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Any way you slice it

By Staff | Jul 7, 2017

-Photos by Lori Dunn Sweet and fruity very berry pie will no doubt be a hit.

Pies are the perfect dessert any time of year. In the summertime, cool and creamy pies are a refreshing treat. In the cooler months, nothing is more comforting than a warm slice of fruit pie, especially if it’s topped with a scoop of ice cream. And, if you’re looking for something to take to a potluck or church supper, you simply cannot go wrong with a pie. After all, who doesn’t love pie? It’s an American favorite.

According to the American Pie Council website (“http://www.piecouncil.org”>www.piecouncil.org), pie has been around since the ancient Egyptians. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word “pie” was popular during the 14th century. In those early days, pies were most generally made with meats. It wasn’t until the 1500s that fruit pies were first introduced – Queen Elizabeth I is credited with making the first cherry pie.

A perfect pie starts with the crust. While making a pie crust sounds easy enough, a lot of people have trouble with it, and their efforts produce a crust that’s anything but light and flaky.

If you’re one of those people, and you usually just opt for a store-bought crust, consider trying your hand at the homemade approach again, using the following pie crust recipe – and following the “Tips for Perfect Pastry Every Time.” It may take a few times to get it right, but you’ll eventually get it, and then you’ll find it hard to believe you ever bought pie crust from a grocery store.

Grab your apron, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get baking!

Garden-Fresh Apple Pie with cider-pecan crust – can’t beat it.

Perfect pastry

Yields 3 single pie crusts.

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (10 ounces)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup solid fat (lard, butter or shortening)

-Photos by Lori Dunn Cherry Amber Pie combines a creamy filling with meringue.

1/4 cup cold milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In large bowl, combine flour and salt, whisking to ensure salt gets evenly distributed. With pastry blender, cut in fat until mixture forms pea-sized crumbs. Add milk, and mix with fork until dough comes together in ball.

Divide dough into 3 portions. On lightly floured work surface, using floured rolling pin, roll each portion of dough out into circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer to 3 ungreased 8-inch pie plates.

Add filling to unbaked pie shells, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and crusts are golden brown.

NOTE: If the pie shells need to be baked before adding your filling, prick the crusts liberally with a fork, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown, in a preheated 400-degree oven. Cool completely on wire racks before filling.

Butterscotch peach pie

Yields 1 pie

Prepared pastry for single-crust pie

12 peach halves

1/4 cup syrup from peaches

3/4 cup brown sugar

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon mace

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Roll out pastry to form 11-inch circle. Transfer pastry to 9-inch pie plate. Cut strips from leftover pastry scraps, and set aside.

Arrange peach halves, cut side up, over pastry in pie plate. Set aside.

In saucepan over medium heat, combine syrup, brown sugar, butter, flour, lemon juice and mace. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Pour over peaches in pie plate. Cover with pastry strips, in crisscross pattern.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly.

Garden-fresh apple pie with cider-pecan crust

Yields 1 pie

2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lard or other solid shortening

1/2 cup finely crushed pecans

1/4 cup cold apple cider

7 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup diced candied fruit

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into bits

1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in lard with fork or pastry blender until dough resembles giant peas. Mix in pecans. Sprinkle apple cider on dough, a spoonful at a time, and mix gently until dough holds together.

Divide dough into 2 balls. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough to form 11-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer 1 dough circle to 9-inch pie plate, and trim dough so 1/2 inch extends beyond rim. Leave other dough circle where it is.

In large bowl, combine apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, candied fruit and lemon juice, and toss gently to coat. Spoon filling into crust in pie plate. Scatter butter bits over filling. Cover with top crust, and flute edges to seal. Prick top crust with fork.

In bowl, beat egg yolk with whisk. Brush over top crust.

In bowl, combine a little additional cinnamon and sugar, and mix. Sprinkle over crust.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until apples are tender and crust is golden.

Raisin honey pie

Yields 1 pie

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup mild-tasting honey (such as clover or alfalfa)

1 tablespoon butter

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup chopped nuts

Prepared pastry for double-crust pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In saucepan over medium heat, stew raisins in water until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in honey, butter, egg yolk, flour, and nuts, and continue cooking until mixture thickens. Set aside.

Roll out half the pastry dough to form 11-inch circle. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate, and trim edges, leaving 1/2-inch overhang.

Pour filling into pastry in pie plate.

Roll out remaining pastry dough to form 12-inch circle. Place over filling, and seal and flute edges.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until crust is golden. Cool before slicing.

NOTE: If desired, this pie can be prepared with a single crust and a meringue topping instead of a double crust. Simply place the filling in a baked pie crust, and cover with prepared meringue. Bake until meringue is nicely browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Very berry pie

Yields 1 pie

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 1/2 cups raspberries

1 cup blackberries

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

Prepared pastry for double-crust pie

1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large bowl, gently stir together berries, sugar and tapioca. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Roll out half the pastry dough into 11-inch-diameter circle on lightly floured surface. Transfer pastry to 9-inch pie plate, and trim, leaving 1/2-inch overhang.

Pour berry mixture into pastry in pie plate. Dot with butter.

Roll out remaining pastry to form 12-inch circle. Carefully place over filling. Seal and flute edges. Cut several slits in top pastry to permit steam to escape.

Bake for 1 hour, or until crust is golden and juices form bubbles that burst slowly. Cool completely before serving.

Cherry amber pie

Yields 1 pie

1 cup sour cream

1 cup cherries, pitted

3 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 baked 9-inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In saucepan over medium heat, combine sour cream, cherries, egg yolks, flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Cook until thick, stirring constantly.

Pour thickened filling into baked pie shell. Set aside.

In small bowl, using electric mixer, beat egg whites with remaining sugar until stiff. Spread meringue over pie filling.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until meringue is nicely browned.

Tips for perfect pastry every time

– Weigh your flour: most recipes measure flour by volume instead of weight, meaning they call for 1 cup of flour instead of 5 ounces. A perfectly measured cup of flour weighs 5 ounces. However, that same cup will weigh less if you pack the flour too loosely, and it will weigh more if you pack it in the measuring cup too tightly. To be sure you’re using the proper amount of flour, weigh it on a kitchen scale.

– Use cold ingredients: all of your ingredients should be cold – including the flour and salt – to achieve the best results. The fat especially needs to be very cold, so it stays solid during the mixing process. (Put your shortening in the freezer for a bit to make sure it’s good and cold, almost frozen.) Once the prepared pastry goes into the oven, the shortening will melt, creating small air pockets between the layers of dough, which is what produces a tender, flaky crust.

– Mix Dough With Food Processor: You’ve more than likely heard that minimal handling of the dough will help ensure flakiness – and that’s true. The more you mix pastry dough, the tougher it will be. Using a food processor mixes the dough quickly and lightly – way more lightly than mixing it with your hands. To mix your dough in a food processor, combine two-thirds of the flour with salt, and pulse a few times to evenly distribute the salt. Add all of the shortening, and pulse until a ball forms around the blade, about two minutes. Add the remaining flour, and process until mixture forms coarse crumbs, about another minute. With the food processor running, add your cold liquid, a little at a time, and process just until the mixture begins to form a ball. You may or may not need all the liquid called for in the recipe. Remove dough from the food processor, and squeeze it gently with your hands a couple of times to form a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator to chill until firm.

– Chill your dough and rolling pin: To make rolling easier, chill the pastry dough for at least an hour. When you put your dough in the refrigerator, put your rolling pin there, too. Using a cold rolling pin will keep the shortening particles from breaking down and melting during the rolling process.

Excerpted from Grit, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 866-803-7096. Copyright 2017 by Ogden Publications Inc.

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