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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tis the Season for Baking

You've probably already figured out from my previous posts that I love spending time working in my kitchen. Based on the stories my mom tells me, I've had this love of kitchen projects all my life, even creating (barely edible) recipes at the age of 4 for my preschool teachers. You've also probably gathered that I have a penchant for the homemade, especially around the holidays.

Last week I began looking ahead at the days leading up to Christmas and realized that the closer we get to the actual day the busier I become. From-scratch baking can be time consuming, so I decided to get a jump start and assemble my pies now so I can pop them in the freezer and pull them out on Christmas eve to bake.

I have been making my own pie crusts ever since the semester in college when I studied abroad in Copenhagen. It was the fall of 2001, and at the beginning of November the other American students and I began to plan to host a traditional thanksgiving feast for our fellow Danish students. The only problem was that there's no such thing as Pillsbury Pie Crust in the Copenhagen grocery stores. We had an American store that we could shop at that promised a shipment of pie crusts, but as Thanksgiving Day got closer, I realized the shipment was not going to come in time to bake for the big day. I don't really remember how I made the pie crusts by hand for that dinner, but they worked! When I got back stateside, I started looking for true instructions on how to make pie crust. I figured if I could make it work it Copenhagen with few tools and no pie pans (I had to use springform pans), then I could make it work at home.

The Perfect Pie Crust (Every Time!)
2 sticks of butter
3 oz. Ice Water (approximate measurement)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. sugar

The most important thing to know about making your own pie crust is that all the ingredients need to be COLD.

The first thing I do when making a homemade pie crust is to cut the butter up into little chunks, put them on a plate, wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer while I get everything else ready.

Next, I fill a measuring cup with water and put several ice cubes in it.

While the butter and the water are chilling, I measure the rest of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. I then close the lid of the food processor and pulse the machine a few times.

Now it's time to add the butter. I take the butter out of the freezer and put it right into the food processor. I run the food processor until butter is all cut into the flour and the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

The last step is adding the water. This is the least precise part of the process, but its also very important to get it right. I remove the ice cubes from the measuring cup and pour off the water until I have about 1/2 a cup of water. I then turn on the machine again and slowly pour the water through the opening. I add just enough water for the dough to come together (you don't want to add too much or it will be too sticky). I usually end up with about 1oz of water left in the measuring cup, so I use approximately 3oz each time.

Remove the dough from the food processor bowl and divide it in half. Make two round discs, wrap them in plastic wrap, and pop them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

I'm currently looking into ways to make these ahead of time and pop them in the freezer, so that I have great pie crust ready when I need it. That will definitely be a way to Alleviate Stress and Find Joy!

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