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.


Allison said...

Hello, thanks for the lovely posts and pictures! I wanted to ask: Why do you use butter AND vegetable shortening? I hardly have shortening on hand and I wonder if it would turn out the same with all butter. Thank you!

GooseBreeder said...

Very delicious indeed! we love pies too,some eat them for breakfast on the run!

Solorn said...

Could you please please tell me the weight of a 'stick' of butter? In Britain we don't get it by the stick, we buy it by the block or tub. Cup measures are no problem but sticks confuzzle us:)

AmethystDragon said...

You use vegetable shortening as well as butter to give a shorter pastry - this means you get a crispier flakier pastry - Traditionally its made with Lard - which is what vegetable shortening is simulating

You can make it with all butter but it will be richer and not as flaky

AmethystDragon said...

For those in the UK - The standard way of making short-crust pastry that I've always used for pies is a basic combinations of

4oz (100g) Plain Flour
1oz (25g) Butter
1oz (25g) Veg Shortening (White Flora) or Lard
pinch salt for savoury or 1/2 teaspoon sugar for sweet pastries
30-45ml/2-3 tbsp cold water

You can leave out the salt & sugar - if you want - I very rarely add them

For a richer - all butter shortcrust pastry

125g/4oz plain flour
pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter, cubed
30-45ml/2-3 tbsp cold water

Hope that helps

Tree Hugging Mama said...

Autumn fruit pie. The picture had me at the Blueberries, and then I saw the rest of the ingredients and I was sold. Sold I tell you.

Jackie @ Lilolu said...

These pies look so yummy. I really needed some new pie recipes. Thanks!

Simple in France said...

Thanks for sharing! your pies are beautiful. I'm enjoying time home with family right now in the States. I came for Thanksgiving, which is something I really miss when I'm in France. I'm in charge of the pies here--I use apples from my parents' tree. But I've never been really happy about my pie crust technique. . . can't wait to give yours a try.

PS--this post and the others on your website and so inspiring. Your photography is amazing!

Lauren S said...

For us, a stick of butter is 1/2 cup or 1/4 lb. The package says 1 lb, 454 g, so I guess 1/4 of that is 113.5 g or so.

Thomas said...

Hi Allison, butter and shortening provide two separate things to a crust. Butter gives the crust the flavor while the shortening makes the crust flaky. By using both, you end up with a crust that is both flaky and tender, sweet and full-flavored. Hope that helps!

Thomas said...

Solorn, sorry, sometimes I forget that this blog reaches an international audiance. A stick measures 1/2 cup. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

Regan Family Farm said...

What beautiful crust!

Allison said...

Thanks so much to everyone for explaining the function of shortening!