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Pies Tarts Crusts  - Recipes

 
 

Even Better Never Fail Pie Crust 

Having made the Never Fail Pie Crust for many years, I have always been exceptionally pleased with the outcome. Making it with butter gives a wonderfully flavorful but softer crust. Made with shortening it comes out better and more flaky but I dislike using shortening on principle. Lard is the best for a perfectly delicate and flaky crust. Based on this, I have used lard almost exclusively for years. Then I chanced upon this article in Food 52 about a Cook's Illustrated newer method, using two different means to achieve an even better crust. I applied these principles to the Never Fail recipe and the result is spectacular, if a little more work. The resulting pastry is much smoother looking and bakes just beautifully. Do read the article if you have any questions as to the why of these changes.

Makes four single-crust 9-inch pie shells or two double-crust 9-inch pies, three single-crust 10-inch pies, or one double-crust 10-inch pie plus one single-crust 10-inch pie.

4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup shortening or lard

¾ cup cold unsalted butter, grated
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vinegar 
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup ice cold vodka





Combine 2 cups of the flour with the salt and sugar, then cut in lard and butter until mixture is nearly homogenous. It will be very sticky. Now add in the other 2 cups of flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine egg, vinegar, vodka and water in a small bowl; stir into flour mixture. Do not over mix. Divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts, shape each into a ball and wrap tightly. Chill thoroughly before using.

Roll each portion to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Place in a pie plate. Trim off any excess pastry along edges. Fold edges under and flute.

For a blind-baked shell, prick bottom and sides with a fork and bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. It is unnecessary to prick shell if it will be filled before baking.

NOTES:  The pie dough may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for longer periods. If freezing, divide the dough into 2 or 3 portions and freeze them separately in freezer zip-top bags.

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Double Chocolate Pecan Pie 

This recipe is a variation on My Best Pecan Pie, below, made with Chocolate Pie Pastry and a really good unsweetened chocolate added to the filling. A chocoholic's dream.

Makes one 10-inch pie

Chocolate Pie Pastry for 10-inch pie
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
1 cup dark corn syrup
1½ cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fit pastry into a 10-inch pie plate and crimp edges. Beat the eggs with the salt until light and lemon colored. With a wire whisk,
slowly beat in the sugar along with the grated chocolate. Do not over beat. Mix the corn syrup with the melted butter and fold into the egg mixture. Pour into prepared pastry shell. Place the pecans, flat side down, onto the filling. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until set and crust is browned.

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie
Double Chocolate Pecan Pie
In this pie, I forgot to gently whisk in the sugar, beating it instead. The filling puffs during baking and the pecans sink. Nothing wrong with flavor, but not pretty-as-a-picture with pecans on top.



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Applesauce Pie 

Having a huge tub of apples given me, my first thought was applesauce. We are not big applesauce eaters, though nothing is better with pork, especially if the applesauce is homemade. With so many apples, I made a huge pot of the stuff, so now I wondered what to do with it all. Since it was so tasty I thought of an applesauce pie. I am sure this could be made equally well with store bought applesauce, though I would start with a cinnamon flavored one. Add more or less sugar and spices to make the flavor right, and then add the eggs.

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 (9-inch) single crust pie pastry, fitted in pie plate, crimped high
2¾ cups applesauce
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ - ¾ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

TOPPING:
½ cup sugar
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

Applesauce Pie
Applesauce Pie
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). In a mixing bowl combine the applesauce, with the smaller amounts of lemon zest, juice and brown sugar. Taste. If the flavor needs boosting, add more. If it needs more cinnamon or nutmeg, add these also and taste again. Once the flavor is good, add in the eggs and beat to combine. Set aside.

Make topping: In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to thoroughly mix. Add in the beaten egg and with a fork or fingers, work the ingredients to make a streusel like topping.

Pour the applesauce mixture into the pie shell, then sprinkle on the streusel topping evenly. Bake the pie for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and the applesauce mixture is bubbling.

