Category Archives: Basic Fruit Pies

How to Make a Pie

A double-crust fruit pie to be precise. For double-crust pies are made by a slightly different method than open-faced pies. Unlike open-faced pies, double-crust pie crusts are not “blind”-baked (i.e. partially baked without the filling inside). Thus extra measures have to be taken to prevent the bottom crust from becoming soggy. The filling is treated a bit differently vis-à-vis an open-faced pie, and it’s baked lower in the oven at a higher temperature.

The thing that prevents so many talented bakers and cooks from attempting homemade pie is fear of crust. Rolling crust, moving crust, shaping crust…it terrifies people. This comes, I believe, from too many bad experiences working with ultra-dry dough that crumbles at the merest touch. What aspiring pie makers need to know is that a dough need not be that dry. Recipe writers, though they try, have no way of knowing if, say, the flour you’re working with is especially dry (oh yes my friends, sacks of flour can have different moisture contents). Thus you should use your own judgment when making your dough. If it seems just horribly crumbly after you knead it, add another teaspoon or two of water. The idea is to give it just enough to keep it together. Then, after a nice long rest in the fridge, the flour granules should be hydrated enough that it rolls out smoothly.

Another misconception most pie bakers have is that a dough must be rock-hard, right out of the fridge when you start to roll it. Nonsense. A few minutes at room temperature or a little patting between the palms to loosen it up is fine. You just don’t want it warm and greasy.

I realize of course that these reassurances still won’t be enough for a lot of folks, especially when it comes to picking the dough up and shaping the crust (they fear they need one of those silly giant pie spatulas). Which is why I decided to demonstrate crust rolling using a fool-proof method: plastic wrap. Seeing how easy this is, you’ll probably decide you don’t need to the reassurance of wrap the next time, but we all need a little security blanket every so often, yes?

So then, start by laying down two sheets of overlapped plastic wrap on your cutting board like so:

Flour it well, then put down your ball of dough (half the original ball…remember this is a two-crust pie), then dust again with flour. You’ll want to use a bit more than I’m showing here to prevent sticking…but I wanted you to be able to see what I was doing.

Now, apply another double-wide, overlapped sheet of wrap on top, and roll it a little to get warmed up:

Here’s another point of anxiety that’s common: how can I be sure to roll a perfectly round crust? Simple. Roll it a little in one direction…

Then turn the crust (or the board), and roll it in the other direction.

Getting some tears? No problem. Just moisten your thumb a little bit…

…and stick’em back together.

Is the crust sticking to the wrap? Then just peel back the plastic and add more flour. Four or five minutes later you should have a nice round piece of dough. Now just peel off the top layer of plastic…

…and flip the sucker onto the pie plate.

Trim off the excess dough and you should have something like this:

Put a sheet of plastic wrap over it and put it in the fridge while you roll out the other piece for the top crust. Once that’s done put the top crust, plastic and all, into the fridge as well. Let both pieces rest for an hour.

In the meantime prepare your filling. In this case my filling is peach. I combined six cups of sliced peaches with four ounces of sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Then I let the mixture sit in a colander (over a bowl) for half an hour, and collected the juice that it released (which was about half a cup). The juice I reduced down to a syrup in a small saucepan (about five minutes at the boil). Sound like a lot of extra trouble? Eh, maybe it’s a little extra trouble, but it keeps the bottom crust from getting sodden and retains a lot of great fruit flavor. Do it. You’ll thank Rose Levy Berenbaum for it later.

When you’re ready to fill the pie, sprinkle on four teaspoons of corn starch and a half teaspoon of almond extract (trust me, it’s a great addition), and stir until you can’t seen the corn starch anymore. Then, pour it into the shell.

Next, cut out your top crust. I use a pie crust shield as a template. Like so:

Moisten your index finger and wet the edge of the bottom crust (this will act like an adhesive, sealing the two crusts together). The just flop on the top crust:

Here you have two options. You can jump straight in to crimping, or you can tuck the excess top crust down under the edge of the bottom crust first. The first method is easier (maybe better for a first-timer), the second yields a more attractive border. Either way, give the crust a good, firm squeeze to seal it:

I like a good ol’ rustic fork crimping, but do whatever you wish.

Cut a few steam vents in the top and you’re done.

Put the pie in the fridge for another hour. Yes, I said another hour, superior pie takes time! This will further relax any gluten and keep the pie from shrinking up in the oven. Set your hot box to 425 and put a pizza stone directly on the floor of the oven.

Once the oven is heated and the pie relaxed, put on your pie crust shield (if you like) and set the pie down right on the stone. The idea here is to quickly cook the bottom crust so it won’t absorb any excess moisture. Bake it for 30 minutes, then move the pie to a lower rack for a further 10-20 minutes to finish the bake. The pie is done when the crust is golden and you can see thick bubbles of filling bubbling up through the steam vents.

Filed under:  Basic Fruit Pies, Pastry, Pie | 14 Comments