Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cable-Knit Pie Crust

Ok, so I have to admit that I cheat once in a while. I was really craving cherries, which are prohibitively expensive in the off season, and bought a can of cherry pie filling. I was totally dissatisfied with the inside of the pie as a result, but the crust was yummy and definitely easier to work with than other pie dough recipes I've tried. It's also the prettiest pie I've made yet, so despite its not-from-scratch filling, I am showing it off.

The recipe is adapted from Baking Illustrated from America's Test Kitchen. The design idea for the top came from a conversation I had with one of my friends, a fellow sweater designer, just before making it. It helped that I was making it for a craft night I was hosting, so I knew the people eating it would appreciate the idea. I know the top looks really complicated, but it's not actually that hard. I'll give the best directions I can.

Two-Layer Pie Crust

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 sticks + 1 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
10 tbsp ice water

Whisk the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter a bit at a time and mix with a pastry cutter until it looks like fine crumbs, with pieces no bigger than peas. Sprinkle the ice water over the crumbs and mix by pressing down with a rubber spatula. You can add an extra tablespoon or two of ice water if it won't come together.
Divide the dough in half. Form into 5" disks and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

After the dough has had time to chill, Preheat the oven to 375ยบ. Take one piece of dough out and place between two sheets of parchment paper. With a rolling pin, roll it out to a 12" circle, then carefully roll it around the rolling pin. Hold the rolling pin just above the pan and carefully unroll the dough into place. Press down lightly to fit the dough into the pan, then cut excess off edges. Prick the bottom of the crust to reduce risk of bubbles when it bakes.

Fill the pie with whatever you're putting in it. Canned pie fillings aren't terrible, but: if you cut up 5 apples and sprinkle a few tablespoons of cinnamon and sugar over them you won't be disappointed and it's as easy as opening up cans.

Take the other piece of dough out of the fridge and roll it out to 12" too. Using a very sharp knife, cut 4 lines diagonally across the widest part of the dough. The lines should be about 1/4" apart. These three pieces will be the 'cable' down the center of the pie. Pick the 3 pieces up carefully with both hands and lay one end on the edge of the crust, pinching it down slightly. Drape them across the middle of the pie, flipping them over every 2" or so. That creates the 'cable' look. When you get to the other end, pinch it down again. You'll cut off the excess later.

Repeat the 3-strip lay-and-flip process two more times, so that there are 3 cables evenly distributed across the pie. To fill in the rest, cut a few more 1/4 strips and twist each one, creating a spiral. Lay these down in any areas that look too open. Repeat until the pie is visually balanced and pinch down the edges around the crust one more time, then cut off excess carefully with a knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.

Let cool mostly before serving.

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