Tag : pies
Tag : pies
I love winter (I love all the seasons.) I love seeing the bare, spindly branches of trees and feeling my face get all chapped from the wind when I go outside. I love turning on the fireplace and spending all day in my pajamas.
But I’m done with winter. We had a string of snowy days throughout February, interspersed with warm, sunny spring days. It was confusing (it was global warming.) As much as I love winter, though, I was done. I started wearing my spring clothes (shorts in the rain), making spring meals (lots of grocery store herbs), and listening to my spring playlists (Alanis Morissette, heyyy), hoping that I could will it to become spring just by focusing hard enough.
And it worked! Or it just naturally became spring. Despite the equinox being yet another snow day, it is finally actually springtime, which means herbs and berries out the wazoo. Every day my freezer magically refills with berries (or I can’t help myself when I’m at the grocery store and I need a place to store them), and I love it.
Blackberry has always been a personal favorite, even more than blueberry, strawberry, or raspberry. My natural inclination is to always combine blackberry with almond, but I wanted something a little different this time.
spring pies: very berry spring pie with orange streusel
Anise, on the other hand, has not always been a personal favorite. Until recently, I couldn’t stand either anise or fennel (and yet I have an anise star permanently inked onto my shoulderblade…) My taste for the licorice-y spice started changing in December when I was making German pepper nut cookies, and as with cardamom, my love of anise sort of just blossomed from there.
I’d love to say that the choice of anise in this pie was calculated and inspired, that I tasted a blackberry and thought, “I detect a hint of anise, so anise must be the best addition.” But in reality, I really just wanted to add anise to something, and this worked out really well. I noticed after the fact that blackberries already have a bit of an anise flavor naturally. In the finished pie, the spice both blends right in and stands out: you can tell there’s something extra, but it isn’t aggressively licorice-y or spicy.
It is super addicting, though, and the smell of butter, sugar, blackberries, and the anise from the pie baking in the oven is possibly the headiest, most addicting smells I’ve ever come across.
blackberry aniseed double crust pie
adapted from Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter, by Kate Lebo
makes one 7″ pie (double to make a 9″ pie)
5 oz granulated sugar
hefty pinch of salt (1/2 tsp)
5 Tbsp cornstarch (6 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries or freezing the pie before you bake it)
1/2 tsp aniseeds, ground or whole (seeds, not stars)
12 oz blackberries, fresh or frozen
juice of 1 baby lemon (1 small lemon, or half of 1 regular lemon; 0.75-1.00 oz of juice)
*Save yourself some stress by making a full batch of pie crust, dividing it into four pieces, wrapping each individually in plastic, and freezing the dough until you want to make pie. Thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator. Alternately, the day before, or a few hours before, you’re planning to make the pie, make the dough and refrigerate it (divided into the appropriate portions for the top and bottom crust.) The dough should chill at least an hour before you roll it out, and it’ll need to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before you can roll it, so plan to make each portion of dough at least 75 minutes before you need to roll it out.
egg wash (enough for one 7″ or one 9″ pie)
1 whole egg
1 oz cream
Demerara sugar for topping
make the filling**
**If you’re using frozen berries and freezing the whole pie before you bake it, this should be the last step. You want to avoid thawing the berries if you’re going to freeze them again. If you’re using fresh berries or the pie is going straight into the oven after you assemble it, then this step will save you some trouble. Additionally, if you’re making the pie in advance and freezing it unbaked, you don’t need to preheat the oven until you’re ready to bake the pie (but give your oven about 15 – 30 minutes to come up to temperature.)
Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, salt, cornstarch, and ground anise/whole aniseeds.
Add the blackberries and toss to coat them evenly.
Pour or squeeze in the lemon juice and toss to moisten the filling.
Set the filling aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
assemble the pie
Pull the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you plan to roll it out. You can roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, two sheets of parchment paper, or directly on a clean, well-floured work surface. Using the plastic wrap or parchment saves flour, but rolling the dough directly on the counter saves time.
Whether you’re keeping the dough in plastic wrap or between parchment paper, or having it directly on the counter, sprinkle a little bit of flour on both sides of the dough (and the rolling pin if you’re not using plastic wrap or parchment paper.)
Starting with your rolling pin in the middle of the dough, roll outwards towards the edge, making sure you don’t roll the pin off the edge of the dough. Alternate rolling and rotating the dough (about 1/8 of a circle, 45 degrees each turn), in order to roll the dough out evenly in all directions. Once your dough is at least 7″ across (use the pie plate to measure), focus on rolling out the sections that need to be longer/wider, to form a circle. Run your hand gently across the surface of the dough occasionally, to feel if there are any sections that are thicker than the rest. Make sure the dough is a consistent thickness all around. Every full or half turn (180-360 degrees), flip the dough over and re-flour as needed, to be sure the dough doesn’t stick.
