The joy of pie making, of showcasing seasonal fruit in a simple, delicious dessert, is not limited to chefs and foodies. Making a homemade pie seems intimidating, but anyone can do it.
The trick is to choose a good recipe, outsource the pastry to the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and focus your efforts on the filling.
These are my tips for a stress-free apple and pear pie, based on this recipe.
If your Pillsbury pie crusts are in the freezer, get them out now. Purists will disagree, of course, but it is absolutely acceptable to skip the make-your-own-pastry step. I like the Pillsbury crusts because they’re tasty and come two to a box. Also, unlike those frozen crusts in aluminum pans, you can use them with your own pie dish.
Sure, my mom’s made-from-scratch crusts are better than Pillsbury’s. But not so much better that the benefit outweighs the time and stress costs. In my house, Pillsbury = more pies per season.
An apple pie is only as good as its apples. Not shiny, waxy ones from the Thriftway, but some good local specimens. For optimal flavor and texture, I use at least three different kinds, with an emphasis on tart varieties (like Granny Smith). If there’s a ripe pear around, toss it in.
Peel the fruit, but don’t worry about removing every bit of skin. Some skin = interesting texture.
Mom thinks apple wedgers are ridiculous, but I disagree. Use one to quickly core the apples and break them into manageable pieces for further slicing.
Cut the apple pieces into a variety of sizes and thickness. Variety = interesting texture.
Choose good cinnamon and be generous. This recipe calls for one teaspoon, but I use at least three (in this case, I added one teaspoon of each cinnamon above). Penzeys Spices is an excellent place to get quality cinnamon.
Use a happy face spoon to stir together the fruit and spices.
Open up the first “tube” of pie crust and roll it into the bottom of a pie pan. Bonus tip from Uncle Bob: put a little lemon zest on the crust before adding the fruit filling.
Spoon the filling into the dish, and roll the second “tube” of pastry right over it. “Pinch” the top and bottom crusts together.
Poke a few holes in the top crust, and then brush it with egg white. The egg white results in a glossy finish and a professional-looking pie.
Actually, this pie doesn’t look especially professional because I had to plug a hole that formed in the top crust, a result of too much filling. These mishaps, however, are nothing to worry about–they just add to the charm and homemade appeal of your pie.
Pop your masterpiece in the oven and enjoy the wonderful smells and numerous accolades that are to follow!