Easy as pie

Most people are a bit intimidated by a homemade pie dough.  I’ve got a secret… I used to be one of them.  My mom has always made wonderful homemade pie dough, but it’s something I never thought I could do. Everytime I made a pie using pre-made dough, something just didn’t feel right. I knew my mom wouldn’t do it that way, nor would my aunt, nana or grandma. Something had to change.

So about two years ago, I started practicing.  Yes, I had a few flops and really horrible tasting doughs, but then I started getting better at it.  And you know what, homemade pie dough really isn’t that hard.

You can even use a food processor to mix in the butter. Oh the horror! 

I prefer to make an all butter dough, but you can of course use crisco, lard, or a combination of all three.  I just like the flavor of butter, and the flakiness it brings to a crust. Nothing beats cold butter when making a flaky pie dough, in my opinion.  So, here is a super simple recipe for a butter pie crust. I will give two sets of instructions, one for mixing by hand and one for a food processor. I won’t judge if you choose the latter.

Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp cold sprite or ginger ale
3 tbsp ice cold water

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.  Blend together with a fork.  Next, chop your very, very cold butter into tiny chunks.  I usually cut my stick of butter into 1/4 inch strips, then cut those strips down the middle.  Try not to handle the butter too much. You want to make sure it remains cold.

Using a pastry blender, mix butter pieces into flour mixture until small crumbs form. 

Add in vinegar, sprite, and one tablespoon of water.  Work that into the dough.  Continue to add water, one tablespoon at a time, until a dough starts to form. You do not want it to be too sticky, so you may not end up adding all the water. 

Once a dough forms, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

You can refrigerate for up to two days, or choose to freeze the dough.  When you are ready to use the dough to make a pie crust, or tarts, or whatever treat your heart desires, remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. This will make rolling the dough so much easier.

If you opt to use a food processor, start by pulsing the flour, sugar, and salt two times.  Add in butter pieces and pulse until mixture becomes very crumby.  Slowly add in water and continue to pulse until dough comes together, but isn’t sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

I opted to make mini tarts instead of making a pie.  They are now being enjoyed by my coworkers because the little bite sized mini tarts proved to be too tempting sitting at my house. 

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tarts

**Note, this recipe provides enough filling for 24 tarts and one 8×8 shortbread. So adjust accordingly**

1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp bourbon (optional)
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Remove pie dough from fridge.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large sauce pan, melt butter. Add in sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add in syrup, cream, and vanilla. Once combined, remove from heat and stir in bourbon and pecans.

Once pie dough is close to room temperature, prepare a floured surface.  Place dough in center and begin to roll out dough. Have additional flour close by in case you need to add more.  Once rolled out, use a cookie cutter to make the shape for the tart shells. The only cookie cutter I could locate that closely resembled a circle was my Christmas wreath cookie cutter.  It did the trick.

Spray muffin pan with pam, then push dough into each muffin hole to form the shape for the tarts. Make sure the press the dough up against the sides.

When dough is ready, pour filling into the tarts.  This is where I made a big mistake and overfilled my tarts.  I would say fill tart shell about 3/4 the way full.  I overfilled and made a slight mess in my oven. Luckily, I realized this a few minutes in to baking and was able to throw in a foil sheet below them to catch the overage.  Once tarts are full, sprinkle on chocolate chips into each tart.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove tarts from muffin tin once cool.  Store in an air tight container.
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Aren’t they cute? I can’t wait to make them again and actually put in the correct amount of filling. Regardless of them not being perfectly shaped, they tasted great. And that’s what really matters isn’t it?
So now you can stop purchasing pre-made dough.  Once you make a few batches of homemade dough, you will never go back. It just takes a little practice. I make all of my pie dough during my lunch break in the afternoon. That way when I get home at night, my dough is ready for whatever I have planned to make. 

I’ll have the shortbread recipe for you tomorrow… and boy is it good. I decided to keep that one at home since Wes hasn’t gotten to enjoy it yet.  Luckily he is feeling much better and will get his fair share of shortbread tonight.

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