Thursday, September 10, 2009

Floors and Pie Crusts

I have never lived in a new house and often wonder what it would be like to have everything shiny and new. Our house is old (by American standards). We have renovated and added on over the years and each new renovation has reduced me to tears at some point.

Some of you may remember a while back, we started the latest renovation with the painting of the walls and ceilings. This was followed by the ripping up of carpeting. To be followed by the ripping out of existing molding. To be followed by the installation of new hardwood floors.

The hardwood floor installation has now begun.

This is Danny the head floor guy in the living room doing what floor guys do, installing floor.

Now one might ask, where does one go with the existing furniture when a new floor is being installed?

Well, let me tell you. As I said, this is an old house. The hallways are narrow. The furniture is big. The only place with a straight and wide doorway is, can you guess? Can you imagine what would reduce me to tears?

This is my kitchen:

Let's look at it from another angle, shall we?

If you look closely you can see Holly Bear hiding in her crate, there - off to the bottom left. Holly is afraid of the pneumatic thing-a-ma-bob they use to slam, I mean, push the slates of wood up tightly to one another. I'm a little afraid of it too but I don't have a crate to hide in.

When the Danny the head floor guy is done in the living today they will start the downstairs hallways and oh joy, oh rapture, the upstairs hallway.

When the floors are done, the stair man will come and refinish the staircases.. then, the painter will come back and touch up everything that was destroyed during the floor and stair debacle.

Sometime in 2015 - the furniture will be moved out of my kitchen.

Until then, I am making pie. Pie is a really good anecdote to crying in the kitchen AND you can do in a 9.5 inch by 9.5 inch space.

Professional Pie Crust:

Every pie starts with a crust. Or a floor (since that is where my mind is at these days). I was lucky enough to study pastry with Chef William Mauceri, graduate of The French Culinary Institute and currently the executive pastry chef at A Toute Heure, my favorite French Bistro. No matter what TBHITW and I eat there, we always save room for one of Chef Mauceri's pastries. When I tell you he is a master at the finest pastry, I am telling you - it is to die for.

Chef Mauceri taught me some secrets to the perfect crust - tender and flaky without being dry. The butter must be cold. You must be exact in your measurements. The dough must not be overworked. You must use the best ingredients you can find. I'm going to share some of these secrets with you today.

Know that this crust will take longer than your mother's, your grandmother's or your Aunt Mabel's. But also know that it is worth it. Your family and friends (if you decide to share) will forever beg you to make a pie. Are you up to the challenge? Okay, here we go.

All Butter Pie Crust: makes one (single) 9 inch crust

6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) unbleached, all purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt (Chef M uses fine sea salt, but table salt will do)
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter (preferably European style - I use Plugra) cut into 3/4 inch pieces and VERY cold
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

I weigh my ingredients when I bake. It is just that small thing that will give your baked goods a professional finish. My digital scale cost just $20.00 at Target. Don't be crazy, if you don't have a scale you will get very good results measuring as opposed to weighing.. but if someone owes you present...

To make the dough, put the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to combine. Add the very cold butter and using your fingers, begin to work the butter into the flour mixture creating small 1/4 to 1/2 inch flakes of fat.

It is these flakes of fat that will explode in the oven to create the flaky, delicate layers of crust.
Add the ice water by tablespoons, drizzling over the dough. Stir with a fork until a shaggy dough mixture forms - you should be able to squeeze a small amount in your fingers and it will hold it's shape. Add another tablespoon of ice water if necessary but don't make it too wet - you really do want shaggy dough.

Now gather up the dough and form into a disk. Take the time to smooth the edges. This will help you roll out an even, round crust. Wrap the disc is plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. We want that butter to get really cold again.

Take the disc out of the fridge and place on a piece of lightly floured parchment, the counter or a wooden pastry board. Begin rolling by starting in the middle and rolling away from you to within a 1/2 inch of the edge. Give the dough a 1/4 turn and roll again, stopping 1/2 inch from edge. This will keep your edges from getting thinner than the rest of your dough. Keep rolling and turning until you have a 13 to 14 inch diameter. Check to make sure the dough is not sticking and add minute amounts of flour as needed. You will be able to see pieces of butter in the dough. That's just the way you want it. Click on this image to see the butter pieces in the dough.

