31 March 2011

Stepping out of the comfort zone....

When I inform people that I've never baked a pie I'm usually met with some form of "What?! How can that be? You have to bake a PIE!"

... well. Apparently I have to bake a pie. They're frightening though, didn't you know that? According to my sources the crust has to be perfect or else the whole. thing. is ruined. Oh, and they're really hard to make perfect. I'm excited already.

Okay, sarcasm aside. I was excited and I like challenges. I've been doing cakes a lot and last year it was cheesecakes so I may as well step it up and bake a pie. That's right, I fear no flaky crust. Bring it on.

First I need a recipe. I'll just head over to the trusty (and sometimes not so trusty) allrecipes.com and pick one out. Hmm... what has the most stars? We'll start with that one. It, of course, doesn't have a recipe for crust ("They're too hard! Buy a pre-made! Turn back now!"). I went with the classic Crisco recipe because, hey, think what you will but they've never let me down before.

After I baked it I already knew a couple of things I would change, but for the sake of telling the tale as it happened, I'll mention those at the end...
Crisco Classic Pie Crust
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup well-chilled Crisco®
4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Apple Pie
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced

*I was a little appalled to see an apple pie recipe without cinnamon. So I added some.... 

My infamous white jars... should I start labeling those? I mean, they're useful for me to have in jars but they don't really make for descriptive photos. It's written down, right?

Anyway. The crust. Dun dun duuun!
It calls for well chilled shortening and water. I put those two things in the fridge (just the amount I needed in bowls. No point in chilling a whole can of Crisco.) for an hour, maybe? I lost track of time. Sure, an hour.

Blend flour and salt in medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Cut chilled shortening into flour mixture, using a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle half the maximum recommended amount of ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and distribute evenly into flour. Add more water by the tablespoon, until dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.

Divide dough in two and shape the dough into balls, one ball slightly larger than the other. Flatten ball]s into 1/2-inch thick round disks.

Then, the Crisco website gives this great tip to make rolling easier. I like that. Wrap up that dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or up to two days. I didn't need 2 days, but I probably waited another hour. Good time to get some homework done. Multi-task!

Also, this is a great time to get those pesky apples ready to go. There's eight of them to peel and it doesn't take as long as you may think. Then chop them up!

This is when I added the cinnamon. I didn't measure anything out, just covered the apples until I deemed it good. In my kitchen, I am the great and powerful Oz... of spices.

Pull those dough slabs out of the refrigerator. Roll larger bit of dough from center outward with steady pressure on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax paper like I did) into a circle 2-inches wider than pie plate for the bottom crust. Great picture taking on my part, by the way.

Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin. Center the rolling pin over the pie plate, and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.

This terrified me, by the way. I kept thinking of the crust as this super delicate piece of pastry. Still do. However, it's was already looking pretty flaky so I took that as a good sign.

Trim edges of dough even with outer edge of pie plate. Roll out smaller ball and, if you so choose, slice it into thin strips for the lattice. Or leave it and full and wait until the end to put it on.
Now fill that bad boy up! 

Now it's time to preheat that oven, 425 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. This sounds kind of scary, but it's pretty thick and shouldn't be a problem if you go slowly.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes. I went for the whole 45, but go ahead and check it after 35. You never know.

Oh em gee. I baked a pie! Yay! While far from perfect, it looks pretty good. Let's cut into it while it's still warm! That sounds like a good idea!

Or is it....?

That looks a little too liquidy for my tastes. Apparently you should wait for the pie to cool a bit more. Lesson learned, but who doesn't like warm pie? Either way, it is delicious.

There are some things I will be changing the next time I bake this. For starters, more flour in the filling. Obviously it needs it. Also, I will be pouring the mix over the apples before the lattice. The crust will then be brushed with egg for that golden brown look. It just felt silly pouring the inside of a pie over the top. That may be just a "me" thing, but that's what I'm going to do. My lattice needs work, but not bad for a first try.

It still tastes great. I may have had two (small) slices tonight. It may have given me a tiny stomach ache but that didn't last long. I won't learn from that.

Oh, and that crust? Not too scary after all.



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