I have a confession to make.
For all my baking over the years — cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, many of them scratch — I’ve never attempted one very basic recipe from most home cooks’ repertoires.
I’ve never made a scratch pie crust.
The refrigerated kind were just so easy and convenient, I thought, that why go to all that trouble to make a scratch one? I’d rather concentrate on the filling. Isn’t that the important part?
Truth was, I was intimidated by them. So many different recipes are out there, with so many different kinds of advice: Use lard. Use butter. Use shortening. Use vinegar. Use olive oil. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Cut the butter in to just this amount. Have it at just this temperature. It’s enough to freak even the most confident baker out just a little bit.
I used the store-bought crusts with good-enough results for years, for all manner of pies from apple to pecan. Friends — including Danielle Haynes and Barbara Tucker from this paper — encouraged me to try the scratch type. I said I would ... but I never did.
When I was considering what to make for this column, I first thought of the local farmers markets, and the plentiful fresh fruit available at this time of year. Something with berries would be perfect, I thought. Now, what to make ...
At this point my husband stepped in with a request for pie. OK, then. I quickly found a recipe for a triple-berry pie online.
But what’s unique ... or inquisitive ... about that? I make pies all the time. Not berry pies, but that’s not so very different from apple, honestly. So what could I do differently ... ?
It was time.
The pie crust recipe I used was a very simple one. I may try out variants with all the things people have recommended to me as some point, but I think this is a good starter one. Tips I learned:
• The colder the ingredients, the better. I even stuck the bowl with the dry ingredients in the fridge for a bit, just for kicks. The butter and the water were even in the freezer briefly to get nice and chilled. And make sure to chill the dough for an adequate time after it’s shaped into discs. (I went with overnight.)
• I was so worried about cutting the butter into the dry ingredients too much that I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it quite as fine as it should be. For future reference, I’m using the “small peas” standard.
• A good pastry cutter is a fine thing. Mine is getting a little bent; could be time for a new one.
• When rolling out the crust, flour your surface and rolling pin at will. Once things start sticking, the whole matter gets quite sloppy quite fast.
In the end, it was much easier than I expected ... and much more forgiving. I did have some issues cutting those last few strips for the top, but it’s nothing that couldn’t have been prevented if I’d have a little more time and could have popped the dough back in the fridge to chill a little more.
The one issue I had was with the filling, which wound up being berry soup more than berry pie ... probably due to exceptionally juicy berries. If I make this one again, I’ll add more cornstarch or some tapioca to the filling to help it set up a bit. The recipe below reflects that. (And I’ll make my husband let it cool completely before cutting, rather than digging in while it’s still piping hot from the oven.)
Basic pie crust
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/2 to 3/4 cup very cold water
Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
Add the cold butter pieces to the dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour mixture. Stop when all the butter pieces are the size of small peas (pieces can be a bit uneven).
Pour 1/2 cup of the cold water over the mixture and use a spatula to mix the dough. Add more water a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in big clumps. Use your hands to knead it together gently.
Divide the dough into two halves. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill at least two hours, preferably overnight.
Summer triple-berry pie
5 cups mixed berries (I used two cups raspberries, two cups strawberries and one cup blueberries)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch (more may be called for)
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a deep-dish pie plate with nonstick baking spray.
Combine berries, sugar, cornstarch, zest and vanilla well.
Take one pie crust round from refrigerator. Roll on a well-flour surface to until you have a 12-inch round. Place in pie plate. Brush with egg white.
Pour berries over crust. Roll out other pie crust round and cut into strips. Arrange into lattice strips over filling. (I didn’t weave mine this time, just placed them over the filling.) Brush strips with egg white.
Bake for 45 minutes. I had to cover the edges of the crust with foil for the last 15 minutes or so to prevent overbrowning.
Let cool before serving.
Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at email@example.com.
I have a confession to make.
- Worm composting an organic, fast way to produce fertilizer Some people might get a little squeamish when they hear what Master Gardener Gale Klinshaw, of the Town of Lockport, likes to do for a hobby.
- ADAMCZYK: When life is a comic opera All right, try building a cultural organization, from scratch, and make that an opera company, in a community where fledgling opera troupes have come and gone. A community with plenty of opera fans, but plenty of others who have never experienced a full-scale, start-to-finish opera.
- PINSPIRED: Mini albums seem too simple to be true It was one of the first things I ever "pinned," but in reality, I didn't have many hopes for this Pinterest-inspired project.
- Actress portrays Lillian Bronson in reenactment presentation Monday Linda Covell has been portraying Lillian Bronson for a long time. Even if she wanted to retire, and spend more time tending her many cats, people keep requesting her performance of the famous Lockport actress who starred with a gamut of famous actors from Clark Gable and Henry Winkler.
- Sloppy Joes are always a hit with the kids, even gluten-free
- New bakery near Falls airport offers cookies, cakes with recipes from Italy There are lots of Italian cookies sold in the Niagara region, but Rosa Strangio said she could never find any like those she makes in her new bakery.â€©
BOOK NOOK: 'Remarkable Women' an encyclopedic look at N.Y. history
Often lost in the quagmire that is the Empire State's current state of affairs is what a rich history our home has.â€©
- Skin cancer can be found in the most unlikely place -- your foot The signs and symptoms of skin cancer might be well-known to some, perhaps as easy as your ABCs ... and Ds.
- Consider Diamonds in the Ruff Iris the Queen, a 5-year-old pitbull, was surrendered in August 2011. She had delivered four litters of puppies and was in a home where she was left in a room. Iris had an infected mammary gland that had ruptured and her owner could not care for her anymore and was going to euthanize her.
- CRIB NOTES: Getting back up after being knocked down If life experiences could earn people diplomas, I'd have a Ph.D. in being the butt of jokes.
- More Features Headlines