My family loves pie. While our Thanksgiving table always required at least two kinds of pie (pumpkin and pecan are necessities), summer fruit pies regularly showed up after dinner, and I have very strong memories of the banana cream pie that we used to get for dessert on special occasions at Frank Fat's restaurant in Sacramento. I continue to love pie as an adult, but outside of Thanksgiving I've never been a regular pie-baker. This is largely because they are a pain: make the dough, chill, roll it out, chill, prepare filling, bake. Also, I find that making and rolling out pie dough tests my patience more than any other cooking chore. You can tell if I'm working on a pie crust because a river of profanity will flow from the kitchen. I'm terrified of overworking the dough or adding too much water, so it's always on the crumbly side. It never holds together when I roll it out, and patching the tears is nervewracking work.
But I finally found a recipe that seems to work for me: Dorie Greenspan calls for a mostly butter crust, but with a little bit of shortening to help hold everything together (you can find the recipe here). The result is a buttery, flaky crust that is relatively easy to work with. The last couple of times I've made pie I've only cursed once or twice, which is a major improvement over where I was before.
But while things are definitely better on the pie front, I just don't do it often enough to have the confidence to let me whip up a pie with no anxiety. And I think that repetition is the way to gain that confidence. So I'm going to try to make pies regularly this summer. It helps that my husband, who will provide the necessary child care during my pie-baking endeavors, is an enthusiastic supporter of this plan.
Last weekend I kicked off the "summer of pie" with a strawberry rhubarb number.
You can tell it's homemade by the "rustic"-looking crust, but I don't care all that much about presentation, especially when food delivers in the flavor department. There really is nothing like a homemade crust, and we made short work of this pie.
This weekend I tackled Deb's chocolate pudding pie.
Again, my pie is not going to win any beauty contests, but the flavor was pretty exceptional. And I'm hopeful that my results will continue to improve as I bake my way through the summer.
I've got a disk of dough in the freezer all ready for next weekend. Any votes as to what I should try next? And let me know if you have a favorite pie recipe for me to try out.