still long for warmer weather.
It is no secret that I don’t like cold. I frequently moan about how cold I am…just ask my husband! The only thing I really like about cold weather is it provides me with a good excuse to turn the oven on and do some baking. President’s day always makes me think of cherry pie…you know, George and the cherry tree and all…so let’s take the leap and bake a pie!
Homemade pies are soooo good, and yet something very few of us take time to make from scratch any more. There are many excellent premade, refrigerated and frozen products available in the markets today, but nothing reminds me of Sunday dinner at my Nana’s like a pie fresh out of the oven. Talk about comfort food and happy memories! It also reminds me of my first attempt at baking a pie, but that’s a story for another day…
Pie crust can be a very intimidating thing to make well, but it doesn’t need to be so scary! Hands down, there are two keys to good pie crust…#1- do not over work the dough, and #2- keep everything as cold as possible. A flakey crust actually occurs because the cold shortening in the crust meets the heat of the oven. The shortening bits melt and create steam, which forms the tiny air pockets that create a flakey crust!
To make flakey, tender pie crust, I start by assembling all of my ingredients and chilling them. Yes, chilling ALL of them…the shortening, the flour, the water…everything. Remember, we want to have that steam occur in the oven. My husband’s grandmother would go so far as to chill her rolling pin and pastry board to keep that chain of cold, but I don’t go quite that far.
Another key to great pie crust is to work the dough as little as possible. Cut the shortening into the flour, and mix in enough water to bring the mass together, but once it is together, stop mixing! Remember, we want shortening bits to create steam, so if you mix it too much, add too much flour, or allow the dough to get too warm, that reaction will be eliminated and you will wind up with a tough pie crust.
With the bitter cold we have had the last few days, turning on the oven is a good thing to have to do, so why not surprise your family with a homemade pie tonight! The oven will warm your house and the raves you will get will warm your heart!!
Perfect Pie Crust
- 2 C All Purpose flour
- 1 t salt
- ½ t sugar
- ¾ C (6 oz) shortening
- ½ C ice water
Chill all ingredients for at least ½ hour.
Stir salt and sugar into flour. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour until shortening bits range in size from grains of rice to small peas.
Add water and gently mix until just incorporated. Divide dough into two discs, wrapping each in plastic wrap, and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll dough to desired size and carefully place in pie pan. Fill with desired filling, moisten edges with water and top with second rolled crust, crimping edges to seal.
Bake according to specific variety recipe*.
*I always bake my pies on a baking tray to catch any drips, incase my pies are juicy and overflow!
To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.