I really love your peaches (pie tips to win you the blue ribbon)
Every once in awhile I become obsessed with making a certain dish; cooking or baking it over and over again until I get it right. Most recently it's been all pie all the time and I have given away no less then a dozen this summer. It is fruit season after all.
I used to shy away from pie and anything involving pastry. I just couldn’t get it flaky and I knew there was some kind of trick I was missing. I tried everything from a splash of orange juice to going all butter and then declared that I hate baking.
But even more then cooking, baking is about practise. And once you understand the basic science behind it, many of recipes are really quite simple.
For crust, just use Julia Child’s recipe. Seriously, forget everything else. Follow it to the letter and it will be perfect every single time. But, to get it right you must chill all ingredients including your utensils. I measure everything out in separate bowls, then put all of them in the freezer. I also chill the bowl of the food processor.
Most pie crust recipes, including this one, are for traditional size pies. But many pie plates these days are the deep dish variety so keep that in mind when making the dough. For a deep dish pie I double the pie crust recipe. (Which leaves me with some left over. But better then not having enough.)
If you’re doing a lattice top, which I think looks nicer because then you can see the filling, weave the strips on parchment paper, press down, then invert on top of pie. This saves you from struggling with individual strips sticking to the counter as the dough warms up.
I’ve read that cream cheese pastry is more forgiving because it stands up to more poking and prodding and therefore a good option for beginners. But if you just remember that a key to good pastry is not working it too much I’m not sure you need to bother starting with cream cheese pastry. Stop touching it!
An all shortening crust will be the flakiest but have the least amount of flavour. All butter is delicious but not as flaky. The Julia Child recipe uses mostly butter and some shortening, which is the perfect balance. I also throw in a little extra salt for more flavour.
With your filling, ease up on the sugar. A few strawberry-rhubarbs into my Project Pie I was down to half a cup of granulated sugar. If your fruit is perfectly ripe – and why would you bake a pie if it isn’t – then you really don’t need much sugar.
Many pie recipes call for cornstarch as a thickener, but I recently discovered Minit Tapioca, which does a better job and has no flavour. If you’re substituting cornstarch with it, be sure to use a little less and grind it into powder form.
Letting your pie come to room temperature before serving it will also help it thicken. Same goes if you serve it straight from the fridge.
My next challenge is to learn how to make that edge a little more consistent. At the moment, mine is the perfectly rustic. Which is to say, amateur. One thing at a time.
Pass the vanilla ice cream!