Tools and Tips for Perfect Pies

It’s November.  The apples are abundant, a welcome nip is in the air, and Thanksgiving just around the corner.  It’s time to get serious about pie.

In New England, pies seems especially suited to the fall harvest,  when our bodies begin to crave something a little heavier, a little more substantial as the cooler weather moves in.  But who am I kidding?  My body is an all-season pie craver. 

Here I’ve included my favorite tools and tips for making perfect pies year-round. Find my recipe for perfect pie crust here.

 

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TOOLS

1/ French roller

I prefer the lightness and ease of use of this roller.  The tapered ends make it feel friendlier to my hands, and the lighter weight prevents the dough from becoming tough.

2/ Pastry cloth

I couldn’t live without this particular pastry cloth, which I picked up at New Preston Kitchen Goods here in northwest Connecticut.  The fabric requires less flour than other cloths I’ve used, and it washes up easily.  I don’t use the pastry cloth included for the roller because they are designed for the traditional rollers.

3/ Fancy trimmer

I prefer lattice crusts for most fruit pies because they show off the fruit nicely, and are fun to make. I couldn’t resist this when I saw it in a magazine several years ago. It has three different discs that create patterns along your lattice crust.  Not necessary, but hey, presentation is everything, right?  Well, almost everything....

You can purchase something very similar here, along with some other cool Talisman Design pie tools.

4/ Crust Dust

Thank you, Gesine Prada-Bullock, for introducing me to Crust Dust.  Very easy: mix equal parts flour and sugar, keep it in a jar, and sprinkle the bottom crust with it before you fill it with fruit.  Helps the bottom crust from getting soggy.  (See the egg white prep in the tips section, too, for preventing soggy bottoms.)

5/ Tan Don’t Burn edge cover

Anyone else remember that Coppertone ad?

Burnt pie crust edges took me the longest to master, until I learned three tricks:

·         Buy one of these covers (here) and use it.

·         As you prepare the edge, tuck under extra crust so you have a thicker edge

·         Refrigerate (some say freeze) your pie dough as you’re preparing your filling.

 

6/ Pastry blender

But not for actually blending the pie dough.  My all-butter recipe is blended in the food processor, although doing it by hand is certainly an option.  I use the pastry blender if the rolled-out pie crust is sticking a bit to the pastry cloth.  I ease the pastry blender under the pie crust to unstick the bit that is still clinging to the cloth.


TIPS

1/ Avoid burning crust edges

Tuck the edges under so it’s thicker, and doesn't burn so easily.  Once the pie is  rolled out, refrigerate it while you’re preparing the filling.  Use a pie shield, like the Tan Don't Burn one mentioned above, or cover the edges with a foil wrap.

2/ Finishing tips

Whisk an egg white with about a teaspoon of water, then brush it on the bottom and sides of the crust.  You will not use all the egg white. Allow to dry, then sprinkle on the crust dust.

 Dot the pie with butter bits before the top goes on

Brush the top crust with light cream (or egg wash) and sprinkle with turbinado (raw) sugar for a little extra sparkle

3/ Use plenty of fruit

Fruit fillings reduce as they bake.  Many recipes call for four cups of fruit, but I like a pie with a substantial filling.  In addition, some pie plates are deeper than others, hence the name “deep-dish.”  I use no less than six cups of fruit and sometimes as many as eight for a deep-dish. 

4/ And just enough sugar

I like a pie where I taste the fruit.  If the pie is overwhelmingly sweet, it’s not as delicious to me.  Taste your fruit filling as you make it, and adjust sugar as needed.  If the pie isn’t as sweet as you like once it's out of the oven, then sweeten your whipped cream a little more, or serve with ice cream. 

5/  Cook long enough

Make sure a fruit pie is bubbling in the center before removing from the oven.

Happy pie making!