It’s always around this time of year where I try to work on my pie making skills. It must be the change in weather that makes me crave a really good pie and it doesn’t matter if it’s sweet or savoury as long as it’s homemade and delicious.
I was stopped in the grocery store the other day by a lady asking me about pies and what makes a great one.
She said she has tried everything that she can think of but just has a hard time making the perfect pie.
In her case she was making a savoury pie with a variety of different meats similar to a tortiere — a classic French Canadian meat pie traditionally served on Christmas eve.
It all starts with a good pie crust and that does take some time to perfect.
There are two main different pie crusts you can use when making a pie: pate sucre (sweet) and pat brisee (savoury). I tend to use the savoury dough for just about everything.
When you are making a savoury dough you have to watch out for a couple of key things.
First is the type of flour you are using. For beginners or people having problems with their dough, you want to you an all purpose flour.
As you get more comfortable with your dough making skills you can start moving to finer grade of flour such as a bread flour.
The second biggest thing that you have to look at is the type of butter that you use to break up into the flour. You want to break the flour up to the size of little green peas or an oatmeal texture and try to avoid using those little tools that help you break the butter into the flour. Your best tools are your hand and fingers so don’t be shy and get them dirty.
If you want your dough to be extra flaky then you make the little junks of butter larger and if you want it to be more dense then make them smaller.
The next step is where a lot of people make their mistakes and it’s the kneading of the dough.
Don’t over work it otherwise you will be left with something that isn’t usable.
The trick is to carefully knead your dough about three to five times and then let it rest before you roll it out.
If you over work it, then the gluten will get really elastic and you will have a very hard time rolling it out to the proper size of your shell and when it bakes it will shrink.
The next thing that you want to pay attention to is your filling.
Make sure you do your homework on the type of pie you want to make and don’t overdue it. The simplest food can be the best.
When it comes to my friends savoury pie that she was trying to make with different meats, it is important to make the filling dry. What you want to do is make your filling in a separate pan and play with the density until you get it to where you want. Too moist will make the pie shell soggy, too dry you will end up with a dry pie. Sometimes for moist fillings, baking your shell for a short time of 12 minutes before will avoid the soggy shell.
Being a good cook is all about making the best of any given situation and making our mistakes into something that is delicious.
If it happens that your pie is too dry then you can do something as simple as make a sauce or dip and serve it with it. This way your guests will be more likely to enjoy your dish and you can just play it off as if it was suppose to be that way.
Like most things that are done in the kitchen they take time to perfect so be patient with yourself and don’t give up.
-Chef Jamie Hertz