Americans love pies. Whether made with fruit, nuts, or cream, if it has a flaky crust, a lattice top or a crumb crust, pies are considered the all-time favorite dessert. A pie with meat can even be a main course meal.
Our early settlers made pies for almost every meal. When fruits were in short supply, they used corn, nuts, pumpkins and various squashes. Whatever was handy ended up in between a pie crust. That tradition has continued with modern-day America, as we specialize in pies for every holiday meal.
Pie crusts are a sensitive subject for some, and maybe today I can help dispel the myth for making an even imperfect pie crust acceptable. There are some very good already-made pie crusts available in the dairy department of every grocery store, so if you choose not to make your own, you are off the crust hook.
So, if you are making your own crust, here is the way to have it come out to perfection. Flaky crusts are a mixture of flour, fat and water. The most successful combination is 1/4 cup of cold water to 1/2 cup of fat to 2 1/2 cups of flour. Add a teaspoon of salt and you have the exact ingredients for a double crust. If you want to make two pies, just double these amounts. For the fat, use either butter or shortening. If you use butter, just cut back slightly on the water as the butter has its own water content.
A trick to a perfect crust is to keep the butter and the dough cold. You want the butter pieces to remain close to intact. That way, when you are baking the pie, the butter will release little pockets of steam, which makes little pockets in the crust, which is how you get the flaky effect. So now you know the secret of flaky crust, everything must be as cold as possible for as long as possible. Also, one more important note, never use bread flour for making a pie crust. The gluten content will make for a very tough dough. Unbleached pastry flour is your best bet, however, regular all-purpose flour will work well too.
Now it’s time to roll out your dough, so the ideal thickness is 1/8 of an inch. Much thicker than that will give you a hard and doughy crust, much thinner will break apart. You are now ready to put the dough in the pie plate, pat it all in so you won’t get air pockets, and fill her up!.
Pies are considered free-lance baking, as the only thing stopping you is your imagination. You can choose what filling you want, whether to use canned or fresh fruits, butter or shortening in the crust, or no crust at all. A pie will come out just fine using canned fruit. It’s also the way to go if you are in a hurry so there is no peeling, slicing or precooking involved. If you are using canned fruit, you should make what is called a slurry. That is draining the juice into a saucepan and thickening it up with cornstarch. Then let this mixture cool and mix the fruit in the saucepan before putting it into the pie shell.
So now you have the low-down on how to get the perfect pie. It does not have to be hard making the lovely desserts, and once you get the feel of the dough, you’ll know what to do each and every time. If you’ve never made a pie, there is no reason to hesitate now. Pies are very forgiving, many sins can be covered up with a nice crust.
Today’s recipe is a very old one I’ve had for a while, for carrot pie. Sounds strange, but it is delicious, and nutritious. It comes out looking just like a pumpkin pie, and is made in a deep-dish pan. Give it a go, what have you got to lose!