The earth's crust
Originally published July 10, 2008
Between the farmers markets, the weekly delivery from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and the generosity of green-thumbed friends and neighbors, my family is getting our fill of fresh, locally-grown produce. When lettuce was bursting out of the ground, we ate lots and lots of salad. On a night when we had a seemingly miss-matched selection of vegetables on hand, a stir fry made frugal and delicious use of them all.
Along with our vegetables, we’re enjoying the colorful parade of fruits and berries making their way to our kitchen. So far, we’ve had some juicy strawberries from Southern Indiana, lovely cherries grown by an Amish family, and plump blueberries from up north. We’re looking forward to melons, peaches, and a wide variety of apples that will be available through fall. As much as I love fresh fruits in their unadulterated goodness - I’m a fanatic about baking them in a pie.
I often get asked about my favorite foods, pie included. When it comes to my favorite pie, I’m fickle. Like the old Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song I “love the one I’m with.” So depending on when you ask me, I might offer up a different pie, usually the one I ate most recently ate. The one, when I close my eyes, I can still image on my palate. This week it was a piece (okay two pieces) of blueberry pie…aahhh blueberry pie.
Regardless of what fruit goes into a pie, the foundation is a great crust and there are as many variations on making pie crust as there are varieties of pie. Most pie makers have their own tried-and-true methods. I’ve experimented with lots of recipes and techniques and thought I had it down pat. This summer, however, I added a little trick that has made a huge difference in my pie making - fraisage.
Fraisage is a fancy-pants French term that sounds much more high falutin’ then it is. It’s basically smearing the butter into the flour as you work it, so that you end up with lots of buttery layers in your dough, resulting in a very flakey pie crust. Here is my recipe for pie dough including instructions on how to fraisage.
As much as I wish a piece of pie a day could keep the doctor away, I realize that pie is, as the new nutritionally-minded Cookie Monster calls, a “sometimes food.” As I’m topping my high-fiber cereal with fresh fruit in the morning, I’m day dreaming about a piece of warm pie ala mode
Flaky Pie Crust (for a two-crust pie)
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
- 4-6 tablespoons cold water
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces and drop one piece at a time into the flour. Use your hands to coat the butter pieces with flour. Next, use your hands and fingers to squeeze together the flour mixture and pieces of butter until all is well incorporated, the consistency of large gravel. Next add the cold water one tablespoon at a time, mixing with hands. Keep adding water until the mixture holds together when a handful is squeezed. You may not need all the water.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and use your hands to shape it into a mound. Start at the farthest end of the mound and use heel of your hand to smear small amount of dough against the work surface, pushing firmly down and away from you, to create separate pile of dough. Continue process until all dough has been worked. Gather dough back into a mound and repeat the smearing process. The dough will not have to be smeared as much as first time. Form dough into four-inch circle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until cold, 30 minutes to one hour. When ready to make your pie, divide the dough in half and roll out to form your two crusts.