04 April 2011

the power of pie crust

I used to have this image of the kind of person who made her own pie crusts. And I wanted to be her.

Ms. Homemade Crust used her free time wisely, not only dreaming about baking her own bread or canning her own jam but actually doing it, too. Where did she find the time? The energy?

I hardly know what possessed me that day last November, but I had an entire afternoon looming ahead of me with nothing but a dissertation chapter to write. Naturally, I needed to find something else to do, so I chopped up some butter, slid a bowl of water into the freezer and ransacked my cabinets for something that might substitute for a rolling pin. I emerged with a Thermos. You work with what you have, people.

I pressed the dough into the stone-white pie dish, a wedding gift from our friends Andrea and Colin. I did my best to remove the evidence of my Thermos rolling pin, although the crust still looked like a racetrack for mice.

How I cook is how I conduct my life. I'm always trying to do it better, mostly dissatisfied with whatever I achieve. But then there's this other side of me, a kinder side, who has been there all along but has had to speak more loudly out of necessity these past few months. It's the side that says: "Eh, who cares if it's a little lopsided. Just call it rustic." The side that forgives others easily, instantaneously and urges me to forgive myself with the same unconditional abandon. The side that knows I have what it takes, always.

Four hundred degrees. Nine minutes. My cockeyed crust turned golden just the same, and when I slid it onto the cooling rack, still steaming and sweet-smelling, I had to say it out loud:

"Dude, you just made a pie crust."

Pâte Brisée

Makes dough for two tarts

2 1/2  c. white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

2 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1/2 c. ice water

Martha Stewart's recipe has been fail-proof for me. Delicious, buttery, flakey -- just right, every time. Also, it is really, really easy. Who knew?


  1. I have NEVER made my own pie crust!! I'm a little terrified of it, to tell you the truth. Yours looks so pretty!

  2. Go for it, Anna. Seriously. Whenever you post a recipe with more than 5 ingredients (a dish you've invented, no less), I'm simultaneously impressed and intimidated. You've totally got this one, promise.

    Also, I should add that Deb's tweaking of Martha's recipe was really helpful, too: http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/01/quiche-me-deadly/

  3. Bonnie sent me but I forgot the password :-). May I still come in? I loved your post. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  4. That is one pretty pie crust. I loved the ingenious use of the thermos too - priceless!

  5. Sent my Bonnie! I am glad she suggested I stop by. Your crust is beautiful.

  6. What an inspiration to those of us who didn't receive the pie crust making gene from our talented mothers and grandmothers. Your tart crust is beautiful and I bet it tasted just as good as it looked. Maybe by Sept. 17 I'll have a pie or two under my belt :) xo Jane

  7. I've not yet found a foolproof pie crust recipe. No matter which one I use it always manages to frustrate me. I'll have to try this one! :)

  8. Last Thanksgiving I rolled pie crusts with a can of Pam, a bottle of red wine vinegar, and a florist vase. I think they all worked better that the $60 marble rolling pin I bought recently. Here's to improvisation!

  9. That crust looks amazing and you give directions so great. Your mother in law was right- your awesome girl! I need to try this soon. I too am a frozen pie crust cook but I can do a real one if I feel like it and you just made me feel like i need to do one TODAY! So glad i found your blog thru a writers kitchen! Have a great day!

  10. So glad to know that I'm in good company! It seems silly to be afraid of something as harmless as a pie crust, but yet... I think it's easy to let the fear of failure get in the way, no matter how small the goal.

  11. I have been making this recipe for at least 30 years; had no idea it Martha Stewart's. It turns out every time and I tell you this with lots of experiene. I just spotted you on your mother in Love's blog. Love that name.

  12. Your MIL Bonnie had such warm and complimentary words about you and your pie crust...how could I resist this introductory visit.

    Thanks for this empowering nudge for me to one day soon make a classic pie crust also. Btw...I'm glad you chose a recipe using butter over shortening ;o)

    Flavourful wishes,