art of the pie.

This crust is delicious too! Wow!

One reader, Andy, suggested that I try a recipe from “Art of the Pie.” Kate McDermott runs a class here in Seattle, offering her expert pie-baking tips. I’ve read about her in magazines, both national and local, and her charming and loving approach to pie makes me feel more like an artist or creator than a baker tied to measurements. Her instructions are conversational and very warm, and she enlists you to trust your instincts as you create your pie.

I’ve distilled them here for the purposes of simplicity (and to avoid the English teacher’s nightmare: plagiarism), but I highly recommend you have a look at her mantra “flour, salt, fat, and water,” as I think you’ll walk away feeling confident and prepared to bake a wonderful pie. (And maybe even a little charmed by her prose.)

This dough is undoubtedly simpler than the last recipe I chose– fewer ingredients and a little less active time. I also found it more pliable than the last dough (but that doesn’t necessarily mean better tasting; let’s wait and see!). Because I have so much pie lying around the kitchen, I chose to halve the following recipe and make a mini-pie in a cast iron skillet. Adorable and better for my waistline. (I may or may not have had a sliver of pie for breakfast.)

Here we go!

First, Kate offers tips about how to create the perfect lattice top, which I found helpful. This is so much simpler than how I was doing it!

And now for the crust!

Kate McDermott’s Pie Crust

2 1/2 C all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
16 Tbl high-fat European butter, such as Kerrygold
3-6 tbl ice-cold water

egg white
sugar

for the filling [for a whole pie]:
2 C raspberries
3 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbl tapioca flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbl lemon juice

Using cold hands, rub butter into flour. She recommends cutting the butter up into small chunks, but I loved Gavin’s suggestion of freezing the butter, grating it, and mixing it in with a spatula, so I chose to do that. Slowly add water. Swish around and don’t touch too much; warm hands warm up cold butter. Try to get it so it forms a nice all of dough; add more water until you get that.
Divide into two discs, and let chill in the fridge for about an hour.
Roll out using a little extra flour, until it’s about an inch bigger around than the pan you’re using.
Once it’s assembled, brush the top with an egg white wash and sprinkle with a little sugar.

After adding grated butter to flour, slowly mix in a few tablespoons of ice cold water until the dough combines more or less. Air on the side of using less water.


Mini-pie! I lined the cast iron with parchment paper.


Kate's lattice video helped me create a far neater lattice top than I'm used to...


Want a slice? (And that's parchment paper peeking out from the pie; it prevents any black from the cast iron getting on the crust.)

This is what I listened to. It sounds like Americana, just like a slice of apple and berry pie.

And the verdict…? Later this week after I try Christian’s mom’s recipe.

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14 thoughts on “art of the pie.

  1. I am so into these pie posts! I feel like dough-based treats are the last frontier of baking for me, after spending many years trying everything else. Time to test out these crust recipes!

    • Thanks, Amanda! I find this recipe to be the simplest, and it renders a delicious and beautiful crust!

      Remember these simple tips:
      1. Freeze a high-fat butter, and grate it
      2. Use a spatula to mix together (warm hands will melt the butter)
      3. Add just enough water for the dough to combine

      I’ve learned those are the most important! Look out for one more recipe tomorrow… and let me know how your foray into pie-baking goes!

  2. I actually don’t think grating butter works very well (at least for pie crust; i think it is good for things like scones) because it makes the fat parts too uniform, and also the small pieces (even when frozen) tend to melt too quickly. Having differently shaped fats for different flakiness gives a more interesting and varied texture. Butter isn’t as pliable as shortening/lard, so maybe cut butter into different sized pieces… (with shortening/lard, you can usually just pinch out different sized pieces).

    (Background: I’d been trying to make great pie for years, with middling success, which is why I bit the bullet and took Kate’s class. It’s not so much the recipe, but having someone just say ‘this is what this part should look like’ that makes all the difference. Pie is so different from cake, which is mostly just measuring accurately…)

    Lastly, I’ve heard good things, but haven’t tried, pie crusts that use ice-cold vodka (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2007/11/cooks-illustrated-foolproof-pie-dough-recipe.html). Apparently a much mushier (and presumably easier) dough to work with.. the alcohol doesn’t freeze at 32-degrees, so you have something super cold, and it evaporates right out so you get something easy to handle that seems too wet but in the end actually isn’t…

    • You seem like a pie master, Andy! I’d love to take Kate’s class and am a wee bit jealous. :)

      I’ll try cutting up butter this time. What you said makes a lot of sense, especially now that I know that cold ingredients are key.

      And that’s interesting about the vodka crust… I may give this a try, but we’ll see. I may be done with pie baking for a while after this week!

      One last thing… Have you tried crisco? And what were the results? It kind of grosses me out, but I hear it achieves a very flaky crust (see the most recent post).

      • Hardly a master, merely an enthusiast. (though pizza pies, I will accept the honorific!).

        I have tried Crisco, or whatever the whole foods equivalent is; I just traded the lard bit for crisco (i’d run out of lard), so it was half-crisco half-butter. I’m not sure how Kate’s recipe with crisco tasted, though, because I gave it as a gift to my friends over at volunteer park cafe who never charge me anything for food, and they thought it was great. (and they’re better bakers than I; so either it was good, or they’re being nice). I can’t imagine a whole-crisco crust would be flavorful enough.

        I think I had a similar attitude as you when I started making pies, which was that I refused to use anything but butter. I didn’t like shortening on principle, and I didn’t really think about lard at the time. So I kept using butter, and I think that, more than anything, is why I never thought my pie crusts were very good… Not flakey enough. Too bad you are vegetarian. Lard is better than crisco, because it has similar flakiness properties and better flavor, plus it’s healthier. (You should make one with it to enter the contest, and just not eat it. or: find some bear fat; apparently they make the best crust of all.)

    • Ooh, fantastic! I’d love the gluten-free recipe, if you don’t mind passing it along, as I definitely have some friends who have a wheat allergy. Thanks!!

      • We’ve used some mixes, with varying results. The best was Pamela’s, but I’d like to make my own mix of gf flours. For pie crust, I would use tapioca flour and brown rice flour with a bit of xantham gum as a binder.

  3. Hi there! So glad to see folks who have taken my workshop checking in recommending the recipe. If you do use all butter, cut it down from 16T to 13-14T. Be Happy, Make Pie!

  4. One other thought. You might want to revise your amount of water. 3T would mean to me a crust with too much fat or fats that are too warmed up, in other words not chilled enough.

    • Hi Kate! Thanks for your tips!!! So you’d recommend more water? I can’t quite decide… Thanks for helping me win this fair competition. :)

  5. Pingback: on pie contests and going on 75-years-old. « joie de vivre!

  6. that mini-pie is the cutest thing i’ve ever seen & congrats on your victory, so awesome!! you are gifted.

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