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Pie crust is easy, keeps in freezer

SHARE Pie crust is easy, keeps in freezer

Making a pie is one of the most soothing and rewarding of all holiday rituals. Don't let the process intimidate you. Anyone can make a perfect pie - especially with the following tips.

Pate Brisee is the French version of classic pie or tart pastry. This versatile dough (see recipe) bakes into a buttery, golden-brown crust that is flaky and light; use it in any recipe that calls for a basic pie crust.The ingredients can be mixed by hand using a pastry cutter or two knives, but the food processor has really revolutionized the process: The dough takes less than 60 seconds to make.

Every baker should have Pate Brisee in the freezer at all times, where it will keep for several months, enabling you to make a pie whenever a craving strikes - or when you need an enticing, impressive and surprisingly low-effort dessert.

When it's time to roll out your dough, start by cooling off your work surface (marble is best, but a smooth cutting board or counter is fine). Run a sealed bag of ice over it, then lightly flour the surface. Use a heavy rolling pin to roll the dough, working quickly and rolling from the center out to the edges.

To transfer the dough to the pie tin, fold it in half, center it in the tin, and unfold.

If the pie calls for a top crust, be creative. Weave strips of dough into a lattice. Or use small cookie cutters, such as leaf or star shapes, to decorate the pie: Either make cutouts in the pastry top itself, or cut shapes out of excess dough and use water to "glue" them to the top before baking. Or leave a generous edge on the pastry, let it hang over the edge of the tin, then trim it into a pretty scallop shape.

And who says you always have to use a standard pie tin? Create striking pies using different baking containers. Make the deepest-dish apple pie by piling the fruit into a mixing bowl and draping the pas-try over the top. Or make mini-pies in ramekins or even oven-proof teacups. Experiment with whatever's in your cupboard (as long as it's ovenproof, nontoxic and neither chipped or cracked).

Why not add this beautiful, delicious and easy raisin pie to the dessert buffet this Thanksgiving or Christmas? On these holidays, there's always room for more.

I learned this wonderful recipe from the mother of one of the talented food stylists at Martha Stewart Living magazine.

MARY ELLEN'S RAISIN PIE

(serves 8)

1 1/2 cups golden raisins

1 1/2 cups dark raisins

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus zest of 1 lemon (1 generous teaspoon)

1 recipe Pate Brisee (recipe follows)

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Combine raisins in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain. Return raisins to bowl. Add sugar, flour, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix thoroughly and set aside to thicken for about 10 minutes.

Spray a 9-inch metal pie pan lightly with vegetable-oil spray, and set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out half of the Pate Brisee to 1/8-inch thick, and transfer to pie pan; the dough shouldn't overhang the edge. Roll out the other half of Pate Brisee to 1/8-inch thick. Mark (without cutting dough) a 9-inch circle in center. With a round 1/4-inch pastry tip or a straw, punch holes inside the circle. Work quickly, so dough remains cold.

Fill prepared pie pan with raisin mixture. With a pastry brush, gently brush dough edges with cool water; top with perforated dough. Trim excess dough to an overhang of 1/2 inch; tuck dough overhang under itself to just sit on top of rim.

Refrigerate pie for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix egg yolk and cream in a small bowl. Brush pie sparingly with the egg-cream mixture.

Place pie on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake 35 to 40 minutes more. If pie starts to get too brown, drape a piece of aluminum foil over top.

Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

(Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, including chilling time. Baking time: 1 hour)

PATE BRISEE

(makes enough for one 9-inch, double-crust pie)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor. Process for a few seconds to mix. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8 to 10 seconds. For hand method, place dry ingredients in large bowl. Add butter; blend with pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water in a slow steady stream through feed tube of food processor with machine running until dough holds together for no longer than 30 seconds. For hand method, mix dough with a wooden spoon, adding water until dough just holds together.

Turn dough onto piece of plastic wrap. Press into flat circle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

May be frozen, double wrapped in plastic, for several months.

(Prep time: 5 minutes. Chilling time: 1 hour.)