If using plastic wrap and the dough seems to stick to the wrap, gently peel away the plastic and lightly flour that part of the dough, lay the plastic back onto the dough and continue rolling. If the dough comes out of the side of the plastic wrap, peel off the plastic and recenter the dough so it stays within the sheet of plastic.
Once your circle is about 8-9 inches wide, lift it into the pie plate. Make sure you don’t stretch the dough at all. Lift the edges, one small section at a time, and lower them into the plate, pressing down into the corner of the pan to secure the dough against the sides and bottom without creating air bubbles. After the dough is all pressed into the bottom and sides of the pan and there are no trapped air bubbles, place the empty shell in the refrigerator to chill while you roll out the top crust.
Repeat the same rolling, turning, and dusting process with the second piece of dough. If you want to cut shapes into the top crust, do that at this stage, using a knife or cookie cutters. If you just want to vent the top crust with slits, wait until the pie is assembled.
When the top crust is 8-9 inches wide, remove the empty shell from the refrigerator, scoop the filling into the shell (spreading it around to cover the whole capacity of the pie plate), and gently place the top crust on top of the filling.
Use a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors, to trim off excess overhang from the bottom and top crusts, leaving about an inch of each hanging over the edge of the pie plate. You can either fold this extra crust under itself or up and over. Use a fork or your fingers to press down the edges or crimp them as you like. Use a paring knife or fork to poke slits and vents into the top of the top crust.
At this point, you can freeze the pie unbaked until you’re ready to bake it. If the dough is feeling loose, warm, or a little wet, refrigerate the whole pie for about 15 minutes to let it cool down before moving on.
bake the pie
When you’re ready to bake the pie, put together the egg wash. Whisk the egg and cream together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, coat the top crust in a layer of egg wash and sprinkle Demerara sugar liberally over the surface.
Place the assembled, washed, and sugared pie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and in the oven. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the crust is dark brown, the filling is bubbling, and it looks thick and syrupy, not thin and water-y. At first, the filling will be thin, like water, and bubbly, but as the cornstarch cooks, the filling will thicken like a syrup. You’ll be able to see the liquid through the vents of the top crust, or as it runs out over the surface of the pie.
When the pie is finished, remove it from the oven and carefully transfer the pie without the baking sheet and parchment to a rack to cool completely, so it doesn’t stick to the parchment (the filling may have started to run out a little bit onto the pan.)
Let the pie cool completely before serving. Pie lasts up to 2 days wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator.
Ani-see y’all later,
Y’all, I won’t lie: I’ve been preparing for Thanksgiving 2017 for the last two months. Really. I started trying out some new autumn pie recipes in early September…well, I tried one recipe and fell so deeply in love with it, I decided to commit myself entirely to this recipe and no one else.
last thanksgiving: sweet potato molasses pie
I’ve already begun drafting a list of Thanksgiving sides I want to make, and expanding on my list of desserts so I can start trying out some new recipes in preparation for Thanksgiving 2018 (of course.)
One of my friends from work hosts monthly themed supper clubs, and though I have evening class the night of her Thanksgiving Sides dinner, I promised I would bring two dishes and show up before the evening was over, and I will not be breaking those promises.
I already tested one of the recipes (gluten-free green bean casserole with browned butter cream of mushroom soup and fried shallots.)
I love autumn. Every season, I say “this is my favorite season,” but we all know the truth: autumn is my favoritest favorite. We don’t get a lot of autumn in this part of North Carolina, so I try to soak up as much of it as I can (and by that I mean I’ve been drinking pumpkin spice lattes nonstop for two months, and even making some of my own at home.)
There’s a lot that I want to do whenever the first leaves die…I mean, fall…but for the past two years, I haven’t been able to make time for any of the pumpkin- or apple-picking, hay rides, weekend trips into the mountains, and so on. The one thing that I do consistently, frequently, and obsessively, is go walking in the woods. I always coincidentally choose the rainy days for my forest-exploration days, but the gloom adds to the beauty. When I have a full day off from work and nothing else planned (except studying), I wake up early and drive out to Duke Forest or the Eno River for an hour of trailwalking and autumn photography. I end up taking the same photos every year but who cares ‘cuz they’re always magical.
The idea for this recipe started blooming a year ago. For a brief month, we got a new pie book at the store (literally, they discontinued the book within a month, so it’s a good thing I swept mine up as soon as it was on the shelf), and the first recipe from the book that I tried was a cranberry sage pie. I made that one for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. I’ve always been so-so about cranberries and cranberry sauce, but lately I’ve begun to like them more than I used to. I liked that pie a lot, but I wanted to like it more.
