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Damn Fine Cherry Pie: Part 1

05/01/2011

I made a cherry pie yesterday that received a phenomenal response, so I thought I should share the recipe. Here’s the first part, the crust, which can be used for anything. Pie contents will be in the next post.

Basic 9″ Pie Crust (make 2 for a double-crust pie)
1 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cold butter
5 Tbsp cold lard
3-4 Tbsp iced water

• Put dry ingredients into a Cuisinart and pulse to blend.
• Add butter and pulse.
• Add shortening and pulse.
• Add some ice water and pulse.
• Check. Add more water if needed, but not too much.

I usually split the fats 50/50, but I found myself with less butter than anticipated, so I went with 60/40 lard-to-butter. The original recipe I’ve adapted over time actually has the ratio reversed, with 6 Tbsp butter to 4 Tbsp shortening. I think you can swing anwhere from 40/60 to 60/40, depending on your prference. And you could certainly use shortening if you don’t want to use lard. For a while, I was using Earth Balance, which worked pretty well if you really want to avoid lard and trans fats.

But lard makes the crust taste better. A lot better. The only problem is that it also makes your pie completely non-vegetarian, whereas using shortening at least means that vegetarians (but not vegans) can enjoy it.

A couple of notes about the pulsing and water:
There are a lot of ways to blend your dough ingredients together: pasty mixer, Cuisinart, two knives crossed repeatedly to cut the fat into bits … Everyone has their individual tool preferences and limitations. I like the Cuisinart because it’s fast, which keeps the fats cold. And you want to keep the fats cold because chunks of fat are what make a flaky crust.

However, if you do it this way it’s important not to over-pulse. I actually went a little bit too far on this recent pie, which resulted in a crumbly crust, vs. a flaky one. Guests really enjoyed it, but keep that in mind when pulsing; if you process the dough too much and cut the bits of fat too small, your crust will be more crumbly than flaky. The same holds true when doing this using a manual method, such as crossed knives or a pastry blender. A lot of recipes say to cut your fats down to “pea-sized pieces,” but a food processor can actually bring the texture down to cornmeal consistency, which is too small.

The original recipe that I’ve adapted came from this out of print book from Cook’s Illustrated, which you can hunt up used somewhere. It calls for pulsing the butter five times, then adding the shortening and pulsing another five times, and then transferring the mix to a bowl before adding the iced water and blending with a spatula. This method may be better for first-timers afraid to over-process.

But since I tend to overwork my dough by hand and get the fats too soft, I like doing it all in the food processor. The trick is not to pulse too many times overall. So, once or twice on the butter. Once or twice on the lard. Once on the water. Check. Add more only if necessary and mix/pulse as little as possible.

You will find that you need different amounts of water on different days. It all depends on the weather and humidity. Yesterday, I added 3 Tbsp of water to start, and it was perfect. On other occasions, I have had to use all 4 Tbsp. It’s best to start a little low, as too much water will make your dough tough. But don’t do it in tiny dribs and drabs if you use the food processor. Keep those fats big!

Cherry Pie

Next post: cherry pie filling. Mmmmmm. Stay tuned.

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From → Desserts, Food

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