I am the kind of baker who believes that the true essence of a homemade pie is in the crust. I don’t like to judge too much, but damnit, if you present a pie that is made from a store bought crust and a homemade filling, you get a few points knocked off on my internal judging sheet. Not that I’m keeping track, but well. I’m a snob sometimes, I’m ok with this.
I’m going to talk about a specific kind of pie, but first, I must talk about the PIE CRUST. Everything else is secondary. I mean it. Get your crust right, the rest will follow.
Butter and/or Shortening
Many recipes I’ve read suggested butter or shortening in crust. Guess what – using half of each gives you the best of both worlds! Butter creates the flavor and shortening creates the flaky crust. Better yet, (according to some source I can’t find now) they have different cooking temperatures and having them layered in the pie means an even more complex flaky texture.
Keep everything COLD. Everything. The rolling pin, the pie plate, the water, the flour, everything. One of the recipes I use actually has you cut up the butter chunks and then put them in the freezer in two packets. They are nearly frozen, and then at separate times, added to the flour. These creates more layers of flaky goodness.
The Basic Recipe
My favorite recipe is the one that I can remember without looking it up. It’s got a basic ratio going on that’s hard to mess up and has the best of all possible worlds.
One Double Pie Crust
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 3-6 Tbls ice cold water, with 1/4 tsp salt
I start by putting the fats in the freezer, along with a small glass of water that’s been salted. After the butter has chilled for awhile, I put the flour in a small bowl, then slice up the fats into little chunks, and toss them into the flour, covering them lightly. Then it’s back to the freezer for about 15 minutes.
I get out the food processor, and add the flour and fat mixture, and pulse a few arbitrary times until the butter has broken down into smaller chunks. You want it to be mealy, but not too ground down. This is where not overdoing it is so important, and where things can go wrong fast.
When that texture is just right, I start to add the ice water a tablespoon at a time. I pulse a few times, add more, until the dough starts to stick together and almost start rolling to one side of the food processor. At this time it’s not ALL wet, but that’s ok.
I transfer all this mess into a big ol’ gallon size plastic bag, and knead it a few times. Again, do NOT overdo it. Then I separate the dough into two roundish chunks, flatten them into disks, and wrap in saran wrap. Then it’s into the fridge for the dough to sit for at least an hour, and preferably up to 24 hours.
I sometimes freeze the dough for future use, and when I do that, I make sure I take it out a day in advance and let it sit in the fridge to thaw.
Then it’s time to roll on out. Flour your board or whatever you’re rolling on. Stick the rolling pin in the freezer for a few minutes, then get rolling. Roll from the middle out, working out towards each direction to hopefully give it a nice even roll. It helps to flip it over at least once in the rolling to make sure you’re not sticking to anything you shouldn’t be. Then I fold it in half (and possibly again), and lay it gently in the pie plate.
After that, you’re pretty much home free. Fill, decorate, enjoy.
The Pie & Pastry Bible
When I lived in Oregon, my social circle was dominated by culinary school students. (I still think I’d like to go to pastry chef school, but so long as I didn’t have to do the whole cooking part too.) One of them, with whom I shared a love of baking, gave me the Pie and Pastry Bible from the Patron Saint of baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum. I only recently had the guts to actually read the theory-crafting and recipes for this pie crust to beat all pie crusts.
And wow.. it kicked my basic pie crust’s ass. And the explanations about WHY it worked were just awesome. If you love pie, you will get this book. It also probably finally get you to start weighing your ingredients. This is the recipe I now use, adapted from hers.
Double 9″ Pie Crust
- 2 1/4 or 11.25 oz flour (she prefers pastry, I use regular all purpose)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 14 oz butter
- 1 Tbls apple cider vinegar (NO REALLY)
- 5-7 Tbls ice cold water
I didn’t follow her technique exactly, relying instead on my above tried and true simple food processor technique. But it really is one beautiful flaky tasty crust with NO shortening required.
Homemade Blueberry Pie
Now, the real reason I started talking pies in the first place is that I wanted to share this blueberry pie recipe I recently made. It was for my father’s birthday. He LOVES blueberries. I have made blueberry pie in the past with the canned syrupy stuff, but that kind of thing would send me into a serious sugar fever in no time. So, I had to figure out a sugar-conscious method that would still make a delicious pie. And I think I did it.
Recipe adapted from Pick Your Own.
- Doubled 9 inch pie crust
- 9″ deep dish pie plate
- 3 to 4 cups of Blueberries – fresh or frozen
- 7 Tablespoons corn starch
- 3 Tablespoons water (or grape juice)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup Splenda
- Prepare the pie crusts and set aside. Wash the blueberries.
- Mix the dry filling ingredients. Combine the 2/3 cup sugar (or sugar/Splenda blend), 7 Tablespoons of corn starch in a bowl and mix well! Some people like 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and/or 1/4 teaspoon of allspice, mixed in, also.
- Mix in the liquids. Add the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, and 3 Tablespoons of water (or grape juice) and stir it up. If you use Splenda, it will be pretty gloppy, rather than drier crumbs, but it still works the same!
- Add the blueberries to the pie crust. Just pour them in! There’s lots of air space and it will cook down, so don’t worry if they mound up about an inch above the edge of the plate.
- Pour the liquid mix into the pie all over the blueberries. If it is a gloppy liquid, don’t worry, just pour it somewhat evenly over the top. But it doesn’t take perfection; it will smooth itself out in the oven.
- Cover with the second pie crust. Seal it against the edges with the pie crust, and make decorative slits with a knife. Bake at 375F for 1 hour. Remove when the pie is golden and bubbling.