Perfection in pie crusts

I spent all yesterday making pies for thanksgiving. Pies are equal parts labors of love and pride for me. Everyone in my family at thanksgiving has a certain dish they prepare, and while I may not be the greatest cook, I can bake like the devil set to impress. The division of a good pie from a great pie is always the crust. A good pie is enjoyed right up to its lackluster crust, and the little end-pieces stay on the plate. It’s shameful. A great pie, however, is savored through and through.

In all my years of pie baking, I think I’ve finally got the perfect crust. However, all measurements are arbitrary (my measuring cup was engaged elsewhere). Do not attempt if this your first foray into the challenging and fulfilling world of pastry.

If you have a hand like mine (female, smallish, but not tiny), you need four palm-fulls of flour. Throw these into a large mixing bowl, add two sticks of room temperature butter, think better on it and add another palm of flour. Toss in the salt you forgot (pour it into your palm first until a little tiny white mountain forms, add a dash more, then throw it in) and decide “Well, I’m making pumpkin pie, might as well add some cinnamon to the crust.” Do so, with a pinch of cloves to boot. Get your hands in there (ring removed so you don’t have to de-gunk it later) and squish the butter through the flour until you get little pill sized pieces and the butter wants the flour to stick together, but needs a little help still. You may have to add a bit more flour. Once the mixture looks like this, get some cold water running. Add at a minor steady stream for about a second and a half, and then get your hand back in there to kneed the water into the flour and butter. Make sure that dough you’ve got knows every little crumble belongs to it before you turn it out onto your floured surface, or you’ll have to repeat this process. Kneed it a little more (not too much, or the flour will get hard), and cut it in half, setting the second ball aside for your other pie. Pat the dough ball down flat on your floured surface, turn over so you don’t have to flour your rolling pin, and sweep the flour back under again. Roll out the dough to the size of your pie tin, fold one end gently over your rolling pin, then carefully lift it from your surface and line it up over the tin. Push the crust down, cut to size, and fill.

And there you have it. The perfect crust.

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