Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Stop Being a Wuss: How To Make Pie Crusts the Easy Way

EAT MY PIEToday's Dining section brings a roundup of holiday dinner recipes for you wussbags who are too lazy or scared to make desserts with crusts. "Is it Thanksgiving if there is no traditional pie with a traditional filling and a crust that the cook obviously fussed and worried over?" asks Florence Fabrikant. The answer is obviously: NO, YOU HORRIBLE MONSTER, IT IS NOT. Are you one of those wimps who is afraid of a pie crust? Here, I will tell you everything you need to know right now, you whiny little girl. Yes, that is a picture of an apple pie that I whipped up the other week in about 8 seconds. Loser! Here are the tools you will need: NONE.

1. Put a bag of flour in the fridge and two sticks of butter in the freezer. Go gloat about your superiority and complain about how hard you're working and smoke or read for a little while.

2. Put about 2 and a half cups of flour in a cold bowl. ABOUT. The thing is, it doesn't matter! Who has time and energy to measure things?

3. Put something more than a teaspoon but something less than a tablespoon of salt in the flour. That is like "three pinches." It doesn't really matter how much! Saltiness offsets sweetness! People, who are animals, like salt!

4. Put about the same amount of sugar in the flour! Give or take! IT DOESN'T MATTER.

5. Chop up the two sticks of butter into chunks and then sort of mush them into the flour but NOT VERY MUCH. If you are feeling fancy or lazy, you can shave frozen butter into the flour using the big side of a cheese grater, but I find that makes the pieces of butter too small actually. After integration, the butter should be pebbly, and your hot little hands shouldn't be on it long enough to melt it. You can use a fork for this part! Or any other tool you want! Or none at all! I use my hands. This should take under a minute. The point is, you are NOT mixing in all the butter. Your goal is butter chunks. It should look sort of gross.

6. Put some very cold water in there, and smush it together! Like, not very much water! Maybe half a cup, maybe 3/4s of a cup! Sometimes it's a whole cup, I don't know why. It doesn't matter! What you are going for is all the crumbs of flour to be attached to a central mass that does not become at ALL gluey. It doesn't matter though! If it's too wet, you'll dry it out later. If it's too dry, you'll wet it. If you're feeling really fancy, put in two drops of white vinegar. That's just for superstition really.

7. Mash that firm yet coherent business into an oblong disc immediately and put it in a ziploc bag in the freezer for half an hour and go SMOKE some more.

8. Take it out of the freezer, tear it in two, and spread flour literally all over the counter, which is one hopes somewhat clean at least, and then all over the top of your half of the dough. Don't be stingy. Hammer it into semi-flatness, like maybe four to six inches wide, then try to fold it in on itself, into like the size of a ring box. In some manner, roll out that first half using what I use, which is an old bottle of verjus with no label. Who has an actual rolling pin? If it breaks a lot, just fold it back in on itself. You can tear off bits and glue it to the main body with some water. Or, if it's too soft, that means it's too wet, so put more flour on it. This rolling is a little strenuous, but just keep turning it and giving it a few rolls then turning it some more. Eventually it will be pie dish size.

9. Drop that shit in the pie dish and then roll out the top. Don't let everything get all melty while you're working. Rolling out the top is always easier than rolling out the bottom. THE END.

96 Comments / Post A Comment

gregorg (#30)

Two questions:
1. can I replace smoking with drinking? What if it's just Diet Coke?
2. Where can I order the Smutten Kutchen Cookbook so that it arrives before next Wed.?

DEFINITELY you can drink instead of smoke.

Also, for a small fee, our chefs from Smutten Kutchen will come to your house and do it for you!

May the client request a uniform? I require an apron and a smile.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

This is awesome and you should definitely write a recipe book except whoops! I forgot print was dead.

Flashman (#418)

Uh, what kind of flour? Fancy flour?

FLOUR. Just like FLOUR. I of course get "organic unbleached white flour" but seriously any kind of beaten white product will work.

Flashman (#418)

Would using organic flour make it extra-flakey?

