Five Foolproof Tips for the Perfect Pie Crust This Thanksgiving from Food Network Personality and National Pie Championship Winner John Michael Lerma

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Steps toward perfect pie crust for the Thanksgiving table

In the book I share my new pies that have familiar ingredients, while also providing encouragement to bakers who wish to experiment and have fun with fillings. The possibilities are fascinating.

Steps to the perfect pie crust are easy and foolproof according to pie expert John Michael Lerma, Food Network Pie Challenge winner and author of the new book, "Garden County Pie: Sweet and Savory Delights from the Table of John Michael Lerma" (Syren, $19.95). Lerma demonstrates five easy steps to pie crust perfection making it possible for the novice and expert alike to proceed with easy pie baking this Thanksgiving

Lerma acknowledges that the need to bake a pie comes rarely for many. "Thanksgiving can be stressful on the home cook. Not only do they need to cook a succulent 20lb bird and all the fixings, they are expected to deliver a slab of mouthwatering pie at the end of it all. Pie crust needn't be another cause of stress if some basic, easy rules are applied."

Lerma believes in tried and proven techniques when it comes to flaky pie pastry. "Chill, chill, chill--this is my mantra when assembling the perfect pie crust. All ingredients must be cold, especially any fats such as a butter-flavored all-vegetable shortening, butter or lard. It's essential that the bowl, pastry blenders and all utensils are cold," Lerma advises. "Use fingers--not warm palms--when forming the ball of dough." He also says that if using a food processor, the same 'chill' rule applies to the extent that 'the bowl and blade should be very cold before using.' The look and consistency of the dough is important. "The dough must be chilled before rolling out. The key is to retain the look of 'small peas' or 'coarse meal' within the rolled out dough, which then burst in the oven creating steam, resulting in the perfect flaky pie crust."

Known for his award-winning Vidalia Onion Pie and other savory pies such as Sage Sausage Pie, Lerma understands the importance of sticking with some classic pie rules, while mixing things up a bit when it comes to fillings. "Crust is the backbone of the pie--and it needs to be solid and hold up the rest," he says. "In the book I share my new pies that have familiar ingredients, while also providing encouragement to bakers who wish to experiment and have fun with fillings. The possibilities are fascinating."

In his new book, "Garden County Pie", he offers a pie for every season and every taste, and for every cooking level. His Watermelon Pie is the first of its kind, and his Chocolate Caramel Banana Pie is the ultimate indulgence.

John Michael Lerma's "Tips for the Perfect Pie Crust" can be found on the author's website at http://www.gardencountycooking.com. His book, "Garden County Pie" is available now.

John Michael Lerma, the award-winning "People's Chef," "Pie Guy," learned about vegetables, fruits, cooking techniques, and feeding hungry hired hands under the watchful mentorship of his grandmother while growing up on a farm in the rich Red River Valley in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Based in the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Lerma is a columnist, author, chef, and culinary instructor.

For additional information, contact Maria Manske at Linwood Book Group, (651) 249-8747 http://www.linwoodbookgroup.com.

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