 

Frangipane Apple Tart 

A beautiful presentation makes this recipe stellar for an elegant get-together, though it is easy enough for any day. The flavors are superb. A regular ceramic or glass tart pan will do fine. If a nicer presentation is desired, use a metal tart pan with a removable bottom. Never Fail Pie Crust, below, makes the perfect flaky shell, or just use this simple recipe provided.

Makes one 9-inch tart

TART PASTRY:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup shortening or lard
3½ - 4 tablespoons milk or water

FRANGIPANE FILLING
2/3 cup blanched, peeled whole almonds, OR
(¾ cup finely ground almond meal)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
½ teaspoons almond extract
1 or 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur, optional

APPLES
4 - 5 medium cooking apples
2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons melted butter
cinnamon, for sprinkling

GLAZE
½ cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur, optional

Frangipane Apple Tart
Frangipane Apple Tart


To make pastry: Place the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening or lard as for pie, until you have coarse crumbs. Add the milk, tossing with a fork until the crumbs begin to hold together. Gather the dough together into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough for 1 hour. When ready to use, roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and fit into the tart pan, pressing into the fluted indentations. With a small knife, trim off the edges. Set aside.

To make Frangipane filling: If using blanched whole almonds, place them in the food processor and process until fine. Add the sugar along with the egg and yolk, almond extract and Amaretto liqueur, if using. Process until well combined. If using almond meal, all the ingredients can be all combined in a bowl and whisked together. Pour filling into the crust, spreading evenly to edges. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare Apples: Place water and lemon juice into a bowl. Pare and core the apples. It is best to slice them in wedges top to bottom, getting about 6 to 7 slices per quarter apple. Set the slices into the lemon water while preparing the rest of the apples. When ready, drain and blot dry the apple slices. Begin setting the slices into the frangipane filling, placing them so the wider end is toward the edge. Set them closely and nearly upright. Circle them all around the edge, then fill in the center as possible. Brush the apples generously with the melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon as desired. Bake the tart for about 45 minutes, until the apples are nicely tender.

While the tart is baking, prepare the glaze: In a small saucepan melt together the apricot preserves and the water. Once melted, pass the mixture through a strainer, pressing with the back of a spoon to get as much of the fruit through as possible. Add the Amaretto liqueur if using and stir to combine.

Once tart is baked, use a pastry brush to apply the glaze evenly over all the apples, being careful not to dislodge them. Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.


Chocolate Pie Pastry 

For all you chocoholics out there, this recipe is for you. Chocolate even in the crust of the pie. No matter what you choose to use it for, whether pre-baked and filled with an orange or raspberry chiffon mixture, or baked with a filling inside, do try this.

For one 9-inch pie shell:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup shortening or lard
2 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons ice cold vodka

For one 10-inch pie shell:

1½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup shortening or lard
4 tablespoons ice water
4 tablespoons ice cold vodka (or use all water)


Stir flour, salt, brown sugar and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening or lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add most of the water or water/vodka and toss with a fork until all flour mixture is moistened and starts to form a ball. If necessary, add remaining liquid to the crumbs in bottom of the bowl. Gather the dough in your hands and gently shape into a ball, then flatten. Chill for 1 hour before using.
Chocolate Pie Pastry before baking
Chocolate Pie Pastry, before baking
Used in making Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

To blind bake this crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees, or 350 on Convection Baking. Partially freeze the formed shell, then line it with foil and pie weights. Bake the partially frozen shell for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and pie weights and prick the crust all over with the tip of a knife. Place in oven for 13 to 15 minutes more, until the crust is well set.

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Rhubarb Cream Pie 

Another great way to use rhubarb when in season, this pie is creamy and tartly sweet; just right. The custard takes a while to cook and then to cool, but the flavors are too wonderful not to try. The pie could be topped with meringue, but I chose to top mine with Mascarpone Whipped Cream. I used the Never-Fail Pie Crust recipe for the pie shell.

