Alan’s Pie Pastry

In a very large bowl combine 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 T sugar, 1/2 to 1 T kosher salt, and 1/2 t baking powder. With a pastry blender cut in 1 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter leaving chunks the size of peas. Combine 2/3 cup ice-cold water, 2 T of sour cream, and 1 t vinegar. Add liquid all at once to the flour mixture. Quickly stir to distribute; do not overmix. The dough should be slightly crumbly. 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. Use at once or wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen. Makes 3 single-crust pastries. For a more neutral crust, use the lower amount of salt.

Alan’s Secrets for Perfect Pastry

  • Always used chilled, not frozen or room temperature butter. Butter should feel like clay to the touch.
  • 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.
  • Acid helps pie dough set up. A little vinegar and sour cream added to the water does the trick.
  • If your pie dough is ugly and lumpy with butter knots the size of peas, it’s perfect.
  • 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.

From: Better Homes & Gardens Magazine November 2010
Magazine Source: Alan Carter of Mission Beach Cafe

Katie: This one was not a planned blog recipe. I made this and it turned out so well we thought we should share! I guess you can tell that I’ve had this recipe for pie crust for quite some time, seeing it is from a 2010 issue of BH&G. We had a light snow and sleet event recently in North Carolina, and did not want to get out on the slick roads at night. I decided to come up with something yummy to eat using what we had on hand in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.

We had chicken that needed to be cooked that day, so I knew what the main ingredient was. I looked around and found that we had everything else we needed for Chicken Pot Pie! I decided that I could wing if after looking at a couple of other recipes that weren’t exactly what I wanted to do. I started cooking and three hours later we got to sit down and eat! So, there is a warning for you if you follow my recipe for Chicken Pot Pie below. The recipe below is how I made it using what was on hand. If making again I’d use all fresh veggies (if possible) instead of the frozen ones.

I used this delicious crust recipe, and the only problem I had was that I didn’t quite get enough water in my dough. After it rested in the fridge it still hadn’t come together, so I scooped up some in both hands and squeezed it together, adding more as needed, until I got a ball big enough for my crust. I rolled it out on the floured counter and made a bottom crust. I put in my filling and then rolled out a top crust. I pinched the two crusts together as best I could. You can tell from my picture that I am not the best pincher!

Gray: This was awesome.  It is probably the best pie crust I’ve had.  It is a little bit more involved than some, but it really worked out well.  The baking powder and vinegar give it some leavening so it is not truly a shortcrust pastry, and that makes it fluff up and get flaky.  This really turned out well.  I’ve made a few more crusts than Katie, and she had some difficulties but practice smooths most of those out.  Making a pie crust is one of those things that uses a lot of “feel” to get it to come out right.  The good news is that most of the difficulties are operational and do not affect the taste. I’ve never had a bad homemade crust, only some ugly ones.  Really it’s easy as pie!  And if you aren’t making your own crust, I suggest you start.  It is like using fresh vs powdered garlic or ginger.  It is that big of a taste difference.  I definitely want us to make this crust again, I just can’t wait for cherry season!

Katie’s Chicken Pot Pie Filling (Bonus Recipe!)

  • 2 chicken breasts, skin-on and bone-in*
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 celery stalks, chopped
  • olive oil (or vegetable/canola oil)
  • 1 small bag of frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, beans, peas, etc)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken breasts in a pot and cover with water. Bring to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is done all the way through. Be sure it stays covered in the water and do not boil it or the chicken will get tough. When chicken is done, remove from pot and set aside to cool. Save chicken broth** to use in filling.  While the chicken is cooling, saute onion and celery in skillet in a little olive oil until just starting to get tender. Add in the frozen vegetables to help with flavor and re-constituting. When done sauteing veggies, place in bowl and season with desired amount of salt and pepper. When chicken is cool enough to work with, remove skin and shred chicken away from bone using hands or a fork. Discard skin and bones. Add shredded chicken to bowl with veggies. Add can of cream of chicken soup and a few ladles of the chicken broth. Mix to combine. Add broth, one ladle at a time until you reach your desired filling consistency. Spoon or pour filling into bottom pie crust and top with second crust. Pinch crusts together at edges. Cover edges only of pie with aluminum foil. Bake at 350°F for 35-50 minutes until crust is golden. Remove foil from edges for the last 10-15 minutes of baking time.

*Use skin-on, bone-in chicken for the best flavor.

**All the water used in boiling the chicken is not used for the recipe. If you want to keep the broth to use for another purpose, add salt, pepper, raw celery, raw carrots, and raw onions to the pot when boiling. Skim off the grease and strain broth and use within a few days, or freeze to use later in other recipes. This is not as good as real chicken stock, but is tasty.

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