Every spring I look forward to Pi Day. When I worked in the bakery, we celebrated by putting all of our mini pies on sale for $3.14, and we gave away a large pie every hour on Facebook. It was a lot of fun (for me, because I wasn’t making the pies), but I think the pie bakers found it a bit stressful. The success of the day wasn’t mine though, (even though it was my idea), it was because they made the best pies in the city.
For me, my mom taught me to make pastry when I was 18, and my dad taught me how to make it fancy. I’ve spent the past 21 years making pies of all shapes and sizes, and have taught lots of people how to overcome their hesitancy with the dough! Even in a classroom, for a local cooking school. I may have been the cake baker and decorator at the store, but believe me when I say I know my way around pie.
Where cake is a celebration, pie is comfort. Its versatility allows for something fresh and light (rhubarb or peach), or warm and earthy (spiced raisin or pumpkin). Combining seasonal ingredients with a flaky, buttery crust, is my absolute baking heaven.
This recipe is pretty simple. I do it all by hand (unless I have a show coming up), and you only need a few things to make this yourself. Pastry can be rolled out, laid in a tin pie plate and frozen for later, the scraps make great tarts, and as long as you follow the basic rules, pastry is actually very forgiving!
That’s right. I said pastry was forgiving.
Okay, lets make a pie. Apple Pie ❤.
Pastry Recipe – Double Crust Pie
Add the flour, sugar and salt to a large bowl. Cube the shortening and to the flour mixture.
Using your pastry blender*, cut the shortening into the flour until it resembles a coarse corn meal. Make a well in the center.
Add the cold water and stir with a large spoon. It’ll get tough for a bit and you’ll be tempted to use your hands. Don’t. If you use your hands, the heat will dissolve the fats and you won’t have a flaky crust. I start with a 1/2 cup and then add more by tablespoons until my dough comes together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Feel free to keep adding flour as you go, you don’t want the pastry to stick! At this point I do use my finger tips, to quickly pat the dough into a ball. Cut in half, working with one half at a time, keep the other half loosely covered.
Roll your dough out in a somewhat round shape, and about 1/8″ thick. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Common mistakes to avoid:
Once you have your dough rolled, fit it into the bottom of a 9″ pie plate. Foil, glass or porcelain, you don’t need to grease it first. Prick evenly with a fork, to stop air bubbles from forming.
Egg wash the edges. Add your pie filling, set aside. Don’t worry about all the excess dough over the edges, you’ll get that later.
(Egg wash is just a whole egg, with a tablespoon of water, in a cup and scrambled senseless with a fork. Apply it with a pastry brush. Or your fingers.).
Roll the top crust the same way. For an Apple Pie, I cut a few slits into the center for ventilation. To put my pastry onto a pie (and into the bottom), I use a simple trick with my rolling pin. Follow the pics to see exactly how it’s done, but you’re going to roll the dough gently around your rolling pin, and then unrolling the same way, back over top of the pie.
Press the edges (where you egg washed) to create a seal. Use a butter knife to gently cut the pastry from around the sides of the pie plate. Use the edge of the plate as your guide, it should slide right through the pastry. Crimp the edges with your fingers.
I bake my pies on a large tray, covered in parchment. It makes the clean up much easier! Egg wash the entire surface, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
Do you think I use too much egg wash? Nonsense.
General baking rule, is about 45 minutes at 375. It will really depend on how thick your crust is, what your recipe calls for, and how your oven bakes. For this particular pie shown, I baked it for 20 minutes at 400, then another 30 minutes at 375.
Don’t go by how brown it looks on top! Egg wash is a false positive in baking.
Lastly, You have some left over, over worked pastry, just sitting there. That stuff is perfect for tarts, or a bottom crust pie. Because you’ve worked it a bit, the fats have dissolved and the texture will be almost cookie-like. Use a muffin tin, a wide mouth mason jar ring and set yourself up some tart shells! Mine just sit in the freezer, until I need a semi-quick dessert. My top 3 tart choices are Butter tarts (because I’m Canadian), Cherry-Chocolate tarts, or as a dinner side dish – Tomato/Basil and Goat cheese tarts. So, so good.
*Earlier I wrote that you use a Pastry Blender for this step. If you don’t have one, you can use a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I’m just warning you, it’s harder to know that perfect moment of blending, that will ensure a flaky crust. Either way, it’s still going to taste better than anything you’ve ever bought at a store, so go for it!