Perfect Pies

December 5, 2011

I know you are all long past thinking about Thanksgiving and all the food you ate last week, but I wanted to share with you some of my favourite holiday dessert recipes, and the most fabulous pie crust that I inherited from my friend Becca.  Thanksgiving might be over, but Christmas is coming, and I personally love to eat pie just as much in December as November (and October for that matter since I still always cook a Canadian Thanksgiving feast as well).

Last week, at the Thanksgiving meal we shared with my some of Mr. Carlee's family members (parents, brother, and sister's family), I was in charge of the desserts.  I'm a vegetarian, so I get a free pass on making the turkey, and while I was involved with making a lot of the other dishes on the table, I handled all the desserts mostly by myself.  This year I made a chocolate pecan pie, a pumpkin pie (from a fresh roasted pumpkin), an apple pie, a pumpkin cheesecake, and a few oreo truffles (I will be sharing the 'recipe' later, since these are the easiest and most addicting holiday treats).


My favourite every year is always the chocolate pecan pie served with a nice pile of fresh whipped cream.  I use this recipe from Marta Stewart (I also use her pumpkin pie and cheesecake recipes), but I just bake it in a pie plate instead of a tart pan.  I also think that it must be served chilled, because the chocolate is insanely good this way.  Oh, and do yourself a favour, and buy nice chocolate to make this.  I like Ghiradelli's 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips, but you can use whatever you like best. 

And now onto the pie crust.  My mother will die when she sees how thick my crusts are (she is a women that only likes thin pie crusts) but I really like to taste the crust if it's light, buttery, and flaky.  This recipe is all of that.  I use it for fruit pies, but it's also awesome for quiche (even with the sugar).  As an aside, isn't is funny how there are somethings that you want made just like your mother made them, and others that you do completely differently? 

Deluxe Flaky Pie Crust (via my friend Becca)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4" pieces (keep it in the freezer until you need it)

1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/3 cup plus 1TBSP ice water

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. 
  2. If using a food processor, pulse carefully until butter is in coarse pea-sized crumbles.  I personally like to use a pastry knife even though it takes longer, since I think it gives me more control over the butter pieces.  And I hate washing the food processor, so win-win.   
  3. Add shortening, and pulse several more times. 
  4. Drizzle ice cold water over the mixture and pulse until it is just barely evenly moistened.  Depending on factors like the humidity and other things, you may need slightly more or less water.  Too much water will make your crust too doughy and ultimately tough.
  5. Divide the dough in half (or thirds if you want a thinner crust), form them into disks about 6" across, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour.  If I can, I make the crust the night before I'm baking pies.  The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely in your fridge before rolling.

 A Few General Pie Crust Tips
  • For the most part, the more you work your dough, the worse it gets.  To get a nice flaky crust you want to flatten your butter pieces, not obliterate them. 
  • When I'm making quiche or baked custard pies, I like to parbake my crusts.  To minimize crust shrinkage (it's going to happen at least a little), make sure your pie crust is cold (I put mine in the fridge for about 30 minutes after rolling it out) before it goes in the oven.  
  • To keep the bottom crust from bubbling up when you are parbaking (or completely baking) a crust, I like to cover it with a piece of parchment paper and then fill the bottom with dried beans (keep the beans just for this purpose).  Another possibility is to rest another, slightly smaller, pie plate inside of your crust (with a layer of parchment paper in between).  You can also buy pie weights, but this also works well. 
  • I like to save my pie scraps (after trimming around the edge of you pan) and dust them with white sugar and cinammon.  Bake them in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes for a tasty snack.
  • To get a nice looking top, you can brush with a combination of cream, egg, milk, and sprinkle with sugar.  
  • If you find your pie top is getting too brown, loosely tent the whole pie with a big piece of foil.  If you are only having problems with the edges, cover the edges with strips of foil.
  • When you are transferring your crust from your rolling surface to your pan, I like to fold my crust in quarters, before plopping it on.  This helps me get the center of the crust in the middle of the pan.  If you are cutting symmetrical designs into the top crust, it's also really easy to do when it's folded this way.  

Any pie tips you would like to share?  Are you thin or thick pie crust lovers?  And what is your favourite pie?  As much as I love the previously mentioned chocolate pecan,  I would take a fresh peach pie over it any day.   


Emily said...

That chocolate pecan pie is THE BEST. I took it to a party recently, and made sure I ate two pieces. I wasn't going to waste calories on anything else.

Katie and Van said...

I need to give that one a try. We made a chocolate pecan pie too! It was yummy. I LOVE making pies--I made 5 for Thanksgiving for 8 people, and our neighbor brought one too. I think I need to spread out my pie making a little like you. We had 3 pumpkin chiffon (which I far prefer to baked pumpkin), a modern mincemeat (apples, spices, cider, lemon, orange--delicious), and a chocolate pecan. I really want to try that pie crust recipe. I like my crust in between thick and thin :)

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