Belleville -- Ellie Miller dipped her hand into a large plastic container of pie dough.
A chef and the manager of The Pie Pantry for six years, she quickly flattened a handful of dough onto the work surface in the restaurant kitchen.
Several hundred pies will be made by scratch and sold or eaten during the holiday season at the eatery. More than 30 varieties are created there, ranging from classics like pumpkin and pecan to German Sweet Chocolate and Caramel Apple Crumb.
Ellie says making a pie crust from scratch shouldn't be a daunting task.
Why is the right touch needed when working with dough?
"You need to handle it as little as possible," she said. Dough that is rolled and handled too much becomes tough, the opposite of what you want in a flaky pie crust.
Why should some ingredients be kept cold?
To ensure the right consistency of the dough, "Your butter should be cold when you cut it in (with the flour). And when you add the water, it should be cold, too, very cold."
And watch your amounts of liquid: "Just be careful not to add too much water." Ellie likes her dough "to be almost crumbly."
What about letting the dough rest?
Ellie said that once she has the dough the way she wants it, she forms it into a ball, covers it, "Then, I refrigerate it two hours" before using it.
Any other advice to share?
When she's ready to make the crust, Ellie works quickly, removing the dough ball from the refrigerator, flattening it out and "I always like to brush the rolling pin with flour," she said. That keeps the dough from sticking and allows her to roll efficiently.
"Roll it out, crimp the edges, fill and bake."
And, if you get any cracks or tears in the dough, "Just pinch them together."
While metal pans are used to bake at The Pie Pantry, at home, Ellie prefers to use a glass pie plate.
She likes to suggest that home bakers substitute some standard ingredients with others that are bit more flavorful.
"In an apple pie, you could replace the water with apple juice and put cinnamon in the crust."