Thanksgiving is almost upon us. That means pumpkin pies. For Thanksgiving, my mother didn’t just make pumpkin pies–she made mince pies, too, and sometimes even apple and cherry. My family had an overwhelming passion for pies.
I guess we came by this honestly. My great grandmother came from Germany. She taught my grandmother how to make pie crust. Grandma taught my mother. As part of our family’s German tradition, the pie crust recipe was handed down. So, in terms of stay at home traveling, the recipe traveled with great- and grand- parents and my own parents to me: from Germany to New York to New Jersey to California. Soon, it may travel from my home to yours.
Until I grew up and began to cook on my own, I didn’t realize how right my mother was when she used to say the reason lots of people bought their pies at the market instead of making their own was that they didn’t feel confident about making crust. The problem, she said, was that to make the very desirable flaky pie crust was a somewhat delicate process, one prone to failure. (Something to do with the gluten in the wheat mixing with the shortening…if you take too long to make or roll the crust, the results aren’t good. Not sure if I’m exactly right about that, but a good cookbook will tell you.)
According to my mother, the pie crust recipe handed down by the German side of my family cannot fail. That’s because the crust is more cakey than flakey. For some reason, Mom thought this made the making of the crust less delicate. I don’t know if she was right, but I will at least say that (within reason) her crust can be rolled out over and over until you get it right. You can’t really do that with the flakey kind of crust.
So, this Thanksgiving, I offer you the recipe for my mother’s pie crust.
Mommie’s Pie Crust
|2 ¼ cups of all purpose flour||¾ cup shortening (consisting of 1/4 lb butter & 4 tblspns of Crisco)|
|¾ tsp salt||2 tblspns sugar|
|2 tsp baking powder||About 8 tblspn water|
Sift dry ingredients together. Mix shortening in with fingers until the consistency of coarse meal. Add water and mix with a fork. You may have to add one or more tablespoons of water (depends if you’re baking in a humid or dry climate.)
This should make one double crust pie (9 inch) and one pie shell. Divide into 3 portions and form these portions into 3 balls with your hands. Let stand 20 minutes in the fridge before rolling out. (You can make the dough one day and store it in the fridge and then roll it out and make the pie the next day. You can even freeze the balls and then thaw, roll them out and use them.)
Preheat the oven to 425.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board. Put the lower crust in the pie plate. Put the fruit in the pie. Put the top crust on the pie, then crimp the crust all around the edge of the pie, squeeze the top and bottom crusts together with your fingers. If the dough breaks, you can repair it and make it stick together with a little water.
Cut 3 or 4 steam vents in the top crust. Bake the pie in the preheated oven about 45-55 minutes, until juices bubble up through the vents, or the pie looks “done.” In the last 10 or 15 minutes, if you brush a little milk on the top of the pie, it will come out nice and brown and pretty looking.
Let the pie cool on the counter before you cut it. Otherwise, it’ll be too hot and everything will run out. Nevertheless, you can certainly eat it warm.