Today I baked my very first pie.
There’s just something special about a homemade pie. Maybe it’s because my mom always makes them during the holidays, but I think of all deserts, pie is the one that I can least resist. You just have to have a slice, you know? So in honor of my mom (should she read this), this one’s for you!
As usual, I wasn’t satisfied with any one recipe that I found among my books and ended up mish-mashing three different versions together. I stole Alton Brown’s recipe for the crust and it’s preparation, Baking Illustrated’s filling, and a dabbling of Williams-Sonoma’s handling and decorating methods. In retrospect, I probably should have stuck with just one. Flipping back and forth between three different books was bound to get me in trouble… Which it did.
I was actually quite surprised at how easy the crust actually was to make. Aside from the fact that it’s really just flour, salt, butter, lard, and water, it really did come off without a hitch. Alton Brown has you use a spray bottle to simply moisten the dough mixture rather than pouring any real quantity of water in (even a tablespoon) as was indicated in the other books. This was key, since you really, really don’t need much water at all. It’s amazing. And with less water, you end up with a nice, easy to handle, flaky dough that’s a breeze to roll. He also suggested that you simply use a gallon Ziplock storage bag to both store and actually roll your dough (right in the bag!). Unfortunately, I was fresh out of the gallon size, so I ended up just using a couple of sheets of parchment paper, which seemed to work fine. The only problem was that Alton’s recipe is for a single pie crust, which I missed. I then compounded my problem by accidentally turning to the wrong page in Baking Illustrated and was following the directions (quite admirably) for a one crust pie. Apple doesn’t work so well as a one crust pie (I wanted those juices!), but I didn’t catch my error until I had just folded under and crenelated the edges of my single crust in the pie pan.
I was trying to figure out how you pre-bake the top crust when it hit me… You don’t in a double-crust pie, which was what I was supposed to be making. Oops!
Oh well… I snapped together another quick batch of pie crust and sort of fudged the edges. I think I ended up with too much dough along the ridges, but things seemed okay. The filling was a breeze, (although final taste-tests show that my lemon produced a bit too much juice and zest – still tasty, but a little too much citrus) and about the only things I might have tried differently in baking, was to turn down my oven just slightly since I think it was running just slightly hot again, and possibly placing foil in my cookie sheet to aid in clean-up. But even baked-on pie filling seems to melt away if you leave it to soak, and the pie had my whole house smelling like the day before Thanksgiving. Ahhhh…
And it was yummy to boot, if not just a little on the “ugly” side. I threw on a few quick dough angels for decoration on the crust, and Alton Brown is right – lard and not shortening is the only way to go. That crust was flaky and light, just as it should be.