Every year at this time, we start to think about planning our holiday menus. It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. If you are hosting a holiday gathering at your house and want to make a dessert, or even if you are invited as a guest to a friend or relative’s holiday feast and want to treat your host or hostess to a homemade pumpkin or pecan pie, this is worth the read.
There is an art to making a tender and flaky crust that does not steal the thunder but that has enough salt in it to balance out and offset the sweetness and richness of the filling. Here are the ingredients and the procedures from Louisiana pastry chef, David Gaus, to follow to create an outstanding crust for any pie. His favorite filling is pecan, but anything from pumpkin to apples will be a treat in this perfect pastry shell.
According to David, the keys to an ideal pie crust lie first in the ingredients and acheiving the proper dough texture, and second in the rolling and blind baking procedures.
For the pie dough you’ll need the following:
- 7 1/2 oz. (1 & 2/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; with extra for rolling
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 6 oz. (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 5 to 7 Tbs. ice water
In order to make the dough the right consistency, put the flour, sugar, and salt into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse again until the largest pieces of dough are about the size of kernels of corn (takes about 8-12 one-second pulses.) Add 5 Tbs. of the ice-water by drizzling over the flour mixture and pulse again (4-6 pulses.) By now you should have a moist crumbly looking dough that sticks together when you squeeze a bit in your hand. If the mixture is still dry, add another Tbs. or two of ice water and try again.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and gather and press into a disk shape. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour. You can refrigerate it up to two days or freeze up to 1 month. To defrost, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight before use. Once ready to use, allow dough to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutues. Roll onto a lightly floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Roll from the center to the edges until you have a 13 inch wide circle that is about 1/8″ thick. Try to make as few passes as possible with the rolling pin as overworking the dough tends to make it tough. After every few passes with the rolling pin, take an offset spatula or bench knife and run it under the dough, making sure it is not sticking to the work surface. Spread dough into a 6-10″ pie plate by rolling it around the rolling pin and gently unrolling it into the plate.
Trim the edges of the dough, so that there is no more than a 3/4″ overhang. Crimp the edges with your fingers and prick the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. Line the crust with foil and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and reduce the oven temp. to 375 degrees. Continue baking until the bottom is firm and the edges are golden brown; about 5-7 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack while preparing the filling. You can then fill your crust and bake it according to the pie recipe of your choice.