I wish I could say that.
The filling was ok, I think it was store bought. But the pastry was awful. It had no flavor and was dry and pretty much resembled an inside-out cereal box. I mean, I was chewing it and swallowing it as nonchalantly as I could all the while I was thinking these poor boys thought they were going to enjoy an apple pie like their mothers made. I clearly remember the look on J's face, he was trying so hard to be nice as he ate that awful pie. Sorry guys, I had no idea what I was doing, and I was embarrassed. I mean, it clearly scarred me because, as you can see, I remember the details of this moment.
Ever since then, I had been in search for the perfect pie pastry. I had been given a few recipes here and there that turned out ok, but none of them met my expectations. What I wanted was a pastry that when you took it out of the oven, it looked like something you had purchased from a bakery that had been around for over 80 years; flaky, buttery, golden and beautiful. A pastry that would have made those boys ask me to marry them on the spot.
Then, one day as I was devouring my November 2010 Better Homes and Gardens magazine I came across this:
I knew I had found THE ONE.
Yes folks, this is the pie pastry I'd been looking for, the one that had eluded me for 15 years! I wanted to fly out to California right then and there and give Alan a big fat kiss on the cheek and tell him through tears he had changed my (pie-making) life forever. Maybe some day...
For now, I'm going to share the recipe with you as well as some tips from Alan, plus some things I've learned along the way because honestly, this isn't your typical pie pastry.
Alan's Pie Pastry
recipe by Alan Carter of Mission Beach Café, BHG Nov. '10
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 to 1 tablespoon kosher salt*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup ice-cold water
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vinegar
In a very large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. With a pastry blender, cut in butter leaving chunks the size of peas. Always use chilled, not frozen or room temperature, butter. Butter should feel like clay to the touch. Combine ice-cold water, sour cream and vinegar. Acid helps pie dough set up. A little vinegar and sour cream added to the water does the trick. Add liquid all at once to the flour mixture. Quickly stir to distribute; do not overmix. Do not overwork your pie dough. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour and butter, then stop. As it rests the dough will come together. The dough should be slightly crumbly. If your pie dough is ugly and lumpy with butter knots the size of peas, it's perfect. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. The finished dough should break, not stretch. Divide into three portions; shape into disks. You want a generous crust, so don't roll it too thin. About 1/4 inch is good. Always butter the pie dish. Sometimes, especially with fruit pies, the juice sneaks under the crust and acts like glue, bonding the crust to the pan. To prevent shrinking do not stretch the dough into the pie plate or over the top of the pie. Use at once or wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days. Or freeze up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen. Makes 3 single-crust pastries.
*Alan enjoys the contrast of a salty crust to sweet filling (as do I!). For a more neutral crust, use the lower amount of salt. Be sure to use kosher salt! If you only have table salt on hand, reduce the amount of salt by half.
P.S. Even though I love, love, love this pie pastry, it isn't practical for when you need to pre-bake a pie crust. Because it has a lovely amount of butter, the crust will just melt to the bottom of the pie plate. So either fill the entire pan with pie weights, don't pre-bake it at all (I'm sure it will be fine) or use a different recipe. Same goes for making hand-held pies, just use a different recipe. Or, perhaps you can use it for hand-held pies if you cut back on the butter but I'm not about to experiment with that. This pie pastry is perfect just for pies in a dish.