Pie – and a few tips about pastry

by thebaking

I made pie on March 14.

The fact that I made pie on March 14 had a little bit to do with it being pi day. And a little bit to do with the fact that thinking about pie led to me thinking up a new apple pie recipe.

When I got into the kitchen, I started work on an apple pie with gingerbread flavour and spices.

The pie tasted amazing – and also smelled fabulous. Check it out:

Apple-gingerbread pie

The gingerbread flavour came from adding molasses to the apple filling  along with the usual sugar and spice and such.

To make the filling, I used:

-three large honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into chunks about the size of a grape. I used honeycrisp apples because I like honeycrisp apples and I just happened to have three large honeycrisp apples lying around. You could use whatever apples you like to bake with.

-2 tablespoons lemon juice

-2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

-2 tablespoons ground ginger. You could also use fresh ginger, and adjust the amount to your taste. I used quite a lot of ginger.

-1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

-1/2 teaspoon cloves

-1/4 cup flour, I used unbleached, all-purpose flour

Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl until everything looks thoroughly blended. Like this:

Apple-gingerbread pie 4

Next, transfer the ingredients to a prepared double pie crust in a pie pan and bake at 375 degrees for about half an hour to 45 minutes. Check on the pie from time to time. The pie is probably done when the crust starts to ever-so-slightly brown around the edges.

Now, about pie crust – or pie pastry, if you prefer:

You can buy pre-made pie crusts, already loaded in aluminum pie pans. You can also buy pre-made pie pastry that you roll out and transfer to a pan yourself. Or you can make your own.

If you want to make your own pastry, a good basic recipe for pie crust is:

-2/3 of a cup shortening

-1 teaspoon salt

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-3 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Those quantities are for a double pie crust – the kind with pastry on the bottom and on the top. Divide the quantities in half for a single pie crust.

Most shortening is sold in boxes that come printed with a measurement guide on one of the edges. Like this:

Apple-gingerbread pie 5

To measure quantities of shortening, line up the cutting guide with the edge of the block of shortening, score the shortening with a knife in the desired spot, and cut the shortening.

Combine the shortening, salt, and flour in a large bowl and mix, using a regular fork or a pastry cutter tool. Stop mixing when the contents of the bowl look like this:

pastry making

Next, add the cold water. Add the cold water to the bowl one tablespoon at a time, and mix it in with the other ingredients immediately. Repeat this step until the pastry becomes dough-like and starts to stick together. Sometimes, you’ll only need a bit of water, sometimes, you’ll need four or five tablespoons: it depends. Be sure to mix after each addition of water.

Form the dough into a lump – or two equal-size lumps for a double crust. Carefully roll the dough out onto a clean, floured surface using a rolling pin. You may also want to flour the rolling pin or top of the lump of dough. Keep rolling until the dough is in a large, even, piece about 1/4 of an inch thick all over. If the dough comes out too thin, or sticks to the rolling pin or the surface, or anything of the like, re-form it into a lump and try again. And try using a bit more flour.

When the pastry dough is rolled out the way you’d like it, carefully lift it from the surface with your hands or with a spatula and transfer to a pie tray. Carefully push the pastry dough against the bottom, sides, and top edge of the pie tray. Trim any excess pastry from the pie tray with a knife.

If you’re making a double pie crust, repeat the dough-rolling process with your second lump of dough. Then, transfer the rolled out piece of dough to the top of the, filled-with-pie-filling, pie tray. Pinch the edges of the bottom crust together with the edges of the top crust. You can use a knife to score or cut designs into the top crust of the pie. Kind of like I did to the apple and pecan pies in this previous post. You can also use leftover or cut-off pieces of pastry dough to make decoration for the top of the pie crust. Try rolling out leftover dough, cutting out shapes with a cookie cutter or a knife, and sticking the pieces to the top of the pie crust. You may find that the cut-outs stick better to the top of the pie with a little bit of cold tap water as glue.

If you’re making a pie – such as pudding pie – that doesn’t need to be baked, you can still use a pastry crust, but you’ll need to parbake the crust before filling. I wrote about parbaking in this previous post.

Your first few attempts at making pastry may not turn out perfect results – but I found that I got the hang of making pastry pretty fast once I started doing it more often. And it’s always easy to cover up cosmetic mistakes with a cut-out or stuck-on dough decoration.

And a final note on coring apples:

You can slice apples into quarters and cut out the pieces of the core with a knife – or you can use an apple corer tool. I got an apple corer at a housewares store years ago. Here’s a close-up of the cutting end:

Apple-gingerbread pie 3

Basic apple corer tools are inexpensive to buy and make the process of preparing apples for baking – any kind of baking – a lot faster and easier.

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