I have never done any pastry type of pie crust before. This is my first attempt and I am both excited and scared. It was about 2 weeks ago when I set myself up for this challenge after chancing upon large beautiful Fuji apples at a bargain in a local market (Bocaue Palengke). I have been saving up half a dozen of these apples to make my first ever fruit pie – the apple pie. I am however just focusing on the pie crust in this post to make it easier to digest for you and for me =p. My next post will cover the preparation of the apple filling and the overall assembly. I have chosen to make a cream cheese pie crust since it is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s favourite. I love her! I consider her my mentor even if she does not know it, hehe. She is meticulous and generous in the way she writes and explains in her recipe books. I feel like she really wants to help me and would love for me to succeed in her recipes. Thank you so much Tita Rose! I hope she does not mind me calling her my aunt =p.
I have been reading up about pies and watching videos on how to make them. Of course, my main reference is Tita Rose’s The Pie and Pastry Bible. It is indeed a bible! The first time I read her section on crusts, I was deeply overwhelmed. I literally felt my hand go sweaty and my stomach churn. I was nervous! I have realised that it is kind of ridiculous of me to take on this challenge when it is summer here in the Philippines and it is just sooooo hot. I have found out that the dough and everything involved must be kept cold so that the butter won’t melt and get absorbed into the flour. However, there was no going back for me since I’ve already announced on social media that I am inspired to make an apple pie. Incidentally, my mother-in-law expressed that it is her favourite and she is flying in from the United States with other family members this week. OMG!!!
I am kind of pressured to succeed in this recipe so I have been re-reading and reviewing The Pie and Pastry Bible like I’m taking a test. I have also watched Tita Rose’s Signature Series video on making the Perfect Flaky Pie Crust, which was taped way back in 1988, the year I was born! Just saying =p. Thankfully, I’m absorbing and appreciating the learning more. I am going to make a separate post on the summary of what I’ve learned later this week. Anyways, I am praying that my theoretical preparation has been enough so that I can create a delicious apple pie on my first try. I want to warmly welcome the balikbayans with this. It is my first time to meet most of them since they were not able to come to our wedding. I am not naturally chatty so I choose to express my hospitality through delicious food, particularly dessert. I believe sweets are powerful like that. There is no need for words with them. It can communicate a lot of positive things. It incites warmth and the feeling of home to those who partake in it.
You only need 6 simple ingredients to make this pie crust and I have to admit that it is quite easy to make too. Yes, I have to say that my fears were uncalled for. This recipe was surprisingly kind. Excluding the chilling time, it only took about 15 mins to make the dough. I bet that would even be more lessened if I had a pastry blender. I only used two forks to cut in the fat to the flour.
The ease in making pie crust however, does not translate to guaranteed success. I believe that that comes with the adeptness in recognising visual or tactile clues that indicate when to stop or continue cutting in the fat or kneading the dough. Since this is my first time, I am just hoping that my interpretation of what I read and saw was on point and that I actually stopped cutting and kneading at the right time. In any case, I would like to share how I did it with pictures.
1 – To make sure that everything is cold, I combined the all purpose flour and fine salt beforehand and placed it in a bowl. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer for about 4 hours. You can actually just chill it for at least an hour according to references but I wanted to make sure since it is very hot nowadays. Originally, Tita Rose adds in baking powder to prevent the dough from shrinking while baking, aerate it and add more tenderness. However, she strongly suggests against using baking powder with Sodium Aluminum Sulfate (SAS) like Calumet because it leaves a bitter aftertaste to the baked pie. I am familiar with the bitterness she was referring to when using baking powder so I opted on omitting it since Calumet is all I have. She recommended a brand I am unaware of – Rumford, which contains Calcium Acid Phosphate instead
2 – I also measured and sliced the cream cheese and unsalted butter beforehand and returned it to the refrigerator to ensure they are firm. I left in chilled for about an hour.
3 – After chilling, I cut the cream cheese into the dry ingredients using two forks. You can use two knives instead or a pastry blender if you have one. The latter will be best. I stopped when the mixture resembled coarse meal. I did not aim for uniformity because I might end up over-mixing the fat and flour trying to have equal clumps. Over-mixing will result to a fragile dough that will be difficult to roll out. This is because the fat covered too much of the flour. Since fat ‘hates’ water, it will inhibit the water from coming in contact with the flour it has covered. This will prevent enough gluten formation for a stable structure. Gluten can only be formed when water comes in contact with the flour. As an indicator, over-mixing will decrease the amount of water needed to moisten the flour. On the other hand, under-mixing will lead to a tough crust since more flour will be exposed to water and readily develop gluten. This will be indicated by the need for more water to moisten the flour.
4 – Next, I cut the sliced butter in until it crumbled to the size of small peas. Again, I did not aim for uniformity. I just observed the general look of the mixture. 5 – Then, I drizzled in ice cold water and apple cider vinegar and gently tossed with fork until the mixture was moistened.6 – Next, I formed the moistened mixture into a ball and kneaded it very lightly just until it came together and felt a little elastic when stretched. At this point, I observed whitish flakes of butter in the dough. Yey! This is a good indicator.7 – I divided the ball into two. The top crust should be a little more than the bottom crust. I wrapped them individually with plastic wrap and flattened each into round discs about an inch thick.8 – I securely wrapped the two discs with another layer of plastic wrap and chilled it. Chilling can be as short as 45 mins or up to 2 days before using. To store for longer, place in the freezer. You can keep it there for up to 3 months. That’s it! For the ingredients list, please head over here, wherein Tita Rose substituted the water with heavy cream. She personally told me that the flavour and texture will be fantastic =D. I actually messaged her and shared with her my experience doing her recipe. She’s so kind and encouraging. I will surely keep in touch with her. However, I have to take down the recipe card, recipe guide and the list of ingredients here and just lead you to the link above.
THE VERDICTHard work really does pay off my friends. It was a success. Yey!!! My first ever Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust sure is flaky and so delicious. It is crispy, sufficiently tender and browned beautifully. It kind of reminds of a popular Filipino snack, Otap, which apparently is a puff pastry. Now I know. It’s so nice to learn something new everyday. I am now even more excited for the apple pie. With a pie crust as good as this, it will surely be spectacular =D. I can’t wait to try the heavy cream substitution next time I make this. I can imagine the extra oomph the cream would bring in to the crust.
PRICES OF INGREDIENTS? Find out here.