Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cooking Class: The Perfect Pie Crust

I love to bake, but I am not very good at it. For every pretty plate of cookies or darling cupcakes I bring to a party there are 17 batches that ended up in the trash. My part in the brownie controversy of 2002 is pretty legendary.   Baking is a science, a precise science and let’s just say that I am more of a liberal arts kind of girl. I have trouble following directions and baking demands that you have to put in all the ingredients in the exact amount and the right time. Oh, and reading the recipe all the way through before you start, yeah that might help too.
Pie crust has been an enemy in the kitchen for too many years, even when I read and follow the recipe word for word. This is so heartbreaking since I love making and eating pie. Store bought never, ever, taste as good as homemade. Plus, it just seems like something you should be able to do as an American, bake a pie.   Different crusts I have tried have turned out dry, soggy, burnt, too thick, too thin and just plain gross. Now, I just admit defeat and buy pre-made crusts with my head held low, keeping  my fingers crossed that my fillings make up for cheating.
When I heard that this month’s cooking class was on pie crusts, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could slay this dragon for once and for all. The class was taught by a professionally trained chief, ‘cause after all, we are fancy.  
My notes on the subject of pie crusts:
Pie crust is like a 13 year old boy. It just wants to be left alone to chill. Touch and bug it too much and it will leave you upset and disappointed. Our teacher's mantra was Rest, Chill, Under-mix Resting and chilling is apparently very important in the land of perfect pies.  There is a lot of science behind it, something about the fats not breaking down. This means that good pies take time. Our pie maker usually starts on the crust the day before it is going to be served. Then the actual pie day is more about assembling than it is about running around the kitchen getting yourself covered in flour. This was all news to me, I usually mix my dough, roll it out, curse a lot, dump my pie filling in, and throw it in the oven all in the same afternoon.
Practice makes perfect. She encouraged us that we when we are trying to cook/bake something new, we should make the same recipe over and over and over again.  When we jump from recipe to recipe we don’t learn what we are doing right or wrong. It took her years to master some her pies and breads, but now with one taste or touch she immediately knows what’s off.  
Be in tune with what you put in your body. Roll up our sleeves and  mix with our hands, add seasonings in with fingers.  Taste, taste, taste.
And maybe most important of all:
Organic cream tastes like butterflies and flowers and rainbows.
Peach and Blueberry Pie
 Melt in your mouth. 
I am going to try out her crust recipe this weekend for a (hopefully) pretty strawberry rhubarb pie. I’m really nervous. I may break out in hives.

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