Of pie and productivity (and cinnamon ice cream)

I’ve written a bit about being productive when cooking, but generally I try to leave my love for cooking out the blog. I find cooking to be something you do at a pace that should be guided by nothing more than the seasonality of the ingredients and the time you have at hand.

All of that said, as I’ve been refining my pie baking skills (you know that whole “easy as pie” thing…horse shit), it’s become very clear that a certain amount of focus on productivity reaps rewards. So, in the interest of documenting my process (for my own benefit as much as for that of any of my dear readers’), here is the current state of my quest for the most productive pie process.[1]

Make the dough

Preheat your oven to 400 (rack in the middle)

Most crucial is the temperature; more specifically, make everything cold…really cold. By everything, I mean everything. So, get your mixing bowl (you need one of those stand up mixing deals), and add in your dry ingredients:

2 C all purpose flower
4 T sugar
1/2 t kosher salt

Now, put the bowl (with the above inside) in the freezer.

While you’re at it, put your pie pan in the freezer too.

Next, cut up 8 oz (2 sticks) of unsalted butter into 1/2″ chunks, and – can you guess? – yep, stick them in the freezer (on a plate).

Last, get a good-size cup (that pours easy) and put some water and ice cubes in it.

Now, let the butter freeze. Not get cold. Freeze. This will take at least ten minutes or so.

Make the filling

While everything is freezing, you should make your filling. I use about 2 pints of whatever fruit I’m filling the pie with, and to this fruit, I add:

2T flour
1t cornstarch
3 to 6T sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
1/2 lemon
1T unsalted butter (softened; a microwave comes in handy here)
sprinkle of cinnamon

Mix it all together.

Put it together

OK. Now hook up your (very cold) mixer with the paddle attachment and start it going on the lowest setting. Start dropping – piece by piece – the butter into the mixing bowl. The mixer will rattle as it tries to break up the frozen butter. It will conquer the butter, but not without a fight. Get the butter in pretty quick (you want it to stay cold), and then – once the chunks are about the size of big peas (chickpeas) – start dribbling in your ice water. You’ll probably need about a quarter of a cup, but just dribble in a little. Wait. Look to see if the dough is starting to come together, and if not, dribble in a little more. Once it just starts to come together (i.e. if you pulled some out and squeezed it between your fingers it would clump), it’s ready. Stop the mixer, and pour the dough out onto a dry (no flour) surface. Push it (without kneading it) into a mound, and then cut it half. Put one half in the refrigerator.

Take the other half and roll it out (you’ll need a good bit of flour, and – nope – the dough doesn’t need to rest). Once it’s rolled out, put it in the bottom of your (very cold) pie pan, and put the pan in the refrigerator.

Now roll out the rest of the dough (the top), and – using a pizza wheel – cut into strips about 1/2″ to 1″ thick.

Get the pie pan out of the ‘fridge and dump in the filling.

Make the lattice top

To make the lattice, take 5 to 7 strips and lay them parallel across the pie. Now take the first strip and fold it back halfway. Do the same for every other strip (i.e. alternate between strips going all the way across and strips folded back).

Now, lay one long strip going the other way across the strips that are not folded back (i.e. perpendicular). Then lay the folded back strips atop this perpendicular strip. You’ll end up with half the strips going under the perpendicular strip and the other half on top of it (lattice-style).

You’re going to repeat this process atop the whole pie. To do this, take the parallel strips that are under the perpendicular strip and fold them back over it, leaving the ones atop the perpendicular strip where they are. Lay a second perpendicular strip across these, and unfold the strips you folded back.

It sounds complicated, but it’s not, and once you’ve done two strips you’ll get the swing of it. Just continue this across the top of the pie. If you’re concerned about making the lattice, check out this fantastic recipe on the topic (pun intended).

Now get that rude boy in the oven. Before you do, however, I like (and my sous-chef, Annabelle, loves) to brush the top of the crust with an egg white mixed with a few drops of water. Also, it’s a good idea to cover the ring of crust (not the lattice, just the outermost crust) with some aluminum foil. Just remember to take it off halfway through cooking; it keeps it from burning.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes.

Cinnamon Ice Cream
Top it with Al Forno’s cinnamon ice cream:[2]

Put in a sauce pan:
2C heavy cream
1C whole milk
4 cinnamon sticks
8 good coffee beans
2/3 C sugar

Gently heat until scalded (i.e. little bubbles are popping up around the edges, but it’s not boiling).

Take off the heat, and let sit for an hour (uncovered). Then strain and chill, and make it in an ice cream machine.


[1] Much of this recipe’s inspiration (and ingredients and style…heck, it’s basically her recipe) comes from the fantastic Eggbeater blog.

If you haven’t been to Al Forno, please go. It’s certainly my favorite restaurant, and one of the best in the country/world.

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  1. Yogurt Maker’s avatar

    Thanks for the recipe 🙂


  2. Shanghai Tours’s avatar

    That Sounds interesting, I agree with you.Please keep at your good work, I would come back often.



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