I promised a couple of weeks ago in the fig and blue cheese crostata post, to get into the subject of pastry. If you're game to read the saga, I'm game to tell you. Perhaps you've already noticed that I can be a tad bit--how shall I say?--obsessive. Pastry is one such obsession. I come from a fine tradition of expert pastry makers. My mother, who was otherwise not a particularly inspired cook, was renowned for her pastry. As a little girl, to my untrained eye, pastry making seemed to involve terrifyingly tiny dollops of ice water doled out just so. To my horror, with the least provocation, it seemed to me, a tiny drop too much could land the whole batch in the trash. Talk about intimidating.
Because I was therefore somewhat scared of pastry, once I got really interested in cooking, I decided to demystify it and see what I could make of it. Emboldened by my quest, I made pastry and pastry and more pastry. I made Julia's pate brisee for pate de canard en croute. I made Mrs. Beeton's suet crust pastry for steak and kidney pies and puddings. I made pate sucree, pate a choux, puff pastry and rough puff pastry, cream cheese pastry, short crust pastry and sweet short crust pastry. I flirted with flaky and I fought with phyllo. In short, I tried 'em all and while they no longer intimidated me, sometimes they were a bit more of a production than I was up for.
One day, some years ago now, my sister Jo who is such an expert baker that her business is called "Paradise Pies and Cakes" (because, yes, her baking sends you straight there) told me an amazing story. I promise I'm not making this up. It seems that one day the maintenance man at our swim club approached Jo with a piece of paper. He told her that his wife was an ace pie baker too. He told Jo that his wife's "no-fail pie-crust" recipe was on the piece of paper and that it was his wife's gift to her for use in her business.
The recipe bares no resemblance to any other that I've ever seen. Jo tried it and told me that it really was "no-fail." What can I say? I was skeptical. I made it, and you know what? It's incredible. It's ridiculously easy. It's flaky and sublime. It freezes like a dream and is so useful for most any purpose that I probably use it for 90 % of my pastry needs. I use it for most pies, quiches, pot pies, crostata....well, you get the idea. It's my go-to basic and, since eachtime I make it (which takes all of about 2 minutes) I make 4 crusts, I inevitably have one in the freezer for any time I get a sudden impulse to make anything that requires a crust. When you go to roll it out, you want it to be very cold, so usually if I take it out of the freezer while I make whatever is to be cloaked in said crust, it's thawed enoughby the time I'm "ready to roll" if you'll excuse the lame baking pun.
Anyway, I know it shouldn't work. I know it's just not right. However, I also know, that with this recipe in my pocket, I'm ready to make a pie at the drop of a hat. So, do what I did, give it whirl and just see if I'm not right. If you'd like to discuss any other pastry recipes, I'm happy to do so....I'm sure I've got 'em around here somewhere...I'll just need to dust 'em off.
No-Fail Pie Crust
makes 4 large pie crusts
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cupsCrisco
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
Mix together flour, Crisco, sugar and salt until crumbly. In a separate measuring cup mix the vinegar, water and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and mix. Separate into 4 balls. If you plan to use it immediately, chill for at least an hour before rolling. Otherwise, wrap them carefully in plastic wrap and then in a freezer bag and freeze. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator for 3 hours before using.