I can make a pie.
I prefer to bake cakes and cookies, but I can do pie.
Weeelllll, really, unless I’m baking for someone or it’s my turn to host book club or a dinner party, I rarely bake pies. (Unless it’s during the winter holidays and then my family bakes dozens of my father’s recipe pecan pies.)
Probably because, in my mind, pie equals baked fruit and it’s a texture thing for me. I like my fruit in its natural state.
But...I can make a pie.
Especially if you branch out — think outside of the shell, shall we say — and redefine what is “Pie.”
Pie, to me, is anything, any filling — sweet or savory — baked enveloped in flaky dough. It can be hand-held or presented in a Dutch oven, hot or cold, family-sized or served individually in a glass.
Therefore, apple pie is Pie as is shepherd’s pie.
Layer crumbs in a glass with a filling (lemon curd or banana cream) and top with whipped cream...that’s also Pie. Creative Pie.
Pop Tarts are Pie ...if you adhere to the definition (double-crust, fruit filling).
Think about it.
But, don’t think too hard about making a crust. They are really easy to make, especially if you’re working with cold ingredients (Crisco — which is classic — or your favorite brand of shortening and ice cold water). Or, if you’re like me...at times wanting instant gratification...there are a wide range of pre-made pie shells and crusts available. My sister prefers Pet-Ritz brand because they are thin and taste closest to homemade.
So start with one of the recipes here, or revisit one of you favorites. Think of ways to mix up the presentation, and most of all, have fun.
Want to further define pie? A traditional pie is really only a Pie if it’s a double crust. Meaning there is a bottom crust, a filling and then a top crust. Bare top? That’s a tart!
Classic Crisco Pie Crust
Makes one pie crust (double recipe if double-crust pie is preferred, i.e. for apple or fruit pies)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening
3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water
Blend flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.
Cut chilled shortening into flour mixture with a dough cutter or forks until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.
Sprinkle half 1 1/2 tablespoons of the ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from the bottom off bowl to the top, distributing water evenly. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon until dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball when pressed together.
Shape dough into ball. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
When ready to use, unwrap dough and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll dough from center outward with a steady pressure into a circle 2-inches wider than pie plate. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin. Center rolling pin over pie plate and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.
Trim edges of dough, leaving 3/4 inch overhang. Fold edges under. Flute dough as desired. Bake according to specific recipe directions.
Cream Cheese Pie Crust
Makes 12 to 16 ounces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup cold cream cheese, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons ice cold water
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter and cream cheese and cut into dry ingredients with a pastry knife or your fingers until fine crumbs are formed.
Add ice water and, using your hands, gently work mixture until dough just comes together. Form dough into ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Homemade Pop Tarts
Makes 24 (12 of each flavor)
Pie dough (store-bought or 1 recipe of Cream Cheese dough)
1 cup hulled and chopped strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup Nutella
3/4 cup marshmallow crème
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing pastries
1 egg white
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles for decoration
Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine fruit filling ingredients and 3 tablespoons water in a medium pot over medium heat. Gently mash berries with the back of a wooden spoon and simmer, stirring frequently for 30 to 40 minutes, or until mixture has thickened. Let cool.
Cut chilled dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll 2 pieces into equal rectangles about 3 by 8 inches. Fill a piping bag with Nutella and a second bag with marshmallow crème. Onto one to the rectangles, pipe rows of Nutella 1/2 inch apart. Pipe rows of marshmallow crème on top.
To make egg wash, whisk together egg and heavy cream. Using pastry brush, carefully brush egg wash onto dough between the rows of filling. Gently lay the second dough rectangle over top and press around each mound of filling (as if you were making ravioli). Cut 1-by-1 1/2 inch rectangles with a pizza cutter and crimp edges with back of a fork to seal (you should have 12 tarts). Place tarts on one of the prepared sheets and brush lightly with cream. Cut 3 tiny slits in top of each tart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Repeat process with the remaining two pieces of dough and cooled fruit filling to make 12 fruit-filled tarts.
For the icing, in a medium bowl beat egg white on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until light and frothy. Add powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until mixture is thick and smooth. Add vanilla and beat for 1 minute more. Spread icing onto pastries with an offset spatula (or your fingers). Top with sprinkles.
Baby Sized Shepherd’s Pies
Makes 24 pies
2 sheets store-bought frozen puff pastry
1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb or ground beef
2 tablespoons tarragon, minced
2 tablespoons chives, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup corn, fresh or thawed frozen
1/2 cup peas, fresh or thawed frozen
Preheat oven to 425. Using a 2-inch circle cutter, punch 24 rounds out of puff pastry. Coat a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and gently press the rounds into the molds. Prick the puff pastry with a fork to prevent it from rising. Freeze until ready to use.
Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb (or beef), and let it cook until browned. Stir in tarragon, chives, cumin and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Pour mixture into medium bowl. Place skillet back over heat and add remaining oil. Sauté shallots and carrots for 2 minutes. Add corn and continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Return meat to pan and stir together. Add in peas. Season with salt and pepper.
Scoop a small amount of filling into each puff pastry cup. Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry shells are golden brown. Let cool slightly before removing pastry from muffin tins. Scoop mashed potatoes into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a dollop onto the top of each pastry.
Lemon Pie Shooters
Makes 10 shooters
6 graham crackers, crushed
For lemon curd:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick butter), cut into 1/8-inch slices
For whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
Make lemon curd:
Note: You will be using a makeshift double boiler so chose a metal mixing bowl for making the lemon curd that is wide enough to fit on top of a saucepan containing one inch of water, without the bottom of the bowl touching the water.
In the saucepan, bring water to a simmer.
In the metal mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and whisk together until combined.
Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water and stir egg mixture constantly with a rubber spatula. Continue to stir for 7-10 minutes until the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon.
Remove bowl from heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time. Pour into a glass container and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming on the top. Refrigerate to chill.
Make whipped cream: Put cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Beat until stiff peaks form.
To assemble dessert: Fill the bottom of a shot glass with about 1 teaspoon of graham cracker crumbs. Add a layer of lemon curd. Add another layer of graham cracker crumbs and finish with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with lemon zest or lemon wedge.