Cooking 101: Pie
“Sweet as pie”, “easy as pie” and “cutie pie” are just a few terms of phrase we hear regularly. All of these phrases are due in part to pies main characteristics: it’s sweet (with few exceptions, it’s easy and it [usually] looks as good as it tastes! We all have our favorite pie – apple, banana cream, cherry, pumpkin, and so-on.
From crust to filling to topping, this is everything you should know about assembling and baking the perfect pie.
Firstly, the definition of a pie is:
“a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry.”
When you acknowledge the openness left to the “fruit, or meat and vegetables” filling, you are left with thousands of options when it comes to making your pie! It is easy to get creative with ingredients for the filling and the crust, as the same basic principles go into each element no matter what pie you are going with. For simplicity sake, we’ll be focusing on making a basic American pie.
The Classic Flaky Crust
When it comes to making a perfect pie crust, there are a few characteristics experts will look for. Flakiness, tenderness & the right buttery, sweet taste. Oftentimes the crust is holding in a juicy, moist filling. Crafting a crust that can hold its shape and texture despite this is daunting to some, but there is a science to follow in achieving the finished product.
It all starts with flour, salt and sugar. Then comes butter and shortening, finished with enough cold water to make a disk. It doesn’t sound tough, but the deciding factor is how you cut your butter into the flour.
Butter should be very cold and cut to ½ inch cubes. Scatter butter into your flour mix, then use a pastry blender to work the butter into the mixture until it looks crumbly and butter is down to the size of peas, about 1-2 minutes. The next step is adding ice water to the mix and pressing the dough into itself until you can form a ball. You then form your disk and wrap it in plastic wrap to chill before working the dough.
How much dough?
To figure out how much dough you need for your pie there are 2 options:
- Measure the diameter of the bottom of your pie pan (x) then measure the height (y). Add the bottom diameter with 2x the height, plus 1 inch for good measure. Equation works out to X + (2y) + 1 = the diameter you need your dough to be.
- Roll your dough out larger than you think necessary. Place your pie pan upside-down on top of it, then trim crust that is in excess of 1 inch from the edge.
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While a flaky doughy crust might be what comes to mind when you think of pie crust, this is 2017! You can crush up practically any dried food, add butter and pat it down to make your own pie crust. By “any dried food”, put your imagination in the vanilla wafer/chocolate chip cookie/oreo universe. We’ve even seen savory pies made with crushed potato chips and crackers!
There are just as many options in filling your pie as there are fruits, custards and creams in the world! Sweetness, tartness and juiciness all depend on the ripeness of your fruit, so it goes to say that no two pies can be the same every time. Luckily there are ways to counteract any imbalances. For tart berries, add a bit more sugar. For super juicy fruit, add a tablespoon more of cornstarch. It is important to recognize that different fruits must be handled differently when making your filling. Sweetness, acidity, pectin and water will all vary depending on what fruit you choose to go with.
For all fruit fillings you will need: 2 lbs. fruit, sugar and cornstarch. For a gourmet kick, an acid like vinegar, lemon or lime will bring depth to the flavor. You can also give your pie a kick with a tablespoon of fresh herbs, lemon, lime or ginger zest.
Other fillings you can experiment with can be custards, puddings or cream like you see in lemon meringue, chocolate cream, pecan, banana cream and pumpkin.
Topping It Off
To make a truly elegant pie, top crust is a must-have! The gorgeous finished product is the reward you get for all the hard work you put into making it, so if you’re trying to make an epic pie, why not go all the way?
The ratio of a double crust pie is ⅔ for bottom crust and ⅓ for the top. The dough for your top crust should be large enough to cover the top of your pie with just a bit of overhang. Once you get your bottom crust and filling in, setting your top crust is as easy as squeezing the bottom and top crusts together. Shape your edges how you wish and slice several vents in the top of crust for steam to escape.
Pie Tips! Get better browning by brushing your crust with milk, cream, or egg. To add texture to your crust, brush with the liquid of your choice and top with white or cinnamon sugar.
If you’re feeling adventurous, experiment with some top-crust art – patterns cut into it, the classic lattice or shapes are a few ideas, but the sky’s the limit so get creative!
Try one of these top crust patterns to really wow the crowd!
As explained previously, different pie fillings require different sugar/cornstarch/seasoning ratios. For this example we’ll be focusing on a triple berry pie with lattice top crust.
Some reasons triple berry pies rock:
- Using frozen or fresh berries make it an affordable option no matter the time of year
- It has way less sugar than most pies because of the naturally sweet berries
- The liquid in this berry mixture is juicy but will hold its shape when cut into a slice
What You’ll Need
Pastry Blender or Fork
9 inch pie dish (Tin, ceramic, glass, etc.)
Wire rack for cooling
For The Crust:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. Unsalted butter, chilled, cut to chunks
¾ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
½ cup ice water
For The Filling:
7 cups of fresh or frozen mixed berries (2 ⅓ cups of each raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
4 tbsp. Cornstarch
2 tbsp. butter
1 beaten egg white
To start the crust, add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled shortening and butter to your flour/salt mix and use a pastry blender or fork to cut it into the flour until you get coarse crumbs. From here on you add one tablespoon of water at a time until the dough clumps together. It is very important not to over-mix your dough, so if your dough clumps before you get through the ice water just stop there!
Once clumped, separate the dough into 2 separate balls. One at a time, gently press each ball into a disk shape then cover it in plastic wrap to refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you are making dough for future use this is the point you would place the disk in the freezer for use within 3 months.
While your dough is chilling you can start your pie filling. Add berries, sugar and lemon to a large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer about 5-10 minutes until your mix is warm and juicy, stirring very gently on occasion. Spoon out a ½ cup of juice from the pan into a bowl. Stir cornstarch into the juice to create a slurry. Slowly pour in the cornstarch, mixing as you do, until your filling thickens, about 2-5 minutes. At this point you will remove your mix from heat and stir in the butter. Your pie filling is now ready to go.
After 30 minutes has passed remove one of the dough balls and let it thaw for 10-15 minutes. While waiting, clean, clear and sprinkle some flour over an area where you can roll it out. When rolling, start at the center and work your way outwards, aiming for an even thickness throughout. Roll until the dough is ½ – 1 inch larger than your upside-down pie dish. Preheat your oven to 400º F ‘cause you’re almost ready to bake!
To transfer the dough from your surface to the pie dish, gently fold it over your rolling pin then roll it over your pie dish. (or try the technique from the video above!) Gently press your dough evenly into your dish. Trim and crimp your edges as desired before adding your filling. Carefully pour your entire mixture into the prepared pie dough and dish.
At this point, it is time for your top crust! Lay your lattice, whole top with slits for steam or dough design on top of the pie gently, squeezing the top crust together with the bottom crust at the edges.
Brush a thin layer of beaten egg white over the crust before adding a sprinkling of sugar. Place in center rack of your oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. If at any point your crust is getting too brown you can carefully place a piece of tinfoil over your top crust.
When done baking, let your pie cool completely on a wire cooling rack before serving of refrigerating to serve the next day!
Share your pie tips and tricks with #BestMarket, we’d love to see!
November 24, 2017