BOSTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — You don’t have to suffer pie anxiety.
That’s the word from Chef Larkin Rogers of Hudson, Ohio, who earlier this month taught a cooking class simply titled “Homemade Crust.”
“We know everybody starts to get a little nervous about the pie thing” in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving, she said in a soothing tone to the small group.
“We’re really just going to concentrate on the crust,” she said, “because I think that’s where people fall apart.” Or they are afraid they will, she added.
Rogers, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, owned an award-winning restaurant in England before returning to the United States years ago.
During the class, she assured us that making pie crust is “really quick,” and you don’t have to go all high anxiety to make a flaky crust.
“The most important thing, bar none, is your ingredients have to be cold,” she said. She repeated this again and again, in some form or another, throughout the evening — her pie crust mantra, of sorts.
The nonprofit Countryside Conservancy sponsored the class. The nonprofit promotes local farms and offers cooking classes and other programs.
Rogers is executive catering chef for the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which operates event venues in the park.
She told us that her go-to crust for pumpkin and other custard pies is a pate brisee with egg, a rich, slightly sweet dough that uses milk instead of water. Pate brisee is French for “breaking dough.”
The recipe is below, along with one she shared for sweet hand pie dough.
MAKING PERFECT CRUST
Rogers uses a food processor with the metal blade when making pie crusts.
First she combines the dry ingredients, and then adds the butter, egg and milk or other liquid, in that order. It is indeed a very quick process.
If you opt to mix the dough with your hands, move fast, quickly rubbing the cold pieces of butter between your fingertips and into the flour. Too much handling will warm the butter; you will lose flakiness and the dough will become tough.
Rogers also recommended using a food scale for more exact measurements.
She chills the dough in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes after mixing it, and again for 30 minutes after rolling it out and putting it in the pie pan. This relaxes the gluten and firms up the butter in the dough, making for a flaky crust.
When you are ready to roll out the dough, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes.
Lightly dust a clean board or counter and a rolling pin with flour. Quickly roll the dough in all directions from the center, rotating it to keep it from sticking and to assure an even thickness. Form a circle that is roughly 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick. If the dough sticks, use a pallet or a spatula to lift it. If you add more flour to the surface, do so sparingly.
Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unfurl it into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim, leaving an approximately 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck the excess dough underneath and crimp the edge between your thumb and index finger.
Chill the crust for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before filling and baking, Rogers said. She does not recommend blind baking (baking crusts before filling) for pumpkin or other custard pies. Rather, she heats a baking sheet to 425 degrees, places the filled pie on the sheet and then turns the oven down to the baking temperature.
Dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days or frozen.