I’m about to make a confession.
I make a blueberry pie that everyone–EVERYONE–who tastes it loves. It’s my mother’s recipe, and it’s just the best blueberry pie ever. That’s all there is to say. (This is not the confession.) My friends will vouch for this pie’s sweet taste and bursting blueberry flavor, and not just because they’re my friends. This pie is so good it has caused lovers to fight over the last slice–nay the entire dish. True story. Last year I made my mom’s blueberry pie to give to a friend for his birthday, and his then-girlfriend-now-wife, who is also a friend, wound up eating the whole pie. Every last crumb and lick of indigo filling off the fork. Mike didn’t get a single bite. This pie-hording didn’t go over well with Mike, but Janice couldn’t help herself. The pie was that good. She had to have it all. Perhaps the pie satisfied Janice in a way Mike could not? We’ll never know…
Part of what makes this pie so scrumptious is the crust. People always remark, “This crust is really good.” And I’ve always smiled sweetly yet sheepishly in acknowledgment but never said anything about the crust. The reason? Here’s the confession, folks: IT’S NOT HOMEMADE. IT’S A FROZEN PILLSBURY PIE CRUST. I’VE NEVER MADE A HOMEMADE PIE CRUST.
Shameful, I know, and on so many levels. I’ve deceived friends. I’ve deceived acquaintances. And I’ve deceived myself. I always considered myself a competent home cook (I’ve made homemade chocolate eclairs for Pete’s sake), but knowing I never made a home made crust made me feel so inadequate and lame, like I hadn’t completed Baking 101. I felt like a fraud.
I never made my own pate brisee because the process always seemed so fussy. The butter and the lard have to be COLD. The water has to be ice cold, and you can’t use too much of it. Some bakers go so far as to chill their food processors and mixing bowls to get their crusts just right. Give me a break!
What made me realize I could overcome my pie crust phobia was an episode of Alton Brown’s show on the Food TV Network during which he made a towering lemon meringue pie and demonstrated a failsafe way to make a homemade crust. Alton made making a pie crust look easy while every other chef I ever encountered on TV or in a magazine always made it seem like alchemy.
What inspired me to actually try my hand at a homemade crust were the beautiful crimson cherries smiling up at me like little sweet tarts at Clear Brook Farm. I couldn’t resist them, even at $5.50 a pint. I resolved to make a cherry pie–with a homemade crust. My first homemade crust ever. In fact, it was my first cherry pie ever.
I made the pie yesterday, and though it was time consuming (it took me a half hour alone to pit the cherries, probably 60 minutes to mix, chill and roll the dough, and an hour for the pie to bake), it was not difficult. And let’s face it, 2 hours to homemade cherry pie is worth it. (Of course, the pie needs to cool for another three hours after it comes out of the luvin’ oven, but who can wait that long? Not me.)
I used Alton Brown’s pie crust recipe. The cherry pie recipe came from the June issue of Everyday Food magazine. Making the pate brisee was a cinch. Alton Brown’s method was flawless. The only part of his approach that I didn’t follow was to use a spray bottle to mist the dough with water. I just sprinkled about a quarter of a cup of ice water right into the flour-fat mixture in my food processor. I did dump the pie crust mixture into a gallon size Ziplock bag and form it into a ball in the bag, which was a technique Alton demonstrated on the show and recommended in his recipe. I also cut the edges of the Ziplock bag and sprinkle both sides of the disk of dough with flour and roll out the dough between the sheets of the plastic bag–another Alton innovation–which made working with the pie dough so much easier. (Talk about ‘What can Brown do for you.’ He can help you make an awesome pie crust!)
The only disappointment came when I realized I didn’t have enough pie dough to make a lattice top. I was really bummed about that. I wanted my first cherry pie to look like it had won the blue ribbon at the county fair. In spite of the lack of lattice, the pie was still delicious. I didn’t think it was as good as my mom’s blueberry pie, so now I can’t wait to make my mom’s blueberry pie with my home made crust!