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The Beginning (and Pie Crust)

My fiance informs me that, at some point, I have to stop thinking of this as my first great novel and just start writing. So here it is! Disappointed? Me too - especially as an English major - but there it is. I'm clearing the cobwebs, hammering through the writer's block and, tommorrow, I promise that I will do better.

Oh, by the way, this really is all about the food.

What I made today - Pie crust (pate brisee) for a blueberry pie tomorrow night for a small dinner party. My mum asked me to make something and I just love a good blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream. No pastry chef I know would insist that they go home and constuct a bunch of fancy desserts in their own kitchen with dehydrated mango, brown sugar foam and hazelnut tuille. No way - the simple things, when done right, are always the best. So I guess you could say that I am going back to the beginning - the base crust - and very likely the mother, or, at least, one of the mothers of French pastry. Somehow, that just seems beautifully appropriate for my very first scribblings.

My secret for a good crust? Not really much of a secret - really cold, basically frozen butter, a combination of cake flour and all-purpose to ensure both tenderness and structure and freezing cold water. Here's the recipe:

  • 2 2/3 sticks unsalted butter cut into small 1/2-inch cubes and frozen (Plugra/European Style is best)
  • 1 1/3 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp. ice water

Combine butter, flour, and salt in food processor (you can also do this in a large bowl with a pastry cutter) and process (pulse) until butter is pea-size. With blade turning, add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together. If need be, using the palm of your hand, smear the dough to bring it together (in fancy-pants French Pastry Chef lingo this is called "fraisage"...but I just love the word schmear - even if it does generally refer to some sort of cream cheese concoction). Divide dough into two equal disks, wrap in plastic, and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least one hour.

By: Elizabeth Goel -- Aug 9, 2007
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