Easy As Pie

July 5th, 2012

What is it with people and pie crust? There are more ingredients in a tunafish sandwhich than a pie shell, and a lot more slicing and dicing. If I serve a sandwich, nobody asks, “Did you make that yourself?” But bring on a pie, and every time it’s, “Wow, you made that?!” This week for NPR’s Pie Week, Allison Aubrey made a whole story out of her pie-making phobia. I enjoy the feeling of superiority I get from the reactions of the pastrily challenged. But really, people, it ain’t that difficult.

I would probably feel differently if I hadn’t grown up in a household where homemade pie was a given. My mom, unlike Allison’s, was not a career gal, so she made homemade like the other homemakers of her generation. She made many things from scratch that people don’t make anymore: frosting (easy), pancakes (so easy!), french fries. Even I don’t attempt my own fries, but I would rather never bake again than use a store-bought pie shell.

While it’s not complicated, there is a craft to pie-making. In the ’70s and ’80s we were trying to get out of the kitchen, so I had no interest in cooking. But I get warm fuzzies remembering pie making with Mom: holding my breath as she hoisted the delicate sheath; watching her deftly move her hands in a circle, pinching the index finger of her right hand into the thumb and index of her left to form the pie’s wavy halo. We kids would snatch a bit of dough, but restraint was yummily rewarded with cinnamon-and-sugar-sprinkled leftover dough flats hot out of the oven.

I think pie presses peoples’ buttons because it reminds us that in the span of a century we have completely lost basic skills that were once commonly practiced.

You know what I’m gonna say… bake a pie! It’s stone fruit season, so I recommend a glorious fresh peach pie. In her NPR piece, Allison spent a day with pastry chef George Higgins at the Culinary Institute. He says the basic pie crust formula is 3-2-1: 3 parts flour; 2 parts fat; 1 part liquid. Pie crust is generally white flour, but recipes vary in their use of fat and liquid. (My mom used to use Crisco, which makes a heavenly pie.) Most any crust recipe is good, but here’s Martha’s. If you have a Cuisinart, the task becomes REALLY easy. No rolling pin? I use an empty wine bottle in a pinch.



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