SFC: Pie on the Table, because the Sky is Too Far Away

                I spoke a little bit about holiday leftovers (and when I say little bit I mean LITTLE BIT) in the last post, only to realize soon afterwards of a very important thanksgiving component I had forgotten: Pie. Or, to be more accurate as far as leftovers are concerned, Pie Crust Dough.

                Perhaps my lack of initial attention given in the post was due to a glossing over of obvious thoughts; if you have leftover pie dough, you just make more pies right? I mean I LOVE pies, I want some more right now… more pecan! –throws a nut on the ground a-la Thor movie-

                -cough- Sorry. Anyways. As many can I’m sure tell of the many uses for pie dough in family dinners, various other desserts, even breakfast (quiche anyone?). At the same time, I recognize an opportunity to finally make something in representation of my favorite Pastie Truck… because I am NOT gonna try and reproduce their awesome pastry crust. But leftover pie dough… not too bad of a way to make your own tasty little at-home version.

                Now, to get started on instructions for making something probably featured in almost every culinary TV Show and most Blogs.

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Pie Dough (a-la Alton Brown)Amount: 1 ½ pie tins, ish

3 oz/6 Tb Butter

1 oz/2 Tb Lard (or in my case, Shortening)

6 oz/1 cup Flour + extra

½ tsp Salt

Up to ¼ cup Ice Water

1 Tb Apple Cider Vinegar

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                After weighing out the various components, cut and break up your fat sources into very small pieces, ½” dice equivalent works really well here. Stick in the fridge for a few hours, transferring to the freezer 15 minutes before using them.

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                The most important thing in making pie dough is keeping everything COLD. If you’re using any equipment, and fork for mixing, your bowls, and any ingredient in significant amount other than flour (it really doesn’t hold temp) should ideally be cold. This is all for the flour and butter (or more accurately, the water within), ensuring that the fat is fully incorporated, which takes some work, without the water leaking out, mixing with the starch, and getting warm enough to form gluten.

                With everything chilled, we can start mixing. This can all be done quite easily in a food processor if you have one, otherwise a bowl it is (something plastic, with rougher sides for better adherence) to work with your hands…  or that mazzaluna-ish butter cutter-mixer thing. But hey, I actually prefer working with my fingers when it comes to pie dough; I don’t know, I think it’s just that feeling of pushing in that butter, plus it allows for more actual control (like whipping cream with a whisk vs a stand mixer).

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              Combine the 6oz of flour, salt, and partially frozen butter. Blend, or work in with your fingertips, very thoroughly until “cornmealy.” This is the first step in the two-pronged attack on a quality dough, incorporating the butter around many individual molecules of starch. When cooked, these fats will soften while keeping the starches from connecting and forming some of those long gluteny chains, thus Tenderizing the dough.

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              But Tenderness isn’t everything in pie dough, so we’ll need to do something to make sure it’s Flaky. This is where the shortening comes in; though it can be any kind of fat, lard is traditional but one can also just use more cold butter. Work it into the dough like before, this time stopping when the lumps of fat are worked down to “pea” size. By keeping the shortening  larger, and not completely working it into the flour, we end up creating little fat pockets, almost like layers, in the soon-to-be dough. When cooked, these will expand and steam, expanding and creating layers similarly to what happens with a good biscuit (just, not as noticeable, smaller scale).

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               Last we add the actual fluids, the vinegar (not in the actual Alton recipe, but I always like it to ensure stability, or whatever it does) and a small amount of ice water, even more important to have the cold here due to the direct water-starch contact. If you can, adding this is done best with a spray bottle, spritzing over the flour and letting it integrate and mix faster than the sloppy-ish method of straight pouring.

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               Now, how much you’ll actually need is dependent on multiple measuring and climactic factors. Either way, only start with about half of what’s called and keep adding while mixing until it’s where it should be. When mixing by hand, this will be when the dough actually starts to naturally form into a ball (I don’t really follow the “when you squeeze and it comes together” concept, because I’ve had times where it follows that rule but the dough will still crack and not hold together when rolling), and the actual do is nice and SMOOTH, best seen when one cuts through it.

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                Wrap this in plastic, pressing down into a flatter round for easier rolling. This is the familiar point where many a recipe says to divide the dough in two; do NOT do that with this proportion of dough, as I found it’s only enough to roll out as-is for one pie. That was after dividing it and having to try and recombine them later, then the shape being all weird and filling in holes, but the flour on the dough made it impossible to fully stick and… well yeah. Just do one mound, or double the recipe for two.

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                Store in the fridge for at least an hour to firm the fats back up. Take out and let rest and soften a bit (a little too firm to roll straight from the fridge). Flour the countertop heavily, especially if it’s a random smooth counter like mine, roll out and use however. But if you’re only using a smaller amount of dough (leftovers), I found you could do a bit of rolling directly on the plastic. Which is great for these pastie-like items, since you don’t have the flour to get in the way when you have to seal any edges (though there is a downside, mentioned later).

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                Once rolled into whatever shape you want for your desired filled item, full circle for empanada-like half-fold or a longer strip to make a little package, we can get to stuffing. Take the desired inside mix, for me a Butternut and Cauliflower Saute with Curried Yogurt sauce, place near an end in a large mound.

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                Grabbing the plastic, lift some of the closer ends up around the filling to have something for the dough to overlap. Take the larger end and fold over, leaving a nice, smooth, perfect looking cover on our little savory pie package.

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                Cut off any and all excess and carefully pinch all edges, holes, and anything that could constitute a leak. Very important to be extra delicate and careful here with this unprotected, tender dough… I made sure to treat it gently, softly moved it underneath a spatula after making it nice and smooth, even and perfect, lifted and moved very carefully over to the pan for baking….

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                And of course it all screwed up after I actually pulled the spatula AWAY. Had to turn it upside down and put all this extra dough on top in a not-so-pretty configuration. Which is a lesson for you all (but really a message to me) to at least get some flour on the bottom before moving… or even better just stuff and fold the dough in the pan itself.

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                Wash and brush the top with a nice layer of milk to encourage good browning and slide into a 350F oven for, say, half an hour, maybe a bit more.

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                Finished, you’ll have a nice, good sized hot pocket of pie dough and delicious filling which, to my surprise, holds up very well to being picked up. The dough itself is obviously much flakier than the Pastie, so it can make a bit of a mess of pastry “snow” on the plate, but if wrapped up in a parchment sleeve it’d make for a very suitable to-go meal.

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                So yeah, that’s it. A longer post for pie dough than I thought I’d make, not I’m feeling tired and ashamed at my ramblings. Either way this should leave me with no more leftovers to forget about, at least until Christmas. Too bad I don’t have any more dough, for some reason I’m craving pie…

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