Rounding out my Pie Day baking adventures, I invited Renee and her cuties E & A over to bake pie.
E is a nine year-old aspiring baker. On our recent Foodie Field Trip, he told me more about fondant than I have learned from years of watching the Food Network and Cake Boss. While on our Foodie Field Trip, I was talking with him about pie crust. He said to me, “You know what would be really cool? If we could make our own pie crust, not the store kind.” The look of excitement on his face when I told him we could do just that made my day. This was going to be fun!
If ever there was proof that gluten-free pie crust can be made by anyone, here it is. E and A both made an apple pie with a lattice crust. Their very first pies have a gluten-free lattice crust. Pretty impressive! This crust is very forgiving, can be re-rolled if necessary and held together pretty well even when stretched, pulled and folded as we figured out how to create a lattice-topped pie.
We used my basic pie crust recipe to make 7″ pies. I spotted the 7″ pie pans at Sur la Table the night before our baking adventure and thought they would be a good size for little hands. They worked perfectly! I will use the pans again, they worked great with kids and are the perfect size for a gift to a small household.
After making apple pies, we made Cherry Pocket Pies. Renee helped make the cherry pie filling, which would have been much quicker if we had a fancy cherry pitter, but instead I pitted 5 pounds of cherries by hand. I probably ate about 2 pounds of the 5 in the process. There are benefits to all of this pie-making far beyond the actual pie eating!
Gluten-Free Basic Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups of my favorite gluten-free flour blend
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 T. granulated white sugar
1 t. guar gum
1/4 cup shortening (I use Spectrum Organic Shortening)
1 1/2 sticks of Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup very cold water* (I believe this is the trick to a good pie crust, water and butter must be cold)
*I start with ice water and measure out 1/2 cup after the water has been with ice for a few minutes.
1 egg for egg wash
1/4 cup granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of pies
Mix flour, salt and sugar together. I do not sift the rice flour blend, however if you were substituting all-purpose flour, I would sift. Add Crisco and break up with a pastry cutter. Next add the butter and mix with pastry cutter. Begin adding the cold water, just a little at a time until you reach the texture of pie crust dough.
Divide dough into two equal balls (four if making 7″ pies) and chill between two sheets of plastic wrap for 30 minutes. Instead of rolling out on a floured surface, I simply roll my dough between the sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out to the thickness of pie crust, slightly larger than the size of your pie pan.
Remove top sheet of plastic wrap and place inverted pie pan over the top, centered on the dough. Gently pull up on bottom plastic wrap and turn it over along with the pan. This results in your crust easily flipping right into the pie pan. Remove the bottom (now top) sheet of plastic wrap and press crust into the pan. For this pie, we left the excess around the edge to tuck up over the lattice strips when we were finished. We used this tutorial to learn how to make a lattice-topped pie.
To make the Cherry Pocket Pies, we used a pocket pie maker from Williams-Sonoma. (Here’s an apple one, the star one is no longer on their site.) It does not work well for me, nor does the pineapple one or the regular round plastic one I bought at Sur la Table. I end up using it like a cookie cutter. Perhaps there is a trick to this? We cut out star shapes, placed half of them on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, spooned in a bit of cherry pie filling, brushed the edges with egg wash and topped with another star-shaped piece of dough that has a tiny star cut out to vent the pie while baking. We then fork crimped them shut, brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with a little bit of sugar.
Cut apple into wedges using an apple gizmo if you have one. We then cut each of those wedges into 3 pieces. Place in a large bowl and mix with all other ingredients. Fill pie crust with apple pie filling, then follow instructions for lattice top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes for a 7″ pie.
Cherry Pie Filling
8 cups (approximately 5 pounds) of fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 fresh lemons
1 cup granulated sugar
4 T. cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1/2 t. almond extract
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, bringing mixture to a boil. Reduce to a slow simmer and cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring every minute or so. Add almond extract at the very end.
If using for star-shaped pocket pies, add a generous tablespoon of filling to each pie, top with crust and fork crimp shut. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Extra pie filling can be frozen for another day, used on top of cheesecake or waffles.
From one baking adventure with kids, I learned a lot and had more fun than I thought was possible making pie. There was giggling from all of us, finger licking of pie filling and lots of peeking in the oven while we waited as patiently as we could for pies to finish baking.
As we finished putting everything away in the kitchen, A said to me, “Whew! All done! Now, can I go pet the black chicken?” Just like that, she was off to the next adventure, but not before telling me which cherry pies were hers to take to a sleepover. I’m so glad I got to spend the day baking with these little cuties and their mom. The time spent baking with them was the perfect conclusion to my week-long pie marathon and a reminder of the value in teaching kids to bake. I’ll be doing that again soon!