A creamy vanilla and buttermilk custard envelopes a pile of perfectly plump pears, all baked off in an all-butter pie crust.
Yesterday my husband and I packed up our car. Not the family car that fits all the kids securely in their car seats, us in the front, but the small commuter vehicle he drives to work every day. We roused Kjell from his bed before the other children were moving in their rooms and drove across the state to visit the Mayo Clinic. As we made our way between the oil refinery, the University of Minnesota Rosemount site with its spinning wind turbine, numerous farms (and farm smells) and the site of rolling hills and a big, blue sky, I thought about how I never imagined we’d end up taking that drive together.
Instead, I had pictured marrying Ole to be a life filled with sarcasm, walks through our tree-lined neighborhood with plenty of hand-holding, cooking together in the kitchen and long family dinners. Somewhere between the wedding and the walking, however, there are a few other people we created and a lot more life than I had originally envisioned in my ideal world.
Like most things, life things take time and commitment. They are like a glass of spilled milk, spreading and swirling its less than viscous white liquid into every crack and crevice of free space available.
So, today, in the early morning, I made a pie for the man I married. Not just any pie, but a pie he requested years ago when we were still considered newlyweds and the expanse of our life together seemed to stretch on forever, infinite and free of trouble and worry. A pie I had yet to make.
Pie Crust Crimping
Pie crust crimping is kind of secondary for me to a good, flaky crust and a luscious filling. However, it also goes a long way in presentation, so it seems at least somewhat necessary, especially when we’re thinking of the holidays. Here are a few tips to keep you sane as you go:
1. Leave extra dough around the plate. Always make your rolled out dough larger than you need so you can trim the edge. When you can get the edge all the same length, it will help make the crimping go easier and neater.
2. Keep it cold. The warmer your dough gets, the more impossible it becomes to work with. Try rolling it out and fitting it in your pie plate before you turn on the oven to keep the room colder. If your hands start to get hot, have a cold glass of water to hold or stand outside for a minute to get them to cool off before continuing.
3. Use a mat or parchment. Rather than rolling out your pie crust on a table or counter, cover your surface with something that won’t promote sticking. It will help you from adding too much flour to keep the dough from sticking, and that will keep your crust in good shape.
4. Don’t fret. Your crust isn’t going to be perfect. There will be cracks and breaks in the dough as you crimp, and you know what? It’s okay. They’ll either cook together or they won’t. Your pie will still taste amazing.
Here I am crimping. I use two methods. One is the four-finger method and one is the more traditional three-finger. Simply use your fingers as guides for where the crust needs to go. With the four-finger method you want to go over the last crimp in the dough when creating the next one. This creates tight crimps.
You can also braid the edge of your pie crust. To do this, I create an even lip on my crust that’s in the plate.
Then I roll out the extra dough and cut it into thin, long strips. I then braid those strips together to line the edge of the pie. The brush and dish there are water to help hold the braid together at the top and bottom of the braid. I also use it when attaching the braid to the crust in the plate.
I generally need 3-4 braids to go around the entire pie, with each strip of dough being about 9″ long before braiding.
You can also get fancy and do a design with cookie cutters around the edge. These also make great decorations that can be baked off separately and added to the pie when it’s time to serve.
Of course, pie crust without a pie would just be a shame, and so, I filled the braided crust with a mix of pears and buttermilk custard, the pie requested so long ago when things were simple and easy.
What are your favorite pies to enjoy on Thanksgiving? I’m willing to bet you’ll find one that suits your fancy over at TidyMom’s Love the Pie going on this week.
I’m playing today all over the place! Check out these other great Thanksgiving items for Food Network’s Thanksgiving Communal Table. Pull up a chair and check it out.
Update: I used an Emile Henry 9″ Pie Plate, and I had more than enough room for the filling. It is a deeper pie plate, so if you end up with extra filling, just bake it off in a ramekin or two for a snack.
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten, optional (for the crust)
5 cups peeled and thinly sliced just-ripe pears (4-5 medium)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large vanilla bean, scraped
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425° F. Roll out pie crust and fit into a deep 9″ pie plate. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes. Brush the edges of the crust lightly with the beaten egg.
Arrange slices of pear over the crust just to the top edge, leaving a slight lip for the custard and fruit to expand during cooking.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, vanilla bean seeds and salt. Add in eggs, buttermilk and melted butter and whisk until smooth. Pour the custard mix over the pears.
Bake at 425° F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F and continue baking for 45-55 minutes until custard is set and the pie is firm in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.
Makes 8-10 slices of pie.
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