HiredGoons (#603)

So like… a battered wife?

garge (#736)

I find the more bleached the better, for pie crust; don't be so sad, chlorine is your pal.

Like, try to find the private label brand flour of the most ghetto gas station or convenience shop in your area. Mmmm higher rise and elasticity for your tender self.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Don't forget to crimp the edges of the crusts together with your FINGERS.
After you fill your pie, put the top crust over the pie. Using a butter knife, cut the excess off (leaving about an inch all the way around). Fold the top crust over the botton. Put your thumb and index finger on the outside of the pie dish and crimp the crust by pressing the index finger of your other hand in between the two. Press hard!

Nothing gets my goat like a fucking pie crust that's been crimped off with a fork. A fork!?! Have you no mother? No grandmother? Were you raised by savages? Ugh, thank God I'm in Amsterdam for Thanksgiving this year.

I'm not an excess cutter–I'm a folder-inner. Just pop that extra crust up and mush it together.

BUT YES. FORK!? What the–UGH. That is for animals.

slinkimalinki (#182)

folding-inning has the bonus that it looks super handmade and awesome. yes i know it is already handmade, but you know, artisan. THIS THING LOOKS LIKE THAT THING THAT IT ALREADY IS.

Bittersweet (#765)

People crimp their crusts with a fork? That's like Jim Carrey-as-God horrifying.

Girl here, whinging in to say we're not afraid to make pie crusts, we're just afraid to eat them.

(In another world, THIS would be my recipe.)

Yes, the sexism above was intentional but oddly directed.

Oh don't go Palin on me. Sexism is for wusses.

dr.funke (#336)

When do I add the salty tears of regret? And do I wait until the pie is baked to fling it at my ungrateful family members?

KarenUhOh (#19)

I use the cat for a rolling pin. People remark on the texture of the crust, particularly if Kitty's been in the box shortly before her assignment, and there's always lots of leftovers. Which we know is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Mincemeat pies are the best. But you have to be willing to hang around in the yard after dark to obtain some of the ingredients.

cherrispryte (#444)

Okay there, Mrs. Lovett.

slinkimalinki (#182)

but do you freeze the cat first? mine lacks firmness.

mathnet (#27)

That is the only recipe I've ever read that actually offers me instruction and information and tips THAT I CAN USE and THAT HELP MAKE ME WANT TO DO SOMETHING AND BELIEVE THAT I CAN DO IT. I'm serious. My parents don't like to cook–really no one in my family does–so I have no basic understanding of, like, the chemistry rules or whatever. I need the whole picture! I need to know the WHY, not just the WHAT. I would like to thank you, Choire Sicha. Happy Thanksgiving to you.


katiebakes (#32)

Can you write a cookbook instead of a bookbook? There's just enough belligerent preemptive judgment (I hate that there's not a second E in judgment, it ruins my life) in here to maybe make me consider buying a bowl.

Actually you don't even need a bowl! You can do all of this on a flat surface. It helps if you have a "refrigerator" but you know, it's also cold outside, which works.

In all seriousness, and as someone who very nearly bought the Momufuko cookbook (Momufuko= The Awl? Discuss.) just to read David Chang's narrative, I promise that I would go all the way with you, CS. PLEASE WRITE THIS.

Maevemealone (#968)

I HAVE THE BOOK. It is awesome. "Just add some fucking meat glue to the fucking noodles and shut the fuck up already".

YES! Meat glue! Also please chalk up a WIN in the excerpt choice column for this, to go with all your holiday pie honors.

Momofukme and my typing. Momofuku!

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

I was going to say exactly what katiebakes said, so will simply add my voice to the chorus: why aren't more recipes written like this? (The judgment-sans-e thing is also crazy, and I'm pretty sure they use the 'e' in the U.K.? This is like the metric system of words.)

slinkimalinki (#182)

i'm SURE there's an e in judgement, and i'm an antipodean.

binminchinfin (#2,253)

Yes, there's a second e, not just in the UK but everywhere except the US in fact. So ha ha.

marthaholmberg (#2,300)

Maybe we can take some of those extra apostrophes that seem to get into everything these days (er, day's)and trade them for an e in judgement.

mathnet (#27)


mathnet (#27)

I really mean that, but yes, that is what she said, etc.

