Saturday, October 06, 2012


I have been praised for my pie for many years. Specifically, for my pastry, because generally it is Jennifer who makes the filling ahead of time, or after I've set the pastry to chill. My Mom, incidentally was one of the best pie makers, and she learned it from her mother, Daisy's namesake great-grandmother. When her hands started to suffer from extreme arthritis, I still hadn't learned how to make pastry, so she taught my Dad how to make it, and he then taught me by showing me. Grampa still makes a mean pie!

It's always good to have helpers!
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving this year (and just in time!) if you're looking for a recipe for pastry, here is the Sprung version. I'm warning you. It's not perfect. I'm not a pastry chef, nor is this going to be without glitches. But really, it's the glitches that make it specifically NOT what you get in the stores.

It's home-made apple pie, Sprung style. Here is what you'll need:

From left, vinegar, salt, eggs, cake and pastry flour, and shortening. (Plus all the tools)
6 cups of cake and pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 box Tenderflake shortening
1 tablespoon Vinegar
1 egg

1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 pat of butter
1 lemon (for 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
eight apples, peeled, cored, sliced. (I used Cortlands for this recipe, fresh from the Belleville market this morning...)

First, the pastry. If you follow the instructions on the outside of the Tenderflake box, you'll get average pastry. There are tips that will make it exceptional, and that will help you improve your pastry over time. You won't get it right the first time, or every time, but if you practice you'll get it right most of the time.

Pastry, if you haven't guessed, is an art. It takes feeling the consistency between your fingers. So first, take off your rings, and wash your hands.

I always mix the liquid first. Mix the egg and vinegar in a 1 cup measure. Then top it up to the cup mark with water, mix, and let it sit.

Then cut the shortening into the flour and salt mixture, and to use a spoon to churn up the dry parts until it is the consistency of coarse oatmeal. While this can be done with knives, I find the specialty tool is essential.

Then you pour in about half the egg vinegar water mixture, and mix it with your hands.

I have no pictures of the mixing, for obvious reasons. It can get a bit messy. Even at this stage, you need a very light touch. You're not mixing, per se, but getting it slowly to a state where it holds together. It's an art. If you need more of the liquid, add it very sparingly, as you don't want to use it all, you just want to get the pastry to the point where it barely holds. That's it. The drier the mixture, the flakier your pastry will be.

When you take it out of the bowl, there should still be cracks, and little pieces falling off it. That's normal.

The blob!

At this point, you cut it into four. Two bottoms, and two tops. If you're doing a pie that requires only a bottom, that has to be baked and then have filling added, such as a chocolate creme, coconut creme, or key lime, then you'll want to cut it in three to make shells.

Take your three, or four smaller bits, and you wrap them in cellophane and put them in the fridge for more than an hour. If you want authentic pie from days past, you skip this step. Then you will need a rolling pin. I used to use one from my grandmother's kitchen, but now we have one from Jamie Oliver's line, that allows more precise control over the dough. It is tapered at the ends, with no handles, so if the dough isn't taking the right circular shape, you can roll specific parts of it to get it back into round.

Start by pushing the dough down in an 'x'.

Then roll out from the centre, making sure to keep it round, and consistent thickness throughout. Easier said than done, I know!

If any cracks develop, then just push them back together, and use the roller to reshape it.

Gently lift the pastry into the clean dry pie plate. Don't worry if it doesn't cover all the plate, or if it rolls over the edges. All you have to do to fix this is cut the excess from the sides...

Then fit the pieces in where there are gaps, pressing it gently together.

That done, you have your lower crust. Roll out the upper crust the same way, and keep it aside. 

If at this point you're making shells, then take a fork, and put holes all throughout the pie then fill it with dried beans or a pie weight, so the pastry doesn't lift and crumble in the oven.


Alright, for this pie we start the filling with apples. I suggest fresh and local, so there's no bruises or rubbery texture from the shipping. I bought Cortlands from the market in Belleville, and they are very fresh. The smell was wonderful!

Peel them, core them, and slice them.

When your apples are ready, juice and strain your lemon.

This next part is not difficult. Just mix the apples, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, butter, kosher salt, and lemon juice together in a mixing bowl.

Then pour the filling mix into the pie shell.

You'll want to gently 'reposition' the apples, so that they fall into place and take up all the space. Air pockets are not a good idea.

The top goes on just like the bottom went in. Fit it on top. Then cut the edges, and pinch it to an edge which you can then crimp, or decorate as you like.

Then, we brush the top with egg white and water

Just before putting it in the oven, cut vent holes. I've done pies with skeleton faces, or if pumpkin filling, like jack 'o' lanterns. The reason we cut vents is that pie filling creates a lot of steam that needs to escape.

If you like, you can also sprinkle brown sugar or brown sugar and cinnamon on top.

Bake at 350' for 45 minutes, and if it's browned unevenly, then turn the pie a half turn. If it seems ready, take it out. If not, leave it for another 10 minutes.

At this point, when you do take it out, you'll want to let it cool for at least twenty minutes before anyone cuts into it. This allows the insides to gel and not leak out.


My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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