Monday, 23 November 2009

Three Pies for the Holidays

Posted by Thomas, from A Growing Tradition Blog

Pie 3
The Egyptians may have invented pie in 2000 B.C., but it wasn't until a couple hundred years ago that Americans began transforming this culinary wonder into an art form (no offense to my British friends). A lot has changed since the first pilgrims landed in the new world, but our passion for pie has remained constant, which is why to this day no American Thanksgiving feast would be complete without one (or 10). And with the holidays fast approaching, I thought I'd share three traditional fruit pie recipes that I like to make this time of year.

Pie Dough
It's true what they say, a good pie recipe starts with a great crust. Here is one that has never let me down:

Perfect Pie Crust Recipe

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2/3 stick of unsalted butter (chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
3/4 cup of vegetable shortening (chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 cup of ice water

In a large shallow bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Using a pastry cutter/fork, incorporate the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (you should still have rather large bits of butter and shortening when you're done). Slowly drizzle in the ice water and mix with a wooden spoon. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface, and fold it together using your hands. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky. Cut the dough in half and shape into balls. Wrap each in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Traditional Apple Pie Filling Recipe- (No American Thanksgiving holiday would be complete without at least one apple pie. I have tested and tweaked many apple pie filling recipes over the years and this happens to be my personal favorite.)

7 large firm apples pealed, pitted and sliced (for a more interesting pie, I use 4 Granny Smith and 3 Fugi apples)
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pie 1
Pie 2
Autumn Fruit Pie Filling Recipe (The best version of this pie is the local one. I tend to make this pie in late-August to mid-September when all of these fruits are available at our farmers markets here in New England. However, I will freeze some local peaches and wild Maine blueberries in order to make this pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

2 large peaches pealed, pitted and sliced
2 large pears pealed, cored and sliced
3 large apples pealed, cored and sliced
1 cup of blueberries or raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2/3 to 3/4 cup of sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of corn starch
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
grated zest of 1 small orange

Wild Blueberry Pie Filling Recipe (Fresh wild blueberries are available here in New England during the month of August. I tend to freeze a good amount of blueberries during this time for use throughout the holiday season.)

5 cups wild blueberries (fresh or thawed-frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Pie 4
Directions for all three filling recipes:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until the sugar and cornstarch (or flour) are thoroughly distributed. Remove the dough one at a time from the refrigerator and roll each into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lay the first crust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan and fill with the fruit mixture. Dot the top with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Beat together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of milk and brush the edges of the crust with some of this mixture. Place the second crust on top and lightly press along the edge of the pie pan to seal the two layers. Cut the edges of the crusts to within 1/2 to 1 inch of the pie pan and then fold the edge of the top crust over and under the edge of the bottom crust, pressing lightly as you do so. Cut 3 slits onto the top crust (to vent steam), brush with more egg mixture and sprinkle some sugar on top. Bake at 425 degrees F for the first 30 minutes, then lower to 350 for another 25-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the pie pierces fruit that is cooked yet still slightly firm (except for the blueberry pie). Cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

Update** For those of you who do not reside in the United States, a stick of butter measures 1/2 cup. Sorry for the confusion and happy pie making! Please see comments for more details.