Makes one 10-inch pie

1 (10-inch) pie shell, baked, cooled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cream or half & half
¼ cup granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons cornstarch (4½ teaspoons)
1 - 2 drops red food color, optional
Meringue or Mascarpone Whipped Cream, for topping

Rhubarb Cream Pie
Rhubarb Cream Pie

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add in the rhubarb and the 3 cups of granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is very soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks with the salt and cream or half & half, whisking thoroughly. In another small bowl combine the ¼ cup of sugar with the cornstarch and whisk to combine. Add this mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking well to combine.

Temper the egg mixture with a ladle of the hot rhubarb mixture, whisking quickly. Add another ladle of the hot mixture and whisk again. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and lower the heat to medium low. Stirring gently, cook the mixture for about 10 minutes more, until it wants to boil, even while stirring. Do not allow to come to a complete boil. At this point the mixture should have thickened markedly. If the rhubarb was very green and if desired, add in 1 - 2 drops of red food coloring to give the custard a nice pink color.

Pour the hot mixture into a bowl to cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the hot custard, to avoid forming a skin. Allow the custard to cool completely before pouring into the baked pie shell. Top with meringue and broil, or make the Mascarpone Whipped Cream and spread over the pie.

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Cornmeal Crust 

Whether used for a sweet or savory application, this crust is easy to make and use. Easy to roll over the rolling pin and unroll over the pizza pan or pie plate, just as with a regular pie crust. If using for a sweet tart or pie, add in ¼ cup of light brown sugar to the flour and cornmeal mixture. The texture is crisper than regular pie crusts.

Makes one 13 - 15 inch taco pizza crust

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter or shortening
½ cup milk or ice water

In a large bowl, mix together the first 4 ingredients (with brown sugar if making a sweet tart or pie). Cut in the butter or shortening as for a pie, until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle on the cold milk or water and toss with a fork until the mixture comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead (flatten, fold over, make a ¼ turn, flatten, fold, and repeat about 10 times). Roll out the dough to whatever size is needed.

NOTES: this would be great for a rustic blueberry pie, where the edges are folded up over the filling rather than placed in a pie plate.

Cornmeal Crust
Cornmeal Crust

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Cheesecake Mincemeat Pie 

This pie makes a great combination. Each mouthful gets a bite of the highly spiced mincemeat along with the smooth creaminess of the cheesecake layer.  A perfect match.

Makes one 10-inch pie

1 (10-inch) pie shell, baked at 450 for 10 - 12 minutes
2 cups prepared mincemeat
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 - 2 tablespoons liqueur, optional: orange liqueur or brandy are good choices
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla

Cheesecake Mincemeat Pie
Cheesecake Mincemeat Pie

When making the pie crust, make sure the edges are crimped well up on top of the rim of the pie pan. The filling is very generous.

Reduce oven to 375 degrees.  Combine mincemeat, one tablespoon cornstarch and walnuts (and liqueur, if used). Spread evenly in baked pastry. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar, with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sour cream, and then the eggs and beat until combined. Add in one tablespoon cornstarch and vanilla. Pour over the mincemeat; spread evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until nearly set. Cool slightly, then chill for at least 6 hours before cutting.

 

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Chess Pie 

This is a very old recipe, and exists in many variations in books and on the internet, going by different names. I know it as Chess Pie, and I made it often in Guatemala, where it was a recipe that called for ingredients that were almost always on hand. I couldn't make a good apple pie - apples really didn't grow there, and those that were available were imported and highly expensive. I had no idea what to do with fruits like guavas or loquats, mangoes or papayas.  Can you make pies from those? I stuck to creamy custard pies or chiffon pies, and this one is at the top of my favorites!

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
5 eggs, well beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell, edges crimped high - filling is generous

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter; add flour and cornmeal. Add eggs, milk, vanilla & lemon juice and beat well.

