I was asked recently at an event what I liked better, cooking or baking. I took a moment to think, because I do like both, but ultimately I came back to baking as my favorite. The image of baking a pie was what came to mind as I confidently voiced my answer.
There is a moment when baking anything when you pause and think, is this going to turn out okay, did I add the right amount of this, too much of that. Baking is a science and it is that wonder about the combination of ingredients and the anticipation of the results that I think appeals to me. The delicious results aren’t bad either!
Making the crust is my favorite part of baking a pie. Let’s face it, I love a rolling pin! And this is my favorite pie crust recipe, a Martha Stewart recipe for pate brissee. It calls for butter vs. shortening, which I prefer. It is easy to work with, sturdy yet flaky and buttery tasting. I have used it for pumpkin pie, as I did here, for deep dish apple pie, for mini apple pie-lets (I will share this recipe soon – one of my kids’ favs!) and for cherry pie. All with great results.
For the pie crust:
Makes two 9 inch pie crusts.
2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Add flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger pieces of butter remaining. (You can do this without a food processor. just use a bowl and a pastry cutter or two knives. I don’t like to use my hands because I am trying to keep the butter cold = flaky crust!)
Drizzle 1/4 cup of the ice water over the mixture and pulse (or mix with a fork) until it starts to form or hold together. Pinch the dough and if too dry to hold together, drizzle more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until it forms.
Divide dough into two and flatten into disks in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or up to one day. (Dough can be frozen up to 3 months.)
Remove the dough from the fridge onto a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/8 inch thickness. I like to place the pie plate on top of the rolled out dough to make sure it will fit with some overlapping the sides.
By the way, this is my grandfathers porcelain topped table in the pictures. He baked on it as well and I think of him every time I roll dough. My husband added a shelf and legs to the bottom of the table and it is now my kitchen island and I love it. The porcelain top has a slightly cooler temperature than my granite counter and works like those marble topped tables used by so many bakers.
Once the dough is rolled out I use a dough scraper to help it from the surface and around the rolling pin, then gently place it into the pie shell, lifting the edges and folding them into the creases around the perimeter of the pie plate. I then take the rolling pin and roll the top edges of the plate to remove the excess dough.
For a nice edge to the pie crust I simply pinch the dough around the entire pie.
My daughter Cait and I rolled out the excess dough and used tiny leaf shaped cookie cutters to make pretty shapes for the edge of the pie. Simply put the shapes on a parchment lined baking sheet and make cuts with a paring knife to resemble the leaf veins. Using a beaten egg yolk with 1 tbs water added we brushed the bottom of each leaf and then placed it onto the unbaked pie shell.
Can you spot my yellow lab Tug in the corner of the picture with Cait? He loves to cook and bake with me, often waking from a nap when he hears chopping or whisking in the kitchen. He just sits there and watches like a furry overseer!
Pierce the shell all over with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. Line the pie shell with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Par bake the pie crust for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and weights and bake another 10 minutes until golden. Let cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.
For the pumpkin pie filling:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tbs cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 and 1/2 cups evaporated milk
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Pour into baked pie shell. (I find that this recipe fills the pie with some filling left over, so I butter a small ramekin and fill that too! This is my mom’s dessert – still yummy and gluten free!
Bake on a baking sheet (to catch any spill over) until the pie is set but the center is still wobbly – about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely, then serve with homemade whipped cream: 1 cup heavy cream, 2 tbs powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla. pinch of spice (cinnamon or ginger) and whisk to firm peaks.