With everyone looking forward to it, if you decide to make a pie, you better not mess it up. And if you don’t decide to make a pie, the people will be disappointed. So basically…make a pie. But make it right!
Delicious though they are, pies require quite a lot of delicate measurements and timing to get them just right. There are plenty of easy mistakes to make. If you’re going to put all this time and effort into one, you better be sure it’s going to come out the way you want it. And even for the baking veterans in the crowd today, you know better than anyone that there’s always room for improvement in the kitchen. So take note: according to three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist Tiffany MacIsaac, these are the 5 steps that can be a pie-maker, or a pie-breaker.
1. Skipping the acid.
“Acid helps add flavor and combat the dough getting tough if you accidentally overwork it a bit. I use buttermilk in place of water or cream, and a splash of vinegar to make my dough a bit lighter. Also, if you choose to make the dough a few days before using it, the vinegar will help prevent the dough from oxidizing.”
2. Over-chilling the dough.
MacIsaac says that she works quickly to make sure the dough stays cool while it’s being made, which allows her to shorten the chilling time. “It does need a bit of time to rest to relax the glutens and for the liquid to distribute evenly, so I like to wrap it in plastic wrap and leave on the counter in a cool spot for one to four hours. It will be nice and soft and easy to roll without a lot of resistance. I find the dough is a lot more tender when I don’t chill the dough to firm before rolling.”
3. Mixing in too much liquid.
A lot of people make the mistake of adding extra liquid to make the dough easier to roll, but MacIsaac says this leads to a “hard and leathery finished product the dough should form a nice ball but barely hold together. As the dough rests, the liquid will re-distribute evenly into the flour, making the dry parts wetter.” Remember, adding more in if needed is always an option – but taking out what’s already in, isn’t.
4. Not pre-cooking the filling.
“Always pre-cook your filling. There is nothing worse than making a beautiful apple pie, only to cut into it and find there’s either too much liquid, the apples are crunchy, it’s overly sweet, or there’s a huge gap between the filling and the top crust. So much can go wrong, and you can’t see it happening. That’s why I like to pre-cook my apples to about 85 to 90 percent done…Then, when it’s time to bake, I pile the apple filling high (they average five to six pounds each) and bake at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. I get a nice flaky crust and perfectly cooked filling every time.”
5. Underestimating the power of human hands.
“Mixers and food processors are fine, but there is nothing better than getting your hands right in the butter and flour to cut it together. You’ll know exactly when the butter is the perfect size because you’ll be able to feel it. Don’t be scared –– making dough by hand is truly one of the most enjoyable things about baking. Just make sure everything is measured, well chilled, and at arm’s reach before you start.”
And now for the most important step: share, and enjoy!