As far as summer desserts go, pie is where it’s at! I don’t know anybody who would turn down a big slice of freshly baked fruit pie, warm from the oven and topped with an over-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream. There is something about the combination of ripe fruit and a rich, flaky crust that is irresistible. Making a two crust pie can be intimidating and in this post, if you aren’t a confident pie maker, I’ll try to break it down into a few easy steps so you will give it a try. You will be so glad you did.
I have shared this recipe for pie crust several times and I want to do it again so it is handy when you want to make a pie. I have tried dozens of crust recipes over the years and I always come back to this one for its great flavor and flakiness. The first step is to combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the shortening and cut into the flour with a pastry blender until the lumps are about the size of small peas. Next mix together the egg, water and vinegar, and stir into the flour/shortening mix with a fork until the flour is moistened. Form the dough into a ball with your hands. If you want to really do it right chill the flour, shortening, and egg/vinegar/water mixture in separate bowls in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes so everything is cold when you roll out the dough. It isn’t critical in this recipe but it does help to produce an extra flaky crust.
Divide the dough in half. For the bottom crust roll out (to about 1/4″ thickness) one portion on a floured surface into a circle about 4-inches larger than your pie plate. Add flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, but try to keep it to a minimum. Sprinkle a little flour on the rolling pin. When the bottom crust is the right size gently roll it around the rolling pin and drape it over the pie plate, easing it into place. Be sure it fits the contour of the dish. Don’t stretch the dough or it will shrink when it is baking. Trim the crust with a small, sharp knife leaving 1/2-inch of dough beyond the rim of the pie dish.
Prepare the fruit. I used Gravenstein apples that I froze last summer. The new crop will be here in late August so I wanted to use them up and they are our favorite apple for pie. If you aren’t sure how much fruit to prepare use the pie dish to measure it. Before you add the bottom crust fill the dish with unsugared fruit, then place in a large bowl and add sugar and a thickener if you are using one. This is the secret to preparing just the right amount of filling. Taste the fruit for sweetness and fill the pie crust. Dot the top with butter to add a little flavor and richness to the filling. Roll out the second ball of dough into a circle (about 1/4-inch thick) about 2-inches larger than the pie dish, again carefully roll it around the rolling pin, and place it on top of the filling. Trim the top crust, leaving an extra 3/4-inch. Fold the top crust over the bottom crust around the edges of the dish so that you have a good seal to keep the juices inside the pie. Pinch the edge to make a decorative scallop. Brush the crust with heavy cream and liberally sprinkle with sugar. I love the sugary crunch of the crust and this is how you get it.
Cut decorative vents in the top crust so steam can escape while the pie is baking. See the caramely golden juices oozing out of the pie? This is the sign that the pie is done….that the fruit is cooked, the pie has thickened and the bottom crust is done. This is the test I always use to determine if a pie is properly baked. Baking time depends on the size of the pie. It can vary as much as 20 minutes but is usually around an hour, give or take a few minutes. Depending on the filling there can be lots of scrumptious juice bubbling out so put a sheet of foil on the rack below the pie so you don’t end up with a big mess in your oven.
This pie crust recipe technically makes enough dough for one 9-inch double crust pie and one single crust pie, but I seldom get the single crust pie out of it. I like to have lots of dough so I’m not spending time pasting pieces together to fit the pie dish. If there is any leftover I make a few of the pie crust cookies my mom used to make…spread a dab of soft butter on the dough and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. This is a forgiving crust and won’t get tough if you need to reroll or fiddle with the dough to get the right size or make repairs.
It’s the vinegar in this crust that makes it special — it promotes tenderness and can keep the crust from getting too brown. As with most pastries we don’t want gluten to form in a pie crust. It is the stringy, tough sheets of protein created when flour is mixed with water. This is good for bread – bad for pie crust. Gluten makes the crust tough. Acids attack protein molecules and cut them down to size, minimizing the formation of long strands of gluten. Vinegar brings water to the dough, which is essential to the creation of the crust, and is also a mighty, gluten-slaying acid. Lemon juice, buttermilk, and sour cream often show up in pastry recipes, as well, in whole or in part for the acid they bring. Acid added to a crust also inhibits browning. This is especially useful for the crust of a long-baking pie, such as pecan pie, where the crust might brown too much.
If you have questions about making fruit pie fillings this article at King Arthur Flours should answer them for you…THICKENING FRUIT PIES: NO RUNS, NO DRIPS – NO ERRORS! It explains the various kinds of thickening agents and how to use them. My favorite is KAF’s INSTANT CLEARJEL for its ease of use and consistently great results.
A homemade pie is a little bit of work but it is so worth the effort. Berry season is in full swing and peaches are just starting to appear in the market. My HOMEMADE PEACH PIE post is the second most viewed post I’ve written in my 6 years of blogging. You will find my recipe for fruit filling there. Remember, different fruits require different amounts of sugar and thickening agents depending on how juicy they are. So, roll up your sleeves and bake a pie…soon.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour or pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/3 cup shortening
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cold water (many recipes call for 5 tablespoons but in my climate 3 is just right)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine flour, salt and shortening in a large bowl. Blend with a pastry cutter until the mixture is the size of coarse meal.
- Combine the egg, cider vinegar and cold water in a small bowl and whip with a fork until combined.
- Add to the flour mixture and mix with a fork until combined. Shape with your hands into a ball and place on a floured surface. At this point you can refrigerate the dough for about an hour. The chilling produces a flakier crust. If you are pressed for time don't worry about leaving this step out.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll out the bottom crust to 3 to 4-inches larger than the pie shell. Gently fit the crust into the dish without stretching the dough. Trim with a sharp knife, leaving ½-inch overhang. Fill the crust with fruit filling and dot with butter. Roll out top crust 2-inches larger than the pie dish. Place on top of the fruit. Fold the edge of the top crust over the edge of the bottom crust to form a seal. Crimp the edge to form a seal to hold in the juices. With a sharp knife cut decorative vents in the crust so steam can escape. Brush with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
- Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Bake pie until it is golden brown and the caramely juices are beginning to bubble up through the crust. This can take anywhere from 50 minutes to 75 minutes depending on the size of the pie.