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Freezable Pie Crusts and Fillings

About 20 9" crusts OR 16 10" crusts OR 10 9"x13" pans

Make this simple recipe to freeze or to use if you need a lot of crust at once. It is much less expensive than frozen store crusts and allows you to serve tender, flaky, homemade pie crust all year.

1 3-pound can shortening

1 pound butter or margarine (melted)

20 cups flour OR 14 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 6 cups oat flour (ground from regular oatmeal)

4 cups very cold water

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

Using a large mixing bowl, crumb shortening, butter or margarine and flour until well blended. Add 3 3/4 cups ice water, salt and sugar. Using your hands blend ingredients together, adding the rest of the water if needed. Do not overmix, and don't knead. Under-mixing may cause the crust to shrink when baked, become hard and look crackled. But over-mixing causes the dough to more crumbly and less tender. Dough will be sticky.

Divide dough into 20 equal patties. Wrap each with wax paper, then wrap with foil. Place any unused pie crust into your freezer. These pie crusts will hold in your freezer for up to one year. To thaw, remove foil and place in refrigerator or on counter top. Piecrust may be used for pies, homemade chicken pot pie, cinnamon coated crisps, cobblers and fruit dumplings. Thaw overnight in refrigerator. When pie crust has thawed, roll it out on a floured board or cloth, or between two sheets of wax paper as well. Fold crust in half and then into quarters. Lift gently, placing in pan. Do not stretch the pastry in the pan, or it will shrink and thicken while cooking. Edges may be crimped for a more attractive appearance. Prebake if necessary at 325 degrees until lightly browned.

Apple Pie Filling for the freezer

5-1/2 quarts; makes five 9 inch pies or 4 10" pies. Made with Golden Delicious apples, it also makes a GREAT breakfast fruit dish of sautéed apples. You can reduce the sugar to taste, based on you apples, but you need at least 1 cup to support freezing.

18 cups sliced peeled baking apples (about 6 lbs.)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup cornstarch

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cardamon

10 cups apple juice or water

Wash, core and slice the apples. In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice; set aside. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, combine sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.

Add water; bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add apples; return to a boil. Reduce heat: cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

To freeze, ladle into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-in. head space. Cool at room temperature no longer than 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally with a knife or long spoon to speed cooling. Seal, label, and freeze; store for up to 12 months.

Real Pie Dough: Important Tips and Troubleshooting Pies

Refrigerate everything, including the flour, before you start. Chilled ingredients make better pie crusts. Use ICE water when the recipe calls for water. It even helps if the kitchen is cool.

1. Sift together the dry ingredients. You have to sift to remove lumps, otherwise you'll have to work too hard to combine the flour and butter, and the crust will end up tough. If you sift the dry ingredients onto waxed paper/ parchment paper it will be easier to slide them into the mixer.

2. Lard makes the flakiest crust, shortening is next flakiest, then butter, then margarine, then vegetable oil is the least flaky. For a piecrust that is both tender and flaky, use half room temperature shortening for tenderness and half chilled butter for flakiness. Add the butter second, leave the butter in pieces at least as large as dried peas. Freeze the butter and grate it into the flour. Fluff the flour a bit, then added the cold butter in tiny, uniform pieces. The butter absolutely has to be cold. If the butter melts, it makes the pie crust greasy, it won't be crispy and flaky. Spin the dough hook on the mixer (or cut with your utensil) until the flour looks like sand - very mealy - and the butter pieces are as thin as a dime. It's the little pockets of fat that form in the flour that make a pie crust flaky, so if you over-mix it, you break up these little pockets and your crust won't be flaky. Just mix it until it's like coarse crumbs. Mixing the fat with the flour, you can crumble some of it finely, but make sure to leave some larger pieces as well. Fat that is rubbed into the flour until it has a sandy texture increases tenderness, but it's the larger bits of fat that separate the layers and slowly melt in the oven, that promote flakiness.

3. Add the cold water. Don't add more liquid than is required to bring the ingredients together. The liquid usuall measures 1/4 the amount of the dry ingredients. Don't overmix, it makes it too elastic and, like bread, it will shrink a lot. When you add the liquid (usually ice water), add only two-thirds of what the recipe calls for. Sprinkle it evenly over the flour mixture. Mix quickly with a fork and try to gather the dough into a ball. If it crumbles and won't hold together, add more water (just a teaspoon at a time). Over-working pie dough also makes it tough. Mix the dough just barely enough to combine all ingredients to form a ball.

4. Chill the dough, by patting it into a flat lump and wrapping in plastic wrap or a zipper plastic bag. Rest 30-60 minutes to relax the gluten. It's always a good idea to chill the dough for 15 minutes before rolling. This makes the dough easier to handle, less likely to shrink, and the crust will bake up flakier. Another reason not to overmix is tenderness. Gluten forming is what toughens the crust. Each time you knead the liquid and flour together, more the gluten forms. Some recipes add vinegar or lemon juice because the acid weakens gluten, so crust will not be as tough.

