My grandma taught me to make my first pie when I was 8 years old. More than 20 years later, it’s still my favorite dessert. Some of these tips are a century old, passed on from my grandma to my dad to me. And some are fresh from two decades of cooking pies. Either way, they’re sure to make your next pie your best yet.
1. Use shortening and butter in the dough
An age-old pastry argument is whether shortening trumps butter or vice versa. Settle the debate by using both. A combination is best because butter gives you flavor, while shortening makes for a flaky crust.
2. Hands off!
The most common pie-baking tip is keep your hands off the dough. For good reason — chilled dough performs best, and your hands are too warm. Use two knives to cut up the shortening and butter. Use waxed paper when handling the dough. If you want a flaky crust, keep your hands to yourself.
3. Lemon juice will wake up your fruit filling
No matter what fruit you choose for your pie, a tablespoon or 2 of lemon juice adds tanginess and complexity. As a finishing touch, take a lemon quarter (free of seeds), and squeeze the juice conservatively over the pie filling. It’ll wake up the natural sugars in the fruit and enrich the overall flavor of the pie.
4. Butter, butter and more butter
When it’s all said and done and the fruit is glistening up at you from its doughy home, dab butter on top of the pie filling. Just 5 to 6 small teaspoons of butter will do. Butter adds richness and lushness. It's not to be missed.
5. Don’t be afraid to go rogue
Surprising fruit combinations often make for the best pies. Don’t be afraid to spruce up classic fruit pies by pairing one fruit such as apple with something unexpected like blueberries. Another great pairing? Peaches and raspberries. Or try shaving fresh coconut on top of a rhubarb pie. Or better yet, go rogue and use three different fruits, like apple, peach and cherry. Be bold. Reinvent a classic.
6. Make 3-step cinnamon rolls from leftover dough
There’s always some unusable dough left over when making a pie. Take whatever’s left, and instead of storing it for future use, roll it out in a long, rectangular shape. Spread butter generously on top. Sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar on the buttered dough (4 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon). Roll up the dough like a yoga mat, and slice into rolls. Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. Serve the cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing.
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