BASIC PIE CRUST RECIPES AND INSTRUCTIONS
Double Crust for Lattice/Lidded Pies
For the pastry:
1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup cold water
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of granulated sugar
Prepare your pastry:
Cut the butter into ½” cubes. Freeze 6 tablespoons for 20 minutes or overnight, and chill the remaining stick in the refrigerator until ready to use. Stir the vinegar into the cold water and set aside.
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to combine. Add the chilled butter and mix for 20-30 seconds until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the frozen butter and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
Add 6 tablespoons of the vinegar water and pulse 5 or 6 times. The dough should start to look crumbly, and you can test the dough by squeezing a small amount in the palm of your hand. If it easily holds together, it’s done; if not, add ½ tablespoon of the vinegar water and pulse. Repeat this process as needed until the dough holds together.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Flatten each ball slightly and wrap separately in parchment paper or place in a covered dish with parchment between the two discs. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator until ready to use, at least 20 minutes.
Begin by rolling out one of the discs of dough to a thin round a few inches larger in diameter than your pie tin. I use a 9" or 10" pie tin, and I roll my pastry out to about 14" around. Lay this sheet of dough in your pie tin and gently press it into the tin before trimming off excess dough around the outside. I leave about an inch hanging over the tin's edges all around to fold up and crimp after adding the lattice or lid.
At this point, you will follow the individual pie instructions for filling your pie.
When you've filled your pie, and you're ready to add the top, you can do so by either weaving lattice strips (made by slicing your second rolled outdisc into strips) or by covering the top of the pie with your second rolled out disc and using a sharp knife to cut vents in the dough.
Once you've added a lid or lattice top to your pie, pull up the inch or so of extra dough you left hanging over from the bottom and fold it over the edges of your pie top. You can then crimp them together with the tines of a fork or create a fluted edge by pinching around the diameter with your fingers.
Your pie is now ready to go into the freezer to prepare it for baking.
Single Pie Crust + Blind Baking
For the pastry:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼ cup cold water
1 rounded cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of granulated sugar
Prepare your pastry:
Cut the butter into ½” cubes. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Stir the vinegar into the cold water and set aside.
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of your food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to combine. Add the chilled butter and mix for 20-30 seconds until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar water and pulse 5 or 6 times. The dough should start to look crumbly, and you can test the dough by squeezing a small amount in the palm of your hand. If it easily holds together, it’s done; if not, add ½ tablespoon of the vinegar water and pulse. Repeat this process as needed until the dough holds together.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Roll the dough into the ball, flatten slightly and wrap in parchment paper or place in a covered dish. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator until ready to use, at least 20 minutes.
Roll out the dough to a thin, round sheet a few inches larger than your pie tin (a 9” size works well here). Lay the dough in your pie tin and trim excess from the sides. Fold your edges over and crimp to make a finished look, and place the prepared crust in the freezer at least 20 minutes. Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Next, once your dough is frozen, line the crust with parchment paper or a large coffee filter. Fill the parchment or filter with dried beans to retain the crust’s shape and prevent bubbling while baking. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. The outer edge should become dry and golden brown.
Remove the shell from the oven and remove the paper and beans. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork in several spots, and return to the oven for three minutes to allow the interior of the crust to brown lightly.
Your crust is now ready for filling!
Note: I’ve given food processor directions here for ease, but I frequently make my crust by hand as well. Just use a pastry cutter to incorporate your butter, mix the water in by hand, and take care not to overwork or knead the dough.
WEEKLY LETTERS + RECIPES
OCTOBER 1: HARVEST MOON + SWEET POTATO PIE
Welcome. Today is the very first day of a most special month in our yearly wheel. We woke up this morning to bright sun on our faces, all huddled together in bed under wool blankets. Dad and Henry on one side having come inside after midnight, leaving the tent they'd planned to sleep in and the marshmallow roasting sticks with charred ends and the last embers of the campfire in the backyard once the temperatures dropped below 40. The baby and I snuggled in beside them, both having slept in our sweaters with a hot water bottle tucked in the blankets. We're all hesitant to kick off the warm covers and start our day, laughing at our collective stubbornness the evening before regarding whether or not we really needed to start a fire. Maybe we didn't need to, but the wool hat on my head when I wake up makes me think maybe we should have.
These cold mornings that turn into perfect days are a friendly part of the rhythm of October; cold and then warm, bright and then grey, tipping as the month goes on toward just the cold and the grey. The smell of crunchy brown leaves on the ground connects me to every autumn I've known, the grand marshal of the homecoming parade for the October of my heart. Next comes the cider, the cider doughnuts, the hours and hours given over to winter's applesauce. Roadside pumpkins painting the landscape with spots of orange and yellow and the in between colors, shades of ochre and marigold and honey. There's the leaves still on the trees that I don't need to tell you about but if I were going to I'd say it's terrifically enlivening and resplendent to see mountains covered in sugar maples ablaze in the brightest colors we have the luck not to have to imagine.
October goes on with Halloween costumes in states of unfinished progress, candles at dinner time, asters on the table til they're gone. Acorns and black walnuts and leaves dipped in warm beeswax to adorn gifts in winter. Traditions given us by the season herself and others we give each other. And the best traditions of all: the ones that start with something growing or just-harvested or abundant, something we planted a seed for in spring or watched grow ripe over summer months in the sun, that are woven into our family stories by virtue of our making them into food to share with one another.
