As I start this blog I am waiting for a pie to bake. For years I was afraid of pastry and always used store bought frozen products. While these are good enough, along with frozen pie shells, they are not the real thing.
Last summer I heard about Loblaws Cooking School on Queen’s Quay in Toronto and quickly signed up for a course with chef Paula Bambrick. Her instructions are clear, her recipes foolproof and she has an engaging teaching style, very hands on. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, learned a lot and signed up for a bread course as soon as it was offered.
Here’s Paula’s recipe, personally tested and proven on my long suffering dinner guests.
NEVER-FAIL PIE PASTRY (from Paula Bambrick)
The good thing about pastry is it can be made ahead and safely frozen. This recipe gives you enough for a double crust pie, so if you only need a base, just roll up half into a ball, wrap it in cling foil and freeze it for another time. (TIP: write the date on the plastic wrap with an indelible pen.)
2 1/2 cups cake and pastry (not all-purpose) flour
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp cold unsalted butter
4 tbsp cold shortening
8 – 9 tbsp cold water (about 1/2 cup)
Pam spray vegetable oil
Large mixing bowl
9 to 10″ pie dish or flan tin with push up bottom
Preparation and cooking
1. In the mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
2. Cut the cold butter and shortening into small pieces and add to the flour. Using your fingers (don’t be afraid to get messy!) rub in the fat until the mixture is grainy and resembles oatmeal.
3. While tossing the mixture with a fork, gradually add the cold water, until it begins to cling to itself. Don’t add too much. The amount will vary with the moisture content of your flour and general humidity in your kitchen.
4. Use your hands to form this into a smooth ball. Divide the dough into two unequal portions, tightly cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hr. The large portion will be for the bottom of the pie and the smaller portion will be for the top.
TIP: It is critical to keep everything cool when making pie pastry. An overheated kitchen, hot hands, or a warm counter top can all conspire to end in an unsatisfactory result. If necessary put your rolling pin in the freezer, cool your hands under running water and simply open the kitchen window, or turn up the air.
5. When everything is ready and cool, take the larger ball and first kneed it out into a disc using your knuckles. Then on a floured surface roll it into a disc about 1/4″ thick. Roll the disc onto the pin and transfer it to the buttered (or sprayed with vegetable oil) dish or tin.
6. Set the oven to 400°F/205°C and while it is heating up, push the pastry into the dish or tin so it fits snugly all the way around. Trim off the excess and keep for later or discard. Cover the pastry with aluminum foil and push it firmly down onto the pastry. Prick all over with the fork.
7. Bake the pie shell for 10 mins. This is called “blind” baking and allows the pastry to partially cook so that when you add your pie ingredients the base is already firm. If you skip this step your pie may turn out soggy.
8. Now take it out of the oven, remove the foil and let the pie shell cool a bit before adding ingredients.
BLACKBERRY AND APPLE PIE
At this time of year, pick whatever fruit is available for your pie filling. Granny Smith apples are in the store and blackberries were on special when I shopped, hence my choice of pie.
1 pie crust recipe (above)
4 cups peeled, cored and sliced green apples (4 to 6 medium size) such as Granny Smith
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup packed down brown sugar
4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Large mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl
9 to 10″ pie dish
Preparation and cooking
1. Make the bottom pie crust as above and “blind” bake for 10 min at 400°F/205°C. Set aside to cool. Prepare the top pie crust.
2. Turn oven down to 375°F/190°C.
3. Put the peeled, cored and sliced apples in a large bowl with the rinsed and dried blackberries. Add a squirt of lemon juice to stop the apples browning. In a small bowl mix brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle over fruit. Toss well.
4. Pour the fruit into the partially cooked pie crust. Cover the pie with the rolled out top crust. Trim around the edge with a knife and keep or discard the excess. Pinch along the edges to seal, using a spot of water to stick it down if necessary. If you like, press it all around with fork tines for a decorative touch. Cut four of five small slashes into the pie crust to let the steam out.
OPTION: Brush the top pastry with milk to create a great browning effect, and/or sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake on the middle oven rack with a sheet of aluminum foil underneath in case of spillage. TIP: Add strips of foil around the edge to prevent burning, remove 15 minutes before the end. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden brown. Remove to a rack and cool to room temperature, or about 3 hrs. Enjoy with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream or as is.
In later posts I’ll give you some other excellent ways to use pastry, such as
PEACH LATTICE PIE
CHERRY LATTICE PIE
CHEESE AND SPINACH TART
As you can see from the photograph the LATTICE PIE I made turned out very well, although my first effort was a bit overcooked. With pastry, practice makes perfect.
TIP: Chef Paula explains the difference between Canadian and US all-purpose flour, which is why the above recipes call for Canadian cake and pastry flour for complete success. Canadian all-purpose flour has more gluten, which is great for pizza dough but not for pie crusts. Cake flour has almost no gluten.
PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in this recipe. Or please add your own variations for others to share.