Whoever is responsible for the phrase “easy as pie” must have been either a master pie baker or someone who has only ever eaten pies. From the perspective of an eater of pies, pies are simple, delicious, and are only composed of two major ingredients: crust and filling. But we should all know that there are about a million things that can go wrong with pies: soggy crusts, burnt crusts, watery filling, and over flowed filling that leaves behind a sticky, messy pie. So, eaters of pies, listen up! Hug and cherish your favorite pie baker, because making pies is not easy.
Upon one of my latest adventures to my local kitchen shop I discovered a cute, cleverly laid out section dedicated to pies. Giddy with my discovery, I scanned the shelves looking for the cure to my pie-making woes. Oh! There were silicone pie crust covers, specialty pie pans and decorative pie crust cutters. Then I spotted an old-fashioned pie-making tool—an oldie but a goodie—the pie bird.
The pie bird is a ceramic beacon of hope to those who have problems with their pie filling over flowing. The concept behind the pie bird is that hopefully steam will build inside the pie bird, forcing out a whistle before your filling over flows. In theory, this little gadget should work really well, but in reality your pie bird will fall over spewing filling from her “whistle hole.” If you own a pie bird and have used her successfully please let me know because I have no idea what I am doing wrong!
Needless to say, I left the kitchen shop with a Le Creuset pie pan in cobalt blue, convinced I did not need any silly contraptions. “It is all in the recipe” I kept telling myself. I went home and opened my faithful “Betty Crocker” cookbook from 1976 and began to make what I thought would be the perfect pie crust. The recipe calls for 1 cup shortening and no butter. This was a big ol’ pain in the buns! Now I hate to go against anything Mrs. Crocker says, but too much shortening makes a pie crust impossible to roll out. You don’t get that wonderful smooth pie crust with a shortening-based recipe; instead you get striated flaky pastry dough. I was also missing that buttery crust that tastes so good, so I altered the recipe. The recipe now uses 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter and 1/2 cup cold shortening. I also found that the amount of ice water in the recipe is tangible. Add as much as you need in order to make the dough pliable. I even added egg wash (for a golden brown crust) and turbinado sugar to the recipe, and made my dough in a food processor.
I am sorry Betty. Please forgive me.
• 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup shortening
• 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
• 7 to 8 tablespoons ice water (more if needed)
• Egg wash (1 egg plus a tablespoon of water whisked)
• Turbinado sugar or Sugar in The Raw
1. Measure flour and salt and combine in a food processor fitted with dough blade.
2. Add shortening and pulse until thoroughly combined. Add cold butter and pulse 10 times.
3. Sprinkle in iced water, 1 tablespoon at a time until flour is moistened.
4. Gather dough into ball and flatten on floured surface. For 2-crust pie, divide dough in half.
5. Roll 2 inches larger than pie pan. Fold pastry into quarters; unfold and ease into pan.
6. Add filling or follow the rest of your favorite pie recipe. Top with egg wash and turbinado sugar. MAKES ONE 10-INCH, 2-CRUST PIE.
The next problem that I run into when baking a pie is over flowing or wet filling. Wet filling is caused by the fruit’s juices being released while the pie bakes. You can fix a wet filling several ways you may choose firmer fruit, coat fruit in flour, partially dehydrate your fruit, or add a little bit of pectin. I prefer pectin because I make a lot of hand-held pies and I love the hot jam consistency that is reminiscent of Pop Tarts and strudels. As much as I want that pie bird to whistle; these simple solutions keep that pie bird employed as a permenate fixture in my curio.
Kristina “Mickey” Hart is a pretty fun mom and auntie who openly wishes she was Amish. Her many loves include backyard chickening, gardening, honeybees and carbohydrates.
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