Everyone likes pie, am I right? And since one of the main reasons for being a good cook is to get people to like you, I decided recently that I would become known for my pies. (I guess I was feeling unpopular) People would invite me to things, hoping I would bring one of my famous pies. Polly's here? Where's her pie? they'd say. Oh, Polly--you know, the one who makes that fabulous apple pie.
And I do mean apple pie; or peach or blueberry or rhubarb or plum. Fruit pies, not butterscotch or chocolate. (that's kind of cheating if the idea is to win friends.) Pie with a real homemade crust, tall pies with fruit bathed in exactly the right amount of thickened filling; no caramel, no streusel, not heavy on the cinnamon: just fruit and crust.
I've made three or four since I decided to become a piemeister, and basically, I'm there. I make great pie.
I thought it would be this long quest to find the right recipes and techniques. But the thing is, for stuff like apple pie, Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen) has already done all that trying and testing. I don't need to duplicate it. I got the recipe out of The New Best Recipe, their big cookbook--you can get it from their website, too, but you have to pay. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/ Their piecrust is fabulous: it uses a lot of butter and--this is genius-- a lot of water, so it's easy to roll out. The main problem with pie crust is that it crumbles and you have to patch it. This doesn't But it's crisp and delicious, and way way way better than store-bought. They have good ideas about apples. All I have to do is find a place on my counter clean enough to roll out the pie and make sure there's time to bake it.
That's it--that's the secret. You have to spend some money, but cook's illustrated is basically my secret for all kinds of things--anything standard or American especially. I get the magazine as well as buy the books.