Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Grandmothers' Pie

For any of you writer/editor/agent types who might pop in to read this, no I did not misplace the possessive. You see, both of my grandmothers were excellent pie bakers. And at this point, I don't really remember what parts of my own technique I learned from which grandmother, so this recipe really belongs to both of them.
Step 1
These are all the ingredients you will need for pie crust. If you're new to pie baking, buy Crisco. It's better and it's more forgiving. This recipe makes one nine or ten inch double-crust pie.
Step 2
Add two cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt. Mix well. Then heap a 1/3 cup measure with shortening. Don't ask me why it's necessary to do this instead of measuring 1/2 cup. Nothing else works, so this is how I do it. Add two heaping 1/3 cups.
Step 3
Cut the shortening into the flour until it is completely mixed in, no little white blobs still floating around. What you end up with will be almost like dough if you've added enough shortening.
Step 4.
Add 7 tablespoons of the coldest water you can get out of your tap. Mix only until the dough balls up and there are no really slimy, wet parts left. Overmixing at this point is the most common pie-making mistake.
Step 5.
The dough will be very soft, maybe even sticky. Divide it in half. Dump a big handful of flour on whatever surface you'll be using to roll it out. Pat one half of the dough into a smooth ball with your hands, but be careful not to knead it. Set it in the middle of the floured surface and flatten it into an even round disc.
Step 5.
Turn the disc over to coat it with flour on both sides. Roll out gently, sprinkling with more flour if it sticks to your rolling pin. Pie baking is never successful unless it results in flour scattered all over the kitchen and most of my clothes.
Okay, I've got two step fives, no step six, and I'm sick of trying to keep track. From here on out, we'll just skip the step numbers. Next, roll the dough around your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan without tearing. Set the pin on the edge of the pie pan and roll the dough out across the top.
Pick up the edge and ease the crust into the bottom of the pie. Try to avoid stretching it as much as possible. Filling it is up to you. I was barely ambitious enough today to teach you how to make the crust. Just make sure you put in lots of whatever it is. Nothing worse than a skimpy pie. Apples should be heaped at least a couple inches above the rim of the pie pan. Once the pie is filled, repeat the rolling out process with the second half of the dough and put it on the top of the pie. There should be plenty of excess around the edges. Pinch off all but about two inches all the way around. Roll the rest into a rim. Pinch pretty designs into it with your fingers if you're in Martha Stewart mode. Poke half a dozen holes in the top with a knife to allow steam to vent. My sister says its family tradition to make a tree design. I guess I missed that memo, 'cuz I just sort of poke 'em any which way.
Bake the pie at somewhere between 325 and 350 degrees for at least an hour. With fruit pies, assume they're done when the filling bubbles over and makes a huge mess in your oven. Sometimes I remember to plan in advance and put aluminum foil under the pie to catch the mess. Mostly my oven looks like nuclear waste depository. This is also an excellent way to test your smoke detector. Now, for the most important part, or at least I thought so when I was a kid and under my grandmothers' feet when they were baking. Take the extra dough you trimmed off, pat it into a ball, and roll it out. Put it in a pan. Sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon. Bake until just brown around the edges. Try not to eat it until it's cool, or you'll burn your tongue, which is why I'm sucking on this ice cube. My dad's mother called this a pie cracker.
After an hour to an hour and a half (turns out altitude does make a difference, I have to bake the darn things 30 minutes longer since we moved to this mountainside) you should have something that looks like this:
If you don't like your crust that brown, cut strips of tin foil and wrap them around just the outside rim for the first half of the baking.
Now, toss baking soda on that pool of flaming filling in the bottom of the oven, open the windows to chase out the smoke...and enjoy.


Julie Weathers said...

*laughs* Love it. Especially the flaming filling. So glad you shared.

Robin Wendell said...

Thanks Kari Lynn, For the great photo pie making tutorial. The routine looks pretty much like my moms,(the amounts were helpful), except she put her flour on a cutting board and did the mixing with two knives and then rolled it out, sticky-bits and all. I seem to recall she would then take a big spatula and fling the dough into the pan, crimping bits together if it broke. Same with the top and then finished with a fork smushed edge. She did not make pretty pies but the crust just melted in your mouth. Cherry and apple were my favorite.

The leftover dough I remember very well. When I was little I would get to make balls and squish them with a glass bottom, then the sugar and cinnamon...Yum,Yum!!

The really tragic thing is tomorrow is the first day of my 'OMG it is almost swim-suit season' diet that happens every year from the last week of April through May. Now all I will think about for the next 5 weeks is the photo of flaky crust and warm fruit oozing around the edge of your pie. I guess you know what I will be doing June 1st!

PS- I once had to throw a medium toaster oven into a wading pool because of a run-over meltdown- Yes I unplugged it -- and No, there where no kids in it at the time of the debacle. Surprisingly, it is quite challenging to run through a house with a flaming toaster oven but like most things in life, motivation is all. Thank goodness the back door was open. Looking back, I think the sand box would have been a better choice than the pool -- Do you think our friend Martha S. has some swell tips for things you can make out of a half melted Kiddy pool:-)

Anonymous said...

Grandma Icenoggle use to get upset if she saw a knife mark in her pie pan and she would say "you don't need a sharp knife to cut my pies".

Linda G. said...

It's amazing how fascinated I am reading about processes I know I will never in a million years attempt myself. Ah, the power of the written word.