Saturday, December 17, 2011

Easy Entertaining Part I: The Perfect Pie Crust

The 2011 holiday season is now in full swing! It is amazing how quickly it has passed already. I love Christmas (maybe a little too much) and like to enjoy it as long as possible. We put our tree up in early November and can hardly believe that I'm just 2 weeks away from having to take it down. As we all know, with the holidays come parties and family get-togethers. Over the next few days, I'm going to share a few posts about easy dishes to cook and ways to make your parties and get-togethers go smoothly and easy. A quick disclaimer: the next few posts will not stick to my normal theme of healthy eating!
The first post is all about how to make a perfect pie crust. Most people have a favorite pie recipe that they like to make. It is the perfect dessert to take to a party or serve at your own family's get-together. I'm not going to try to sway your opinion on the best pie. I am going to share with you how to make your pie even better. This pie crust is so easy and so much more delicious than a store bought one. I've found that people don't normally have a problem making a pie crust, it's the rolling it out, getting it in the pan, and baking it that is difficult. I always use the Crisco brand recipe for pie crusts. It's really flaky and delicious so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel with this one.

The perfect pie crust:
Crisco pie crust dough prepared and formed into a ball  (link above)
A large, clean workspace (granite counters or a large cutting board work great!)
Rolling pin
Spatula or another utensil that is very thin (I use a pie server)
Pie cooking dish
Uncooked beans
Aluminum foil
Extra flour

1. Prepare the pie crust according to Crisco's recipe. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow the dough to chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes. You can also do this a few days ahead of time and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

2. While the dough is cooling down, place your cutting board, rolling pin, and thin utensil in the freezer as well. You want as much of your equipment as possible to be very cold.

 3. The key to keeping the dough from sticking is to have a small layer of flour between the dough and your working surface. Place about 3 tbsp. of flour on your board/counter and then your ball of dough. Cover any area of your working space that the dough might touch with flour.

 4. Spread some flour on your rolling pin and use it to begin to roll out your dough. Start from the center and roll outwards pressing firmly. Always come back to the center to roll out. If the rolling pin begins to stick, dust it with some more flour. Using your pie dish to measure, roll until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick and where you have enough to go 2-3 inches past your circular pie dish.

 5. Now begins the transfer of the dough into your pie dish. Carefully begin lifting up. Begin to gently roll the doll onto the rolling pin. Use a spatula to carefully unstick any parts that may stick.

 6. Roll the dough completely up on the the rolling pin. Set it on the pie dish and unroll onto it.

 7. Use your hands (if it begins to stick, put a little flour  on your hands) to press the crust down into the pan. Here, you can use two fingers to form a nice rim. I had something else in mind for this one. You'll see below. If your pie crust doesn't need to be cooked before you add the filling (usually fruit pies do not), you are done! Add your filling and bake according to your recipe. If your pie crust needs to be cooked before the filling is added or if you just want to ensure that the crust is not mushy, continue with this recipe.

 8. Place a layer of aluminum foil on top of the pie crust and then a layer of the uncooked beans. Make sure the beans cover the entire bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until the crust is beginning to brown. It will continue to cook once you add the filling and bake again.

9. Instead of a normal rim, I added leaves to this pecan pumpkin pie. Using some left over dough, I cut out the leaves and added them to the pie as the pecan filling was cooking.

Now, if you don't have a favorite pie recipe, this Pumpkin Pecan Pie is my absolute favorite during the holidays. I also substitute sweet potato pie sometimes in this recipe. Also, another easy way to jazz up a regular pie crust for extra flavor is to add about 2 teaspoons of the spices or chopped nuts from your pie recipe.

This recipe will make your regular pie recipes a little more special.

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