What’s Cooking — Mastering the Crust for All Kinds of Pies

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What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: Lindalomelino.se

Let’s talk pies. When it comes to fillings, boy oh boy, you’ve got options. But you’re also free to experiment with the crust as well. Today we’re covering a variety of ways to make your pie and eat it too.

Pie Crust: Techniques

What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: Simplebites.net

Everyone has a fail-proof way to make pie crust. They all pretty much start the same. All-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, a cold fat (either butter or shortening or a combination of both) and just the smallest amount of water to hold it all together. Too much water and you’ll end up with a soggy, stretchy lump of dough. For that light crust, you want to blend the fat into the flour by hand or with a pastry blender and then gently sprinkle in the water—the colder, the better. Cold water keeps the butter from melting and retards the process of the flour creating gluten bonds, hence the stretchy dough we’re trying to avoid.

Here are two of my favorite dough recipes that use other liquids to create that delicate mix. Comfortably Domestic swears by the ever-popular vodka pie dough that substitutes vodka for some of the water. The tasteless alcohol brings the flour together but evaporates in the baking process—a win win. My new go-to is from Brooklyn’s local Four Twenty Blackbirds that uses apple cider vinegar in its pie dough. Stick with me here! The acidity of the vinegar keeps gluten from forming and the taste while on it’s own is too much, in this case it adds a bit of tang and depth to an otherwise basic flavor.

Traditional Pies

What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: EdibleBrooklyn.com

Ready to master the art of the lattice crust? Start by rolling out your top crust to 1/8-inch thickness—about the thickness of two quarters stacked. Using a sharp dry knife to cut even strips of dough about 1/2-inch wide. Place half of your strips of dough across your pie filling with a 1/2-inch between each strip. Work the second half of the strips perpendicularly, folding back every other strip to weave strips in. Once your pie is latticed, trim the edges of the crust. Brush on an egg wash and sprinkle Turbinado sugar for a sweet finish.

Galettes and Slab Pies

What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: Halfbakedharvest.com

To be completely honest, making pies almost always leaves me anxious. The dough can be finicky and taking too long laying out a pie can leave you with a mushy texture rather than the buttery, flakey crust we love. Rather than focus my time on perfectly woven lattice crusts, I tend to opt for the rustic beauty of galettes or slab pies. Less fussy, the filling has a chance to stand out. Make use of the season’s first crop of apples with Smitten Kitchen’s apple slab pie (thank me later!). Halfbaked Harvest has gorgeous spinach and artichoke galette that you’ll enjoy lazily on a weekend with a glass of red wine.

Hand Pies

What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: Frugalmomeh.com

I’m pretty certain that hand pies are a universal food. From samosas to empanadas to pop tarts, tasty filling wrapped in dough makes it easy to eat on the go. What’s not to love about that? If you’re looking for inspiration to get those mouths watering. Frugal Mom Eh! has a traditional Beef and Guinness hand pie recipe that will leave you salivating for this meaty pastry.

Jar Pies

What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: Thenerdswife.com

Forget sharing! Individual-sized jar pies are perfect for a party of one. These adorable pies can be made in oven-safe mason jars. I recommend using half-pint jars for the right ratio of filling and crust. You’ll use about 1/4 of a regular 9-inch pie crust dough for one jar so plan accordingly. Press pie crust into the jar, covering the sides—don’t worry if it’s not perfect looking! Fill it with a savory or sweet filling, add the top crust, top off the lid and then freeze. When you’re ready to bake, place on a cookie sheet and cook according to your recipe directions, times shouldn’t vary.

Pie Fries

What's Cooking — Pies of All Kinds, Mastering the Crust

Photo: Kingarthurflour.com

Start with a basic pie dough and roll it out. Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough into even strips. Brush with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. When you bake these “fries”, the crispy bits make a delicious treat.