What do you do when you have a big party coming up that requires lots of yummy baked goods, but you know that on the weekend in question you’re going to be way too busy to do anything as involved as make a pie? You take advantage of your freezer, of course.
First you make up your favourite pastry dough. I always love the original Joy of Cooking version that you can find in a previous post here. The Joy also has some great information on how to make pies ahead of time by freezing them before baking.
Then you make up your fillings. Here we opted for a vanilla peach and a strawberry-blueberry version. As long as you have about five cups of fruit, and then a couple tablespoons each of sugar, butter, and thickener (flour or corn starch), plus a few drops of lemon juice, then you can make any pie you want.
We had a tool that Cait called a “strawberry effer-upper” (though she used a stronger word than “effer,” if you catch my drift) which handily slices your strawberries into several neat pieces. Cait’s sister Jules was very happy to take on the effer-upper role. She’s a little sadistic like that.
Cait also made the error of purchasing clingstone peaches for our pies instead of freestone peaches, so getting the flesh of the fruit off the stone was a bit of a challenge. Eventually I discovered that if you cut wedges into the peach then it’s easier to pry off the sections.
Once your fillings are made and mixed, leave them at least fifteen minutes to macerate.
Ideally your dough has been chilling happily all this time and you’ve had a chance to roll it out and let it chill some more. The difference between a regular pie and a freezer pie is that when you plop the bottom shell into the pie dish, you leave a piece of plastic wrap on the bottom between the dish and the pastry. Honest.
Then you fill your pie that is sitting on top of a layer of plastic wrap. This pie is quite tall.
Seal it in with more pastry. Do not glaze your pastry at this point, if you’re into that kind of thing. You gotta wait on that.
Now wrap the rest of it up in plastic wrap so it’s tightly sealed. Wrap again in foil and shove that into the freezer.
When you’re ready to bake, haul the frozen pies out of the freezer. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
I stored the strawberry/blueberry one on an angle so I did have a bit of leakage.
Pry the pie out of the dish and peel off the bottom wrap.
Plop the pie back into the dish (you can glaze it now if you wish) and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes.
After ten minutes, haul it out and cut steam vents in the pastry.
Then shove it back in the oven (this time at 350°F) for a further hour, until the pastry is light brown and crusty and the insides are bubbling out.
Let those cool completely (or nearly completely) before eating. Yum!
Teedz requested a pie when we eventually made it across the border to visit her and Tego and Ando in NYC. And you guys remember that I have all those serviceberries I stole gathered from the neighbourhood. So I made a serviceberry/blueberry pie for the road. Actually, I made two, and the pictures will reflect that, but the recipe below is just for one.
First, I made the pastry dough, using the beloved food processor method. Now that I’ve found a technique that yields consistent results I am so reluctant to try anything else. Anyway, you can find the recipe and process way back here. I pulsed up the dough, split it in two, wrapped it up, and chucked it in the fridge overnight to do whatever it is that pie crust does overnight in the fridge. Dance party maybe?
So, get your dough rolled out into tops and bottoms and preheat your oven to 450°F. Beat up 1 egg in a wee dish.
Use said egg as a wash in the bottom of your pie. You want to do this so the berries don’t make the sucker soggy.
Now, grate the zest of a lemon and juice it as well.
Juicy juicy. Set that aside for a second.
I had a peanut gallery of people installing eavestroughs while I was doing this.
Grab your serviceberries that you have handily frozen. You want them to defrost only enough that the berries separate from each other easily.
I also used some fresh blueberries I had on hand. Essentially you’ll need 5 cups frozen berries (or combo-fresh, but don’t tell).
Pitch the berries into a bowl with your lemon zest and juice, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch (mine was a little runny so I suggest even a little more cornstarch than this), and 2 tablespoons melted butter.
Give that a sound stirring and get ready to fill your pie. Are you excited? I’m excited.
For a 9″ pie you’ll find the berries definitely come out quite high once you shove them into the crust. I patted mine down a bit, but don’t fret too much – they will shrink as they cook.
Slam the top of your crust down and seal the edges (repair any cracks with leftover dough trimmings).
Cut some vent holes in the top.
Slather that with some more egg.
Bung that in the oven for precisely 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350°F and bake for another 45 minutes, until it’s all bubbly and a nice golden brown. Let it cool completely before reheating or eating cold.
And, as a trick I learned from Mrs. Nice, take your leftover dough trimmings, brush them with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, and bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden.
These are handy treats for those young ones (or not so young ones) who can’t wait until dessert for the whole pie.
I get a lot of questions from readers I meet about my husband. The main one is, “why is he called the Pie?” Well, I’ll tell you why. And this goes back about nine or ten years, back when we had first met, and long before we started dating. It’s really a great story. I’ll tell it to you here:
One day, he told me that he really liked pie.
Yep. That’s the whole story. That’s why he’s called the Pie. And now you know. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.
