Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I attended a potluck today at work, and someone brought a BIG, lattice-y, apple stuffed pie. The top was slightly browner than I care for, but sanded liberally with superfine sugar (I don't think anyone knew you could get me to eat almost anything if you put sugar on top), but by the time it crossed my semi-consciousness I was already stuffed to the gills with italian. The person who brought it asked if I had tried some of her pie, and I inquired "Homemade?", knowing full well the answer. "Of course!" she replied a little too brightly....then her friend nudged me and said "Yeah, homemade from Costco" and the jig was up.

Most of my friends and acquaintances know that I am a fairly experienced baker, and pies are a specialty. I make no bones about store bought pies and their inferior quality, but I had seen these in the store and wanted to try it, so I scooped out a couple bites worth and gave it my best. I have to say it was pretty darn good - the crust wasn't horrible, the apples were perfectly cooked and had just the right amount of tartness, there was a butt-load of cinnamon and a nice caramelized sugar syrup clinging to the fruit....wow! So from the horses mouth (who you callin' a horse?) - crust=6, filling=10....that's an overall 8! Now I want to try the peach....

So, pie crust. How 4 ingredients can mess with people's heads so much I will never know. I still use Betty's recipe - it's worked for me for 37 years so why change now? I think that when you combine certain ingredients, it's possible they can attain ethereal qualities; with pie crust you just have to learn how not to beat the magic out of it. It's a little about moisture and EVERYTHING about how you handle it - a few tips before you start:

  • You can put the shortening in the fridge, and it will probably help a little - it just buys you more time in the handling part....but I never do.
  • Measuring: always scoop flour with something besides the measuring cup, then shake it into the cup WITHOUT packing it...let it heap up, then scrape the top of flour mountain off with a knife
  • Flour is your friend...keep everything floured, and prepare to make a mess

OK, here goes....you ready?

Pie Crust
(sorry, forgot to mention this makes ONE crust...you need to double it for a two-crust pie)

1 Cup flour, all purpose
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 Cup + 1 T. shortening

Measure flour as discussed, sprinkle in salt and add shortening. Use pastry blender (looks like a "U" with a handle across the open end, and the bottom of the "U" has 4 blades or wires) or a fork to cut the shortening into the flour, I mash it into slices first, then start "scooping"...pull the pastry cutter towards you through the flour and shortening, turning the bowl as you go and cutting it all into little pieces the size of large crumbs. When it looks mealy, scoop a dent in the center, then start sprinkling the water over the whole thing one T at a time. After 4, toss with a fork and see if it comes together - it should have very little dry flour at this point, but clumps of dryish looking dough. If you can push it around the bowl into a rough lump, that's enough. If it's still too floury, sprinkle another T of water over it and check again, just don't stir or mash the heck out of it.

When it looks good, dump the dough out onto a liberally floured flat surface, and very lightly push it into a ball, then flatten slightly with your hand. Get your rolling pin, and give it a roll over the dough to grease it up, sprinkle flour over the pin and dough and rub it all over the pin with your hand. Flip the dough, tossing more flour in the clean spot underneath, then sprinkle a little more on top. Roll from the center out, turning a 1/4 turn each roll, flipping and flouring as you go. You will need to flour your pin constantly...I keep rolling it in the flour around the dough and rubbing it all over with my hands. Once you get it pretty thin, it's ready to use...now the fun part.

Instead of making a pie, you should start with a few batches of pie crust cookies first...helps you learn to handle the dough. For the cookies, preheat the oven to 450 and assemble the following:

1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. melted butter

Brush or spread the butter over the dough you just rolled out, then sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar. You can cut them with a glass, any kind/shape cutter, or just random shapes with a knife...we always had big rustic chunks when I was a kid. Thin edges will burn, so put them on a cookie sheet with the thinner edges towards the center - but rarely do I ever burn anything so bad SOMEONE won't eat it. Bake in 450 oven for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Try to let it cool off...pie crust burns can only be treated with vanilla ice cream.

I'll talk more about pies later....I need to go make dinner.


  1. Frack, now I want pie crust cookies :( They're just as good as the pie itself.

  2. You know after all the baking and cooking...pies are one thing I can never get a handle on. Go figure. I spent a whole day with Darlene once and we baked pies until the cows came home (or Bob anyway). I love great pies and have decided to conquer that bitch once and for all. I can even burn the crust to a crisp and it never fails to amaze me. Will try your recipe "ole great one" and see what happens this time ;0)

  3. You should make a video of how to make your pie crusts... Just sayin'. :)