Urbania (#94)

3 pinches of sugar, or equal parts sugar and flour.

Otherwise, I hope this shows up in your book.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

Two sticks of butter? You're the worst gay ever.

propertius (#361)

Hmmm… methinks skip the butter and use Crisco.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

My mom used Crisco too. Supposedly it makes a flakier crust. Either that or she learned to cook in the 50s when using unnatural ingredients was in vogue.

Ugh, I hate the taste of Crisco or margarine. I think those would win the "worst gay ever" nomination for ingredients. Wookie must have meant Choire needs to use 3 sticks of butter.

Adouble (#1,300)

The thinking tends to go: Crisco makes for a less flavorful crust, but it makes the dough easier to work with. Working the dough less and adding less water would lead to a flakier crust; however, you can still get a really flaky crust with butter.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Butter makes a crisper crust; lard or Crisco (which is fake lard made out of whipped vegetable fat) makes it more tender (I use about 2/3 butter and 1/3 lard.)

Your recipe is hilarious and will produce an edible result but I guarantee you that the noobs are going to put too much water in and make an unholy mess. They always do. There's no way to "dry it out" that I know of, once you've saturated the flour and basically made butter-flavored library paste out of it. (Say on, if you have a method.)

Kakapo (#2,312)

I appreciate Choire not jumping on the Crisco train. You can achieve flakiness simply by leaving some little chunks of butter in. If you must do something shortening-like, throw in some leaf lard with your butter. The only thing I'd change about Choire's recipe is that I like using some proportion of pastry flour or cake flour.

elephony (#103,223)

Come on, people, the answer is half butter for flavor, half lard for texture! It's not like there's any way Thanksgiving is going to be a healthy meal, so why not do it right?

Not to be a bitch about it or anything, but I'm a pretty great cook. However, baking scares the shit out of me and I suck at it.

This article makes me feel super stupid. In a way that I really enjoy.

elecampane (#1,877)

The Awl is like a machine for generating LOVE.

This is how I bake and how I snarl at people when they say, "how many cups/teaspoons/etc.?" IT DOESN'T MATTER. Here are my tips for making cornbread: Cast iron. Don't bother making cornbread except in cast iron. Also: whatever the ratio of cornmeal/regular flour called for in your recipe, put in more cornmeal and less flour. THEN KEEP ADDING MORE CORNMEAL WHENEVER YOU GET A CHANCE; this optimizes pleasing grittiness. Instead of sugar (!?) use a little bit of honey, and don't skimp on the salt. Use bacon grease instead of vegetable oil.

hockeymom (#143)

Bacon grease should be used for everything.
I would bathe in bacon grease if I could.

sox (#652)

bacon is meat candy.

elecampane (#1,877)

well, bear grease was a favorite hair and skin moisturizer among native folks in the northeast, so I can't see why you shouldn't bathe in bacon grease. But maybe bacon grease would draw bears, and then the bears would draw Balks.

mathnet (#27)

What. in fuck. is bear grease?

elecampane (#1,877)

@mathnet bear grease is like bacon grease but associated with bear meat. Also, I see online, reputed to make very flaky pie crusts! NO I DON'T HAVE ANY.

slinkimalinki (#182)

cast iron is the answer to almost everything.

hman (#53)

I like being a wuss, so I make crumbles.

brent_cox (#40)

That is a beautiful recipe, free of heirloom this or heritage that.

carpetblogger (#306)

I am frightened of pastry. So, for my own post-soviet shithole Thanksgiving, I was going to skip the crust and the pumpkin and the eggs and the brown sugar and just serve the bourbon (hard to find! oughtn't be wasted!) I would have put in the pie. Thanks Awl!