Sometimes, the Pie’s favourite pie is blueberry. Sometimes it’s apple. I can’t keep track. But I know that pumpkin pie, even though it doesn’t qualify as a “true pie”, is at the top of my husband’s list of favourite pies. And now that I have sort of mastered the art of vodka pie crust, and especially considering the amount of pumpkin purée I have in my possession, it is a logical choice, and this recipe looks lovely. So here it is, a pumpkin pie that is so from scratch with its home-made pastry crust and fresh pure pumpkin that it’s almost like I made it entirely by hand-stitching individual atoms together (I can do that, you know).
So, now. It’s been a while since I made that vodka pie crust from Smitten Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, so I think I’m going to lay it all out for you again, just so we both can get some practice. If you like, you can take some more of Smitten Kitchen’s tips on better pastry from her second tutorial. Like her, I’m not a fan of shortening, so I went with an all-butter version of the crust today. And this dough recipe makes enough dough for two single crusts, so I guess that means I HAVE to make two pumpkin pies. I will try to sneak one into the freezer so the Pie doesn’t eat it too fast. That way later on when he grumbles about having no more pie I can dramatically reveal that he is wrong. I like doing that.
For the pastry, you need to make sure everything is cold. If your kitchen is frigid, like mine, this is easy. For everyone else, just keep chucking stuff in the refrigerator if need be. Ingredients. Tools. Bowls. You name it.
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.
Cut 1 1/4 cup cold butter into cubes and make sure it’s cold (re-chill it after you cut it before adding it to the mix).
Dump that into the flour and use a pastry blender to chop it into tiny buttery-floury pieces. You want to keep going and going and going, using a knife to clean off your pastry blender occasionally, until you end up with a mixture that closely resembles cornmeal.
Put a dishtowel under the bowl to keep it from sliding around on you.
Here’s the right consistency. You still need whole chunks of butter in there but you want them small.
Drizzle 1/4 cup cold vodka (keep that baby in the freezer) and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture.
Use a big rubber spatula and a folding motion to bring everything together.
You don’t want to stir so much as squish and squash everything into one big blob. It will be pretty tacky, but that stickiness will disappear when the vodka burns off in baking. You can use your hands to gently squish the remainder together, but don’t work it too much. If you feel you need to add more liquid, drizzle a bit more vodka onto it, but just a little.
Divide your blob into two even pieces and flatten them into disks. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes, and for up to 2 days.
When your dough is sufficiently chilled, lay a piece of plastic wrap out on your work surface. Unwrap one of the disks (keep the other in the fridge) and place it in the centre of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap over top.
Working from the inside and moving out, use a rolling pin to flatten your disk into a nice round piece of pastry. You’ll need a rough circle of about 12″ in diameter to fit in a 9″ pie pan. Most plastic wrap is about 12″ wide, so you can use that as a guide.
Notice how you can see gobs of butter in my dough? That means I will have some lovely flaky pastry. As the butter melts it will leave a little open space, which will fill with steam from the vodka and water, which will in turn expand the empty space, making the proper pastry flake.
Chill your flattened pastry again for a bit. If you put it on a baking sheet and chuck it in the fridge you should be good. When you’re plopping it in your pie pan, make sure to remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap before rolling it over a rolling pin or folding it into quarters to place it in the pan. I’ve done both methods here, so you can see what I mean.
Gently lift the edges of the dough to make it easier to press into the bottom of the pan without tearing.
Trim off the excess pastry from the edges of the pan.
I used a fork to press the edges more firmly down onto the glass. Chuck those back in the fridge when you’re done.
I had some scraps left over from trimming, so I cut up a small apple, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled out the scraps again to form a small circle.
I put the fruit on one half, folded it over, and pinched the edges shut. Then I put it in a sprayed pan and baked it with the pie.
For the pie filling, you need some pumpkin purée. You can be lazy and buy the stuff that already has the eggs and spices in it and whatever and just dump that in your pre-bought frozen pie shell but that’s just not cool here at Ali Does It. Make sure if you’re using canned pumpkin that it’s pure pumpkin, without the sugar and salt and all things spicy.
Now, you American folks are likely working from the 14 oz can of Libby’s or whatever it is you have. Fourteen ounces is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin goodness. Here in the FAR NORTH of Canada we have E.D. Smith pumpkin, which comes in 28 oz cans (~3 1/2 cups), so we generally use half a can for one pie, a whole can for two. And of course I’m working from a I-have-way-too-much-pumpkin-purée-in-my-fridge perspective. So I will be using that instead of the canned stuff.
Preheat your oven now, to 425°F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.
Beat up 4 eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in 3 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 2 cans (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (I believe some countries sell condensed milk in 400 mL cans — I would just use the whole can anyway for a slightly sweeter pie), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.
Take your pie shells out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them. You may end up with extra filling (lord knows I always do). I emptied it into a smaller pie pan and baked it as-is, for a sort of pumpkin pudding.
Chuck the pies (and whatever else you now have on the go) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375°F and keep baking for about 35 more minutes, until the pastry is all golden and lovely and you can stick a knife in the centre of the pie and bring it out clean again (i.e. the filling has set). You can see that our crustless pie and the turnover turned out equally well, though with them in the oven everything took an extra 15 minutes or so to cook. Let the pie cool completely on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve. You can heat it up again if you like. We enjoy ours with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Yum!