My grandmother makes a terrific homemade two crust pie. For as long as I can remember, her pies - cherry, apple, blueberry and peach (my favorite) - have been a staple at every Thanksgiving, Christmas and family get-together. I've wanted to learn how to make her pie for a long time, and after a few failed attempts on my own I finally scheduled a pie baking lesson with her.
To start, my grandmother pulled out a tattered and worn Betty Crocker cookbook. She mentioned that she received the book as a newlywed (in 1945!) and that it had been her guiding principle when first learning to bake and cook. She followed the recipe, and then added in a few of her mother-in-law's tricks along the way. My grandmother lived in the same house as her in-laws for the first five years of her marriage, and her mother-in-law would spend every Saturday baking bread, cookies and pies.
My grandmother keeps bins of flour, sugar and brown sugar in a cupboard below her cutting board. She began the process by scooping flour into a bowl, and adding salt. Each time she added something new, she just tossed it into the mix, instinctively knowing the exact amount to add without having to measure. Grandma, I said, I need specifics. Here's what I got:
Two Crust Pie
2 cups sifted Gold Medal Flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening (add about 2 tbsp if using hydrogenerated)
4 tbsp water
First, you combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening (my grandmother pours water into her measuring cup to avoid having the shortening stick to the sides. Seriously, she's like an Indian - nothing goes to waste in her kitchen). Sprinkle with water and mix together.
Here's Grandma expertly mixing up the dough.
Next we have to round the dough into a ball and then roll it out in a circular shape. This was the trickiest part for me. My grandmother did it in a snap, however. Watch the video below for her method.
Once you get the dough rolled out to your standards, (mine was a little oblong, like a football, and when I said I wanted to try again to make mine look like hers, my grandmother replied matter-of-factly, "I don't think that's going to happen." I had to agree with her) ease it into the pie pan and fill with your choice of insides.
A note on the filling: My grandmother makes this from scratch as well, and it's actually really easy. For peach pie, you take 5-6 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (appx 5 cups), 2/3 cup sugar, 3 tbsp flour, and mix lightly together. Grandma also used a little Tapioca pudding to lend the mix some texture. For apples, follow the same instructions but also add 1/3 tsp cinnamon.
Trim the edges of the bottom crust by using the dull side of a butter knife (this way you won't snag or cut the trim erratically). The top of the pie crust needs to be rolled out the same way. Once you've got it, you need to create some ventilation. My grandmother slices two slits near the center and then uses a knife to wedge holes in a circle. I tried to duplicate the design as best I could.
Fit the top over the filling, pinch the bottom and top together to seal the insides from escaping during bake time. For a fancier presentation, you can choose to flute the edges of the pie using your thumb and forefinger.
Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 55 minutes. One of the tricks my grandmother learned from her mother-in-law was to rub some milk over the top of the pie before baking for a golden colored crust.
After waiting an hour or so, we pulled the pies from the oven. Mine turned out pretty good, although some of the filling bubbled over and escaped from the pie due to the awkward shape of my crust. My grandmother dismissed it as a beginner's mistake, reminding me that it just takes a little old fashioned know how.
Voila - my first two crust peach pie.
UPDATE: I made my first pie without my grandmother's guidance over the weekend, and my technique was far from flawless. I had to throw out my first batch of batter due to using too little shortening (the batter was too dry). Also, I had difficulty rolling out the batter again and after balling it up and re-rolling it became even more dry and tore easily. Finally, I re-mixed it using 3/4 cup of shortening rather than the 2/3 cup called for in the recipe. This definitely made the dough much more malleable, and I was able to roll it out easily.
When I reported back to her, Grandma reminded me that she always uses a little more shortening than what the recipe calls for, and that the dough should never be too hard to manipulate. Also, she said that it's best to only roll out your dough once, whatever shape it may take, since the additional flour will cause the crust to lose its moistness.