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Have no fear of crust.  It’s easy to make and it’s relatively difficult to screw up.  I swear by the food processor method, but down the road, we’ll talk other techniques as well.

In her own words: Williker’s Justifiably Famous Vinegar Crust

(Makes two 9-inch pie crusts)

Ingredients

15 oz. all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

8 oz. cold butter

4 – 6 Tablespoons of a mixture of 1 cup cold water and 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar


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Directions

Combine flour, sugar and salt in food processor.  Pulse 3 or 4 seconds to blend

Cut the butter into slices ¼ to 3/8 inch thick. It’s important that the butter be cold (even frozen is good).  Add the slices to the flour mix and pulse about 10 times.  Then scrape the sides and pulse another 4 times.  You want the resulting mix to have a cornmeal consistency.  This means the discreet little pieces of cold butter will create a nice flakey crust when baked!

The vinegar mixture should also be very cold.  Maybe drop an ice cube in it.  Add 4 Tablespoons of the vinegar mixture to contents of the food processor and pulse for a few seconds. 

Scrape the sides and check the consistency of the dough by pinching it together.  If it holds well without falling apart easily it’s done.  If it crumbles apart add one more Tablespoon of the vinegar mix and pulse for another few seconds and check it again.  You may need up to 6 Tablespoons of the mix total. 

Notes:  Perfect dough will still crumble a little. You don’t want it too wet and clay-like.  You’ll get the feel for it after doing this a few times.  Also, the remaining vinegar mixture can be stored in fridge for your next crust.


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Dump the contents of the food processor onto a silicon mat (or a marble pasty board or even parchment paper – but not a tiled counter top!)  and press into a large disc-shaped lump.  Divide this in half and make each half into a smaller disc-shaped lump.  If you’re into precision, each lump will weigh about 15 ounces.  Wrap each lump in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to three days if you’re not quite ready to commit to a pie just yet). 

When you’re ready to roll out your crust, lightly dust the surface and rolling pin with flour.  You may need to repeat this with your rolling pin several times, but avoid over-doing it because it can make dough too tough.   

Unwrap the dough lump and lay it on the surface and start to gently roll it out into a large circle by rolling in different directions from the center.  The cold dough will be difficult to work with at first, but it will get easier as it warms.  The edges may break apart.  It’s ok to press broken edges together or even fill in a crevice with excess dough from another side of your circle.  Adjust the pressure you’re putting on the rolling pin to get a uniform crust 1/8th to 1/16th inch thick.

If you’re working with a silicon mat you can place the pie plate upside down on the dough and flip it over and gently loosen the dough into the pie plate.  Do not pull.

The crust should hang over the edges of the pie plate.  I use a fork to trim off the excess from the edges because the natural curve of the fork keeps a better shape on the crust.  Again, if you have gaps in your crust you can use the excess to fill them in. 

Depending on the recipe, you’re going to either freeze the empty crust briefly, blind bake it, or fill it and top it with the second crust


 
 
Williker is Katie Baker's best friend.  They met in college and bonded over a mutual dislike of Jesuits, a fondness for Diet Coke for breakfast, and an until-now secret passion for 60's and 70's bubble gum pop music.  The fact that the Baker had The Partridge Family’s Greatest Hits pretty much sealed the deal.

Williker's real name, it should be noted, is actually Gretel.  On the day she left for college, before the front door of her parents’ lovely Tudor home was completely closed behind her, she announced to the universe she would henceforth be known as "G." Short, sweet, to the point -- and an efficient end to all those Hansel jokes.

But then she met the Baker's mother.

Katie Sr. had a bawdy sense of humor and a wicked soft spot for practical jokes -- especially at the Baker's expense.  What she didn't do was swear.  Bob, the Baker's dad, meanwhile could efficiently wax the cochlea hairs right out of your ears with his profanity:

Bob: Jaysus Christ on a cross!  Shut the damn door!  I know for a good goddamn fact that you weren’t born in a barn fer crissakes"

The Baker:  um, I was waiting for the dog to come in. . . .

Bob:  ah, hell that's alright then.  Want to go get a Popsicle?

The baker:  I should do my homework.

Bob:  Your good goddamn homework can wait!  Get in the car, fer crissakes.

Katie Sr. preferred to use a slang of her own invention:  “Poop-a-droop” was for when her quest for well done meatloaf (read: so close to carbon that it turned into diamonds in the back yard compost) caused the smoke detector to go off. "Quick pickles” was for something serious, like one of us managed to best her at a game of chance.  Katie Sr. would bet on anything, from a roll of the dice to the color of the next car to drive past the house.  Katie Sr. had no regrets paying up when she lost and even fewer scruples about separating the Baker from her allowance when she was fool enough to bet against the house.

Katie Sr.'s daily conversation was also liberally sprinkled with “gosh!” and “gee!” and “goody!”  And when introduced to G. all she could say was "Williker!"

And alas for G., it was simply too good of a bad pun to let go.

Williker has a natural sweet tooth and there probably hasn't been a day in her life when she hasn't had a piece (or 19) of candy; she's got the dental bills to prove it.  Williker is the annoying person who will take a bite of her muffin, say, "Needed some cinnamon to balance those blue berries" -- and keep eating.  She studied chemistry at school and it seems that she's doomed to reduce everything to component parts.  Or molecules.  Or fractions. Or prepositions.  

Did the Baker mention she had to get a special dispensation from one of those aforementioned Jesuits to get out of honors physics and chemistry?

So when the Baker was looking to perfect a sturdy, but easy, goes with fruit, and nuts, and cream, and chocolate, and can be blind baked or used as a two crust pie, she turned to St. Honorius of Amies (the patron saint of bakers) and Michael Ruhlman (the author of Ratio).

Ruhlman’s book details the “codes” behind cooking and breaks them all down into ratios.  He maintains that 3-2-1 is the way to go: 3 parts flour, 2 pars fat and one part water.  The Baker measured and mixed and the Beleaguered Apprentice muttered throughout the experiment.

Williker was a very willing pie tester, and she, the Beleaguered Apprentice and the Baker all agreed they weren't there.  They were decent, but not fabulous, every day crusts.

One day Williker announced “I'll bet you tickets to My Morning Jacket that I can invent the perfect pie crust in a week.”

The Baker was more than willing to take that bet, because

1. Williker can’t get the beaters into the mixer, the cream carton into the fridge door or a suitcase into her trunk -- she may have the worst spatial abilities on earth and her love of science and potions wasn't likely to turn out a product that would fill a 9 inch pie pan with any consistency.

2. The Baker is a sentimental sap.  Both of her parents have passed on to the great racetrack in the sky, and she sometimes sees fit to honor their memories by separating a fool and her money.

And, gentle reader, Williker bested the Baker, much to Katie’s humiliation and eternal gratitude.  Because a bet is a bet, the Baker ponied up for Williker and the Beleaguered Apprentice to see My Morning Jacket.

It was magic.

Check the next entry for the recipe and try your hand at making a Savior Fork crust of your own.