I was also only just starting to appreciate sage as a flavor and ingredient, so for now, sage will have to wait in the dugout.
ideas for next thanksgiving: lemon brulée tart, classic pumpkin pie, caramel apple tart
I’ve been playing around with apple recipes but I figured because I already have two apple tarts and an apple cider muffin, I wanted to do something different: pears. I swapped out the sage for pears (a common substitution), hyped up the spices, fiddled around with ratios, and created a filling that warms the heart, stomach, and guts.
The pear helps balance out the tartness from the cranberries, while the rosemary both blends into the sugars and stands out with a wintery, piny taste. The spices are an obvious addition, as they are for any autumn or winter dessert. You could even play around with the crust a bit and fold in some dried rosemary or spices, or sprinkle some on top after brushing on the egg wash.
double-crust spiced cranberry pear pie
adapted from cranberry sage pie, from Four and Twenty Blackbirds
makes one 7″ pie
Do ahead: The dough and the filling can be made advance. If you plan on using the dough within 24 hours, keep it wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator. Likewise with the filling. Otherwise, keep the dough and filling in the freezer. You can even assemble the entire pie and freeze it until ready to bake, but be sure to keep it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator so the dough doesn’t get soggy. The steps provided in the recipe below are a simple, efficient, and low-hassle way of prepping the pie all in one day, using dough that you’ve already made.
Note: Frozen fruits break down more than fresh fruit, and as a result, they release more liquid. If you’re using frozen fruit for your pie, add some more of your thickener (cornstarch, in this case), or else the filling will be too runny. Even if you buy fresh fruit and freeze it, it will break down more and release more liquid.
2 Tbsp cornstarch (3 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries)
1.75 oz (1/4 c) granulated sugar
1.75 oz (1/4 c) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
8 oz (~2 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, divided
leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or about 2 tsp of chopped leaves
8 oz (~1.5 c) pear, chopped into large chunks (one large pear is close to 8 ounces)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cream
1 Tbsp Demerara sugar for topping
Assemble the filling
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars, cornstarch, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine half of the cranberries (4 oz) and all of the chopped pear (8 oz), and set aside.
In a small food processor, combine all of the fresh rosemary, the remaining half of the cranberries (4 oz), and the vanilla extract and pulse a few times just until the berries are broken down and a little chunky. The mixture should be like salsa.
Add the dry mixture of sugar and spices to the large bowl of fruit and toss to coat the fruit pieces completely. Add the cranberry-rosemary mixture and combine. Set aside, covered, on the counter or in the refrigerator while assembling the rest of the pie.
Prep the top and bottom crusts
I find it easiest to roll out the top crust first and let it chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the bottom crust.
Pull both discs of dough out of the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for 10 – 15 minutes to warm up a little bit.
Roll out one disc on a lightly floured countertop or sandwiched between two sheets of parchment or plastic. If using two sheets of parchment or plastic, lightly flour both sides of the dough disc, place the disc in the middle of one sheet, lay the other sheet on top, lightly press down on the disc to flatten it a little bit, and press the plastic wrap together to seal. Roll the dough into a circle of about 8″ or 9″ in diameter*, pausing occasionally to loosen the plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t stick to it, and adding a little more flour if needed.
*The most consistent way to roll the dough into a circle, so that you don’t have to cut it, is to roll a few times from the middle up to the top, then rotate one eighth of a circle (45 degrees), and continue, eventually turning the dough disc all the way around. Every full rotation of the disc, pause and see if any part of the circle looks wider than the rest, and run your hands over the surface to see if it’s consistently thin all the way across. Adjust your rolling accordingly until you have a circle of dough large enough to drape over the top of the pie. It should be about 1/4-1/2 an inch thick. If you can tell that the dough isn’t spreading out enough, it’s probably sticking to the plastic, parchment, or countertop, and needs a little more flour.
Rest the top crust in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or parchment, until the rest of the pie is assembled.
Roll out the bottom crust the same way, but roll it into a larger circle, about 10″-12″ in diameter.
Gently lower the bottom crust disc into the pie plate, lifting and lowering the edges so that the dough fills in the whole surface of the plate without leaving any air bubbles underneath. Important: Do not stretch dough to get rid of air bubbles or to cover any space. Lift and lower like you’re gluing something onto a piece of paper. Stretching causes the dough to shrink in the oven. Leave the edges of the dough hanging over the edges of the pie plate, and trim if desired.
Assemble and bake the pie
Scrape the filling into the empty pie shell and spread the filling around a bit to create an even dome.
