Item #9 on my “bucket list” reads: “Learn to make edible piecrust.” https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/my-bucket-list/ Well, I can cross that off my list, because, wonder of wonders, I actually did it last night, thanks to my friend Eleanor! She felt sorry for me after reading this post: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/can-she-make-a-cherry-pie/ The next day, there was an e-mail from Eleanor with a “No-Fail Piecrust Recipe” (my friend, Nancy, said she had one too, but was unable to locate it). I was skeptical: after (unsuccessfully) attempting to make piecrust many times over the past 35 or so years, I thought I’d successfully caused every “no-fail” recipe to fail…
On our way home from work the other night, I told Jim I was going to try Eleanor’s recipe – I couldn’t remember if we had any lard or not. Trying to be helpful, he said, “Can’t you just use shortening?”
My reply was, “Well, ordinarily, that wouldn’t be any problem, if the recipe was for anythng besides piecrust, and it wasn’t me trying to make it…however, I think I’d better follow the recipe exactly, in this case!”
So we stopped at Giant Tiger and picked up two boxes of lard…the recipe only called for one, but I wanted a backup!
We stopped at Jim’s mom’s yesterday afternoon, and I asked her what she put in with her blueberries when she made pie. She said she’d only made one blueberry one (her specialty is apple), but Jim’s dad had found a couple of recipes on the Internet – some used tapioca, and some used cornstarch with the sugar.
After supper last night, I pulled out my trusty “Joy of Cooking.” It’s never steered me wrong (except for piecrust!). It also gave the tapioca or the cornstarch options. I went with the cornstarch, being “fresh out” of tapioca (it’s not my favourite thing!). I was to use 2 tbsp. of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of water or fruit juice, and 2/3 to 1 cup of white sugar for every 4 cups of berries. The berries were supposed to “cogitate” (my word) in this mixture for at least fifteen minutes before putting them into the pieshells.
I had enough berries for three pies, which was perfect because the piecrust recipe makes double shells for 3 pies! I mixed the berries with the sugar and cornstarch mixture, and went off to make the piecrust. I preheated the oven to 425 degrees (the recipe said 450, but my oven is HOT, and I didn’t want to burn them).
I asked one of my personal photographers (Anna, in this case) to document my pastry-making journey. I mixed all the ingredients carefully together, using the exact amounts and method given in Eleanor’s recipe. Not having a pastry cloth (my mom had one), I used some sheets of wax paper to roll out my dough, liberally sprinkling them and my rolling pin with flour first. Gingerly, I started rolling the little ball of dough…wow! It didn’t cling for dear life to the rolling pin, or fall apart into a million tiny pieces, or stubbornly refuse to become somewhat oval (all scenarios that I’ve witnessed too many times before in previous attempts). I hesitated to say it out loud, but thought to myself, very quietly, “I think this is actually working…”
My first oval was beautiful…I rolled it carefully up on to the rolling pin, and with only a couple of minor stickings, was able to lower it into the first pie pan. Ta-da!
I did two more crusts, and put them into the pans. I brought the fruit in, and dumped it into the waiting crusts.
Then I made three more ovals for top crusts, some more beautiful than others, but all serviceable. I laid them on top, and squished the edges together with my thumb (I remembered vaguely that you were supposed to use a little bit of water to seal them, but decided I didn’t want to bother with that). It was after I had the top crusts on that I remembered that “Joy of Cooking” had suggested dotting the fruit with a tablespoon or two or butter before covering it up…oh, well…my hips would certainly not miss that extra fat!
Before I put them in the oven, I knew that I should make some holes in the top crust to let steam escape…I might as well do something artsy!
I even had some pastry left over, so I did what my mom used to do, and made little sugar pies in pot pie pans: a little melted butter, some white sugar, and lots of cinnamon.
I put all the pies in the oven, setting the pans on cookie sheets in case there was any filling overflow. They were to be cooked for ten minutes at the higher temperature, and then for 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
I spent the next hour running back and forth to the oven, checking, rotating pies from top to bottom rack and back, and from left to right side. Near the end of the cooking time, I realized my folly in not sealing the crusts together with water: there were blueberry rivers running across my preventative cookie sheets (thank goodness I did that – otherwise that goop would have been in my oven burners). The stuff was burning on the cookie sheets, and smoking like crazy. I turned the oven fan on to prevent the smoke alarms going off, and pulled the finished pies out of the oven.
Jim and I “tested” one of the sugar pies while the big ones were cooling…the pastry was really good – not too dry, but a little bit flaky.
I’ll be serving the blueberry pies tonight when we have Jim’s parents and his favourite aunt over for supper…I can’t wait to taste them!
For all my piecrust-challenged sisters out there, here is Eleanor’s (courtesy of Canadian Living magazine) recipe:
NEVER FAIL PASTRY
Lard based pastry- can take a lot of handling, makes a large quantity that can be stored in fridge of freezer.
5 cups all purpose flour or 6 cups pastry flour
1 TBSP salt
1 pound lard
1 TBSP vinegar
In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt, cut lard until mix resembles coarse crumbs.
In a mixing bowl combine egg and vinegar, add enough water to make 1 cup. Gradually pour liquid over flour mixture until dough clings together, press into ball.
Pastry maybe rolled out immediately or wrapped and stored in fridge for 2 weeks, or can be frozen. Makes 6 pie shells or 3 double crusts.