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I spilled the beans that I can't make a good pie crust (or, to be honest, any pie crust) in the October issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Since then, I got a little help from my friend, Olida, a homemade Michigan apple pie lover transplanted to NYC, who had been experimenting all summer with her pie crust while awaiting fall apples. Now she's a pro, even mixing Gruyere cheese in the crust of her apple pies.

Here are Olida's secrets, and her recipe:

I think using a Cuisinart makes an okay crust but I felt that it lacked something. So I started to make it by hand, first with a pastry dough cutter and then with a fork, and now I work quickly with cold hands to mix the butter with the flour. And then after I add the cold water I gather it together, and I quickly blend/knead it with the ball of my hand for a couple of seconds. I think the key is that I first cut the butter into tiny pieces and then I put them back in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

2 ½ Cups Whole Wheat Unbleached Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 Sticks Cold Butter
¼ Cup (or as much as is necessary) Ice Cold Water

Mix flour salt and sugar together in a bowl. Using a pastry blender, a fork or the tips of your (cold) fingers, cut in or pinch the cold butter pieces into the flour mixture. Do this only until the mixture looks like peas. Sprinkle in water, while lightly mixing with the ball of your hand, until dough holds together when pressed. Gather up the dough in a loose ball and chill for at least 30 minutes. To roll the pie crust, sprinkle flour over a clean work surface, and lightly flour your rolling pins and hands. Divide the ball into two balls (top crust and bottom crust). Flatten each into a small disk. Roll from the center to the edges turning the dough as you go, until the dough is an even 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.
Oh, and to add cheese to the crust I first rolled out the top and then I sprinkled generously with cheese and then I folded in half and then in half again and then I rerolled.

Okay. It still sounds kind of hard to me. But the idea of Gruyere in a pie crust makes me want to be a better baker. Or to invite Olida to dinner in Traverse City.

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Tags: Apple, City, Pie, Traverse


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Comment by Leslie Askwith on December 4, 2008 at 10:20pm
I think pie-crust making is an instinct. I saw that in action when I invited several Karen ladies to my house to learn how to bake pies. They have lived in refugee camps in Thailand camps for most of all of their lives and pie-making was not part of their tradition to say the least. Most of the young women struggled along with me trying to get the dough to stick together and not split apart when transferred to the pie tin. But the grandmother of the group, watched us for about two minutes, mixed her own batch of flour, shortening and water and succeeded in rolling out a perfect crust and even more amazing, got it into her pan in perfect shape like she'd done it a hundred times before. It was kinda humiliating. Hers is the house where everyone gathers for a good Thai meal too.
Comment by Donna on November 26, 2008 at 5:58am
Nice story, Emily. Yes, the pie crust is the quintessential baking challenge :-) I vote to invite Olida.


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