Unwrap the top crust and place on top of the pie. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust to seal them together and crimp/fold as desired. Using a sharp knife, poke a few holes through the top crust to let the pie vent in the oven.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream, and using a pastry or basting brush, wash/brush the top crust and edges with the egg wash. While the egg wash is still wet, sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.
Bake the pie for 45 – 60 minutes, until the crust is nicely bronzed and you can tell the filling is bubbling. I suggest placing the pie plate on top of a cookie sheet, in case the egg wash or the filling drip out.
When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack until room temperature or ready to eat.
The pie can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Brb, going to play in the leaves,
The first time I ever made my apple chai-der pie (an idea that I shamelessly stole from the Internet, but eventually made my own), I thought I had died and done gone to heaven, y’all. The apples were good and the spiced black tea filling even better, but the real kicker was the streusel. Every time I make the streusel I have to remind myself that it’s going on top of another pastry and I can’t just eat all of it raw (and every time, my willpower fails and I eat most of it raw anyway.)
It’s also good baked.
I think it’s the cinnamon that makes streusel so addicting. And for some reason, I decided to swap out the cinnamon for orange zest in this recipe. What a strange idea.
I honestly could not tell you why I felt inspired to do orange-infused/scented anything, but just like my lemon cravings from last summer and early this spring, I started having these odd cravings for orange-flavored things. Orange cinnamon coffee cake muffins, orange shortbread, dark chocolate orange cakes. All of these things are on my mind.
This pie is overflowing with the four major spring/summer berries that we grow in North Carolina: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. It’s currently the peak of strawberry season so strawberries are providing the decorative accents to my citrus fantasies. They’re also taking up all of the space in my refrigerator and freezer.
I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago to get strawberries for jam, intending to buy two pounds of the berries, and accidentally, shamelessly going home with one five-pound basket. Most of those ended up in a failed strawberry-rhubarb pie, four of the berries went moldy, three pounds became jam, and the rest became the strawberry balsamic muffins.
The citrus counter-note to the berries, and the liquid base of the filling, is Cointreau, but could easily be orange juice, Triple Sec, or any other orange-flavored liquid. On top of the liqueur-laced berry filling is a streusel flavored with orange zest. Overall, it’s a much brighter, warm-weather version of the spicy apple original.
very berry spring pie with orange streusel
makes one 7″ pie (double the recipe for a 9″ pie)
loosely based on my apple chai-der pie recipe
Make the pie pastry, divide into discs for 7″ (or 9″) pies, wrap in plastic and freeze. If you plan to use the dough within 24 hours, refrigerate it instead. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out and filling the shell.
You can also prepare the pie shell all at once and freeze that until the streusel and filling are ready.
Make the streusel and chill or freeze, unbaked, until the pie shell is filled.
And finally, you can assemble the entire pie and freeze it, unbaked, until you’re ready to put it in the oven. The entire pie can go into the hot oven frozen.
2 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
zest of 1/4 of a large orange or 1/2 of a small-ish orange
4 Tbsp (2 oz) butter, softened
1 oz orange juice or Cointreau
4 oz fresh/frozen blueberries
4 oz fresh/frozen blackberries
4 oz fresh/frozen raspberries
4 oz fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
2.5 oz granulated sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour or cornstarch
dash of salt
preparing the pie shell
Let the pie pastry warm up slightly, for about 15 minutes on the counter, just so you can roll it out without the dough cracking too much.
Sandwich the dough disc between sheets of plastic or parchment, floured lightly to keep the dough from sticking a lot. Depending on the day, and on exactly how much water you use to make the dough (which varies based on how much water you need), the dough can be on the wet side or dry side.
Roll the dough until it’s about 2 inches wider in diameter than the top of the pie pan, and approximately a quarter of an inch thick (so just around half or a third of a centimeter.)
Place the dough into the pie plate, and press it into the bottom and corners of the plate, lifting up the edges and placing them into the plate as you go, to avoid stretching. Roll the edges up under themselves so they rest on the edges of the pie plate and add about an inch of depth, then shape, press, or crimp the edges as you like.
I usually form a zigzag edge using my pointer and thumb of one hand and the pointer finger of the other hand. By creating more height/depth, you can add more filling.
Freeze the pie shell, unwrapped if you’re baking it the same day, or wrapped if you’re not baking it within 24 hours.
making the streusel
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the butter.
Mix in the butter, just until it forms crumbs.
Using a fork or pastry blender, break up any large-ish clumps of dough into smaller pieces.
Chill/refrigerate or freeze the streusel in a sealed container until the pie shell is filled.
filling the shell
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and starch (flour or cornstarch). This will make it easier to incorporate these with the juice/liqueur and berries.
In a large bowl, toss together berries, juice/liqueur, salt, and sugar-starch mixture until all the berries are coated with the juice/liqueur and sugar-starch mix. Mash up some of the berries.
