I hear that pies are the next big dessert. I have a long history with pies – Some of it funny and some not so much. The first time I made a pie on my own, my parents were driving home from a long trip and I made a raisin pie for my father. It was one of his favorites. My mother had always made an oil pie crust so I followed her recipe carefully. I had to roll the dough out twice, but it looked fine when I left their house. Two weeks later when my father was talking about it, he said I might want to get a “job working for the road department making patches.” Rolling the crust out twice had toughened it. So for a long time I made very few pies. Then I saw on television a person talking about a very forgiving pie crust made with vinegar and eggs. You could roll the crust out repeatedly and it still would be tender. I used the recipe a couple of times and then mislaid it. I asked a neighbor if she had a copy of the pie crust with egg and vinegar and sure enough she did. I can find it in at least three of the cook books that I own, so can’t believe that this is a copywrited recipe.
My recipe says it makes five pie crusts, but I double it and divide the dough into nine flattened balls. I make it ahead, wrap the hockey puck shaped hunks of dough in saran wrap and put them in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Then when I want to make a pie, I put them in the refrigerator before I have breakfast along with what ever fruit I want to use and make the pie a couple of hours later. That way we can have the pie as dessert for dinner. I was surprised when I discovered that the ladies at my church used the same dough to make apple dumplings. They wrapped an apple with the dough and covered it with cinnamon & sugar-water before baking. (I have no measurements, other than 1 1/3 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup water and 1 Tablespoon of butter heated) I bake it for twenty minutes and check every five or ten minutes later until it looks a pretty golden shade. That works for a 9X9″ pan.
There are lots of tools that make pie making easier. A pastry blender is much easier and faster to use than two knives, for cutting shortening or butter into the flour. I have had my rolling pin for as long as I can remember, but I know that I was visiting someone who didn’t have one and used a quart jar filled with ice cubes. The rolling pin is easier. I have a pastry cutter that I use if I am making a lattice top, to cut the strips of dough fairly straight. I have a special pan that I use underneath my pies when I put them in the oven. It catches any overflow from the pie and saves on oven cleaning. It is round and has an open center. It looks sort of like a large, flat, metal donut. A much narrower metal donut fits around the outside of the top of my pies and prevents the crust from burning. It is much easier than using strips of aluminum foil.
I have two old cheese shakers that I have filled, one with sugar and one with flour. The sugar is nice on the top of the pie crust just before it goes into the oven. The flour is used when I roll out the pie. I wish that wax paper came in wider sheets, but we use what we are given. Before you put the hockey puck on a sheet of waxed paper, maybe two inches longer than it is wide, sprinkle the center generously with flour. Then put the hockey puck on top of the flour and sprinkle it generously with flour. (Mind you I said sprinkle, so you might start out with 1/8 to 1/4 cup of flour, but no more) I remember my grandmother rolling pie crust out first one direction and then another. That is what you want to do. You are trying to make a pie pan shaped crust and you want it to be bigger than your pie pan, because there is the depth of the pan too. When the dough starts to stick to the waxed paper, lift the paper and sprinkle some flour from the shaker on it and put the waxed paper back so you may continue rolling.
If you have never seen anyone move the pie crust to the pie pan this is an approximation of how you do it. It is tricky and that is why you are glad you are using this recipe to make the crust. Pull the top layer of waxed paper off the dough. Put the pie pan beside the dough. Slide the rolling pin to the center beneath the other piece of waxed paper to support the dough and lift it up. Then try to arrange the crust so that one edge sort of lines up with the pie pan. Then ease the pie crust onto the pie pan turning it over so the dough side is down. Pull the wax paper gently off the top and ease the pie into the pie pan where you want it. Prick the bottom with a fork so that it doesn’t puff up and spill all your pie. Put your filling in the pie. When you are ready to put the top crust on wet the pie crust that is in the pan just a little with cold water. It helps the two crusts to stick together. You can also use cold water to patch any holes you might end up with in the bottom crust. If you are doing a lattice crust wait until the pieces are interlaced before you wet it.
You want to have some dough that hangs over the edge of the pie pan.. Trim it off about an inch below the edge of the pie pan and then pinch the two edges together. My mother used to put the two crusts together with a fork dipped in flour making a pricked edge all around. I try to make a higher edge around using my thumb to produce a nice flute and leaving a dip to collect the extra juice. Remember to prick the top so that the air in the pie has a way to escape, or you will have a beautiful tall pie with air pockets inside. Sprinkle the top with sugar and put it on the drip pan with the ring around it to bake.
If you are doing a lattice top place one strip across the center both ways. Place two strips across the top strip going in the same direction as the bottom strip. Then fold the bottom strip back half way and lay one across the two new strips you just added. Fold that strip back the other way and place another strip parallel to the most recent strips. Continue adding strips while folding strips back to allow them to interlace, until you are satisfied that your pie is beautiful. Wet the edges of the bottom crust and then trim and flute the edges as you would a double crust pie. . I always re freeze and use any trimmings that I might have left over in my next crust.
Don’t expect your first pie to be perfect. They will get better. If you have to re roll the crust, it should be all right. While tapioca makes wonderful pie filling, sour cherry pies do not thicken reliably unless they are thickened with flour or corn starch and cooked ahead of time. Filling recipes and baking times can be found in most general cookbooks or on the tapioca box. I do not mean for this to replace them. The amounts of spices that I use are not necessarily the spices that others would like. We find that a dash of nutmeg in apple pie, makes it exceptional, but everyone’s taste is different. It is far less expensive to keep a bag of pie crust in the freezer and use them as you need them, than to buy individual pre made pie crust, whether it is in a pan or on a sheet. After a while you won’t understand why people buy “store crust” and recognize that it has a funny taste. Here are the measurements that I use for nine pie crusts
RECIPE: Put 1 ice cube into your measuring cup and fill it to ¾ cup with water. Add ½ cup egg substitute (or 2 eggs) and 2 teaspoons of white vinegar. In a large bowl cut 3 cups of shortening into 6 cups of flour mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 2 teaspoons of salt. Then add the liquid and mix with a fork. Divide into 9 sections, wrap in saran wrap and freeze.
I hope your pies come out wonderful. Don’t be intimidated. Every person who makes wonderful pie started out somewhere. Maybe they didn’t make road patches, but their first pies weren’t perfect. I would think that people would be careful about criticizing too much lest they be left out of the eating of the next pie.