Perfect Pie Pastry
I love baking pies. Mostly because I love eating pies. A slice of warm apple pie with ice cream and a cup of tea is pretty much my perfect dessert.
I have warm memories of my mum making pies when I was a child, and us kids helping her. Crabapple, rhubarb, and saskatoon were the usual flavours, although I remember on holidays we also made lemon meringue as requested by my sister Michelle.
When I moved out and started baking on my own, pies were one of the things I struggled with. My pastry was often too dry or too tough. I also made the mistake of using Red Delicious apples the first time I baked a pie while living in residence my first year of university. Usually my three roommates and their guy friends quickly devoured my baking when I gave them permission to eat it, but no one wanted to touch that hard, dry, tasteless pie! I soon figured out the importance of choosing the right apples for baking!
At some point during university my mum clipped out an article from Country Woman magazine on making pie pastry. After trying the included recipe, which has a higher proportion of flour to shortening than my mum’s recipe, my pastry greatly improved. I have also made it with lard (my gramma’s preferred pastry fat) with equally good results.
While volunteering in Australia with a mostly American crew I made a pumpkin pie for our American Thanksgiving celebration. We lived in a very rustic cabin, and I had to use a squash for the filling, rolled out the crust with an empty ginger beer bottle, and baked it in a handle-less frying pan in the crotchety old wood stove oven. It turned out beautifully. However, after eating dinner I was too full to eat my slice and I went to bed while the others were still enjoying themselves around the campfire. Up before dawn, I spent the following long day in the field anticipating a delicious piece of pie when I got home. However, it was not to be. Our cabin was in a horse pasture and my (slightly tipsy) coworkers had forgotten the remainder of the pie by the campfire pit overnight… and the horses ate it! They also tried to eat our solar-powered battery charger, as the crew leader found it covered in pumpkin pie horse slobber!
These days I try to avoid using lard as it is a product of the factory farming system. I’d also prefer not to use shortening, as the NoName brand I bought recently contain trans fats. (However, I just discovered online that Crisco brand claims to have zero grams of trans fat per serving.) Earlier this year I tried a different pastry recipe using butter instead, like all the fancy cookbook-writing chefs seem to do, and was greatly disappointed by how it turned out. So for now, I’ll stick with this recipe and get fabulous, flaky, delicious pie crusts every time.
(makes one double-crust pie, based on this recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening or lard
6 to 7 tbsp ice-cold water*
In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in shortening until evenly distributed. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, tossing pastry with a fork until it comes together. You may need to use your hands to form it into a ball. Divide dough in half. Roll out on a lightly floured surface using a flouring rolling-pin to fit a 9″ or 10″ pie plate. Fill with desired filling. Roll out second portion of dough. Moisten edges of bottom crust with water, place top crust on top. Press edges together with a fork, then cut off excess pastry with a sharp knife. Cut slits in top to allow f or venting.** Bake according to recipe directions.
*I like to place a cup of water in the freezer for about half an hour before making the dough, or add ice cubes to water and let them chill it thoroughly.
**If you have miniature cookie cutters, you can use them to make decorative vent holes in your top crust before you place it on top. The cutout pieces can also be stuck to the top using water.
(makes one 9″ or 10″ pie)
3-4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you like your pie)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg, optional
Pastry for a double crust pie
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place apple slices into prepared bottom crust. Combine sugar and spices, pour evenly over apples. Top with second crust as in pie pastry recipe. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven to 375°F and bake for 30-40 minutes longer, or until apples are tender. Best served warm.
Our freezer seems to be able to handle keeping (rather expensive!) ice cream bought at the local gas station frozen (unlike the ice cream transported in a cooler for 2 hours from the grocery store) so that makes me happy.
What’s your favourite kind of pie?
Do you have any special (or funny) pie memories?