Chess Pie

Chess Pie

Pour into the unbaked pastry shell. Bake for 55 - 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted between center and edge comes out clean.

NOTES: In Guatemala where the “lemons” were the green things we call “limes” here in the US, I was, and still am, accustomed to using limes rather than lemons in this recipe, even when back in the States for more than 30 years. Try this out sometime, with lemons or limes, as you prefer.

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Never Fail Pie Crust 


This kind of pie crust is found everywhere nowadays, but it is so exceptional I must include it here also.  There are variances in amounts from recipe to recipe, but it is unquestionably one of the best, especially if made with lard.

Makes four single-crust 9-inch pie shells or two double-crust 9-inch pies, three single-crust 10-inch pies, or one double-crust 10-inch pie plus one single-crust 10-inch pie.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1¾ cups shortening or lard
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vinegar 
½ cup cold water

Combine dry ingredients, then cut in shortening or lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Combine egg, vinegar and water in a small bowl; stir into flour mixture.  Do not overmix.  Divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts, shape each into a ball and wrap tightly.  Chill.

Roll each portion to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.  Place in a pie plate.  Trim off any excess pastry along edges.  Fold edges under and flute.

For a baked shell, prick bottom and sides with a fork and bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  It is unnecessary to prick shell if it will be filled before baking.

NOTES:  The pie dough may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for longer periods. If freezing, divide the dough into 2 or 3 portions and freeze them separately in freezer zip-top bags.

As suggested above, lard is by far the best fat to use for this pie crust recipe, though shortening will work fine, and makes a very good crust.  While butter will give lovely flavor, it makes the final product quite soft, with not much of the flakiness you will get when using one of the other two fats. 

making Never Fail Pie Crust
making Never Fail Pie Crust, above
Lattice Topped Never Fail Pie Crust:
ready for oven, below


Lattice Topped  Never Fail Pie Crust

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Chris' Pumpkin Pie 

Very smooth with a creamy texture; just what is expected from a pumpkin pie. I like lots of spice in my pumpkin pie, so the amounts are a bit higher than many recipes call for.

Makes one 10-inch pie

1 single-crust 10-inch unbaked pie shell
2 cups pumpkin or squash puree
2 cups whipping cream (can substitute evaporated milk)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cassia cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons Brandy, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using convection). With a whisk, hand held mixer or stand mixer, mix together all the ingredients until combined. Pour into prepared pie shell and bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean.


Chris' Pumpkin Pie
Chris' Pumpkin Pie

Spicier Pumpkin Pie 

While I stated above that I like more spices in my pumpkin pie, and it is true that there is more spice in that recipe than in many, I still prefer more spices. If you love your spices, try this version, because it is all I had hoped for.

Makes one 9½-inch pie


1 single-crust 10-inch unbaked pie shell
2 cups pumpkin or squash puree
2 cups whipping cream (can substitute evaporated milk)
1 cup white sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cassia cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons Brandy or Cognac, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using convection). With a whisk, hand held mixer or stand mixer, mix together all the ingredients until combined. Pour into prepared pie shell and bake for about 1 hour and 5 to 10 minutes, or until a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean.
Spicier Pumpkin Pie
Spicier Pumpkin Pie

My Best Pecan Pie 

This recipe is invariably fantastic.  A really simple recipe; always excellent.

Makes one 10-inch pie

Pastry for one 10-inch pie
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup dark corn syrup
1½ cups pecan halves

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fit pastry into a 10-inch pie plate and crimp edges. Beat the eggs with the salt until light and lemon colored. With a wire whisk, beat in the sugar, slowly. Do not overbeat. Mix the corn syrup with the melted butter and fold into the egg mixture. Pour into prepared pastry shell. Place the pecans, flat side down, onto the filling. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until set and crust is browned.



My Best Pecan Pie
My Best Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie slice


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