My mother makes great pies. She is the go-to pie woman in our family, whenever California family members are getting together to eat (which is all the time). She learned from her mother, who learned from her mother. I stood at her elbow for years, watching her vigorously mix the white vegetable shortening into the flour, salt and sugar with the pastry blender, bring the disc of dough together in her hands, roll it out on the kitchen table, and place it skillfully into the pie plate just as easy as, well, you know.
Fast forward a few more years, to my college days, and a young man I wanted very badly to impress with my culinary skills. He didn’t deserve it, but that is skipping ahead a little bit, I digress. I borrowed my mother’s pie crust recipe, assembled all the ingredients and tools from my childhood memories, and proceeded to make 4 batches of the stuff, only to dissolve in a puddle of frustrated tears on the floor of my tiny kitchen, after repeated attempts to roll out the sticky, mashy, goopy mess led me to a temper tantrum of pastry rage, and pie dough stuck to the kitchen wall over the garbage can where I threw it. I became the first woman in the family to buy my pie crust at the grocery store. I thought I was passed over when the gift of pie-making was handed out.
Julia’s pie crust method in The Way To Cook made me one of the go-to pie women when family in New Hampshire gets together to eat. (My mother-in-law makes a great pie, too.)
The dry ingredients: 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour, 1/2 C cake flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbs sugar. The wet ingredients: 6 oz. unsalted butter, 1/4 C vegetable shortening, 1/2 C ice water. The equipment: the food processor. That was a revelation. It makes pie dough so fast that you could actually do it every day, if you were so inclined.
After all the ingredients are mixed in the food processor, the final step of blending is done on the counter; called fraisage, it involves sort of smearing the dough out across the counter in small amounts, using the heel of your hand.
After a rest in the refrigerator, the dough rolls out as smooth and beautiful as it can be.
I blind baked my crust today in tart shells, which I filled with raspberries and red currant glaze, thanks again Julia.
Once I had conquered this pastry dough, I knew I could cook anything. Anything. I became fearless in my kitchen. That’s the way it should be, fun and fearless.
It’s all thanks to Julia.
That’s it for tonight. See you tomorrow with more Julia, and with another CSA share. (They might be related in some way…hmm.)