Fool-Proof Fruit Pie Recipe

Basic Fruit Pies
By Patricia Welch – member Forest Hills Tuv CSA
When I got my Ph.D. my favorite gift from a favorite aunt was an antique rolling pin and an antique cookie jar.  “Life,” she said, as she handed them to me, “is not only of the mind.”  Almost twenty years later both cookie jar and rolling pin have pride of place in my kitchen. While the cookie jar is now mainly for non-cookie storage, I use the rolling pin regularly, especially as the weather cools and we begin to make our way to winter.  I have provided my variation of my aunt’s fruit pie recipe base below.  The crust is RICH and flakyPie Crust (sweet, for fruit pies and custard pies)
Makes top and bottom crust for 9-inch pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
12 T unsalted butter (you can use a little less, perhaps 10 T and still get texture), sliced into small pieces (slice stick and then quarter slices.)
1T sugar (or less)
½ teaspoon salt
1 T liquor (like Grand Marnier)
1 egg (if you don’t have an egg, you can substitute 2 T milk or cream.Don’t be intimidated by making pie crust—if you follow a few guidelines it’s practically fool proof.  The butter should be cold and you don’t want to overwork the dough.

First, prepare the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Butter should be as cold as possible when you make the crust.  Work quickly when you are slicing the butter.  Cut the butter into the dry mixture quickly until it has the texture of meal (most of the butter chunks will have been broken up into tiny pieces.) I have a cheap pastry cutter from that I picked up for about $5, but you can also use two butter knives.  Simply slice with into the flour butter mixture like you are tapping on a snare drum.  You may also use a food processor.  If you use a food process, one or two pulses is sufficient.

Once the butter flour mixture has the texture of meal, add the liquid and knead quickly (inside the bowl) until it’s an integrated dough.  Use your hands to work in flour mixture.  Don’t overwork dough.  Fashion the dough into a two disks about 2-3 inches thick, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  (You can refrigerate dough longer if necessary.)

Roll dough out on clean counter or large cutting board (I have a silicone pie mat with convenient measures.)  Have a bowl with about ½-3/4 flour ready.  Sprinkle a little flour on rolling surface, put a little flour on the rolling pin.  Sprinkle a little flour on dough disk. (Leave second disk in the refrigerator until required.).  Flatten disk a bit more, flip, flour surface as required, then roll, flip, and flour as necessary until the crust is rolled out to the required size.
When you first take it out of the refrigerator, the crust will be a bit too cold to work with, but it warms quickly.  Don’t add too much flour, but add if it’s threatening to stick.  I like to flip frequently because it keeps it from sticking to the bottom of the mat.

Put crust in bottom of pie pan, flute edges.  If you are making a fruit pie, you can add fruit mixture directly to the uncooked crust, but I like to par-cook crust (poke holes in crust bottom or add pie weights) in a 400-degree oven for about 10-5 minutes until golden brown.  Pie weights can be as simple as dried beans on a little aluminum foil, or something more elaborate from Williams-Sonoma.  I usually just “dock” the crust—poke holes in the bottom to keep from puffing up while par cooking.

Top crust can be full or latticed.  If you make a lattice crust, you’ll have a little extra dough for a turnover: add a jam, preserve or fruit of choice when baking pie.

Fruit Mixture
Some people par-cook their fruit mixtures in a sugar sauce.  I like a simpler filling where the goodness of the fresh fruit comes out.  I use as little sugar as possible, and then usually to get the fruit to release their juices.  This basic recipe can be followed for almost any tree fruit.

6-8 fruit (peaches or apples, depending on size
¼ to ¾ cup sugar depending on tartness of fruit (I like a tart pie. Typically an apple pie will require a little more sugar)
3 T flour
pinch of salt

Peel and slice fruit.  Sprinkle with lemon juice to impede browning, if desired.  Sprinkle sugar to taste over top and allow to macerate while preparing crust.

In separate bowl combine flour, a little sugar (to taste) and salt.

To fill pie: put some of the flour sugar mixture in the bottom of the pie crust.  Stir the rest of it in your fruit.  Dump fruit in prepared crust.  Put small dots of butter amidst the fruit.

Top the pie with top crust.  I like to make a lattice crust Make sure there’s a hole to let steam escape.  You can brush top crust with egg white or milk or coarse sugar if desired.  Bake the pie at about 400 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes more.  Let cool to (almost) room temperature so that filling can set.

Nice pie flavors:
Apple (of course)
Strawberry rhubarb
Pear-Apple pie (use more pears than apples for pear flavor)

Patricia Welch has been living in Kew Gardens since 2001.  She is a professor of Japanese at Hofstra University, and has been a member—off and on—of CSAs since the 1980s.

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