Who doesn’t love a fresh, made-with-love homemade pie? Pie seems to make its appearances at the best times in life – cozy holidays, warm summer dinner parties and more recently at weddings. There are several songs about pies, children are entertained with pies thrown in people’s faces, and we cheer as they’re competitively gulped down in pie-eating contests. What it comes down to is pie makes us feel happy, entertained and very American.
When it comes to the eating of pie, ice cream should most definitely be involved. And truth be told, I usually find myself dishing up a bigger scoop of ice cream than piece of pie into my bowl. But when it comes to the actual making of pie, I’ve found that most people I know don’t know how to make one, feel intimidated and are scared of the idea of homemade dough. This is why the phrase “as easy as pie” pertains to the eating of pie, not the making of pie.
But, I’m here to tell you that the making can be as easy as the eating. So let’s start with a cherry pie, because February is National Cherry Month and it’s an easy filling to make. Literally all you have to do is measure and stir the filling. You can do this.
For a beginner pie dough maker, it’s a little overwhelming as there is so much information out there about the science of the dough, various techniques and the great debate of shortening vs. lard vs. butter. Personally, the thought of Crisco doesn’t sit well with me, so I am a big fan of the all-butter pastry. And in my experiences venturing outside of the all-butter camp, I’ve found that Crisco recipes tend to be more fragile and break easier which leads to frustrations (and no one wants that).
The key to good pie dough is keeping the butter and water very cold. Also patience comes into play and has a big role, too. Here are a few of my personal tips I’ve picked up in my experiences making piecrust…
Don’t rush. Give yourself plenty of time to make the dough and let it chill. You can even make the dough the day before you assemble and bake your pie. Every time I try to quickly make a pie, I wind up with dough that falls apart and I have to remake it. Frustrating.
When adding the water to your dough, mix it in a little at a time. Sometimes you won’t need the full amount. If it feels very sticky, add some more flour. The dough should not stick to your hands.
Use your hands to finish mixing and form your pastry. I use a pastry blender (pictured above) to begin incorporating the butter into the dry ingredients, but always end up using my hands once the water has been added.
If your dough breaks or splits when rolling out or transferring to your pan, mend/squish together any tears that may have appeared. You can also mold it back into a disk and start over, if needed. Try not to do this more than once to avoid having your crust dry out.
Trim the overhang evenly around the circumference of the pie pan. This will keep the edges an equal thickness when crimping.
This is the super easy part I mentioned – the stirring of the cherries and ingredients to make the filling. While it may be National Cherry Month, February is definitely not the best time of year for fresh cherries so I used jarred sour cherries. This is not to be confused with pre-made cherry pie filling. My philosophy is if you’re making crust from scratch, you’ve got to go as homemade as you possibly can throughout the whole pie, even if the fruit isn’t in season.
For my cherry pie, I chose to make a lattice crust for the top. I find that diagrams and instructions for lattice tops look incredible confusing, as it’s a pretty simple concept of a weave pattern. Evenly cut strips of dough and weave them over the top of the cherry filling. Think: over, under, over, under, over, under and alternate the pattern. That’s all there is to it.
Then trim the overhang of the strips and fold the bottom crust over the lattice pieces. We are in the homestretch now!
I chose to crimp the edges into a classic zig-zag pattern by pinching the dough between my forefingers and thumbs. Sometimes in this step the dough may crack a bit, and if this happens just pinch and squish it back together. It’s not going to be perfect all the way around and that’s okay. I tend to obsess about any tiny tear in the crimped edges and in the end when it’s baked I can never really tell.
With all the love, time and effort poured into making a homemade pie, you’ll want to share it with someone special. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and partake in National Cherry Month than with a gorgeous pie and big heap of vanilla ice cream!? Yum.
Photo Credit: Matthew Land Studios
Recipe Layout and Design: La Happy