“Pies are easy to make.”
Well, if that isn’t the biggest load of hooey I’ve ever heard! Like so many other times in life, pies are seemingly simple but incredibly easy to screw up. From the crust to the fillings, pies tend to have only a few ingredients which makes them deceivingly difficult.
Most of us have had at least one slice of fruit pie in our lives. I grew up believing Mrs. Smith’s cherry pie was the end-all-be-all of pies thanks to my mum. That was, of course, until I learned otherwise. And as with all things, particularly food, everyone has their own idea of what makes a “good” pie. There are three things I look for in a fruit pie with a traditional rolled crust:
1. Flaky, crisp crust
2. Filling that retains the fruit’s texture
3. Fully filled pie
Many folks are in either the “crust” or the “filling” camps, but rarely both. I am one of those rare folks that while I can appreciate each aspect individually, I believe it takes both to work harmoneously to achieve pie greatness.
Do not be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredients of a rolled pie crust. While quality ingredients are always important, particularly when few ingredients are used, it is the handling of the dough that will either produce a leaden shell or those perfect flaky layers.
I have a similar simple outlook on fruit fillings. I prefer thicker slices and whole berries as I look for that natural texture when I take my first bite. That being said, use the absolute best fruit available, just enough sugar and spices to enhance and accentuate the natural flavors and do not, I mean DO NOT skimp on the filling! The fruit will soften and settle during baking and what may appear to be a grotesque mound of raw fruit before baking, will become the most delicious fully filled pie 60 minutes or so later.
Having set the bar high, I decided it was time for me to perfect my pie making skills. Okay, okay, it was that and my deep desire to combine my favorite autumn fruits before they disappeared from the local market. And so I give you a pictorial: “Anatomy of a Pie.”