July 31, 2006 1:06 AM | By Adam Roberts | 18 Comments

As Easy As [Pie]

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Bad pie makers, have I got a tip for you. Buy this month's Gourmet magazine and follow their technique for making the perfect pie crust. I am a terrible pie maker and I worked up the courage to follow their recipe after too many bad experiences and guess what? This crust was killer. Without any bidding, people who tried this pie commented: "Wow, the crust is awesome. It's so flaky and buttery and great."

Here's a quick visual tour of what you do. You put flour, salt, shortening and butter into a bowl:

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You work it together with the tips of your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Once it does you add 5 Tbs of water (if you're making a double crust) and squeeze a bit in your hand. If it stays together then there's enough water, if it falls apart you need more. This is what it looked like when it had enough water:

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Then there's the cool novel part: you dump the dough out on to a board and you separate it into eight pieces. Then you take each piece with the heel of your hand and you shmush it out so you distribute the fat. You press it forward twice and then you scrape it all together and make a big ball. Then you divide that in half, flatten each half into a disc, wrap and refrigerate. Then you see to your pie filling.

On this particular day (it being Thursday) I had blueberries:

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I didn't have the other components that the pie recipe called for (tapioca, lemon juice) but I didn't care. Like Eric Cartman, I wanted some pah. So I mixed the blueberries with 1 1/2 cups brown sugar and let them rest and then when I rolled out the pie dough, I placed the pie dough in the glass pie plate and added the blueberries.

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Mmm, doesn't that look so homey, homey?

Then I rolled out the other piece so badly that the pie top rejected the notion of pi, refusing to be a circle and deciding to become a clumpy, blumpy mess. I decided to spare you the horror of what it looked like when I plopped it on top. But no matter!

Into the oven it went:

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And out it came, a perfect pie:

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So the moral of the story is, go buy yourself a Gourmet magazine, read their pie recipe, get yourself some fruit and even if you mess up when you roll it out still bake it anyway and you will be glad. These are the profound directives of a formerly bad pie maker.

18 Comments

AG - The pie looks delicious!
I don't know what Julie's link has to do w/ pie, but, in looking at the name of the site in the link, I'm not going to try and find out.....

Do you mean July or August's Gourmet, Adam? Since I'm away from North America right now I was wondering if I had to get someone at home to pick me up a copy of August's. I only ask since August's have surely been out for a while.

rolling out pastry or pie dough in my tiny kitchen is not the best thing in the world, but yet i do it with such ambition! lol!! looks delicious. blueberry is my favorite.

I use the recipe from Christopher Kimball's The Cook's Bible (he's the editor of Cook's Illustrated). It also uses a combination of butter and shortening so is flaky and flavorful. It's pretty easy to work with, too.

Oh. Yum. I think perhaps you are the devil because now I must have pie.

Thanks for sharing!

It sounds simliar to a technique for pie crust I learned from Shirley Corriher's book "Cookwise": you smush the fat into the flour with the heel of your hand and/or a scraper until the mixture looks like flaking paint. Then you add your ice cold water, gather into a ball, roll, fill and bake. It made the best, flakiest crust I ever tried.

I also chill my dough frequently when I work with it.

Don't rely on my "recipe" above. Get a copy of the book and try it. (Don't bother with the filling recipe, though...too sweet for my taste.)

Mmmm....I can SEE how great that crust tastes. For real. Now I want me some pah! I am hopeless with the crusts as well. Will try the Gourmet version 'cause your crust is a must!

Ooo - looks yummy. Very yummy.

Have you seen the Good Eats episode called "I Pie"? Brown's technique of rolling out pie dough while it's in a plastic bag is way cool. That, and forming the crust over the *outside* of one pie plate then dumping it into the inside of another - the man's a genius!

The tapioca is used to thicken the filling so the pie stays together better and doesn't leak all over during baking. You could substitute flour or cornstarch, in small amounts. I usually use less binder than is called for in recipes because I think a looser texture texture is more "home baked."

If the top crust doesn't roll out nicely, you can always cut it into strips for a lattice crust. A lattice crust impresses the guests and hide mistakes; it's a beautiful thing.

I can't decide which is my favorite, blueberry pie or peach pie. Maybe I should make both and do a comparison tasting. Yum.

My lovely wife doesn't like fruit pies, but I LOVE them. To keep everyone happy and full I don't make fruit pie very often, so reading your post was a mouth-watering experience. I'll try your tips for crust with pecan, or chocolate cream or something.

Congrats on your lovely pie! I have been snipping and gathering every pie crust recipe and commentary I can find in preparation for a pie baking extravaganza. I've started with tarts which are somehow less intimidating. I haven't seen Gourmet yet, so thanks for the tip.

How dare you cite Gourmet Magazine when you have yet to tell us about your lunch with Ruth Reichl!??!

Please give us all of the details soon!!!!

I have that mag too and was just admiring the pretty pie pics this weekend. I'm planning to make it (or a variation) for guests this coming week. Your pie looks very pretty.

Two other secrets you might want to give a whirl next time you make a blueberry pie are:
1) Try adding icey cold orange juice (not from concentrate) to the pie crust instead of water. The acid does something nice.
2) Try adding a little lemon zest in with the blueberries - they cut the sweetness and add this other nice layer of flavor.

It is definitely the August issue. I have also made my very first crust this week, based on that article! Being in the South, I went for peach pie instead of blueberry :-)

Pictures and story are here:
http://www.kit-is.com/kitchen/archives/2006/08/01_pie_crust.php

For Nerissa, gourmet is viewable on the internet:
http://magazinedirectory.com/Gourmet.
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Question: why are you rolling out your pie dough on a bread board when you have a nice cool granite counter?

I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. I've read a million recipes regarding pie crusts, but this was the first one that actually seemed helpful to me. Between the photos and the commentary, maybe I can actually do this!

MAN that looks awesome!! Now *I* want some pah too!! I may have to make a pah run to Publix in a minute, you evil demon! ~Monica Ricci

WHAT A MESS! That pie looks like it exploded!

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