KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Fear the Pie! (And I do)
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Thursday, July 07, 2005
Fear the Pie! (And I do)

A scant four days ago, I collected all my essential cooking gear, uprooted the cats, and trekked down to San Diego for the summer. My husband has a summer consulting job down here and we're all learning what it means to live in SoCal. Primarily malls and highways, it would seem. However, I admit that we have yet to really explore the place, and I was happily surprised to discover that we're surrounded by a juicy green freshness that was sorely missing when we drove through dirty, smoggy L.A. Where we are, it's all rolling green hills and highways a-flutter with riotous flowers. I'm planning hiking trips to Torrey Pines and Rancho Sante Fe every. Single. Weekend. We've heard there's a beach of lolling seals somewhere and I can't wait to pack a leftover lunch and find it.

We're squatting in a large rental place -- one of about four locations available to summer workers at my husband's work -- and for the first time, I have a comfortably sized kitchen with plenty of counter space to finally overcome my crippling fear of baking. Or, at the very least, if I can't turn myself into an acceptable baker, I won't be able to use kitchen size as an excuse any more. My first foray into that sphere -- making a pie crust for a luscious fresh strawberry tart -- hasn't been all that successful yet. My pastry cream is perfect and currently chilling in the fridge, waiting to be smoothed into that elusive pie crust that gives me nightmares and delirium tremens. What am I doing wrong? All my ingredients are chilled (even my food processor) and I work fast, yet I still have a problem getting the dough to come together. It's always crumbly and dry when I start to roll it out. And this is even AFTER I let it chill and come to room temperature again. I'm even using up to 4 tablespoons of water in conjunction with 8 oz. of butter and 3 cups flour. In fact, no matter what recipe and what proportions of flour to fat to sugar to liquid I try, I'm always seeming to go OVER the recommended amount of water because I just can't get the dough to come together.

People, I beg you: what is your no-fail pie crust recipe? Be it pâte sucrée or pâte brisée, I need your assistance. Please. I'm desperate. Come hell or high earthquake, I will conquer my pastry fear this summer.


Anonymous chef 'em out said...

It seems like you are doing everything right. I mean, it's flour, butter, salt and water.The only thing I can think of is to practice.

7/07/2005 6:08 AM

Blogger Kim Goodfriend said...

First of all, take a deep breath. There is no need to fear the pie or the cake or the pastry. You are the master! Once you have regained control of your kitchen kingdom, I highly recommend that you try my pastry recipe which is posted in the KQED Kitchen: http://www.kqed.org/topics/home/cooking/kqed-kitchen.jsp

It seems to me that you are not using enough water to your ratio of flour. Especially if you are not used to making pastry. As you practice you can cut back a bit on it, but for now, add more water! And good luck, I expect you to perfect this and make me a pie when you return to the bay area!

7/07/2005 11:04 AM

Blogger Olga Katsnelson said...

I completely relate to your woes, as I tried to perfect the pie crust for years, to no avail...until this weekend when I consulted Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything' [MacMillan]. His recipe for Flaky Pie Crust and supporting comments were very helpful, and I was able to bake my first peach pie, with a double crust. I was elated, and now can't wait to bake every fruit that appears in the farmers' market into yet another pie. Bittman's recipe calls for a lower flour quantity, 2 1/4 cups to 16 TBS butter, by the way. So in addition to Kim's recipe, you may want to try Mark's.

7/07/2005 12:26 PM

Blogger Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic said...

Ooh, this is all lovely! I can make several pie crusts a day. It's going to be the Summer of Pi.

7/07/2005 1:15 PM

Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Ooh, hiking in Rancho Santa Fe: buncha golf-playin' Republicans. Not fun. (Also: very hot. Stick to Torrey Pines for the Pacific breezes.)
BUT: You will be only minutes from the Chino Farm veggie stand (actually in Del Mar) where they play classical music on the radio and are a bit snooty (and boy, is it expensive) but you'll never get better strawberries, baby turnips, corn. They are legendary for supplying Chez Panisse. But you knew that.
Oh, and pie crust? A trickle more water. Go, be brave, and good luck.

7/07/2005 5:12 PM

Blogger cookiecrumb said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/07/2005 5:17 PM

Anonymous mary g said...

One thing that might be helpful is that my crust (which is my mother's recipe), a simple flour, butter plus Crisco (I know, bad, but it's a wonderful crust), salt, water is in fact dry and crumbly-ish when I start to roll it out, and it comes together under the rolling pin. Also, I find it very helpful to roll with the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Some people use plastic wrap, but I think waxed paper is better because it has a little stiffness, and doesn't roll wrinkles into the dough.

7/08/2005 7:41 AM


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