Sorry to disappoint, but I am committing a couple unsustainable acts for Thanksgiving this year. I’m driving to New York City and back, twice. And I’ve purchased an extra roll of plastic wrap.

Needs must when the devil drives. Well, it’s not really the devil driving me to these decisions. It’s Ulysses, my daughter’s mini dachshund. He’s very cute, but still prohibited by law from boarding a Concord Coach Line bus. Amtrak only allows five pets on any train at once, and folks more forward-thinking than my daughter – a college junior balancing her classes, a 20-hour per week internship at a literary agency, and fully vaccinated city nightlife – booked those seats way back in September. Therefore, my Ford Fusion, a couple of audiobooks and I will collect the daughter, the boyfriend and the dog from the city the day before I lay out my Thanksgiving spread.

I bought the plastic wrap to make my pies in advance. I’m talented, but even I won’t be able roll pie dough out while sitting behind the wheel in traffic with everyone else fleeing Manhattan next Wednesday afternoon.

I was once afraid of making pie. My grandmother used to, and my mother-in-law still does, make excellent ones. I was never asked to produce them, and therefore didn’t. Then I agreed to make 300 slab pies (rectangle ones made on quarter sheet pans to feed a crowd) as part of a recipe-testing project for my friend and cookbook author Cathy Barrow. Her pie dough formula – 160 grams of flour, 113 grams of fat, 1/4 cups ice water and 1/8 teaspoon salt – is now etched in my brain. And her method – pulsing ingredients in a food processor; turning the slightly sandy, slight clumpy mixture out onto a crisscross of plastic wrap; enveloping the loose dough in the wrap; and neatly rolling it into composed pie dough package – is muscle memory at this point.

An apple blackberry pie is ready to be frozen while a stack of frozen pie crust dough waits to be thawed. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Cathy also convinced me freezing pie dough was a sustainable practice. While she was developing the recipes for her two pie cookbooks – “Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies” and “When Pies Fly: Handmade Pastries from Strudels to Stromboli, Empanadas to Knishes” – she found she could use her food processor bowl for three batches of dough before she had to wash it to get rid of residue that could affect the final pie product. So why would a home baker make any fewer than three pie crusts once the gear and the flour are already all over the kitchen counter?

Especially if well wrapped, dough will keep in the freezer for three months and still bake up crisp and flaky. You wouldn’t, and neither do I. I made and froze an all-butter double crust (for the apple pie), the brown-butter crust (for the pecan), and the spelt flour and leaf lard double crust for turkey pot pie. When I am ready to rock the pie and roll the dough, I will pull them from the freezer and place them in the fridge. They will be thawed and ready to use in about five hours.

But what if, as it typically does, it rains in Hartford, impossibly tying up traffic for miles on Interstate 84? Given that delay, everyone will need a bathroom break at the Sturbridge rest stop on the Mass Pike. They will eat fast food against my advice and force us to hop off Interstate 95 after the Piscataqua River Bridge to find another public bathroom. And then I wouldn’t be home to roll out the dough, assemble and bake the pies before the turkey must go in the oven.

“Breathe, Christine,” I hear Cathy say, in my head. You can assemble and freeze whole fruit and pecan pies (but not custard ones like pumpkin or chocolate) ahead of time, too. In fact, she argues the resulting crust is flakier than it would be if you froze a baked pie and reheated it. Plus, if you’re not in a rush to make pies based on available oven real estate on Thanksgiving Day, you’ve got plenty of time to try your hand at the myriad cool pie crust designs floating around social media. Frozen pies can be dressed to impress.

To freeze an assembled, unbaked pie, place it on a baking sheet and in the freezer. When it’s frozen solid, wrap the pie in plastic wrap first and then wrap it a second time in aluminum foil. Label all your pie because they will keep in the freezer for three months, enough time for you to forget what you filled it with. When you’re ready to bake the pie, pull it from the freezer, unwrap it, brush it with egg wash (one egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons warm water and a pinch of salt), dust it with sugar, and bake it 10-15 minutes longer (on a preheated baking stone to avoid a soggy bottom) than you would if you’d just assembled the pie. If the crust gets too dark before the filling is bubbling hot, recycle the foil used to protect the pie from freezer burn to also protect it from burning in the oven.

Around Thanksgiving, a well-stocked freezer can help a cook keep calm and eat pie.

A bacon, scallion and cheese quiche with a bacon grease crust. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Bacon Fat, Leaf Lard and Spelt Crust for Quiche

I make a quiche in this crust the day before Thanksgiving, so I’ve got something good to eat for breakfast while I make turkey and all the fixings for dinner and freeze the second crust this makes for another quiche somewhere down the road. I use cookbook author Cathy Barrow’s pie dough method. Par-bake this crust for 20 minutes in a 425-degree oven before filling it. Sowbelly Butchery in Whitefield and Broad Arrow Farm in Bristol reliably sell leaf lard. If you can’t find leaf lard, butter is a better substitute for it in this recipe than commercial lard is.

Makes 2 single 9-inch pie crusts

1 ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (160 g) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon Maine Grains (180 g) spelt flour
8 tablespoons (113 grams) bacon fat, frozen and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (113 grams) leaf lard, frozen and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon vodka

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flours, bacon fat, leaf lard and salt until the fats are in small pieces coated with flour, about 15 times. Add water and vodka all at once and process until the mixture almost forms a ball. Divide the dough in half, wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap. Place one half in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4 hours before rolling it out to form a base for your favorite quiche. Store the other in the freezer for up to three months.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport Press based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]


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