Posts tagged ‘pie’

May 10, 2014

The Pursuit of Perfect Pie: Part 1


As a teacher, I spend a lot of time thinking about kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Use the strengths, strengthen the weaknesses, you probably can imagine how it goes.

We don’t usually get to choose our strengths and weaknesses. Like, I would really like to be good at making bread. And I’m sure that if I really really stuck with it and practiced, I would get better (kinda like those multiplication facts, kids). But after several mediocre loaves have emerged from my oven, I am coming to realize that bread is not my strength. I would also really like to be good at running long distances, remembering directions, and not leaving the oven on all night, but that’s for another post.

I am choosing pie. Pie is going to be my strength. See, I can make a pretty darn good pie. It’s not bragging, it’s just a fact. Plus I had a really really good teacher –  my Grandma Snow.

But I am not completely satisfied. I am on the quest this summer for the perfect pie. My pie adventure will include a lot of golden brown crusts, juicy berries, and full tummies.

This apple pie is my basic go-to recipe. It’s mostly from Martha, not going to lie. I have been using her pie crust for a while and I am pretty happy. It is an all-butter crust that comes together pretty easily and always has pretty good results. My Grandma Snow is a champion of the lard crust, but we will discuss that another day. This butter crust is very flavorful and bakes up very flaky and crisp. I have used it for quiches too – it can definitely go sweet or savory with just a little dash of sugar in there.

So let’s call this apple pie my baseline. It’s really solid. But I’m going to step away from it now and try some new things. (Step away from the pie.) Join me in my pursuit of perfect pie!!

First a lesson in crust.

All-Butter Crust (Or Pate Brisee if you want to get fancy)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together a few times. Then chuck the cold butter cubes in there and pulse some more until it looks like coarse wet sand. Drizzle in 1/4 cup ice water a little at a time until the dough starts to come together. In your food processor it might not come together but have faith. If you pinch it together, the dough should hold together. If it doesn’t, keep drizzling in a little water. Dump it out on a floured counter and work the dough into a ball. Try not to work it too much, just get it together. Split the dough in half and make two discs. Put them in a tupperware or plastic wrap (if you hate the environment) and chill them for at least an hour before using, or up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to go, take one of your discs out of the fridge and roll it out until it is an inch or so bigger than your pie dish. At first it will be very hard to roll but just put a little muscle in it and it will become your friend. As though dough spreads, make quick, short rolling motions from the center of the pie going out, rather than back and forth back and forth. It just is better, trust me. Slide the dough into your pie plate and use kitchen scissors to trim around the edge, leaving a mostly even 1″ overhang all the way around. If you have some uneven spots, feel free to get a patchwork thing going on. Stick it back in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.

Roll out the top crust the same way, but feel free to do something fancy like cut out cute shapes. At the very least, make a few slits in the top for air to escape. Save the cute shapes on the side – we will attach them later with pie crust glue (i.e. beaten egg). Chill all pieces until you’ve got your filling ready to go.


Apple Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart


Full recipe of pie dough (see above), rolled out and chillin’ in the fridge
2 Tablespoons flour
8-12 apples (I like a variety of sweet and tart – more research on this to come!), peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar (do this to taste! I personally like a lot less sugar in my pies, and it also depends on how many apples you put in)
2 Tablespoons (a.k.a. a few squeezes) lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (or a little less if you are not a huge nutmeg person)
2 Tablespoons of cold butter
1 egg, beaten
sanding sugar for top of pie (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees  F. Mix together the apples, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix em’ well so all the yummy elements get evenly distributed.

Pull your chilled pie crusts out of the fridge, and pour the apple mixture into the bottom crust. Sprinkle little chunks of cold butter across the top. Brush around the rim of the bottom crust with a little beaten egg. Carefully lay the top crust over. Tuck the top crust edge over and under the bottom crust edge and crimp all the way around. If you want to attach any little cut outs, use the beaten egg like glue. Then, brush the entire crust with a thin layer of beaten egg, and sprinkle coarse sanding sugar (or regular granulated sugar) over the top.

Bake in the 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then turn down to 375 degrees and bake until crust is golden, and juices are bubbling, about another 45-55 minutes. If the top starts to get to o brown, put some tinfoil around the edges or over the top. Let pie cool on a wire rack for at least 20-30 minutes before eating.