Maevemealone (#968)

I make my butter crusts outside on the porch with the door closed. I freeze 4 leftover marble tile samples (poor girls pastry bench) and roll it out on that. It may or may not be the best pie anyone has ever eaten, but what's important is that I'm left alone for the afternoon and the illusion of complexity and labor intensiveness leads other to shower me with praise. I win every holiday in which I bake a pie.

hockeymom (#143)

I sometimes work with FAMOUS PEOPLES who are on TV who cook and bake and Choire, you are right on.
The best of the best don't over-think this stuff.
They make it look easy, because it actually isn't brain surgery.
Sure, you might screw up at first….but so what, try it again.

Here's a tip I learned if you want to make your crust extra fancy….
After you're done baking your pie, take a little bit of light corn syrup, mix it up with some hot water and brush the mixture over the top of the crust.
Sprinkle a litte bit of granulated sugar on top of that.
Pop the pie back in the oven for another minute or two.
When you take it out, your pie will look all shiny and sparkly.*

*not recommended for Chicken Pot Pie.

garge (#736)

Thank you! This will make my mom very happy.

garge (#736)

Can you do a follow up post, or an addendum, about how to make an apple pie that isn't soggy?

Adouble (#1,300)

Not as awesomely quick as Choire's post but:
1) Pick the right apples. A mix 1/2 Granny Smith, 1/2 Golden Delicious should do it.

2) Peel and core your apples, cut in halves, cut each half into fourths (i.e. 8 pieces per whole apple). Toss pieces in 2 tablespoons lemon. Add sufficient sugar for the apples' sweetness level. Melt a half stick of butter a large pan. Throw in the apple mixture and let sugar melt (about 2 minutes), then reduce heat and cover, while the apples release juice (about 7 minute). throw a colander over a bowl, and drain the juice from the apples. Put the juice back on the stove and reduce down until rather thick. Pour the reduction on the apples and mix in your spices. Let refrigerate at least 10 minutes before adding to pie crusts.

3) If that still doesn't do it, also throw in a little thickening agent like tapioca.

garge (#736)

I am inspired; I will make this pie as a method of procrastination this week. My best regards,

Bittersweet (#765)

Not golden delicious! They always go all mushy on me, though I don't use your clever juice-reduction technique. Lemon juice is my not-so-secret ingredient for awesome apple pie filling too.

Adouble (#1,300)

@Bittersweet — The Golden Delicious will get a little bit mushy compared to the Granny Smith, but not enough to make the bottom crust soggy, and I like the mixture of textures. But if you want to avoid this, use all Granny Smiths (or maybe 1/2 Cortlands)

flossy (#1,402)

My wacky Japanese bread machine somehow "makes pie crusts," but so far I have been too chicken to try it for fear of what else will happen when I flip the switch to "magic."

mathnet (#27)


Mindpowered (#948)

So should we all rock out with the "proverbial cock" out?

I know nothing about pie and the only items in my freezer are Popsicles. Are there Thanksgiving recipes for Popsicles?

Fluffy (#2,250)

Southern Living magazine had a party recipe for popsicles – take half of a two-stick or one single fruit pop and put it in a fizzy drink. Their favorite was strawberry-kiwi in a lemon-lime soda. Not kidding.

Sakurambobomb (#1,722)

How sweet, I didn't know you were Amish! Happy Birthday, cock-throb!

riggssm (#760)

Ditto on all the good comments. "Tossing things together" is a fairly accurate description of how I bake.

BUT: "Rolling out the top is always easier than rolling out the bottom."

Really? I've always had trouble getting tops to conform to the size of my pan and/or not fall apart when I apply my heavy cream and egg yolk finish.

(Regrets for the inevitable gay puns.)

iplaudius (#1,066)

I was dying at "It should look sort of gross." YES. It is kind of like leprosy at that point.

Jasmine (#8)

I'm enamored with this recipe. I want to make out with it. Maybe some groping.

This is a refreshing change from the prissy precision-measuring exhibited in the Books and Cooks segment.

mathnet (#27)


like my mom's favorite from the 70s: the "I Hate to Cook Book." For real, I still remember, one of the steps in a recipe was: Light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.

wb (#2,214)

Or you could just do the whole thing in the fucking oven:

lostdownunder (#1,728)

my nana says the key is lard. she even specified that en espanol it is called manteca so I wouldn't have trouble finding it in a los angeleno supermarket.

