I woke up this morning, my head throbbing dimly as a reminder of last night: the loud bar, low pulsating music, a throng of bodies crowded into a warm room. I stand at the kitchen counter. I’ve done the usual to wake up. A brisk walk, the cold wind stinging my eyes. A cup of milky coffee. Now I’m alert but still operating at half-speed, my thoughts foggy.
I gather ingredients: chilled butter, shortening, salt, sugar. A glass jar of flour. A rolling pin. Usually I prefer an all-butter pie crust, but a shortening/butter combination works better for decorative crusts.
I start the dough in the food processor, pulsing it into crumbs. Then, I transfer it to a bowl so I can press my fingers into it, feeling the smooth sandiness of flour + butter. A drizzle of ice water, and the dough obediently gathers into a ball.
Into the fridge for a chill it goes. I take the spare minutes to answer emails, eat a bowl of soup (endless, endless week of soup!), try on three different shirts for the weekend, listen to “Hello” by Adele to flex my vocal chords (it's high time I was discovered for my kitchen-singing talent).
Once the dough is chilled, I roll half of it out into a smooth thin layer. I place it in a pie plate and carefully trim the edges. I brush the inside of the crust with egg white and fill it with a mixture of frozen wild Maine blueberries, sugar, and thickener. Why yes, I am aware that it’s November and I’m making blueberry pie, but the heart wants what it wants. And if that’s split pea soup and blueberry pie, then I’m equal to the task.
To make the beautiful intricate top, all I do is roll out my second disc of dough and punch out leaves with a shaped cookie cutter. I arrange them carefully in concentric circles, brush with egg white, and bake until golden. The fruit juices in the pie should be bubbling – and you should have scrounged up some vanilla ice cream at this point, otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.
Now you let the pie cool. Gaze at it, pat yourself on the back, send a picture to your mother like it’s a finger painting and you’re a proud kindergartener.
Eat a piece of it warm, slowly. Wasn’t that easy?
Basic Decorative Pie Crust
I use the sturdier basic pie crust from Baking Illustrated for decorative pies. They recommend it for lattice-top pies as it holds up better than a more delicate crust, yet it's still flaky and delicious.
3 cups all-purpose flour (360 grams)
7 tablespoons (82 grams) shortening
10 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
10 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, mix the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the shortening and pulse for 10 seconds until sandy. Add the butter, pulse in increments of 10 seconds until the dough is coarse and in crumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl and drizzle the ice water over the dough. Use a spatula to stir and press the dough together into a ball (it helps to use your hands at the end).
Divide the dough into two (one half should be slightly smaller), and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, roll out the dough and bake according to your pie recipe. I just rolled out the bottom crust, brushed it with egg white, filled it with a mixture of blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and Instant Clearjel (find this online), then topped with my pie crust cut-outs. I baked my pie for about an hour at 350 degrees F.