Pie crust freaks me the eff out. Yesterday I made a version of the Cook’s Illustrated vodka crust – yes, VODKA crust – but instead of the shortening, I substituted 4 extra tablespoons of butter. I ended up making enough for six single crusts, but I only actually baked two of them. I filled them with the nutmeg-maple cream pie that I made last year.

I was a complete psycho about keeping everything cold, which is a must when making pastries. I mean, seriously. I put EVERYTHING in the freezer or the fridge. Even the flour, and the butter before and AFTER I’d cubed it.

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I ended up adding an extra 1/8 cup water to the dough because I couldn’t for the life of me get it to come together. Eventually I just dug in with my hands and made some dough art, just for you, Linds.

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Next, I made dough hamburger patties, wrapped ’em in saran wrap, and dumped them in the fridge. I’ll be making more pies next week, but honestly, the two I made yesterday sucked my soul a little bit and I just don’t think I can dive straight back in.

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I didn’t take a picture of the first crust because…let’s just say it’s not very pretty. I need work on my dough-molding skills. It collapsed a bit on one side, so I wasn’t able to fill it completely. Oh well. The nutmeg-maple cream pie is NOT about the crust. It’s about the food orgasm that you fill the crust with.

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Here’s the recipe I used for the crust:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup vodka from your freezer, and I KNOW you’ve got vodka in your freezer
1/4 cup water, poured from a big glass that has ice cubes in it 

Cube the butter (it’s easy; just cut the stick length-wise, then turn it 90 degrees and cut it lengthwise again, then slice into cubes). Plop it into the fridge. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a big bowl that, if you’re me, you’ve had waiting in the freezer for the last hour.

Next! Put the butter into the dry ingredients, get out your pastry mixer, and proceed to give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome trying to bring everything together. Seriously. My hand is sore right now. I ended up having to put the bowl on the floor of the kitchen and squat over it like a baboon to actually get the butter to break down. Maybe it was a little TOO cold. 

When everything’s roughly pea-sized (or smaller), add the water and vodka. I just poured both of them into the same mixing cup, followed by a splash of vodka into the cup in my face (a.k.a. my mouth). With a spatula, try to get the dough into larger chunks. This is ridonkulously frustrating and hard, if I’m being honest, because the dough just didn’t seem to want to come together. There were still grains of flour and butter at the bottom of the bowl, and the only way I got rid of them was by using my hands and practically kneading the dough like bread. I kept the glass of ice water nearby and added it one tablespoon at a time until I could get the dough to stay in one piece. Eventually it formed a ball (you saw that above in the sculpture I made for you) which I divided in half and refridgerated. Lovely.

Keep the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferrably longer, until it’s pretty hard. Then, pull it out and stick it between two flat sheets of saran wrap. Using a cold bottle of wine (because I don’t have a rolling pin, plus the wine stays cold which helps keep the dough cold), roll the dough out until it’s a 12-inch diameter circle-ish shape. You’ll end up having to unpeel and reposition the saran wrap so that it doesn’t stick to itself and prevent the dough from rolling out.

THEN!!! Keeping the saran wrap on the dough, put it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer for about three minutes or so. Any longer and it will harden into the shape of the sweet potato fries you got from Trader Joes, and then you’ll have to wait for it to thaw when you’re ready to put it in the pie dish (p.s., those fries are friggin DEE-lish, and if you haven’t tried them yet, then you must drop everything immediately and rectify the situation).

Take it out, remove the top layer of saran wrap, and cut a niiiiice 12-inch circle. I used a bowl in my kitchen for a guide cut around it. Get rid of the excess dough, and keeping the circle on the bottom layer of saran wrap, turn it over into the pie dish. At this point, I won’t even try to advise you on what to do because I was such a failure, but…..I gently pressed the dough down into the shape of the 9-inch pie dish, leaving the saran wrap on until it was settled. Then, I peeled off the wrap, folded the edge under, and tried to make it pretty. As you can see from the pictures, that didn’t really happen. To keep my second crust from collapsing, I actually molded part of the edge under the rim of the pie dish, to give it some grip. I’m sure that’s a cooking no-no, but it did the trick.

FINALLY, put the crust back in the fridge for a while, until it hardens up again. THAT’s when you start your maple cream pie filling. I didn’t deviate from the Smitten Kitchen description for this one, so I won’t repeat it. Here’s the link again, just in case. The only thing I changed was that I didn’t strain the filling through a mesh strainer because I’m lazy and it seems like a ridiculous waste of time and effort. Also, when I added the cream to the maple syrup, it was so cold that it froze the bubbles in the syrup and I ended up with this tangle of hardened maple stuck to my spoon. I panicked and screeched at Dave to make an emergency trip to get more cream, but he remained calm and told me that the maple would probably re-melt once everything got heated up. Whaddya know, he was right – it just took a couple of extra minutes. Still, he went out to the store and got me more cream, just in case. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

One more thing: the pan that had the maple syrup and cream in it…well, let’s just say that you’re a fool if you don’t put your entire face in it and lick it out after you’re done mixing the pie filling. Holy em-effing eff, it’s amazing.

And….that was a lot of text with no pictures, for which I apologize.

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