Here’s a confession: until recently I did not really understand the appeal of pie. As a child I didn’t care for things that were crisp and buttery, like shortbread and crust, and that was that. In the past few years, however, I started eating pie when politeness required me to, and soon saw that perhaps this dessert had something to offer (although it was still no cake, cookie, or ice cream in my book). My first successful homemade pie, baked to celebrate this past fourth of July, completed my conversion to enthusiastic pie-eater.
I had had good luck in the past with shortbread-type crusts for Frenchified tarts, but one or two previous attempts at American-style flaky crust had disappointed me. In the end, the pie crust that brought me around is the one my mother has used for years. Every Thanksgiving, convinced that I did not like crust, I would eviscerate her apple pie and pass the empty shell with its beautiful brown flaky-but-tender top edge on to my grateful father. Oh, the years I missed out on this crust! I won’t dwell on it now—I will simply bake more pies. This recipe is so fast, easy, and delicious I can’t imagine ever needing to track down another.
Given my lack of lifetime pie experience, though, I won’t be offended if you don’t trust me on this. Serious Eats ran an authoritative-looking crust recipe from Cook’s Illustrated last Thanksgiving, and I know some people swear by lard. Here is the recipe for Ruth Reichl’s apricot pie, the pie that showed me the light, which I made with quartered peaches instead of halved apricots. I used my mother's crust, the Quick Cook recipe below, but have a feeling this would be close to ambrosial even in a store-bought shell.
- Yield:2 9-inch crusts, for 1 double-crust pie or 2 bottom-crust pies
- 2 sticks butter, cold, chopped into pieces
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until they resemble coarse meal. With the machine running, add 1/4 cup ice water bit by bit until the dough comes together in a solid mass. This should take less than a minute and may not require all of the ice water.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice to pull together. Divide the dough in half. If you are making only one bottom-crust pie, shape one of the chunks of dough into a flattened disk, wrap very well in plastic wrap, and freeze until you are ready to use.
Roll the dough you are using into a 12-inch circle. I like to do this between two pieces of plastic wrap for easy handling. Line your pie plate with dough, crimp the edge if you like (or leave it rough-edged and floppy to be folded over the filling), and chill for 15 minutes before filling and baking.