Pour the berry filling into the frozen shell, spreading the filling out to fill up as much space as possible. The filled pie should be mounded, approximately 1.5-2x the depth of the shell. The filled shell can be frozen until ready to top and bake.
assembling and baking the pie
Preheat oven to 425 F/ C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch the over-boiled pie filling.
When the oven is fully heated, sprinkle the chilled streusel crumbs onto the filled pie shell so as much surface is covered as possible. Spread the streusel around if needed, and fill in some of the gaps made by the crimped pie crust.
Place the assembled pie onto the baking sheet and bake for 50 – 60 minutes until nicely browned and actively bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool the pie on a wire rack.
Bon apple-tite, y’all
Last year, I made a decision to master pie once and for all. I went about it as scientifically as possible: I compiled half a dozen pie crust recipes, tested each one (with labels, taste-testing, notes, sample batches, and all), and developed my own recipe.
October (2015), when I took a pie class at a local bakery, all of that went out the window, as I had learned a new recipe and some new techniques (which I never mastered.) At that point, I thought I had everything down to a science and it was time to start playing with fillings. I even attempted to make my own pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins.
I have since learned, from first hand experience, reading things online, and asking professional chefs, that this is a waste of time. I haven’t pureed a pumpkin in approximately 382 days.
Half a year later, I took another pie class, and everything I thought I knew about pie went out the window…again. The technique I had learned last autumn was just a little too much work to justify something that should be as easy as pie. The pastry instructor from the cooking school gave us a useful ingredient ratio for pie pastry, so now I don’t even bother looking at my pie crust recipe (which I updated a few months ago after taking that class.)
For what I call “American pie crust,” the crust that most of us Americans know via apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie, the best ratio is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part ice water. How you go about chilling and combining the three is up to you, but it really isn’t difficult. The first few times, it can be daunting because we seem to mythologize pie crust, but once you’ve gotten the process into your muscles and bones, it’s a 5-minute recipe that you can do with your eyes closed, and the result is always phenomenal.
Even filling, which until this past summer frightened me, can be simple. I never managed a fruit pie recipe over the summer, but come April this blog will be replete with blackberry cobblers, mixed berry pies, lemon meringues, and Little Jack Horner will be weeping with joy. A berry pie filling is five basic ingredients: sugar, starch (corn, tapioca, flour), berries, flavor (lemon zest, extracts, spices), and liquid (optional, because the sugar will melt and the berries will excrete juices in the oven.)
For the sweet potato pie, I went through a few iterations of recipes, each time experiencing the same problem: my filling was runny and the sweetener was leaking out as the pie cooled down. After much pestering of chefs and coworkers, I decided to reduce the liquid in the filling drastically and simplify everything, and here we are:
The molasses is the main sweetener, and sweet potato is already relatively sweet, while the egg helps the filling set up (sweet potato puree is very loose, unlike pumpkin), and the rum is added for an additional splash of flavor. Altogether, the filling is slightly tart, deeply yam-y, and pleasantly molasses-y, so if you don’t like Meyers Jamaican rum, this might not be the pie for you!
ideas for next thanksgiving: cranberry ginger pie, classic apple pie, lemon meringue pie, fig and feta pie
sweet potato molasses pie
one 7″ pie (~6 servings)
15 ounces (1 can) sweet potato purée
2 ounces molasses
0.5 ounces dark rum
dash of salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
pecans, walnuts, or marshmallows for topping
Roll out pie pastry, ~9″ in diameter, fit into a 7″ pie plate and crimp or fold the edges as you like. Freeze or refrigerate the shell unbaked.
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C, and set oven racks at top and bottom 1/3 of the oven.
Combine the sweet potato purée, molasses, egg, rum, salt, cornstarch, and brown sugar*, and whisk until smooth. Fill the shell and spread the filling out with a spatula, smoothing along the surface.
*The sugar and starch will mix in more easily if you first combine those two with each other in a smaller bowl, then whisk them into the filling.
Decorate with pecans, and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the crust is bronze and the center of the pie is set.
Optional: Let the pie cool, then turn on the broiler. Garnish the pie with marshmallows and toast/broil them for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown.
Pie can be served warm or chilled.
I remember the good ol’ days of getting out of my car at 10:00 p.m. and watching my glasses fog up immediately. Those precious “is that sweat, rain, or the humidity?” moments. The 5:00 am sunrise and “will the sun ever set?” times.
But those are over now. My glasses don’t fog up anymore and I can walk around without fainting.
I’ve finally finished up all the frozen summer berries and started stocking up on pumpkin puree, sweet potatoes, and various apples in anticipation of autumn sweets, and let me tell you, I’m anticipating a lot of sweets.
