From berries to stone fruits, the tastes of summer are all about fresh fruit. And there's no better way to show of the brilliant colour, ripeness and sweet taste of the season than in fresh baked pie.
Pies are the epitome of old fashioned homespun taste, but baking them can seem intimidating. Mastering that buttery-crispiness that's flaky but not doughy can be a challenge, and many successful professional and home bakers have their own secrets for the perfect pie. These tips can help you join their ranks.
9 tips for an amazing pie crust
- Keep your cool! Keeping all your ingredients cold helps to prevent the development of gluten in the flour. That means using butter right out of the refrigerator, chilling lard or shortening and adding only ice-cold water to your dough.
- Grate expectations. Grate cold butter into your recipe; using tiny pieces of cold butter, properly incorporated, creates little pockets of fat in the dough, which creates steam, which creates air pockets and thus contributes to overall flakiness.
- Take it easy. Pie pros tell you not to over-mix your dough. You don't want to work it in the same way as a bread dough which requires much kneading. Using small pieces of butter, as noted above, makes it easier and quicker to mix in, which creates a dough that will be less chewy.
- Yolk it up. Some bakers swear by adding an egg yolk to the mix, which is said to make the dough easier to handle and more flexible.
- Press n go! If the thought of rolling out a perfect circle, sized appropriately for your pie plate gives you kitchen nightmares, rest easy. You can use your fingers to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Just take care to make an even layer.
- Season appropriately. You want your crust to taste good all on its own; not just for it to be a bland wrapper for your pie filling, so for that reason don't skip the salt. Some bakers will also add things like grated lemon or orange rind to their crusts too for an added dimension of flavour.
- Rustic is real. If you don't feel confident with your rolling ability, or your skill level with things like a lattice top or cute crust decorations, go for what's called a galette. A galette is basically a pie without the plate, and without a complicated top. The filling is put on the flat crust, the edges are gathered up and folded over and it's baked without fuss or complications.
- Make friends with parchment. Handling dough can be as delicate as a game of Operation. Tears, rips and creases are side effects of inexperienced handling. Rolling your dough out on floured parchment can make moving a large crust much easier.
- Try vodka. Some bakers swear by replacing water with ice cold vodka. The alcohol doesn't help gluten formation, so it helps the crust stay flakier.
You have the knowledge, now bake!
Finding a good recipe for pastry takes some experimenting (and who doesn't like to taste the results of those experiments?) but this recipe, originally from Cook’s Illustrated, is amazing. It uses butter for flavour and flakiness, shortening for stability, plus it features the aforementioned vodka.
Whether you fill your pie with seasonal strawberries, crisp tart rhubarb, juicy peaches or a host of local berries, you're now ready to take on pie at home.
- Erin L