November 21, 2012

The Maine Ingredient: Traditional pies stand test of time

By Brooke Dojny

I don't know about you, but my family does not like deviation from tradition on Thanksgiving. We try, most years, to sneak in maybe a new vegetable side dish or two but otherwise, it's got to be the same beloved spread every year, up to and including the pies, which need to be the pure, classic, ungussied-up versions of apple and pumpkin.

A word on crust. Unless you do it regularly, it's not easy to make pie pastry. It's do-able – and a fun skill to master – but in my opinion there's no shame whatsoever in buying store-bought crust – not the shallow, pre-crimped frozen crusts but the rolled-out pastry found in the refrigerator case. By the end of the feast, people's taste buds are usually too jaded to taste much of any difference! 


This pie crust recipe uses half butter (for flavor) and half solid vegetable shortening (for crisper, flakier texture), and it's a great choice for just about any pie. If you need only a single crust, simply cut all the ingredients in half.

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in 8 pieces

½ cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut in 8 chunks

6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse to mix. Distribute butter and shortening over the flour and process in short bursts until most shortening is about the size of small peas. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture and pulse just until no dry flour remains and the dough begins to clump together. If dough is too dry, sprinkle on the remaining 2 tablespoons of water and pulse again.

Divide in half and turn out onto two sheets of plastic wrap. Shape and flatten into two 5-inch discs, wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before rolling out.


Follow the suggested combination of readily available Granny Smiths and McIntosh, or use whatever local apples are fresh and good. Macouns and Jonathans make superb pies. If they're somewhat tart, add a bit more sugar.

One 9-inch pie

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

3 cups cored, peeled and thinly sliced tart crisp apples such as Granny Smith (about 1 pound)

3 cups cored, peeled and thinly sliced juicy sweet apples such as McIntosh (about 1 pound)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pastry for a double-crust pie

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and allspice. Add apples and lemon juice and toss to combine thoroughly. Set aside for 15 minutes or so until apples begin to soften slightly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll out half the dough to a 12-inch round. Ease into a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon apple mixture in and distribute butter over the apples. Roll out the second dough disc to a 12-inch round and place over the fruit. Trim the overhanging dough to 3/4 inch all around; turn edges under, and flute or crimp to seal. Use a sharp knife to slash several steam vents in the crust.

Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake until crust is golden brown and juices bubble up through the vents, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature, with scoops of vanilla ice cream if desired.


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