Saturday, January 23, 2010

My First Pie

I made a pie.

Doesn't sound all that exciting, does it?

After all, pretty much every post on this blog is about me making something or other. So, why should a pie be all that different?

Because - and here I have to make a confession: I was scared of pies. Absolutely terrified. Well, more specifically, I was scared of pie crusts. I just couldn't get them right. They always tore into pieces when I tried to roll them out, or shrunk into the filling when I baked them. But they usually didn't get far enough to be called pies; they were more like balls of slimy chunks of unrollable dough.


I have never - not once - made a final pie that I would want to serve anyone, and since I am not one to resort to ready-made crusts, I just gave up on them.

Stupid pies.

The problem is, I am seriously considering going to pastry school. If not full-time, at least taking some more in-depth pastry and baking classes. And how could I hold my head up in pastry school if I couldn't even make a simple pie crust?

So, a few days ago, I got it into my head that I was going to make a pie. I happened to have a jar of leftover pumpkin-pecan butter from Thanksgiving that I needed to use, and a little cream and an egg would turn that into a pie filling. So, I had only to tackle to the crust.

I turned to Cooks Illustrated, and they had at least one nice recipe that didn't require a food processor. (I don't like them, but it seems like every pie crust recipe requires one nowadays.) It included both shortening and butter, but here's something interesting - they have you freeze the butter, and then grate it into the flour (mixed with a little salt and sugar) after you've smashed in the chilled shortening. Then you cut that with a pastry cutter, and add some iced water until it forms a dough.

I pressed that dough into a circle until it held together and waited while it chilled. I was able to roll it out and into the pie plate, then added the filling. Less than an hour later, I had a real, honest-to-goodness, delicious pie.

It even looked okay. Sorta.

On the plus side, the crust was delicious - the butter gave it really good flavor, while the shortening made it nice and flaky. It stayed crisp, even on the bottom and even the next day. Cooks Illustrated isn't big on people reprinting their recipes, but it's in all their magazines and websites - I think it's called the traditional single-crust pie dough.

There were obviously a couple of negatives that I will need to iron out with practice. For starters, I got a little nervous rolling it out, and stopped too soon. That not only meant that my crimping looked kind of bad, but there was not quite enough dough on a couple of sides of the crust, and it crumpled in on itself. It also got a little brown; the filling recipe directed you to start out at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, and at the end of that, the edges were already brown. I protected them with foil the rest of the way, but they were still too dark. Next time, I'd wrap them in foil from the start.

But all in all, I was pleased. I had made a real-live pie, and I know what to do to get even better at it in the future.

Heck, maybe next Thanksgiving I will make my own pies. We'll see.

The point is: I did it. I made a pie.

Go me.


  1. I read what you wrote about sweet tea at All the Fingers... and thought I'd visit... loved your article on pie crust making... it took me years to get it right. Cooks tells you how to do everything well.. the fraisage is Julia Child's secret. When I first made crust I thought it was like I got leather! Thanks for the charming post! Pastry school would be so much fun!

  2. Thanks, lostpastremembered! I'm so glad you're here. Also, glad to hear I'm not the only one who struggled with pie crust at first. I'll master it eventually, though...