Sunday, November 27, 2011

Degrees of Difficulty - Pie

Depending on how much creating this post has offended her sensibilities, "Degrees of Difficulty", featuring our good friend Michelle will be an ongoing feature post. We love her, and her writing. We also like it when our friends show an interest in real cooking. Albeit, a somewhat self deprecating and slightly masochistic interest. But an interest nonetheless. So here it goes. (Also, for clarification, 
Lindsay and John = The Cheesies)

I made some pie last week. One pumpkin and one apple. Like, from scratch. Maybe not remarkable to many, but for me… this was a huge step in my inchoate culinary career. Don’t get me wrong. I have MANY talents that I’ve added to my cooking repertoire including, but not limited to: chicken (baked OR pan fried!), spaghetti, cookies from the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse bag, and my personal favorite: stir-fry (international!). However, I had yet to venture further into the experimental realm and when it was announced that we would be participating in a Friendsgiving at the Cheesies… well, I knew it was time. I prepared myself all week by Googling what types of dishes are save in the oven, where to purchase said dishes, and I practiced and mastered my “unsurprised” reaction just in case the pies ended up being inedible. I woke up at the ridiculous hour of 11 am in anticipation and attempted to distract myself by watching 3 hours of American Horror Story on the sofa in my pajamas. I know, I know. 3 hours REALLY isn’t that long to watch television on a 13-inch computer screen but I didn’t realize that pies take like… 5 hours. So I frantically assembled my brand new food processor that I received as a wedding gift six months ago, gathered all the necessary ingredients, and placed all of my baking utensils in a row. Here are three items that one should own prior to making a pie that I unfortunately didn’t have: 

1. Rolling Pin. Fortunately I’m super buff so it wasn’t too difficult to flatten the dough, but it would have certainly helped to own one.
2. Oven Mitt. I don’t think I need to explain why this is necessary… or why I didn’t already have one.
3. Toothpicks for testing “doneness”. I used a fork instead but it exposed my inexperience as a baker. The pumpkin pie looked a toddler had already been gnawing on it.  
If you are a normal person, these items shouldn’t be a major problem for you. Another word of caution: the dough must be chilled and, if it’s possible, make the dough the day before otherwise you risk experiencing the same agonizing stress that I endured. I just managed to get the crust chilled enough for baking after I stuck it in the freezer for 30 minutes.  

After I pulled the pies from the oven with a bath towel, changed out of my pajamas, and wiped up my mess, my husband arrived home from work with just enough time for me to pretend like the whole thing had been pulled off effortlessly. I don’t know how many times I said “It’s so not even a big deal” that night. Our little Friendsgiving was great: the food, the company, AND the pie. At least that’s what everyone told me. I wouldn’t know. I don’t like pie.  

Pastry Dough: 

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in food processor) until incorporated.
Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork mixture, or pastry will be tough.)  
Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together with scraper and form into 2 balls, then flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Apple Pie 
Gourmet  | September 2002  

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Put a large baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and 2/3 cup sugar and gently toss with apples and lemon juice.
Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round, then fit into a 9-inch (4-cup) glass or metal pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out dough for top crust.
Roll out remaining piece of dough on lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round.
Spoon filling into shell, then cover with pastry round and trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Lightly brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle all over with remaining tablespoon sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a small sharp knife.
Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. Cool pie to warm or room temperature on a rack, 2 to 4 hours.  

                                              Pumpkin Pie
                                             Gourmet  | November 1999       
  • 15-oz can canned solid-pack pumpkin (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Special equipment: pie weights or raw rice
  Roll out dough into a 14-inch round on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate (4-cup capacity). Crimp edge decoratively and prick bottom all over. Chill 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°°F.
Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake shell until pale golden, 6 to 10 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack. Whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, spices, and salt, then pour into shell.
Bake pie in middle of oven 45 to 50 minutes, or until filling is set but center still trembles slightly. (Filling will continue to set as pie cools.) Transfer to rack and cool completely



  1. jeanmarie.Nov 27, 2011 12:49 PM
    yay! thanks for sharing the recipes. i didn't get a chance to taste the pumpkin, but the apple pie was soooooo good!
  2. NicoleDec 2, 2011 07:48 AM
    I tried the pumpkin and it was delicious Michelle!

Thanks for leaving a comment. We love to hear from you!!