About a year ago I started really exploring pie crust. I watched every YouTube video and read every recipe I could find. I tried every possible technique the Web would show me, and even did a bit of scientific experimentation, complete with sticky labels and test batches and all.
It was very official, y’all.
And then I took an autumn pie workshop at Scratch Bakery last October, and everything I thought I had figured out was flipped, turned right upside down on its very head. I stuck with the recipes from that workshop for months, until I took a pie class at work, and everything was made even simpler by the pastry chef. The first thing she taught us when we got to work on the dough was a universal ratio for the dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part ice water.
It was pie-vana. I had a pie-alization. The flaky, buttery dough, the rich summer berries, the dark almond-flavored cherries, they all came together to form one simple truth:
Pie is easy.
And now a full year later, making the dough is like second nature: I toss everything into a food processor, no gimmicks or silly tricks, squeeze it into a ball, and freeze it. And it turns out well every time!
Now that the crust is a breeze, I want to expand on my fillings. Last year, I made Spiced Chai Apple Streusel Pie and Boozy Pecan Rum Pie for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up new autumn and winter combinations for this year (Pear and Fennel, Chocolate Peppermint, or Limoncello Brûlée?)
I’ve also been playing around a little bit with free-form tarts (Italian: crostata; French: galette) and just filling them with a layer of fruit and spices. One evening, when I was really feeling the impending leaf-changing and air-crisping, I sliced up some apples (skins on because I can’t be bothered to peel them), and mixed up some sugar and spices. I threw in some dried rosemary and assembled the tart, then when it was in the oven, I placed some leftover rosemary sprigs (I had made focaccia that day, as well) on top for an extra flavor infusion, and voila!
rosemary spiced apple crostata (crostata di mele e rosmarino)
makes two 7″, or one 9-10″ crostata
200 – 300 g red apples
50 g granulated sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 fresh rosemary sprigs (with or without leaves)
1 egg yolk, for washing
1 spoonful raw, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for coating
Core and slice the apples. You can peel them if you want, but they’re just as good with the skin on. Set the slices aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and spices. Set aside.
Roll dough out into a circle or a square a few millimeters thick. With a bench scraper or spatula, mark approximately halfway (both vertically and horizontally) between edges, then 2/3 of the way between the outer edge of the dough and your marking. You should now have slight marks/scores 1/6 of the way in from the edge of the dough, and halfway across. This is just a guide for how much of the dough to fill and how much to fold.
Spread about 2/3 of the spice mixture between the outer markings (so the middle 2/3 of the dough, leaving the outer 1/3 border empty.)
Layer the apples on top of the spices, and sprinkle the other 1/3 of the spices over the apples.
Fold the edges of the dough in, pinching them together where they overlap.
Freeze the tart for at least half an hour to let it chill.
Preheat your oven to 425 F/220 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the edges of the tart with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is bronze and the filling is bubbly.
Remove and transfer to a wire rack with the parchment paper underneath the tart.
Cut and enjoy!
Tarts to you later,
If yesterday’s pecan pie wasn’t enough, here’s another that you can prepare ahead of time and assemble on the day of baking!
I first learned to do apple pie at a workshop in downtown Durham, at Scratch Bakery. I’d been trying to do double-crust apple pie for a few weeks before but it was too much work so I gave up and decided to follow Phoebe Lawless’s method, covering the pie in streusel. The streusel itself is easy and you can really make it any way you want. Streusel is defined as “n., a crumbly topping made from fat, flour, sugar, and nuts/spices, often cinnamon, used as a topping or filling for cakes”, so you can add oats, brown sugar, different types of flours, spices, and so on. I like the streusel combination I used here (flour, sugar, oats, butter, salt, and cinnamon) and I’ll end up using it fairly often, like for the pumpkin streusel muffins.
Coring, peeling, and chopping the apples by hand was a pain the first few times I made the pie, so I bought one of those old-fashioned hand-crank spiralizers: 3-in-one, cores, slices, and peels the apples all at once. And it looks cool, too.
That being said, sometimes the most tedious aspects of cooking or baking can also be the most relaxing. If you have plenty of time, the kitchen to yourself, a bottle of red wine (it has to be red wine because red wine is the best wine), and your favorite Spotify playlist (I like anything acoustic or morning-oriented, even in the evening), then you can just focus on the apples and let everything else fall away. I like doing the repetitive, menial things because I usually have a hard time focusing on one thing or committing to anything, so these kinds of tasks help ground me.
I haven’t tried the recipe with very many different types of apples yet, although I bought some green apples to make today’s pie, then decided it might not be so good with green apples. Someday, I’d like to go through a few iterations of the tart trying out different types of apples. Maybe even different types of black tea.
