How A Baseball Helps With Making Apple Pie
The success of any pie relies on its crust. Two and a half cups flour you will need for sure but if you use a lump of shortening roughly the size of a baseball, you can have some of the flakiest pie crust on the block. The technique that helps you achieve it, is more easily shown in pictures than from a cook book recipe. I call my technique the “Smush and Swirl”. Using a sturdy fork, I Smush the shortening against the side of the bowl and swirl the bowl around so that flour and shortening squish through the tines of the fork creating the flakes. Do this until the shortening is well incorporated but still a loose mixture, not too clumpy.
When that is done, measure 3/4 cup cold water and pour in about 75% of it. You may or may not need all of it depending on how well the flour absorbs liquid. Stir the water in until the dough just comes together. Don’t stir it too much. If it seems a bit sloppy add a tablespoon or two of flour and fold it in a bit until the sloppiness is absorbed. It should nearly clean the sides of the bowl when you are ready to turn it out and begin rolling. Over mixing can do some damage at this point. The less you mess with it, the more those flakes you so painstakingly created in the beginning will remain in the final product.
Now, the rolling surface needs a dusting of flour to prevent sticking. Divide the dough in half, dust the rolling-pin as well, and you’re ready to roll out your bottom crust. As you roll the dough, you’ll notice the marble like appearance of the surface. That marbling is what tells you that you will have flakes later.Now for the tricky part. To transfer this to the plate fold the crust into fourths and you can pick it up and move it over much easier. Just unfold the crust and adjust it to fit the pan. You may need to trim up the sides, then tuck the edges under so you have a smooth edge around the rim of the pie plate.You won’t need to get too involved with shaping the edge of the bottom crust, just so that it is even all the way around. If you are making a pie with a cold custard filling like a chocolate pie, then this is the time to shape the edges. Bake the shell for about 40 minutes in a 350° oven, and get it nice and crispy. For other pies where you bake the custard filling, like a pumpkin or sweet potato pie, you will just shape the edges and bake the filling and crust all at once.
For the top crust, just roll out, transfer, and unfold as before. This is the time to flute the edges and seal in the goodies. You may need to trim off the extra dough, I did, but don’t throw away the scraps just yet. Steam will need vent holes to escape so put a few in. Since this is a Diva’s pie there should be some sparkle on it. I use a large crystal sugar called Turbinado Sugar. It looks so pretty! In a 350° oven the pie will need to bake for at least 45 minutes or until it is a nice golden color. If it’s not browning after 45 minutes, bump up the heat to 375° and bake for another 10 or 12 minutes. When it’s finished baking it will need to cool a while before you cut into it. It will be worth the wait though, promise. As a final note, and being a life long Cardinals fan, I’m proud to be American and own an official Cardinals baseball to gauge the shortening in all of my pie crusts. And if any Cardinals team member happens to read this blog, I will happily make you an apple pie and deliver it in my Chevy Silverado. The only thing missing is the hot dogs.
There is a PS to this post: Remember those scraps? It has been a tradition in our family for several generations to use those scraps to make cinnamon crust rolls. Just roll out the scrap into a long rectangle, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake along with the pie. They might need to bake slightly longer…just 5 or 10 minutes longer if at all. Never let a good thing go to waste!