Tomorrow is Pi Day. If you’re a nerd or have a great memory for middle school math, that means 3.1415… to you. If you’re a foodie on the other hand, it’s just another excuse for making, or at least talking about pies. I’ve got five secrets for a great pie and I’m giving them to you on Pi Day because – well, I can’t think of a better Pi Day present.
Pie-making can be a mysterious art. Many people suffer from pie-making phobias, most related to the dreaded rolling and shaping process. If you use ready-made dough, or even a commercially made crust when you make pie, as my friend Kirsten says, I’m not judging. On the other hand, if you want to tackle pie-making and you’ve never done it, you’ve had your share of disasters, or you’re so phobic that you’ve never even tried to make one, then these 5 “secrets” will put you well down the road to pie-success.
5 Secrets for a Great Pie
- Equipment – There is nothing worse in pie-making than a pie that won’t fit into the pan, except for a pie that bubbles over when cooking and turns your oven into a smoking mess. Follow the recipe instructions and use the right pie pan size – usually 8 or 9-inch, regular or deep dish. When you bake, put the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet or put the baking sheet on the shelf directly below the pie. That way, drippings fall onto the sheet and you clean them off from there without having to clean your entire oven. Rolling out dough is the easy part; pulling it up and putting it in the pie pan is where the rubber meets the road. Sometimes you have to peel the dough off and you can’t do that if you’ve rolled it directly onto the counter. No matter how much you flour the counter, it’s not as good a surface for rolling as a pastry mat or even lightly floured wax paper, which you can lift up if necessary. Speaking of improvising (waxed paper instead of a fancy baking mat), if you don’t have a rolling pin, a wine or other bottle works, as long as you’ve peeled off the label, washed, and floured the outside.
- Measuring dough – Its lovely to blithely roll dough, dreaming of becoming the next Dorie Greenspan or Otam Ottolenghi. But if you don’t pay attention to the size of pie crust required, you’ll end up with a size and shape that isn’t what you need. Use your pan as a guide as you’re rolling, remembering that you’ll want extra (beyond the pie pan bottom) for the sides and overhang for the “crimping” of edges around the top.
- Ditch the flour if you want – So far, I’ve been assuming that you are using a traditional, flour-based dough. But you can make a crust with puff pastry sheets, crackers (graham or chocolate cookie for sweet pies, saltines or other crushable crackers for savory ones) and even potatoes.
- Don’t forget the filling – A great crust may garner praise, but it’s the filling that really makes a pie spectacular. When it comes to fruit pies, frozen berries can work, but I’m not a fan of canned fillings – too sweet and often contains additives that make it taste slightly “off.” My golden rule for filling is that it should be good enough to eat on its own. For savory pies, use frozen or canned vegetables if that’s your thing, but throw a few fresh ones in too.
- Find a pie mentor – Whether it’s your own mother, a pastry-crazed friend, or a blogger whose directions you find easy to follow, a mentor can ease you into pie-making with calm encouragement.
So, are your ready to make pie? What kind is your favorite?