Last week, I was so inspired by the Thai cooking class with my fellow foodies at ICCA , that I baked a ‘Thai chicken pot pie’: a lemongrass and kaffir lime-infused chicken and vegetable broth, ladled into a homebaked pie crust, topped with a layer of toasted chilly and coconut, and then sealed with a second pie crust to let the chicken bake in its own juices. Sound good? Sure, it was…but getting the pie crust right was a royal pain.
I’m not sure what inspired me to try my hand at pâte brisée, or pie crust, for the first time. Maybe I was intrigued by the fancy sounding French name. Yep, that was probably it…who wouldn’t love to strut around saying that they’d baked zee purkfet pâte brisée.
The result – a total smack in my face from all those high-flying pie aspirations and arrogant attempts at flounting my French vocab. Despite being spoonfed through the step-by-step process of making an impeccable pie crust, courtesy Kevin on his absolutely drool-worthy blog, Closet Cooking, my pâte brisée took on the form of a pastry chef’s worst nightmare. The crust was overly buttery and wet and impossible to roll out, leaving me to resort to all sorts of desperate tactics like sandwiching the dough between grease sheets so that I could roll it out, or leaving one of the grease sheets plastered to the underside of the pie as the dough would refuse to peel off the sheet in any form but sticky mush.
I finally managed to assemble everything to a point where it could be slid into the oven whole without crumbling into a heap at the touch of my oven mitt. The thought of having to wait for the pot pie to bake up worked me into a such a frenzy that I actively had to distract myself away from the oven, forcing myself to stop flicking the oven light on and off repeatedly to check the browning of the pie crust. Fifteen minutes later, just as I started doing my victory dance routine upto the oven door, armed with my mitts and mentally dribbling over the thought of hot bubbling pot pie, I was horrified to find my pie crust singed an ugly black all around the edges. (Mom took one look at it and cautioned me to twist foil around the pie edges while baking, so that they don’t overcook and char the way mine just had. Love those after-the-fact snippets of advice that moms are so skilled at doling out, just when you’re suffering through the agony of finding that your conscientiously rolled pie crust looks like the unfortunate victim of a fireplace disaster.)
That said, despite all my dough making, rolling and baking mishaps, there’s only so wrong you can go anything that calls for as much as a cupful of glorious butter (mind you, pâte brisée calls for half a cup of butter in a 9 inch crust, and I used two such crusts for the top and bottom layers of my pot pie). Everyone on the lunch table quickly forgot the cruel burn marks on my pot pie creation as soon as they each forked up a piece – warm and crumbly crust on the outside, with steaming hot, spicy and wonderfully aromatic Thai chicken broth on the inside.
Even though the pie did turn out spectacularly edible by the end of my pie-making ordeal, I’m still not satisfied. Consider this attempt at learning how to make pâte brisée as far from over – there will be many more charred, cracked and imploded pies to come, and here’s wishing me all the luck, and butter, I need to succeed.