Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crust Convert

I have never been what you would call a "crust person." Though the delicious berry and fruit pies of summer sit near the very top of my favorite desserts list - second only to an ooey gooey chocolate cake, of course - I've never been able to get excited over the requisite bland casing holding my slice together. Frankly, it's never tasted like much to me, and - as I've always told myself - if I skip all that fat and flour, pie is downright healthy!

Enter Julia Child.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that Baking with Julia has been my go-to baking bible. And lo and behold, when I returned home from the 14th and U Farmers Market with a fridgeful of glossy cherries and an intense desire for a big slice of freshly made cherry pie, a quick flip through her pages revealed what Ms. Child declares as "the classic dough that earns blue ribbons at country fairs and stars at esteemed pastry shops." Skeptic though I was, I gave it a try. And you know what? It was buttery and flaky and tender and awesome. Count me among the Crust Converts. (And so much for my healthy pies).

This recipe makes enough dough for four 9- to 10-inch tarts or open faced pieces, or 2 double crusted pies. It's super easy, too - just remember to keep everything cold and not to overmix. It also freezes beautifully for up to a month, so you might as well make the whole batch - after all, there are a lot of summer fruits to look forward to.

Perfect Pie Crust
from Baking with Julia
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled (I used butter-flavored)
1 cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter, and using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (this will take a little while). Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl, working it in with the pastry blender or your fingers until small clumps and curds form. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough onto a work surface and fold it over itself a few times, just til it all holds together. Don't overwork it!

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces, shape into flat disks, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or as long as 5 days. The dough can also be frozen for up to one month - just thaw completely in the fridge before using.

And, because I can't show you this delcious pie without giving you the recipe...

Best Ever Deep Dish Cherry Pie
2 dough disks, recipe above
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 quart whole pitted sour cherries
1 quart whole pitted sweet cherries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp milk

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out one dough disk on a floured surface to a 12-inch round, lifting and turning frequently so it doesn't stick. Transfer to a 9-inch deep dish pie dish by wrapping it around your rolling pin, and gently work it into the pan - don't pull or stretch it. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Chill crust while you finish preparing the pie.

Whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. Stir in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out the second disk to a 12-inch round. Using a pastry wheel with a fluted edge, cut ten strips from the dough round.

Transfer the cherry filling to the dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with the butter, then arrange the dough strips on top of the filling, forming a lattice. Trim the dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch and fold the bottom crust up over ends; crimp the edges to seal. Brush the lattice crust (not the edges) with the milk and sprinkle lattice with a tablespoon of sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about an hour longer. (During baking, cover the edges with a foil collar if browning too quickly). Transfer the pie to a rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.

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