Holy Hannah! I made PIE!
As I mentioned in my last post, there is an internet-wide Pie Party going on today. The brainchild of Shauna from Gluten Free Girl and Garrett of Vanilla Garlic, this fun virtual party celebrates all things pie – AND encourages others to face their pie-making fears.
Yes, I’ll admit it. Up until now I’ve been terrified of making pie. Well, not the whole pie; fillings I can handle with great aplomb. But crust? Flaky, buttery crust that holds all that luscious filling in its perfectly golden clutches so that it simply melts in your mouth the instant you bite into it? Totally scary to me.
Like I’ve said in the past, I’ve always considered myself more of a savory cook than a baking pro. Frozen confections & other non-baked desserts I can whip up with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back. But baking things from scratch has always intimidated me. The precision required is quite daunting, especially for someone who comes from the pinch-of-this and dash-of-that school of cooking. But I’m also the type who loves a good challenge, so when presented with the opportunity to tackle homemade pie crust, I forged ahead with great determination.
I consulted with a few experts, of course. Though I’m a reasonably good cook, I do recognize my kitchen weaknesses, so I try to learn as much as I can from those who are more knowledgeable than I. My friend & fellow food blogger, Garrett, is a baking whiz (seriously, if you haven’t checked out his blog, be sure to do so ASAP; his stuff is incredible), so I asked for any pearls of wisdom he may have. He told me there was nothing to this pie-making business, especially when one uses Elise’s pie crust recipe on Simply Recipes. ”And make sure your butter is really cold, the colder the better,” he added.
What if I didn’t have the appropriate machine to process my dough? ”Use a pastry blender.” And if I didn’t have one of those? ”Use two forks. You have two forks.”
Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I do.
And so I set off to make pie. In 157-degree heat (give or take a few degrees). In a hot, tiny kitchen that could double as a kiln, especially when the oven is preheating. Not the best conditions for keeping butter as cold as possible, but that’s what freezers & fridges are for, right? And while I’m sure this whole process is much easier with the appropriate equipment, the old two-fork method wasn’t so bad. Like my irrational risotto-making fear from a couple years ago, this also proved to be a completely unfounded phobia. Making pie crust is easy! It just requires a bit more patience than what I’m used to. Hm… patience. I can have extra patience if the end result is pie.
Once all the hullabaloo about the pie crust was over, I could set about taking care of less intense affairs: like what I was going to put inside my homemade crust. My all-time favorite pie is apple (nothing like a truly well-done apple pie… om nom nom), but I decided to stick with what was available at the farmer’s market. Since it’s summertime and so many fabulous fruits are in season, I have more than my fair share of options. Cherry, blueberry, blackberry, peach, strawberry – the possibilities are endless with so many fantastic fruits at their peak of sweetness.
I could have easily made one of each, but because it had been forever and a day since I’d had a good peach pie (and because I’d scored some gorgeous ones at the farmer’s market for just $1/lb), I decided to go with that. A little extra sweetness here, a little spice there, and voila! The perfect pie filling. And because every good pie deserves a little something extra, I decided to whip up a batch of homemade vanilla ice cream to go on top. Not a requirement of course, but for me, creamy, melty vanilla ice cream swirled together with the fruit & juices of my pie is the icing on the proverbial cake pie.
Now for some pretty fantastic – and easy-to-prepare – pie.
Mini Peach Pies (makes 6 4-inch pies or 1 9″ pie; total cost of recipe: $3.50)
(Adapted from the Perfect Pie Crust recipe on Simply Recipes)
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour, plus a bit extra for rolling
1 c (2 sticks) of butter, very cold, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 t salt
1 t sugar
6-8 T ice water
For the filling:
2 c sliced fresh peaches
1/4 c raw sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
2 T flour
1 T water
4″ mini pie or tart pans
- or -
9″ pie pan
Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)
1. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl (or food processor bowl) and mix until completely combined. Add the butter and mix with a food processor, pastry blender or two forks until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (pea size chunks of butter are okay). Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing or mixing until the mixture begins to clump together.
2. Remove the dough from the bowl or machine and place on a clean, dry surface. Gently shape the dough into 2 large discs by kneading gently (if making mini pies, break into 6-8 smaller discs). Be careful not to over-knead the dough. Sprinkle each disc with a little flour, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the crust and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. For mini pies, roll out to a 6-7″ disc; for larger pies, roll out to a 12″ disc. Gently place the dough in the pie dishes, pressing against the sides & bottom. Roll out the remaining dough into a large disc and cut into 1/2″ wide strips (for large pies, use 1″ strips).
4. Lightly beat the egg & water together and set aside. Toss the peaches, sugar, spices and flour together in a bowl and mix until well combined. Brush the inside of each pie crust with a bit of egg wash to prevent the bottom from getting soggy. Place the filling in the pie dishes, then assemble the lattice crust. Gently lay 2-3 dough strips on top of the pie, then repeat by laying the other 2-3 strips on top crosswise. Firmly pinch together the edges of the crust to secure.
5. Brush the top and edges of the pie with egg wash. Bake for about 30-45 minutes (depending on size of pie), until the crust is golden brown and the pie juices can be seen bubbling through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing. Serve each mini pie or individual slice with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy!