Cooking/baking fears: pie crust.

Chicken pot pieIf there’s one thing that I’ve been intimated to make, it would be homemade pie crust. I’ve tried it once before, food processor and all, and it was tough. It was nothing like the flaky, buttery crusts I’ve had before. It was gross. It was an overall failure. I can’t remember exactly when that happened, but it had scarred me for life.

Until now.

With a hearty chicken and ham pot pie on the menu, I was determined to make the perfect pie crust.

And I came out with a semi-success! Hurrah!

But back to the pie crust.

As I do with any recipe, I research it extensively beforehand. I do a few Google searches, try to look up cookbooks, and ask fellow chefs and bakers. And although it was particularly straightforward, I was slammed with a little dilemma. Typical recipes for pie crust call for either butter or shortening, flour, salt, sugar, and ice cold water. But a few of my favourite food blogs have swore by using a special ingredient in their recipes: vodka.

By substituting vodka with water, it prevents gluten from forming and evaporates while it is baked. So what you get it something that is light and not doughy or chewy, which is often the result when gluten forms. Afterall, we’re making pie crust here, not bread.

And the secret for flaky pie crust? Cold butter and/or shortening! When you pulse the cold fat into the flour/sugar/salt mixture, it is especially important to not overprocess the dough or overwork it if you’re doing it by hand (like I did). You want tiny little flecks of butter or shortening throughout the dough — this is the key to perfect flaky crust. But you want to know my secret? I used both butter and shortening. Yep, I went there.

Once when you’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to make the filling. So easy. And I even resorted to a shortcut — a can of condensed cream of chicken. I try to stray away from condensed soups but it does make a good base and has enough sodium that adding more salt is unnecessary. It also helps with the overall mouthful as well. Feel free to substitute other soups (mushroom, celery, etc.) instead of the chicken.

Use this recipe as a guide! You can really put any combination of vegetables/meats in here. I would probably add some celery and mushrooms next time around. Have fun with it! And try not to eat the whole pan.

I definitely learned a lot from this experience. Definitely not a professional at this pie-crust-making business. Anyone have any tips they can share? Thanks!
Chicken pot pie Chicken pot pie Chicken pot pie Chicken pot pie Chicken pot pieChicken and ham pot pie

What you’ll need:
Crust
– 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
– 1/4 cup Earth Balance shortening, cold and cut into small pieces
– 3 tbsp vodka, ice cold
Filling
– 3 tsps ghee or vegetable oil
– 2 small onions, sliced
– 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
– 4 tbsp all purpose flour
– 4 medium carrots, diced
– 6 new potatoes, diced
– 1 cup ham sausage, chopped
– 1 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth
– 1 cup half and half
– 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
– 3 tsps dill weed
– Salt and pepper to taste, if desired

What you’ll need to do:
1. Place all of the ingredients for the pie crust in a food processor or large bowl. Pulse (if using food processor) or cut in the dough (if using a pastry blender) until small crumbs form.
2. Add the vodka to the dough and continue to pulse/cut until the dough sticks together when pressed in between two fingers. If not, add more vodka.
3. Place the crumbs onto a surface and work with your hands until the dough comes together. Roll into a flat, round disk and wrap in plastic/saran wrap and stick it in the fridge for atleast 30 minutes.
4. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. Melt ghee or vegetable oil on medium-high in a large pot.
5. Once the oil is hot enough, add the onions and decrease the heat to low. Cook the onions until caramelized, for atleast 30 minutes.
6. While the onions are caramelizing, you can chop up your produce.
7. When the onions are caramelized and dark brown in colour, increase the heat to medium-high add the chicken. Brown the chicken and when almost cooked, about 4 minutes, add the flour and stir until everything in the pot is coated.
8. Add your stock/broth and once incorporated, gently pour in the cream, stirring often so that the cream does not curdle.
9. Add your spices and cream of chicken. Mix. Bring the heat down to medium and allow the vegetables to simmer until they are halfway cooked (around 10 minutes) and pour into a 9×13 glass baking dish. Set aside.
10. Once your dough has chilled for atleast 30 minutes, bring it out to room temperature. I pounded the shit out of my dough (probably bad since I believe gluten was starting to form) since I was in a rush in order for it to become “workable”.
11. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle shape as best as you can (I didn’t do a good job) with a floured rolling pin until desired thickness (mine was about 1/2″ thick) and cover the filling. If you have time, scramble an egg in a small bowl and brush the crust with the egg wash. This will give it a nice sheen.
12. Preheat your oven to 375F and bake for 30 minutes. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes if you would like a more golden-brown crust.
13. Serve with crusty bread. Makes 8 servings.

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One thought on “Cooking/baking fears: pie crust.

  1. Pingback: My take on the French apple tart. | Umami & Me

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