You can make pie, and you should

As mentioned, I feel strongly about pie for cultural reasons.  If you can’t make it, find a decent bakery where you can buy one. To my way of thinking there aren’t many. Usually a manufactured crust (the kind you see in the freezer at the grocery store) is a dead giveaway that the product will suck. So is a big blocky rim on the pie or anything that looks like this.

So dry it makes me choke just looking at it.

As I’ve said, making pie crust from a mix is not hard. You just follow the directions on the box and fill the damn thing with fruit, sugar, flour and butter and shove it in the oven.  But a few tricks are worth pointing out:

You can mix the dough with a fork. If I’m feeling particularly lazy, and I usually am, I use the electric mixer (for me, the Kitchenaid stand mixer is a gift from God) for about 15 seconds, just until the dough comes together.

Recipes always tell you to chill the dough before rolling it out, but if you leave it in the fridge for more than about 10 minutes it gets too hard to roll. Just saying.

For pumpkin pie, do not, I repeat DO NOT, bake the shell before filling it. That’s just crazy and the rim will burn before the filling is set. Speaking of which, never use anything but canned pumpkin. Fresh pumpkin pie is stringy and dealing with a whole pumpkin is a giant pain in the ass from start (lugging it home, cutting it up, seeding it, removing all that stringy stuff) to finish (Do I have enough puree? Too much? What is all this stringy crap in my pie? Eww). It is always disappointing, especially if you spent a whole freaking day making it when you could have just opened the damned can (always use plain puree and add your own spices, eggs, etc.) and caught up on Project Runway while it baked.

Making a prebaked shell for one crust pie gives me fits. The crusts always collapse or they shrink and become unusable, or the recipe calls for pie weights (what?) or tells you to fill the thing with dried beans while you bake it. Screw that. Just avoid them. Make a graham cracker crust (or use ginger snaps) or chuck the whole project and make brownies instead.

You can crimp the top and bottom crusts with a fork if you must, but I think this looks gross and it always burns because the crust is too thin. Plus the crust bonds with the pie plate and makes it really hard to cut and serve. See?

Ugly, overdone crimped edge. Yuck.

Better to use your thumb to pinch the edge between your index and middle fingers. It’s a tad Martha, but it looks so much nicer and the pieces hold together better. Look.

Nicely crimped and properly vented.

Apple pie: For the love of God, use only Macintosh or Rome apples.  Any guest who requests a slice of cheddar for his pie should be asked to leave. Enough said.

Fill ‘er up: Go on, mound the fruit up high. There is nothing worse than a skimpy layer of filling. See top photo.

Lattice top pies: What are you on, crack?

About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on September 18, 2011, in Baking, Dessert and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I was taught to make pie crust from my mother. I learned a trick from America’s Test Kitchen, (close your eyes Wendie) add a Tablespoon of vodka to the ice water if you’re making it from scratch. The alcohol bakes out. Try Grannie Smith apples they’re a bit more tart. My favorite pie? Orzo cooked just shy of al dente, slivered kosher salami slices, parmesian and eggs. It’s too long to post so if you want to try it you’ll have to figure out the proper mix.

  2. Brace yourself – I’ve only ever used ready-made crusts, but always Macintosh apples (once I did use Granny Smith, but these were the INSTRUCTIONS, not my choosing. If I had my way I’d be sticking Immodium, Pepto Bismol or a bulk pack of Alka Seltzer into my pies).

    • If you’re going to cheat, at least use the Betty Crocker ready mix crust. It tastes enough like the real thing that no one knows better. As for the need for Alka Seltzer, it was probably the bugs you ate not the apples.

  3. I’d probably go as far as to make a crumble.

    You’re going to hit me now aren’t you.

    • I don’t hit, Joe. I strike. And only after my third drink. It’s morning in America and since I’m only on my first bloody Mary, you are safe.

      • 🙂

        You’re making me thirsty. I survived on those in Egypt, not as nice as homemade though. I’ve been whipping up mojitos and blueberry frozen daquiris this week.

  4. I’m pretty good in the kitchen but I cannot, never have been able to, make pastry work. I just can’t. Can’t be genetic. My mum was a wizard at all types of pies, savoury and sweet. I alas am cack at them.

  5. Reblogged this on Kitchen Slattern and commented:

    Berry season is upon us, and I would be remiss if I didn’t weigh in with my annual nag about making pie. It’s not that hard and is well worth the investment of both the time and the minimal effort required. Your dinner guests will be agog at your skill, your family will weep tears of delirious gratitude and you will have in hand a ready refutation of those ridiculous charges of being a do-nothing, layabout dipsomaniac who’d rather open a bottle of wine for lunch than rustle up a decent meal for the family. I speak purely from anecdotal evidence, of course. Anyways, here’s your basic pie primer. Now go get some strawberries and rhubarb and have at it.

  6. While I am not on crack enough to make a lattice crust (even a fake-lattice one), we do differ on our apple varieties. Three kinds for tomorrow, and not a Macintosh in sight.

    • To each her own. Grammie Sue insisted on Macs or Romes and I do as I’m told. Just pulled one out of the oven now as a matter of fact and it is divine. (I caved to the prodigal daughter’s request — no pie at college she says.) Happy Thanksgiving!

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