Yesterday I made a cherry pie. The flavor was great, but the appearance...not so much. Even though I cut slits for the steam, the pie came out of the oven with the top crust cracked and leaking. And even though I waited until it cooled completely, I cannot get an intact slice out of the pie plate--the crust just disintegrates. I usually make a mess of the first slice out, but after that, they come out pretty much intact. This time, the crust just crumbles. Can anybody help me figure out why?
My recipe is a work in progress--it's a hybrid of Cook's Illustrated, the New York Times, and my mother's recipe. Here's the version I used yesterday:
3 cups sifted pastry flour [I used King Arthur pastry flour] or all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon salt
14 Tablespoons unsalted butter [I used Organic Valley--the cultured European-style], chilled
7 Tablespoons rendered leaf lard, chilled
1/4 cup ice-cold vodka
1/4 cup ice water
1 Tablespoon white vinegar, chilled
1 egg white, slightly beaten
Sift together flour and salt. Cut butter and lard into flour until the biggest lumps of fat are kidney bean-sized. Combine egg, vodka, water, and vinegar. Pour liquid into flour mixture all at once. Blend with a spoon just until flour is all moistened. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out [I refrigerated it overnight].
Divide the dough into two balls and roll them out, one at a time, on waxed paper (you will need to sprinkle a fair amount of flour on the waxed paper, the dough, and the rolling pin to keep it from sticking).
To place the dough in the pie plate, flip the waxed paper over and peel it off carefully when dough is in place. Try not to stretch the dough as you’re putting it in the plate, or it will shrink back as it bakes. Trim so there is about a 1/2-inch of overhang all around. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before baking [again, I refrigerated the bottom crust overnight in the pie plate].
If the filling is going to be wet, brush the bottom crust with slightly-beaten egg white before chilling, to keep it from getting soggy [did that].
Fill the bottom crust and top with the top crust. Trim so there is about a 1/4-inch of overhang all around. Fold the overhang back over onto the rim. Seal edges together with fingers or the tines of a fork and fold just a little bit of it over the edges of the rim.
Adjust the oven rack to its lowest position. Place a baking stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes.
Mask the edges of the pie with a pie shield or foil. Place the pie on the lowest oven rack for 15-20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and move it down, directly on the baking stone. Follow the directions in your pie recipe for total baking time [I baked it for about 1 hour and 10 or 15 minutes total].
Here are of my some guesses:
The filling recipe calls for dotting the filling with 2 tablespoons of butter, cut in small bits. Is the problem that the crust is absorbing that?
Am I rolling it too thin? I had less than 1/2 inch of waste I need to trim after I get the crust on the pie plate. I'm using a standard 10-inch Pyrex deep-dish plate.
My filling was also too runny (I think the instant ClearJel I used was too old). Did the wetness of the filling affect the crust?
My mother's (very old) recipe called for a beaten egg, and less water than this (about 2-3 tablespoons). This was my first try without the egg. I'm pretty sure the egg was making earlier versions more sturdy, but nobody else uses egg in their pie crust, so it seems like it should be perfectly possible to do without it in mine!
Any other suggestions?