Thursday, January 26, 2012

Overcoming Pie Crust Phobia

I confess.

I have a pie crust phobia.

Yes, I’m a food writer who avoids making pie crusts.

My fear began in my days of middle school home economics class and continued on for years. My crusts were either too thin, too tough, or they would shrink down into the pie pan, leaving an unusable mess. Joyous was the day when I discovered Pillsbury Pie Crust! I vowed to never make another crust again.

Still, I’ve always felt this nagging need to learn to make a perfect pie crust. This week’s selection from the Gourmet Live 50 WomenGame-Changers, which I and a group of my fellow food bloggers post about each Friday, gave me the nudge I needed to try pie crust again.

This week we are honoring Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, the co-founders of Edible Communities, a company that publishes 70 magazines across North America with a focus on the local foods movement. The recipe I selected is a Jam Tart, which was posted by Tracey Ryder on the Edible Communities blog. I was both encouraged and a bit disheartened by the first line in her recipe introduction: “This tart is one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make, providing you are able to make a simple pie crust.”

It worked! Well, sort of. The tart was delicious. When cut, a slice can be eaten by hand, kind of like a fancy Pop Tart with its jam filling. But it could easily be dressed up with whipped cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream for an after dinner dessert.

For the filling, I used Tiptree Black Cherry Preserve from Wilkin and Sons in England (purchased at Brits in Lawrence, Kansas, one of my very favorite shops.)

As for the crust, it was flaky and buttery, but far from perfect. I added too much water, and even with lots of flour on the counter as I rolled it out, the dough was still a bit sticky. Moving the dough to the baking sheet was also a challenge—it tore in a couple of places. However, the rustic style of this tart saved me.  

Now I’m a fan of rustic pies. In fact, I may never make any other kind!

Jam Tart
From the Edible Stories Blog

For the crust:
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour and two sticks of butter in the bowl of your food processor [since I used unsalted butter, I also added 1/2 teaspoon salt] and add ice water (up to 1/3 cup) until dough forms and holds together in a ball. Roll out onto floured work surface until approximately 12 – 15 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Dough does not have to be perfectly round since you will be folding the sides over the tart before baking and a irregular shape looks great.

Place dough onto a sheet of parchment paper that has been placed onto a cookie sheet and is trimmed to fit its dimensions.

For the filling:
Spread a jar of your favorite (preferably, homemade) jam onto the center of the dough, making sure to leave about 3″ border of dough around the edges. Fold edges over the center where the jam has been spread so that the jam doesn’t leak out while baking.

Using a pastry brush, baste top of crust with an egg wash (one egg, beaten with a fork and combined with a Tablespoon of milk or water). [I also sprinkled sugar on top of the egg wash.]

Place tart in a pre-heated 375 degree oven and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and center is bubbling.

Optional garnish: if you have extra fresh fruit in the frig that needs to be used, such as raspberries or blackberries, sprinkle those over jam before baking.

Be sure to check out my fellow food bloggers:

Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia -A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets
Katie -Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Kathleen -Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Amy - Beloved Green
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Linda - Ciao Chow Linda
Nancy - Picadillo
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Claudia – Journey of An Italian Cook
Alyce – More Time at the Table
Amrita – Beetle’s Kitchen Escapades


  1. I have a difficult time with pastry and usually buy it frozen from a local orchard. You gig me courage:D

  2. As a former crust-phobic I can relate. But you did a great job with this, and the rustic quality is really appealing. I like that the filling is a good quality jam, and black cherry is my favorite :)

  3. Wow - we're overwhelmed by your kindness toward us and with this wonderful post - thank you so much! Glad the jam tart worked (and I love all the ideas for dressing it up too)! It gives new meaning to the old saying about something being "easy as pie" -- cheers and thanks, Tracey Ryder & Carole Topalian, Edible Communities.

  4. I cook and bake the way I play the piano, so you can imagine the results. Therefore, I gots no recipe for ya, However don't need one! This looks scrummy. Know what else would be good on top? A wee bit of Devonshire...yum!

  5. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has troubles with crust. Thanks for the comments. Tracey, I'm glad you and Carole liked the post! I admire your focus on all things local. It is something I believe in very much. Tee, Devonshire cream would be lovely on top!

  6. Linda,

    Pie crusts are still challenging for me. I love the rustic look of your pie, makes me want to run to the kitchen for some dessert.