I finally have acquired the skills to make pastry dough. Triumph! Ok, it's a piece of cake (pie?) if you have a Cuisinart and as far as I'm concerned there is no other way. I can not even begin to imagine how people made/make pastry dough without one. I tried, believe me, with the Tarte Normande and it was something similar to a disaster. Sure it looked ok, but it just wasn't right in any capacity. I felt like I had offended Julia and perhaps she rolled over in her grave. It was close to a shamful experience. A bit dramatic, but in comparison to my Cuisinart dough, you would understand. The Cuisinart makes the perfect, buttery dough that just barely holds together but doesn't crumble out of control and is silky smooth. Just like Julia told me. Well mashing chunks of butter into flour with your warm thumbs trying to keep your palms out of it doesn't exactly work the same as a high speed blade slicing the butter into tiny little particles perfectly mixed and in a nice equilibrium with the dough. If you don't have a Cuisinart, get one, somehow. I borrowed (took) my mom's but I'm guessing they have old ones (which are perfectly good believe me! That's what I'm using) on ebay or second hand at a shop. The new ones are a bit pricey, but sweet jesus are they beautiful.
Anyway, somehow acquire a Cuisinart and you can make any pie. Guaranteed. Ok, enough with my shameless promotion of the Cuisinart food processors, but seriously, it made all the difference for me. Once you have the perfect dough, your pie has pretty much made itself.
When I was home in Portland my cousin Nici and I got a lesson from the pie/Cuisinart masters (my mom and cousin Autumn).
The first trick given by Autumn is to mix half the amount of butter called for (usually one stick, a healthy amount) into your flour as well as the remaining amount in the form of Crisco. Yum, I know, but really, it makes all the difference. Makes it flakey and buttery and perfect. Keep the Crisco in the freezer (it won't freeze......yea I know). It just keeps it that much colder and really what else would you be using Crisco for? Hopefully nothing.
So once you've got your flour and butter/crisco equilibrium after a few pulses of the food processor then you slowly (slowly!) add ice water (yes, ice in the water) in a steady stream until......now this is where the masters differ. I chose sides. Sorry. Until.....the dough JUST forms a ball. NOT when it's rolling around in there in one big lump. You've gone too far at that point and the gluten starts to break down. Bad for pastry dough. So, add it until it just forms a dough. Others say when it just starts to form big chunks but not to the point of a ball. So, try it out and see what you prefer. I like the ball because those extra few seconds make the dough that much easier to roll out and manage, but it doesn't make all that big of difference. Choose whichever side you like.
Once your dough forms a ball, divide it in two if you've made a double recipe (typical when making pies with a top) and wrap it up in saran wrap (mom says wax paper) and form a ball, then smash it into a disc and refrigerate it for as long as you see fit (I do an hour). While you're waiting, whip up your filling. I did an apple pie made with whiskey. I kind of merged two recipes so here is my little summery of the frankenstein I made (a delicious one at that). So follow the recipe below but disregard the part about the steps in making the filling and just use the ingredient amounts and listen to me.
So mix all the ingredients together except for the whiskey and vanilla (I know, it's not listed).
Probably the most important part of this, besides the whiskey is that you should use Honeycrisp apples if you can get your hands on them. They are abundant in the fall and are hands down THE BEST APPLES. To eat. And to bake with. Delicious! Always firm and crisp and never mealy. Juicy and amazing. So use them! It will make your pie that much better.
Ok, that said, place your peeled, cored, and sliced apple and sugar etc. mixture in a sauce pan and simmer on a lowish-medium. This forces most of the liquid out of the apples so it doesn't all end up in your pie and overflow all over the oven. Makes for a soupy pie and the fire alarm going off. No good. So cook them for about 5-10 minutes. While your waiting, take your pie dough (after an hour) and roll it out on a silicon pad (if you have it-so much easier!) and then transfer it to your pie plate. It's easy to just kind of flip it into the pie plate if you get under the dough a bit, or you can fold it in quarters and then lay it in the plate and unfold it. Crimp the edges and trim off the dough hanging over. Mix in two tsp. of vanilla and one teaspoon of whiskey (a bourbon whiskey like Makers or Knob Creek) in to the apple mixture. The whisky and vanilla make such an impact on the flavor of the pie it's kind of incredible. When I did this myself I added the whisky before I cooked down the apples and I think it cooked out the liquor (for shame!). So wait, till they are already cooked to add it.
Put your partially cooked apples in the pie crust and add about half the liquid. Put the pot with the rest of the liquid back on the stove to simmer for another five or so minutes until carmely. Roll out the other half of your dough and cut into strips (using a crimper to do this looks so pretty). Starting with the edge place one strip vertically and another horizontally and keep moving in a diagonal until you reach the opposite corner, if a circle had a corner. Then rub some butter on the top of your lattice dough and sprinkle with some raw sugar (or whatever you have). Not too much, just enough to make it a bit sparkly. You can also do cookie cutter shapes or nothing. Up to you.
Bake for about an hour. Drizzle with the reduced carmel sauce and let cool for several hours. Must be served with vanilla ice cream. It just has to.
It's pretty and oh so good and not too hard to make right? There are a lot of steps but really, once you can make the crust, like I said, the pie just makes itself.
Any excuse to drink while you eat is an excuse I can get behind.
Me triumphant. Pastry dough "mastered".