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Perfect Pies, Hints for Success

By Jane Butel  February 21, 2023

Cherry pie baking has long been a tradition associated with George Washingon and his birthday.  I don't know how many cherry pie baking contests I have judged in February.  I must admit, I got a bit nostalgic and baked a cherry pie with a lattice crust this weekend.  I used the last of the wonderful Montmorency cherries I had frozen from our tree--but there weren't quite enough, so I went foraging on the frozen fruit shelf in our freezer and I found a quart of frozen Damson plums a couple had given me last summer from their tree and I tossed them with the cherries and the result was totally wonderful and very delicious  The red cherries became a purply red and the flavors blended perfectly.  I took the pie to a dinner party and one of the guests was not very hungry after dinner and wanted just a small sliver of a serving.  Well--within moments, she went back for a second helping.

One of the secrets for a flavorful, delicate, crumbly crust is to use lard and work it  evenly into  the flour.  The best way for a  wonderful crust is to use a food processor and just pulse it.  Or, if y ou don't have a food processor, use a pastry blender or your hands and be sure to use cold lard and just slightly work it to make sure the lard is well distributed into small marble like lumps.The recipe I was given by my Aunt who attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris follows.  For any pie pastry,  use just regular wheat flour--super market brand or the cheapest is just fine.  Do not use high gluten or bread flour as the high gluten makes for a tough  pastry.   And use very cold or ice water for the liquid.

When rolling out the pastry, if possible, use a cold pastry cloth.  ( I keep mine in the freezer in a  plastic bag)  Flour the rolling pin generously and place a very light dusting of flour on the pastry cloth.   Form the pastry dough into a uniform ball and roll it out, using very light strokes until it is the size of your pie plate. plus about 2 inches  larger in diameter than the pie plate.   The easiest way to transfer the dough into the pie plate is to roll the dough around the rolling pin and center the pin over the pie plate and gently unroll the dough. 

Place the filling in the crust along with sugar, some flour and whatever else you may wish.  For the  top crust, roll the dough into a long rectangle for making  the lattice pieces.  Or, roll into  a round  approximately he same size as the bottom crust.  If making a 2 crusted pie, roll it about the same diameter as the bottom crust and transfer it over the rolling pin to the top of the filling.  If making the lattice crust, you must place the strips of dough in an alternating pattern--going over the next strip and under the following one.

Then brush the top pastry with cream or whole milk,  and sprinkle with sugar.

To prevent a soggy bottom crust, preheat the oven  to 415 F if using Pyrex or 425 F,  if using a metal pan.   Place the oven rack in the lowest  position.   These two hints are critical  for the creation of a crispy  bottom crust.  Place the pie in a preheated oven and bake the entire time on the bottom shelf  position.  Turn down the thermostat 15 degrees after baking 15 minutes.  Bake until golden brown.

We have scheduled a Red Chile Fiesta for this Thursday, February 23 at 5 PM and the next class will be New Mexico favorites at 5 PM on Thursday, March 9.

Our next weekend class is March 26-28 and the next week long class is April 24-28.

All of the classes are 100% full participation. 

FRENCH PASTRY

 My all-time favorite pastry—you can hardly fail to produce a beautiful flaky-crusted pie with this recipe.

Yield: Three 9-inch crusts

3 cups all-purpose flour (sifted or fluffed with a spoon)

1 1/4  cups shortening (lard is preferred)*

1 egg

1 Tablespoon vinegar (such as cider)

2 teaspoons salt

5 Tablespoons water

*Lard yields a flakier crust.

1. Blend flour and shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.  A food processor with the metal chopping blade works very well.  Pulse until the flour is completely coated with the shortening.

2. Beat egg, vinegar, salt, and water with a fork. Add to flour and shortening and mix only until the mixture holds together.

3. Chill until cold, then roll out on lightly floured board or between waxed paper and use as desired.

Freezing Hints: Freeze baked or unbaked. This very tender crust turns out beautifully without chilling—even when baking immediately. You can freeze filled or as flat pastry.

Maximum Recommended Freezer Storage: 6 to 8 months when baked, 2 to 4 months unbaked, 6 months when baked, 2 to 4 months unbaked, 6 months when frozen as pastry only.

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