So much to do! So little money to buy the things to do the things I want to do (*cries publicly*).
And now, after three months of wading through pies and tarts and apple skins and dark rum, one would logically assume that I’ll be taking a break from pie for, like, a full year.
One would be wrong.
Now it’s time to work on some winter crumb tarts and gluten-free recipes. I tried gluten-free pie dough earlier and it was…so-so. It’s kind of a pain to work with because, due to a lack of gluten, it doesn’t hold together so you can’t pick it up, turn it, flip it, etc. You have to roll it out on parchment or wax paper and transfer it gently to the pie pan, then press it in. I was getting frustrated with the dough so I figured I could simplify everything by working on crumb crusts.
Call me in a month to see how they’re turning out.
This apple pie is unbelievable, y’all. The crust is finally flaky and buttery (thank you, Phoebe Lawless, the Pie Pastry Queen), the tea is lightly fragrant and the spices are rich, perfect for the season. The apples soften while the cider thickens, and the crispy streusel just floats around in all of it. It can be a little messy or runny, or it can hold up with integrity. At the workshop, Ms. Lawless mentioned that she likes to change recipes to cram in as many different flavors as possible, and when I saw a recipe for chai spiced apple pie online, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to add one more flavor: buttery pie crust, spiced black tea, apples, and streusel.
apple chai-der pie with streusel topping
makes one 7-inch pie (with 9-in measurements in parentheses)
one 7-inch buttery pie crust, recipe here
45 g all-purpose flour (60 g)
30 g granulated sugar (45 g)
a dash of cinnamon (a dash and a half)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
1 ounce (2 T) unsalted butter (1.5 ounce/3 T)
250 – 300 g red apples (2 large apples) (350 – 450 g)
70 g granulated sugar (105 g)
20 g all-purpose flour (30 g)
1 tsp cinnamon (1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cardamom (3/4 tsp)
1 bag black tea, cut open (1 bag)
1/4 tsp each of ground ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
50 g apple cider (75 g)
Follow the recipe to make a disc of pie crust. The night before, or the morning of, baking, transfer dough from the freezer to the fridge, and when ready to roll out, take out of the fridge and let thaw on counter for 15 – 20 minutes before rolling.
Roll out on a liberally-floured surface, turning and flipping the disc as you go.
Lay dough into pie pan and crimp the edges. This doesn’t need any pre-baking so you can chill/freeze until everything else is ready.
In a small food processor, blend together everything except the butter.
Slowly blend in the butter. If it clumps up, break clumps apart with your hands or a fork.
Chill until ready to use.
Peel, core, and chop the apples (quarter and slice, or chop however you like.)
Mix together sugar, flour, spices, salt, and loose tea in a small bowl.
Combine apples and dry mix in a large bowl, then pour in apple cider and mix.
You can either save the filling for later or fill the pie shell now. Let the filling pile up a few inches above the rim of the pan.
Dump the streusel on top of the unbaked pie.
You can freeze the whole pie assembled and unbaked.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
Bake the pie for 50 – 60 minutes until the streusel and crust are browned and the filling is visibly bubbling.
Let cool and enjoy!
Happy Food, y’all!
I mentioned before that I’d be coming out with a few pie recipes this season and I finally got one I feel confident publishing.
There was a time years ago, when I was in college, when I tried to learn how to make pie and used pecan pie as the test. I always seemed to get only one thing right, and it was always a different thing, but I could never get the whole thing to come together. Either I’d substitute thing recklessly and the filling would turn out funky, or the crust would burn, or the crust would hardly bake at all. Those are essentially the three aspects of a pie that you have to nail: the filling cooks and holds up, the edges of the crust don’t burn, and the bottom actually bakes completely.
Back then, I thought all hope was lost. I held off on pies for at least a few years and as soon as I moved home this past summer, I hit the ground running with dough all over my hands. You can see the first fruits of my efforts here (buttery pie crust recipe.) I wanted to practice different types of fillings and really get the measurements right before publishing any more, so after at least half a dozen pecan pies (and pumpkin pies, and chocolate tarts, and apple pies), here’s the boozy and succulent pecan pie.
I also had an epiphany recently. In order to save my family from carb-excess, I’d been using small 4.5-inch tart pans to test recipes, then calculating measurements for larger tarts based on those attempts. I figured since 4.5 is half of 9, then one 9-inch tart recipe must make two 4.5-inch tarts, right?
Wrong. While testing pecan pie recipes, I made two half recipes, thinking I could do two 4.5-inch tarts, and wound up with enough for four tarts. Whaaaat? In middle and high school, I was two years advanced in math, and apparently I had forgotten every thing in college: if you have two squares, one is 6 inches on each side and the other is 3 inches, then how many of the smaller squares fit into the larger?
