6 tips from Steve for home pie bakers

1. Get the best ingredients you can find. This does not necessarily mean the most expensive or difficult to come by. Rather, consider if the ingredients for the pie you want to make are available. A blueberry pie in August is very different than one made in January using commercially frozen berries.

2. No matter whether you prefer lard or butter (or a combination), do cultivate strong opinions about the flavors of products on supermarket shelves. I prefer richer butters (high butter fat content—like 83%). For lard users, find leaf lard (it refers to a specific area of the pig where the fat originates from), as it makes the crust more tender, more flaky and extensible to roll out. Local butchers can be a great source (or a grocery store with a strong meat department).

3. When I make pie crust, I hold back 20% of the flour that is called for initially. Then I mix the flour, salt, sugar, and incorporate the fat (by hand with a pastry cutter or with a food processor). Then, I add the remaining flour. Finally, I add ice water slowly, until the dough is combined but not tacky to the touch. My Grandma Gwen would think I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to have really, really, cold fat.

4. Don’t accidentally dilute your fruit. When fruit is wet, it upsets the balance of sugar and salt, and leads to bland flavor. Thoroughly dry fruit in a clean kitchen towel. If using defrosted frozen fruit, allow it to drain for several hours, and also dry it as completely as possible.

5. One of the things I always recommend in baking is using scales instead of cups and teaspoons. Baking by weight allows for consistency, and baking by volume is far less accurate. Because numbers accuracy matters. :) 

6. Pie is personal. There is no one right way to make a pie. If you like a double crust, go for it, if you like a shiny crust, brush with egg wash or milk, if you like a Dutch crumb, add one. Well, there may not actually be a single way to make great pie, but using Baker’s Field Flour and Bread pastry flour, is a head-start toward an excellent pie (find it in your local co-ops).

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