There are plenty of things easier to make than pie in the world but perhaps none of them quite as delicious to eat. Pies can be cold or hot and filled with sweet or savory fillings. Defined by their pastry crust covering, they were the olden day “sandwich.” Pies were simple to carry and store and held up well for travel when people were crazy enough to cross the ocean to unknown lands. Sweet pies have a strong association with Thanksgiving in America, which if you haven’t noticed is only 22 days away. So what better thing to MAKE THIS MONTH than an ooey gooey tasty pie? If you have never done it no time like the present, if you have tried and failed think of the Little Engine That Could. The reward is worth the effort.
This post is going to broke up into 2 parts. Why you ask? Because now that we are in the second paragraph I can tell you making a pie is f****** hard. Ha-ha. No, no don’t be scared; but be forewarned making a pie from scratch requires a good amount of time, no matter your level of experience in the kitchen. Making a pie is out of the realm of kitchen “survival” and moves into the realm of kitchen “god.”
Part one shall be dedicated to the crust. Now if you really want your life to be easy as pie go straight to the freezer section and purchase the prepared crusts for about 5.99. However, freezer piecrust does not taste nearly as good. I’m not just saying that! I’m all for skipping unnecessary steps because I’m lazy, I mean efficient. I won’t judge you if you are short of time, but just know number 29076 on the list of things to do before you die is make a pie from scratch.No lie, it’s right after fly a kite and right before sing in the rain. You’ve been warned and if you happen to die before this gets accomplished you can take it up with whomever or whatever you believe in.
MAKE THIS MONTH PART ONE:
A general piecrust only needs four ingredients, one of which comes out of your faucet. Already seeming less daunting right?
WHAT YOU NEED:
2 C Flour
2/3 C Cold (frozen, if possible) Unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons salt
Glass of Water with Ice Cubes
1 Tablespoon Sugar (omit, if using for savory pie)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
WHAT YOU DO:
- Put everything besides the water into the bowl. Have the glass of ice water sitting nearby.
- Use your fingers to work the butter throughout the flour so it breaks into smaller pieces. You fingers will be moving in a snapping motion as you press the butter into the flour. The point is to attempt to incorporate the butter to the dry ingredients to a point where it almost sticks together without any water.
- Before you add any water the dough should look like dusty crusty play dough. If it doesn’t keep working it with you fingers. This is definitiely a technique you get better at the more you do it. It’ important to get the butter well incorporated into the flour before the next step, butter is flavor and you want flavor in every piece of crust.
- Once you are sure you dough looks like the dusty crusty play dough as pictured above then add water, a DROP at a time! Once you start adding DROPS of water you don’t want to work the dough too much, jus enough for it to come into a ball. This is probably the most important step to get right for lovely flaky crust. Without getting to scientific, because I’m no scientist, once you start adding water the glutinous properties of the flour come out. Once the glutinous properties come out the dough will get tough by overworking it. So once it looks like this don’t mess with a good thing. When in doubt leave it drier then wetter.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes. This gives the chance for the moisture from the water to work itself throughout the whole dough and the butter to chill, literally.
- If you are moving on to this step and didn’t chill your dough, I take no fault in your rolling out woes. Once you dough has chilled layer it between two sheets of plastic and roll-it out to your desired layer of thinness. Peel off one of the plastic, lay in the pie tin and then peel off the other piece. NOTES: A rolling pin is helpful, but a bottle of Tapatio wrapped in plastic worked for me in a pinch.
If at this point your dough is still crumbling mist it with some water and put it back in the fridge. If it’s too wet sprinkle more flour. You want to work quickly because the longer you have the dough out the warmer the butter gets and the harder it is to roll because it starts getting too melty (new word made up today).
- Now step six is the ideal situation, but as we know from time to time life is not ideal. When I made piecrust last week I used gluten free flour, which changed the properties, and I didn’t have any extra flour to roll out, and I was using a bottle of Tapatio as a rolling pin. The combination of the house being too hot and my dough being too wet my dough def. got stuck to the plastic wrap, aluminum foil (another improvisation) I was using to roll out in replacement and I ended up scraping it off and simply pressing it into the pan. I was a little stressed because it wasn’t perfect but then I remembered nothing in life is and I just kept going.
- After you get your crusts into the pie pan, by any means necessary, you can shape the edges to look pretty, or go for the more rustic approach, as I tend to do. This recipe supposedly makes two crusts, but it really depends on the way you roll out your dough. Freeze them for another thirty minutes or so. Again do not skip this step. Freezing the dough refreezes the butter. When the crust is placed in the hot oven steam will escape from the butter and provide the space for flakiness. Freezing also helps to keep the crust’s integrity instead of just melting into a puddle (especially with gluten free flours).
- Pre bake or bake your crust, depending on what kind of pie you are making. Pre baking happens when you have an uncooked filling and baking happens when your filling already cooked or needs to be in the oven 20 minutes or less.
- There are two methods for baking, one involves dried beans beans (pie weights) and parchment, and the other involves just putting your frozen crust in the 400-degree oven. The advantage of lining your crust with parchment and placing dried beans inside is that it holds the shape of the crust better and prevents it from puffing up as the steam escapes. I’ve done it both ways, and it really has no effect of how the pie tastes, again mainly for aesthetic.
- If you are pre baking only bake for 20-25 minutes or until crust just begins to turn light brown. If you are baking the crust all the way bake until golden brown throughout. If you are using the pie weights remove them about 20 minutes in so the bottom can cook through too.
Ok, ok, after reading this you are probably thinking, yea this sounds about as easy as remembering PI. I didn’t know mixing four ingredients could seem so complicated, but I promise you can do it! The fifth essential ingredient to making a piecrust is time; try this out on a lazy Saturday. I do not recommend doubling this recipe but you could make a few crusts back to back reusing the same bowl (without washing). Then roll out and freeze several in throw -away tins so you have them ready next time you have a taste for pie. Matter of fact go ahead and try out making crust this weekend, and leave it in the freezer for next week when I give you the secret to my world famous (or family famous) apple pie filling.