Four. Because the area of a 6-inch square is 9 inches and the area of a 3-inch square is 2.25 inches.
Therefore, one 9-inch tart recipes makes four 4.5-inch tarts (and, coincidentally, two 6-inch tarts.)
I prefer to make medium (7-inch) pies, to save money and ingredients and because I like to test a lot of recipes. I figure more numerous pies, all smaller, means more variety and less guilt (I mean other people’s guilt…I have none of my own.)
boozy dark rum pecan pie
makes one 7-inch tart (with 9-inch measurements in parentheses.)
3 Tbsp butter (4 1/2 Tbsp)
90 g maple syrup (135 g)
135 g brown sugar (200 g)
1 Tbsp dark rum (4 1/2 tsp)
2 eggs (3 eggs)
hefty pinch of salt (a heftier pinch)
1 Tbsp cornstarch (4 1/2 tsp)
75 g pecans (114 g)
Roll out your chilled pie crust so that it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pan. Transfer dough to pan, fold edges under and crimp, and prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, or in the freezer overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
make the filling
In a pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
When melted, stir in maple syrup, rum, and sugar, and mix fully.
Remove from the stove and let cool before adding the eggs.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the cornstarch and salt, and fold in the pecans.
Fill the unbaked pie shell with the pecan filling and bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the edges are starting to brown and the filling is bubbling up.
The filling will deflate when the pie cools.
Serve with a side of shots of dark rum but try not to drink them before you eat the pie like I did.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
For a long time, pies and tarts have been the bane of my existence. Either the dough fell apart in my hands, the crust burned in the oven, or, god forbid I cover it with tin foil, the pie would be under-baked and liquid-y. My experience with pie has been…frustrating.
But I promised myself I would get into it once moving home, and that I wouldn’t stop until I could make a decent pie. I nearly mastered macarons, so I should be able to do this, right?
I picked out a recipe from a trusted book, Mom’s Big Book of Baking, watched YouTube videos until my eye bled out, and made a few different batches of dough. Fortunately, you can (and should) freeze the dough for up to a month, so I can spend an hour making 2-3 different recipes (enough for 6 – 9 tarts), and let them rest for a few days while I recover from the trauma. Additionally, if you can manage enough dough, you can knock out two birds with one oven: you can test filling recipes with your test dough!
I made a few different versions of the “buttery pie crust,” some with extra butter, some with sugar, and used each one to try a different filling, while setting aside a handful of dough to bake without filling so I could taste the crust on its own. To be honest, all the crusts tasted unbelievable, but they don’t all hold up well as a tart. Of the four I tried (the original plus three of my own), this was the best both with and without any filling.
I’ve found that pies are one of those pastries that can stupefy even the most intrepid among us (meaning those of us who will eat butter from the box, or cover our faces in sour cream in order to get rid of zits), and as such, the most effective way to succeed is to embrace your fear of failure. It’s something I’m still learning even after seven years of kitchen mishaps.
super butter-y pie crust
makes enough for four 9-inch pies (with measurements for 7-inch pies in parentheses)
25 oz all-purpose flour (7″: 12.5 oz)
hefty pinch of salt
16 oz (2 c) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen and chopped into small pieces (7″: 8 oz)
8 oz ice water(7″: 4 oz)
In a food processor, mix flour and salt. Dump in diced butter and pulse (2 seconds, stop, 2 seconds, stop, etc.) until it’s well-chopped (the pieces are about the size of a pea or smaller.)
Add water about an ounce or two at a time and pulse quickly until the dough just starts to clump together.
Dump it all out onto the counter and squeeze it together into a large mound. Divide the mound into four and form each part into a smaller mound, squeezing and turning. Don’t knead the dough.
Form four balls and wrap each in cling wrap, then squeeze and rotate each ball until it forms a disc one inch thick. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.
Frozen dough will keep for at least 6 months. Refrigerated dough will only keep for about 48 hours before it becomes discolored and soggy.
When ready to bake:
If the dough is frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator all day or overnight (up to two days.)
On the day you want to bake it, put the dough, wrapped, out on the counter for 15 minutes to soften.
Flour a work surface, unwrap the dough, and roll it out until it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pie pan. Alternately, sandwich the dough between two sheets of clingwrap and roll it out.
Put the dough into the pan and chill for at least half an hour, or freeze for later.
Pie crust can be baked directly from the freezer or the fridge.
Some pies can be blind baked (pecan pie), some don’t need to be (apple pie,) and some are assembled after baking (chocolate pie.)
If you make one recipe, you’ll have enough tart dough for a Thanksgiving dinner or for a month of pies!
Categories: pies and tarts