My first pie competition…

And I was a wreck. I had made two test pies. One was perfect – the second was a horrific disaster. The disaster pie led to a reworking of my pie plans, a subtraction of sorts. I am definitely the type of person who likes to overcomplicate, subtraction is not my forte. While I know this is my pattern, I generally don’t catch it early enough. Ahhh… getting older.

So there I was the day before the competition, ready to start the most nerve wracking part – the pastry. Here is my process.

1. Put bowls in the freezer. One large bowl for the flour, one small bowl for the butter and one measuring cup for the liquid. Freak out a bit that I didn’t put the bowls in sooner. Will they get cold enough???

2. Sift a whole pile of flour into a bowl before measuring two cups into the large bowl, add salt and return bowl to freezer.

3. Grate a cup of butter into the small bowl. Freak out that my fingers might be melting the butter. Return grated butter to the freezer.

4. Take measuring cup out, crack egg into it and whisk. Add water and vinegar.  Return to freezer.

5. Put the timer on for 15 minutes because that seems like the correct thing to do.

6. When timer goes off, gather up my nerves and start “making the pastry.”  Ahh  What if I screw it up? Put some flour in the bottom of a bowl, sprinkle a bit of grated butter on top. Put more flour on top of the butter and then add more butter. Continue layering flour and butter on top of each other. Mix up gently with a fork – put the combined butter and flour back in the freezer.

  • A great tip I learned is that the key to flakiness is to coat the butter in the flour rather than mix them together. That is why coldness is key.

7. At this point I needed a walk. I was approaching a key moment in the pastry process and I needed something to steel my nerves. In my case the necessary steel came in the form of coffee and chocolate. Cocoa Nymph just opened a new chocolate bar in the ‘hood and this was the perfect opportunity to check it out. I bought the Elphaba and Barnabas the Tortoise. The Ephaba was my favorite, filled with pistachio, rich and creamy. Now, I was ready. Alert and fidgety from the caffeine.  On edge.

8. The flour and butter is taken out of the fridge. The chilled measuring cup with egg, vinegar, and water is taken out of the freezer and sprinkled on top. Quickly, fueled by your anxiety, mix the liquid into the flour with a fork. Using your hands, rub the pastry mixture together. Do this as much as necessary but as little as possible. If the pastry starts to hold together you are done. Don’t touch it anymore.

9. Thank your (G)godesse(s) that you have finished the major steps, separate the pastry into two, saran wrap and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

10. Now it is time for the rolling and the putting in the pie tin. Another key step. The saran wrap is the key.  Don’t use parchment or wax paper. They don’t work. Saran wrap does.  I think this is because the saran conducts heat slightly so the butter melts slightly and then sticks to the saran, making the process of transferring the crust to the pie plate infinitely easier. Once the crust is rolled out to a nice thinness, peel off one side of saran and flip into the pie plate.  Trim the excess pastry, use it to patch the crust, wrap and then place (place) in the freezer.

11. Roll out the top crust. Cut to the size needed for the top crust and place (place) in the freezer.

12. Take a deep breath and let it out.

13. The next day, fill the pie with filling, put the top crust on and bake it. See isn’t making pie easy?

A few notes:

  • Anxiety, as I hope you have noticed, is a necessary ingredient when making pastry.  If you have no anxiety then you will fail.
  • Two other necessary ingredients are speed and coldness. The anxiety fuels both. If you forget or get careless about either speed or coldness your pastry is ruined.
  • Perfectionism is also useful if it further fuels your anxiety. Other stimulants, such as coffee and chocolate are also useful.
  • Pastry no-no’s: a laissez-faire attitude, warm hands, a warm kitchen.

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