In the debate, you know the senseless one about cake vs. pie, I’m declaring upfront that for me, the pies have it.
I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I’ll hazard I turned against cake by the fifteenth children’s birthday party. You take your kid to a party—you’re new at this game—and lo! There it is, the ubiquitous supermarket cake with….God knows what’s in it. Sometimes it’s a cake from a bakery better than Stop and Shop’s, but there are undeniable neon colors on top of that cake. Go ahead. Call me a cake snob. But those fluffy, flannely cakes weren’t fooling me. Their insidious presence has spoiled the whole idea of cake, not to mention the reality of getting hold of a decent slice on occasion. Before I knew it, those cakes had shoved me in the direction of pie.
Look, I’ll be honest. My friends don’t bake. Hell, my friends don’t even cook. The idea of baking a child’s birthday cake would make some of them laugh out loud. I was repeatedly apologizing for my homemade cakes. Like my son was a spoiled little prince because his mother had nothing better to do all day than make him a birthday cake. (I ate bonbons, too.) So, maybe I was a little SENSITIVE about being a stay-at-home mom. And as everybody knows, stay-at-home moms have nothing much to do. Except make birthday cakes every so often.
Empowerment through pie.
Now listen up, if you can make a pie, I mean if you can make a really freaking good pie, you will be queen (or king) of the world. Who knows how to do this anymore?
Most people are afraid of piecrust. Well, not the crust, but making it. I assert that this is an irrational fear. It is like my fear of ending up as a bag lady, or some other ridiculous worst-case scenario in the future (I missed my calling; I should have written that book.)
If you have an unconscious fear of making pie dough I can help. Your fear is telling you that you have no interest in making it. But I’m telling you, you do. You do want to make pie! Why? Because pie is beautiful. Pie is iconic. Pie is the American flag, summers at the beach and your grandmother all rolled into one. (Well, maybe not my grandmother, but the idea of grandmothers.)
My mother never conquered pie. I remember the swearing and the sweating. Dammit, dammit, dammit, who ever said easy as pie? This from the woman who would wash your mouth out with soap for cussing and considered geez! an irreverent expression. Apparently the domestic gene skipped a generation.
But that was then, and this is now. The age of plastic wrap. I think Mom would have mastered pie if she could have gotten her hands on some plastic wrap. It is especially convenient to use in hot weather, because you can lift it up, set it on a baking sheet and throw it in the freezer for a few minutes until it’s ready to behave. I’m not trying to show off, but after making literally thousands of pies in a restaurant, I have mastered rolling without a pie canvas or plastic wrap. In the look and cook tutorial below, I show you how to get the pie off the counter and into the pie shell by rolling about one-third of it around a rolling pin and lifting it into the pan that way.
Wait! You don’t have to go to extremes. Just buy the damn dough for starters. No one but you needs to know. Be sure to buy a good buttery one and put it in your own pie pan. Those aluminum tins are a dead giveaway. That is your first step towards pie glory. And when you cross that threshold, who knows, maybe you’ll want to make your own crust.
And when you have made your pie and are eating it, you will be queen of the world. Or king. I don’t want to leave anybody out. Empowerment through pie!
Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie
Blueberry pie has its place, but sometimes the berries can be bland. When you add tart raspberries and blackberries, now you have what I consider a killer pie combination. You will need 5 to 6 cups of berries, singly or in combination. You can use frozen (unsweetened) berries if fresh berries are not available. Don’t defrost them, just mix them with the rest of the filling ingredients and bake the pie a little longer. You may have to cover the top loosely with foil to keep the crust from burning while the filling cooks.
This is actually a cheater lattice top, since lazy bones here does not want to weave the strips, especially since the dough becomes soft quickly in hot weather. I think the effect is close enough, but that is up to you.
Pie dough for a double-crusted pie
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170 g) sugar (granulated or natural cane sugar)
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons (26g) granulated, quick-cooking tapioca
3 cups (18 ounces, 510g) blueberries
1 heaping cup (6 ounces, 170 g) raspberries
1 heaping cup (6 ounces, 170 g) blackberries
2 tablespoons (1 ounce, 28 g) unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten with 1tablespoon water
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Read the look-and-cook section of this pie tutorial if you need a refresher on rolling out the dough (even if you don’t use the dough recipe).
2. Roll out the bottom crust and fit it into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan (either one will do). Trim the edges so they are even with the outer rim of the pie pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.
3. In a large bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers. The lemon oil will soak into the sugar to provide you with extra-zesty lemon flavor. Stir in the salt and tapioca. Add the berries and gently fold them into the sugar with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. (If you are using frozen berries, don’t defrost them; just mix them in now.)
4. Roll out the top crust and with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut it in 3/4-inch (2 cm)-wide strips for the top of the pie. You can make skinnier strips and use more of them if you prefer.
5. Take the pie shell out of the fridge and fill it with the berry mixture. Dot with butter.
6. Use a pastry brush to coat the rim of the dough with water. Lay 5 to 6 strips of dough evenly across the top of the pie. Turn the pie 45 degrees and lay 5 to 6 more strips over the first strips (see illustration below.) Trim the edges with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors. Brush more water along the rim of the pie. Lay 2 to 3 strips of dough around the rim of the pie to cover the ends of the lattice top. Crimp. Brush the edges and all the lattice strips with the beaten egg.
7. Set the pie on a baking sheet (to avoid oven disasters if the filling bubbles over.) Bake for 15 minutes. Decrease the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the filling decidedly and unequivocally bubbles in the center. Total baking time is 1 to 1 1/4 hours, longer if you have used frozen berries. Check every once in a while to make sure the crust is not getting too dark. Place a piece of foil loosely over the pie (or a strip around the edges) if the crust threatens to burn before the filling is fully cooked.
8. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a rack to cool to room temperature before cutting. If you cut it sooner, it will be runny, but it will still taste devine.
LOOK AND COOK
How to make a lattice top for a pie:
Roll out the dough into a circle that is 3 inches larger than your pie pan. It doesn't have to be perfect. Don't be afraid of using too much flour at first, you can brush it off with a dry pastry brush. Or, if you prefer, roll between sheets of plastic wrap. Slide an offset spatula (pictured) under the dough from time to time to keep it from sticking to the countertop as you roll.
Set a pie pan next to the dough. Place the rolling pin at the edge of the dough and roll about 1/3 to 1/2 of the dough around the pin. With both hands, lift the dough onto the pie pan. Unroll it.
Lift up the sides of the dough gently as you fit the dough into the pan to avoid stretching it. With a sharp knife or scissors, trim the edge of the dough so that it is even with the edge of the pan. Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.
Roll out the top crust as you did the bottom crust. If you are right-handed, set the rolling pin on the right side of the dough 3/4 inches from the edge. Place a pizza cutter or pastry cutter along the edge of the pin and roll it alongside the pin to cut the first strip. Roll the pin to the left, positioning the edge where you want to cut the next strip. Repeat rolling and cutting until the dough is cut into strips. (Reverse if you are left-handed.) Sliding the pizza cutter alongside the rolling pin is a quick and easy way to make straight and even strips.
With a pastry brush, coat the rim of the pie crust with water. Lay 5 or 6 strips evenly across the top in one direction.
Rotate the pan 45 degrees and lay more strips across the pie. Brush the rim with water again and use 2 or 3 more strips to cover the edge of the pie.
Crimp the edges and brush all the strips and the edges with beaten egg. Place the pie on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven.
You did it!
P.S. there's a pie party today. Go to "pie party" on facebook to see the event, add your recipe or find more recipes. Happy pie day!