5. To roll out the dough, throw flour across your workspace- this coats the surface with only a dusting of flour, and that's all you need. Work the dough ball just a bit with your hands to get the cracks out. Then roll from the center, turning the dough a quarter turn. Before you put the dough in the pie dish, prick it al over with a fork and brush off the excess flour.

6.To transfer to the pie plate, fold it into quarters to make transferring it to the pie dish easier. If there's time, put the dish back in the refrigerator to chill it again for 15 minutes before prebaking or baking.

7. If it is a single crust, decorate the edge of the crust before chilling. Make sure to preheat your oven when baking a crust. Putting the crust into a hot oven causes the fat particles to explode, creating steam that lightens and crisps the pastry. At lower oven temperatures, the fat just softens and melts. Both pie crusts and filled pies should be started in a hot oven (475 degrees). The oven should be preheated before the pie crust is rolled out. Pie shells should be baked about 12 to 15 minutes. When baked at a temperature that's too low, they shrink; when baked at a temperature that's too high, the edges burn before the center of the crust is baked. A perfect pie shell is firm and dry with even, golden-brown edges.

8. Don't fill the crust until you are ready to bake.

9. You can freeze a fruit pie raw or baked. To prepare an unbaked frozen pie, do not defrost it first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. Don't forget to cut steam vents in the top crust! To prepare a baked frozen pie, allow it to thaw at room temperature for an hour, then bake it at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes, until heated through.

Troubleshooting your pie troubles

Filling leaks all over oven. Did you remember to cut steam vents in the top crust? As fruit cooks, it gives off steam, and if the steam doesn't have any place to go, it will blow holes randomly in the sides of the crust and leak pie filling all over the oven. Sometimes leaks happen even when we do cut steam vents in the crust. This can occur when we brush a glaze of beaten egg or sugar over the pie after we have cut the vents, thus effectively sealing the vents shut again. Or, if the pie filling is extremely sugary, the filling can bubble up and seal the vents shut on its own. Sometimes, leakage is just unavoidable. To avoid big messes, cover a baking sheet with foil and place the pie on top of it before putting it in the oven. The pie may still leak, but at least it will be easy to clean up.

Fruit filling is mushy. The fruit has been cooked too long. You should either increase oven temperature so the crust will cook quickly before the filling has a chance to get mushy, or cut the fruit in larger chunks so it will not turn to mush before the pie is done.

There's a big gap between the top crust and the fruit filling. You piled your pie high with fruit and covered it up carefully with pastry, but now that it's done, the filling has shrunk and there's a huge space between the top crust and the filling! This happens because the fruit loses water (and therefore loses volume), in the form of steam, as it cooks. By the time the fruit has cooked down, though, the top crust is already firm and it holds its original shape, even though the fruit is no longer there to hold it up. If you want to prevent the crust-gap problem, you can partially cook your filling before you put it in the pie (such as the frozen apple filling above). If you do this, you'll need to start off with more fruit that your original recipe calls for. Place it in a large saucepan along with the other filling ingredients such as cornstarch, sugar, and spices, and cook it over low heat until the fruit gets softer and loses some of its volume. Fill the pie as you normally would, then bake it at a high temperature to keep the fruit from getting mushy before the crust is done. Just remember to cover it loosely with foil during the first part of baking so the top won't burn.

Cream filling is curdled. Cream filling can curdle when the eggs get too hot. It's essential that you temper your eggs before combining them with other hot ingredients. The idea is to slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs-if you heat them up too fast, they will scramble! To temper your eggs, first place them in a bowl and whisk them thoroughly. Next, SLOWLY pour about a cup of the heated milk mixture into the eggs while you whisk constantly. Now that the eggs have been gently warmed up, you can slowly whisk this mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk. If your filling recipe contains flour or cornstarch, it's okay to let the mixture come to a boil on the stovetop. Just don't let it boil rapidly or for too long, or it will burn. However, if your recipe does not contain any starch, boiling will cause the mixture to curdle. No matter what recipe you're using, remember to stir, stir, stir for as long as your filling is on the stove! If you still have curdling troubles, try making your cream filling in a double boiler.

Filling is runny. For fruit filling: use cornstarch, tapioca flour, arrowroot, or all-purpose flour to thicken it up. Depending on the juiciness of the fruit, use about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, or 2 tablespoons cornstarch, tapioca flour, or arrowroot. For cream filling: make sure you cook the filling long enough after you've added the eggs. If the eggs haven't been cooked long enough, the filling can break down after it's cooled. Cook and stir the mixture for at least 2 full minutes after the eggs have been whisked in. If you have used instant pudding to fill your pie, serve it within a few hours. Instant pudding will separate and get watery if allowed to sit for too long. If you want filling with more staying power (and a richer, creamier taste) use cook and serve pudding, or make the filling from scratch.