The manteca nowadays is always too mush! I hate it. I used to make all my xmas cookies and empanadas with it, but now I just use butter. They hydrogenated it, I think. Something horrible.

Kakapo (#2,312)

The "manteca" in the familiar green cartons in groceries is just somewhat fluffier Crisco. Definitely not real lard.

carpetblogger (#306)

If there is something wrong with this recipe someone needs to tell me right the f*ck now because I am totally using it.

Maevemealone (#968)

Too much water. You really only need a few tablespoons, add as needed.

binminchinfin (#2,253)

Two sticks!

A translation for those of us in other lands whose butter does not come in such a measurement (here in Noisyland it is spring and butter comes in blocks which weight about a pound – don't use two of those).

I asked Teh Google "how much is a stick of butter?" and it said "1 US stick of butter = 118.294118 milliliters" and I wondered what sort of maniac measures butter by volume.

Knowing that 118.294118 milliliters is the same as 118.294118 cubic centimetres, but being relucant to get out my tape measure and calculator, I forged onward. Somebody said that a stick of butter is half a cup, and again I wondered "Do these people have melted butter? How do they know how much to melt?"

This one was my favourite: "Eight tablespoons. Get a giant measuring cup, fill with water to the 1 cup mark. Add butter pieces until it reaches 1.5 cups. Drain the water and use the butter as normal. That'll get you the half cup which is one stick of butter."

"Eureka!" I thought.

But still I was not satisfied, not being an Ancient Greek. "a stick of butter weighs 1/4 pound (butter is sold in pound boxes in the usa) there are 4 sticks in each pound. 1/4 pound = 4 ounces". At last, the holy grail – weight.

And then, not being in the 19th century, I translated that to 113 grams. Or 226 grams for two sticks (see what I did there?). Or half a block.

slinkimalinki (#182)

always blow on the pie.

binminchinfin (#2,253)

Hey, I get that.

I was gonna say, half a block! But then you said it eight paragraphs down.

BoHan (#29)

Will you make my Dad one of these luscious pies when he visits NYC in 2-2010 for the first time since 1944? I'm his escort. He's the same age as Don Draper would be so he has stories to tell you of what a shithole NYC came to be!!! OK it's a date.

smapdi (#1,306)

This will improve my self esteem.

kpants (#719)

But, but… the trick to a perfect pie crust is VODKA! Um, not imbibed (well, not necessarily) but to add to the liquid ratio along with the other ingredients. It makes the whole thing roll out and form to your whim much easier.

Kristen (#2,256)

Use half Crisco and half butter and it will turn out even better. True.

jollyevil (#2,267)

One word: LARD. Just don't tell – my mom let her secret slip one year and our guests proceeded to eat the filling, leaving the crust behind. Losers.

elephony (#103,223)

@jollyevil I've always been in the half lard, half butter school. Pork fats for texture, dairy fats for flavor!

Chris.Sturr (#2,298)

Hey Choire–you need to meet my ex-bf who could make a crust in 8 minutes or less, basically with this same recipe (minus chilling the flour–is that necessary?).

demonx (#2,286)

Wait, Choire, please discuss pie contents and fillings: what do you do to the apples or cherries or whatever before they go between the dough? And why is it impossible to discuss baking without thinking about that other thing. Seriously, though, crust aone doesn't make a pie: so more please. Thanks for the recipe; as other commenters have said, all recipes should be written like this.

Genghis Noid (#2,345)

FER$#! How do I print this f#$#$#er without all the comments and ads?

carpetblogger (#306)

From GMT +4, that pie crust was tough as that fucking steak. Just saying…

monkeyajb (#524)

This motherfucker was the bomb. I haven't successfully made a pie crust in 10 years. The zen brilliance of "Who has time and energy to measure things?" can not be understated. SO GOOD!

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