Happy Poetry Friday!
It’s been awhile since my last Friday Feast, and I’ve missed the soul-enriching nourishment afforded by beautifully crafted poems. Only fitting that since the last poem I featured at the old LiveJournal blog was by Barbara Crooker, we begin the 5th course of alphabet soup in this new cyber kitchen with another of her food poems.
The subject? Pie Crust!
Oh yes, my Quest for Pie continues. ☺ And I am a crust person through and through. Not to say I don’t love all the fillings — it’s just that a light flaky crust defines a pie. Such a difference between bland cardboard or soggy goo, and perfectly baked, golden richness — just the right soft crumble, gently yielding its precise measure of flour, fat, and water, alerting your taste buds to pastry nirvana.
Making good shortcrust pastry is an acquired skill, a tricky proposition that requires flawless technique, practice, and that indefinable something only obtainable through the touch of human hands. And if they’re your mother’s hands? Then it approaches the sacred, a place where loving memories, family pride, and a desire to distill the essence of childhood prevails.
MY MOTHER’S PIE CRUST
by Barbara Crooker
Light as angels’ breath, shatter into flakes
with each forkful, never soggy-bottomed
or scorched on top, the lattices evenly woven,
pinched crimps an inch apart.
My ex-husband said he’d eat grasshoppers
if my mother baked them in a pie.
Smooth tart lemon, froth of meringue.
Apples dusted with cinnamon, nutmeg.
Pumpkin that cracks in the middle
of its own weight. Mine are good,
but not like hers, though I keep trying,
rolling the dough this way and that, dusting
the cloth with flour. “You have to chill the Crisco,”
she says. “You need a light touch
to keep it tender; too much handling
makes a tough crust.”
Gather the scraps, make a ball in your hands,
press into a circle. Spread thickly with butter,
sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, roll up, slice, bake.
The strange marriage of fat, flour, and salt
is annealed to ethereal bites. Heaven is attainable,
and the chimes of the timer bring us to the table.
~ Literary Lunch (Kentucky Writers Group) © 2011 Barbara Crooker. All rights reserved.
Barbara: My favorite recipe comes from Betty Crocker (for whom I am sometimes mistaken — I even got a check from a magazine once, made out to her):
for an 8 or 9 inch double pie crust:
1-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup oil (I use a heart healthy blend)
3-4 T. ice water
Stir the salt into the flour. Add oil, mix with a fork until the particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle the ice water in, a tablespoon at a time. Gather into a ball, divide in half.
(This part is my special trick:) Wipe the counter, place a sheet of waxed paper down. Place ball of dough, top with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll into a ball two inches larger than your pie plate. Peel off the top sheet of the waxed paper. Use a small paring knife to help you. Remember that this is like Play-Doh; any tears can be pinched or squished back together, and you can’t hurt the crust!
Invert, and place the pie crust round in the pie pan. Peel off the bottom sheet of waxed paper (which is now on top). Pour in filling. Repeat with second crust. Once it’s in place, crimp the edges together, either with a fork, or pinch it with your fingers. Cut slits on top to vent the steam. Brush the crust with milk (I use a small paint brush), sprinkle with sugar. Most pies bake at 425 for 45 minutes, but this will vary depending on your oven.
I’m anxious to try Barbara’s (Betty’s ☺) recipe, because I like to avoid hydrogenated fats (Crisco). My experience has taught me that using all butter makes the dough (though flavorful) hard to handle. A Crisco crust is great for flakiness and making lattice tops. I’ve used half-butter and half-Crisco to good results. Barbara agrees that the oil recipe probably wouldn’t work as well if you’re attempting to make a lattice top crust. But certainly for a single crust French Apple Pie, custard, pumpkin, or lemon meringue, the oil crust is fine. BTW, the wax paper trick really works!
Hmmmmmmmmmm — here’s something to inspire you to make a pie this weekend:
♥ Today’s Poetry Friday host is the Shockingly Clever Coffee Maven, Karen Edmisten. Coffee goes well with pie, yes? As does tea and lemonade and milk and water and juice and champagne and raspberry cordial and pencil shavings (just checking to see if you’re paying attention).
♥ To prove how daunting making a good pie crust can be, check out this post by Dorie Greenspan. Seems even she’s been terrified of rolling.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.