Easy As Pie — Simple Scratch Cooking

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Some of my must-have travel items include three types of flour, two types of sugar and a collection of ground spices. Not your average vacation packing list, I know, but essential for me when hunkering down at the beach for two weeks. As my Instagram feed filled with photos of sugo, breakfast bread puddings and homemade pies, someone commented "don't forget you’re on vacation." But here’s the catch: I love cooking, and it never feels like a chore or something I want to take an extended break from doing.

My life as a recipe developer is driven by two goals. First and foremost is flavor, but a close second is creating recipes with easy techniques, so that people can see just how enjoyable cooking can be. Vacation inspires a lot of creativity in the kitchen, too. I found myself surrounded with super-sweet berries out on the North Fork of Long Island, and suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of homemade pie. My go-to recipe is made using a food processor, as well as cornmeal and vinegar — three things I didn’t have at the house I was renting. Necessity being the mother of invention, I gave some more thought to my original recipe.

The characteristic I love most about my pie crust recipe, aside from the buttery, flaky crust, is that there’s no chilling required. You just mix it up and roll. While I love the texture a bit of cornmeal adds to my pie crust, it was the first thing to go — two flours were too fussy for vacation baking. The amount of vinegar is minimal and acts as a stabilizer, mainly. Still, I felt confident enough I could leave it out. The last big change was using just an egg white. My regular recipe uses a whole egg, but it also yields two single pie crusts. Halving dry ingredients was no problem. Halving an egg is tedious and leaves me with a half a scrambled egg. I remembered there were some egg whites in the fridge, having used the yolks in a recipe the day before.

Voila! The end result was a new no-equipment-necessary, ready-to-roll pie crust. And don’t worry about me getting enough R&R on vacation. There was plenty of beach time to be had while we patiently waited for the pie to cool.

Easy, Flaky Pie Crust
Makes one single 9-inch pie, regular or deep-dish

I love the bits of crunch that fleur de sel adds to my pie crust, but fine sea salt or kosher salt will work, too. Granulated natural cane sugar is simply a less-refined sugar. You can swap in regular white sugar if that’s all you have available.

1 1/4 cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (15 grams) granulated natural cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) fleur de sel
8 tablespoons (112 grams) unsalted cold butter, cut into 16 pieces
1 egg white
2 tablespoons cold water

Add the flour, sugar and salt to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the top. Rub the flour mixture and butter together with your fingers until it forms a sandy-looking mixture, with some large pebble-sized pieces (you can also do this with a pastry blender).

Add the egg white and water to the flour-butter mixture. Stir with a fork until it forms a rough-looking dough. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until it comes together into a mostly smooth ball.

Shape the dough into a disc and place it on a lightly floured wooden board or counter. Sprinkle a little bit more flour on top, and gently roll the dough into a 10-inch circle (a 12-inch circle for a deep-dish pie plate). Be sure to rotate the dough after every couple of rolls , adding a little more flour underneath it and on top (this will ensure your dough doesn’t stick to the counter or work surface).

Gently fold the dough in half and place it in a 9-inch pie plate. Carefully unfold the dough and gently press it to fit into the pie plate. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim any excess dough hanging over the edges of the pie plate. At this point, you’re ready to proceed with whatever pie recipe you’d like, and follow those directions for the filling and baking to finish making your pie.

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