Using a pastry brush, brush off any excess flour that may be on dough. Flour will make the dough tough. It is these little touches that make a BIG difference. Trust me. It's worth it.

Now roll up the pie disc on your pin and transfer to your pie plate.

Fit the dough into the plate. Don't stretch it. This will cause it shrink back from the edge of the plate when baking. Lay the dough into the plate. Trim the dough, leaving a 1 inch overhang. Fold this under and crimp the edges. I like to have a thick edge - this will ensure that the edges won't get too brown when you bake the pie.

Refrigerate the dough for another hour - the butter softened as we worked at rolling the dough. We want it really cold when it hits the heat of the oven.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Now we are going to blind bake the pie shell.
Prick the chilled dough all over the bottom and sides with a fork. Line the dough with foil, then with pie weights or beans. I like beans. You can reuse a 99 cent bag of beans 5 or 6 times before discarding. Don't skip this part.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, reduce the oven temp. to 375 and bake for 5 to 7 more minutes until the bottom is quite dry, but not quite done, the edges are very light gold.

Phew. Let cool. Fill with your mother's, your grandmother's or your Aunt Mabel's favorite filling recipe and proceed as directed.

Here is my pie. (Pear with brown sugar streusel topping)

Now I'm going to sit down with Danny the floor guy and crew and have me some pie.


  1. Well, the good news is that when the pie comes out of the oven, you can sit right down on the couch and have a slice. :-)

  2. I see buttermilk pie in my future... but only for me. I don't think I'm going to share when I'm looking at all this time for a crust :)

  3. Wow, great idea to use the beans!

    So sorry about the furniture in the kitchen, but that floor is going to look great.

  4. Looks like you are having too much fun there! Oy-vay, all your furniture in a pile. Crazy. But man will it be nice when you are done. Seems with your kids almost all grown you will have a beautiful house in know time, since they are not little to bang everything up.

    I do not use sugar in my crust, maybe I will try that next time.

    You gave me a great idea for the huge jar of beans my Grandma gave me. I was afraid to actually eat them since I think they are probably older then my kids...that is the last time I remember her cooking anything. I will use them for pie weights and not feel bad about it~!

  5. Blue - yes - I have my pick of seats!

    Amanda - oh that is wicked good fun baking all for yourself! When I make this crust I triple the recipe and stick two discs in the freezer - it will keep up to a good 6 months. Just defrost in fridge overnight and viola - a time saver

    Unknown - yes,the floor will be great ... eventually?

    Tamis - you really think almost grown kids aren't hard on stuff? okay - I'm going to let you have your fantasy since your children are young. LOL..

    I think beans last a millenium.. they say that corn, hidden by native americans at the time of the pilgrims arrival is STILL eatable... I wonder who they are?

  6. I have never made a good pie crust.....will have to give it a shot after I climb atop the truck to harvest the remaining apples. Applebutter is cooking down in the crock pot right now.

  7. Never would have thought of the beans -- that's why I love this blog!

  8. Kathy - oh yum! Apple Butter. I'm originally from Pennsylvania Dutch Country and apple butter was always in my mom's fridge. My dad would put it on cottage cheese!

    Kathy B - yup. beans. Glad to be of service!

  9. You are so sweet to post this recipe while your kitchen is a storage room! Having just gone through this, I feel your pain. I was without a kitchen for three months. It is pure hell.

    But the outcome is worth it. Keep repeating that over and over.

  10. Nancy - three months???? I was in tears on the third day. It is Friday night, 8:00 pm and the floors are finally done!! Hurrah. We will be working all weekend to put things back in order - the floor crew doesn't do that. :-(
    And we never put pictures, shelves, etc back since painting... it will be a long weekend....

  11. I feel your pain! Soon you will have shiny new hardwood floors, and no furniture in your kitchen. The next round, will be furniture in your bathroom.
    I am glad that you cried your tears and made this fabulous pie! I love pie and this was really good.

  12. Velva - welcome! Glad you enjoyed the pie.


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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