From the middle of May until the end of November, I'm a pie girl. I have to restrain myself from eating it at every meal since my mother trained me from a very early age that leftover pie is fair game for breakfast. Sometimes we would even eat it straight from the dish: two forks, Sunday crossword.
Summer is exciting because the fruits that thrive in a pie crust are all ripening. Strawberries and rhubarb happened, other berries are ripening on the vine, the peach trees are heavy with fruit, and the apples are beginning to sweeten on the branch. Fruit is the romantic part, but crust is an important part of the equation.
One can cheat and use a packaged refrigerated pie dough (like Pillsbury's), and I will admit, in a pinch I've done it. But experimenting with crust recipes is a wonderful experience — one learns how working with different fats can enhance flakiness and tenderness, how the cool surface of a marble slab and chilled ingredients helps keep things firm, which gives a crust that magical mouthfeel.
Shirley Corriher, author of one of the best textbook-like cookbooks, Cookwise, suggests using sour cream in a crust to make it even more tender. This is an excellent multi-purpose crust that is surprisingly simple to make. Fill it with seasonal fruit that have been tossed with a few tablespoons of flour and sugar, and you have dessert (and maybe breakfast) covered.
I've adapted Ms. Corriher's to use only all-purpose flour — her version uses Wondra which makes a tender crust, but is highly processed. I've also added a little sugar to add color to the crust. What I love about this recipe is that it promises a flakey, light crust without shortening; butter and sour cream do all the work.
Sour Cream Pie Crust
Adapted from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher
Makes 2 single or one double 9-inch crust
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 8-ounce container sour cream
1 to 2 tablespoons cold milk, optional
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt to combine. Add the butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Put the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Turn the mixture onto a clean, dry counter (marble is best) and roll over it with a rolling pin to flatten the butter pieces. Using your hands or a bench scraper gather the mixture together then roll over it again with the pin. Repeat one more time, then scrape the mixture back into the bowl and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Turn the mixture back onto the counter and roll and scrape it together three more times. Place it in the freezer for another 10 minutes, then remove the bowl from the freezer and gently fold in the sour cream. Shape the dough into a ball. If the dough isn't moist enough to hold its shape, add 1 to 2 tablespoons cold milk.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then divide the dough in half and roll out to fit your pie plate.
When crust is shaped, proceed by pre-baking, or filling, according to your recipe.
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)