From this first week of October until Thanksgiving, we'll be making pie together. Each Sunday I'll send a recipe for the pie Henry and I will bake on the following Friday, and if you'd like you can join right in.
Sweet Potato Pie
One single crust, blind baked pie shell
For the filling:
½ cup organic granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Zest of ½ an orange
2 ½ cups sweet potato puree (directions follow)
1 egg yolk
1 cup local cream
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons dark maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
For the glaze:
3 tablespoons dark maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey (or try bourbon if you have it)
To make sweet potato puree:
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the skin of three large sweet potatoes all over with a fork, and roast on a baking sheet for about two hours or until they are soft. Allow to cool slightly, then cut the potatoes lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Place the flesh in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until smooth. If you’d like, you can press the puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining lumps.
Make your filling:
Combine the sugars, salt, and spices in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the zest to the sweet potato puree, and stir in the dry ingredients. Next, whisk in the eggs, yolk, and cream. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Last, whisk in the maple syrup and vanilla.
Pour your filling into the pie shell (you may have extra) and bake 45 minutes to one hour, until the pie appears set and the center is dry to the touch.
Cool to room temperature, then brush with the maple & honey glaze. Chill in the refrigerator overnight to allow the pie to set, and serve with freshly whipped cream.
OCTOBER 9: NEIGHBORS + PEAR RASPBERRY PIE
We said goodbye to good friends yesterday after breakfast as they headed out toward the rainy, northbound road home after a long, lovely weekend together. There was time for board games while it rained and walks through the woods when it didn’t. After a dragon egg hunt in the forest we filled the wagon, already toting boy-made stick swords and arrows and sometimes a certain little brother, with acorns from the big oak by the pond and took them home to smash with hammers and put into a big pot of water for dyeing linen silver grey for a young knight’s Halloween costume. We cooked together and shared soup recipes and worked on winter knits once the children were tucked in and our little house took on a quiet uncommonly heard when the sun is up. We shared pie together, enjoyed especially quickly and eagerly by the nearly-6 and just-7 year olds among us with big dollops of maple sweetened whipped cream on top. Though it took our friends nearly six hours to reach us, for three days too-short days we were neighbors.
Later Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves at our neighbor’s house just down the road, Henry pouring his own cream into his tea until it was more cream with a splash of tea than the other way around. After tea and leftover sweet potato pie, catching a goat who found her way out of the pasture she’d been asked to kindly keep to, and chats about firewood and pumpkin varieties and babies who’ve got the gumption to turn one later this month, we took to the raspberry bushes by the garden to fill a basket with the little red gems that hung on every brambly branch, smelling of fermented juice and buzzing with bumblebees. We aren’t used to berries in October, but it doesn’t seem like something worth complaining about either. River ate them indiscriminately and by the handful while Henry tipped the dried heads of early summer’s poppies into a paper envelope to take home along with a big bunch of dill seed for planting in next year’s garden and flavoring this week’s sourdough bread. We left with our basket full, grateful for neighbors with generous hearts and gardens.
Later this week we’ll stop by Jesse’s farm down the road where we buy our milk that comes from his Jersey cow Blackberry, and while we’re there we’ll pick pears from the trees his dad planted when they built their house forty years ago. The neighborliness we glean from Jesse isn’t confined to just the very creamiest milk we’ve any of us ever had, but to kale and pumpkins given in exchange for help with the corn harvest, to turnovers and loaves left to pay back the armfuls of bok choy and delicata squash and seed potatoes.
But my neighborhood doesn’t end where our long country road does. My neighborhood is baking a pie with friends from far away; it’s planting seeds from the garden next door in our own plot next year. My neighborhood is pears and jack-o-lantern pumpkins for the price of half a batch of cookies; it’s you all baking a pie in your kitchens in October, while we bake one in our own.
This week we’ll bake a pear and raspberry pie, a pie that can only be baked when the season is just right for the two to meet ever so briefly (or when you can find both at the market for a good price, which I bet right now maybe you can). It’s a beautiful combination, and perhaps it’ll be worth sharing a slice with your neighbors.
Pear Raspberry Pie
1 batch double crust pie pastry (see above)
5 cups pears, peeled and chopped into bite-sized (3/4" or so) pieces
2 cups raspberries
1 TB lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 TB cornstarch
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of salt
About a teaspoon of equal parts floor and sugar
1 TB cream and 1 TB milk
Coarse sugar for topping, optional
Place the pears, raspberries, and lemon juice in a bowl, do not mix.
Place the sugar, cornstarch, ginger, and salt in a small bowl and whisk together.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the fruit until most of the mixture is absorbed, taking care not to break up the raspberries.
Sprinkle the flour and sugar mixture into the bottom of the pie shell. Pile the pears and raspberries into the pie shell and smooth with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Finish the pie with a lattice top, and freeze for at least 20 minutes.
When you're ready to bake, heat oven to 400. Brush the lattice with the cream and milk pie wash and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes, rotating once after about a half hour. The crust should be deeply golden brown and the juices are bubbling thickly.
Cool at least 2 hours before slicing.
*I like to substitute 1/4 - 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for the all-purpose in this recipe. It goes so nicely with the bright berry flavor.