We have arrived squarely in the season of pie. A period of high expectation about measuring up to whatever standard we may set for ourselves: the cleanest house, the most thoughtful gifts, the best-laid table…more, newer, better…
Pie is an emblem of all we anticipate–and also the anxiety that goes with it.
Only last month, I had my own pie moment when our local Slow Food chapter hosted a FUNdraiser. I signed up to roast the pig, make ice cream and at the last minute–when we were freaking out that we wouldn’t have enough food–I added two pies to my workload.
Sometimes pie can cause a bit of trouble regardless of your level of experience.
If you are brand-new to pie making or want to try the most user-friendly pie dough on the planet, try this vinegar pie crust recipe.
I defrosted some of our cherries and felt confident that it would all come together from there. Let me cut to the chase and report that those two cherry pies were godawful.The worst pies I have ever made–burned on the tops with tough crusts and watery filling.
At evening’s end, I took grim pleasure in dumping those pies into the compost. I hoped, at least, they would make some pig snort with joy. Afterwards, I winced with embarrassment, maybe even a touch of shame for producing such abominations.
Just two days after my pie failure, my sister in law asked me to bake a peach pie for her partner James’s birthday. Using the last of the season’s stone fruits, I filled my crusts, panicking a little bit.
What if these didn’t turn out for James’s big day, live up to expectations?
Life & Pie
Like life, pie is unpredictable, messy and always imperfect in some way. Why not celebrate that? Because I want it to be otherwise, controlled and predictable with successful results 99.99% of the time.
Today is another pie day when I’ll be making a few for a house full of friends tomorrow. I thought I’d treat myself to a cappuccino at Red Horse Coffee this morning and saw this timely quote posted on their espresso machine:
Always make new mistakes. —Esther Dyson
Just last night, as I tucked Molly into bed, she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “I make so many mistakes.”
Yes, I said quietly, “And so do I and Daddy, and your teacher and the principal and the president.” I left her to sleep with a catch in my throat. Received wisdom from my 7 year old.
Making mistakes is hard and necessary. And so, as I approach my pie making, here’s what I’ll try to remember. There is no such thing as perfect pie–or the perfect house, the perfect gift, the perfect meal, let alone the perfect life.
But tell me, what’s so wrong with darned good pie?
All-butter Pie Crust
This classic buttery pie crust recipe has a high proportion of butter, which makes it extra flaky--not to mention flavorful crust. This is an all-purpose pastry crust for making single- and double-crust pies and turnovers. For savory items, like quiche and pot pie, just eliminate the sugar.
- 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter (2 sticks) pastured
- 2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour organic
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar optional
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup ice water
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and chill in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Use your fingers or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until it is broken up into irregular pebble-sized pieces.
Trickle in the water and stir with a fork or your fingers until it comes together into a shaggy dough. Don't worry about dry crumbly bits. Just press the mass of dough in the bowl or dump it all out on the counter and collect them into a mass.
Cut the dough into 2 equal-sized pieces and pat each one into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes if using immediately. Or wrap it well and freeze it for up to one month, so you're ahead of the game come holiday time.
I often substitute up to half of the butter quantity with lard. I recommend you try it, if you can get your hands on some quality lard from a pasture-raised pig.
Whenever using lard, chill it well and then add it after you've cut the butter into the flour so that that the dough does not become crumbly.