Chow Town

Perfect pie starts with the crust

Pie, a simple down home dessert made by all great farmers and bakers. Most families have a “secret” to their famous pie floating from generation to generation with strict instructions to only pass along, once deserved.

A great pie has a symphony of flavor, aromas, and textures and can be artfully crafted to entice the most discerning eye. From the double-crusted fruit filled pie with a lattice top to a cream pie with golden meringue, they all have one thing in common — the crust. It is an important vehicle, or the base note of any pie.

As your fork digs in to the sugary crust there should be a slight bit of resistance. It’s a moment where the pie flirts with the tines of the fork and makes you mouth water. Then it flakes away to expose the beautiful filling, which piles atop your fork and grasping the second layer of al dente and slightly crispy layer of dough. Magically a pie sandwich adorns your fork.

A mélange of flavors and textures graze your tongue upon the first bite. The sugar topped crust, the caramelized flour and butter with the flake mingled in with the filling and ending with the more chewy but still brilliant last layer of crust.

It is the perfect pie symphony, which brings a smile to your face. Like a well written song with the crescendo at the right moment. A pie is simply smile worthy. Laugh worthy. Sit back in your chair and smile with the last bites, while the fork spins on an almost empty plate except for four crumbs which you will pick up smashing between the tines of your fork worthy.

If there is no beat to a song, there will be no melody. The crust needs to be flaky, moist, with a little al dente chew. We have all encountered the soggy, doughy or burnt crust to leave us unfulfilled.

Here are some great tips for making a beautiful symphony for a pie:

• Keep all your ingredients cold.

• Freeze the butter and grate it with a box grater into the flour and then mix the two together.

• Freeze the flour and butter mixture while you are getting the other ingredients.

• Add 1 egg for pliability.

• Make sure there is acid for flavor as well as it will help the proteins of the flour become more elastic

• Mix all ingredients until barely formed.

• Roll out on a well floured surface.

• For ease, place wax paper on the table, held by a dot of water in each corner. Flour the wax paper and roll the dough out on that. It will lift up a bit easier.

• If the first roll out doesn’t go well, let the dough rest before trying again, and possibly place it in the refrigerator.

• Brush the crust with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar for a little extra crunch

• Cover the outer edges with foil to prevent burning while baking. Remove half way through to reach a golden brown crust.

Pie Crust 6 cups pastry flour (plus 1/2 cup more for dusting) 2/3 cup granulated sugar 1-3/4 cup butter, frozen 1 large egg 1 tablespoons lemon juice 3/4 cup cold water 1/2 teapsoon iodized salt

Mix together the flour and granulated sugar. Grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture. Work the butter into the flour creating a cornmeal texture. Place back in freezer. Whisk together the egg, lemon juice water and salt.

Remove the flour/butter mix from freezer. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the wet ingredients and salt. Mix together until all incorporated. Turn out on a floured surface and roll to desired size with the dough being 1/8”-1/4” thick. Use the crust as a part of your favorite pie recipe.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.
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