One of my favorite lines from a musical, The Sound of Music, is 'These are a few of my favorite things'. The children are all scared by a loud thunder storm and pile into Maria's room for her mothering comfort. They all brainstorm about things that make them happy like Apple Strudel, whiskers on kittens, etc.
I have compiled below a list of my favorite things, related to making pies! I hope you will read on and discover a new pie making tool that makes your pies a little more predictable when putting them together for your loved ones. Feel free to 'whistle a happy tune' while reading...
I guess it would be good to start out with my favorite pie pans. I have tried all sorts and keep coming back to the same ones for a consistently cooked bottom crust (nothing worse than a mushy, uncooked bottom crust!)
Pie pans made out of ceramic are the clear winners for me. My favorite pan and the one I reach for most often is made in Burgundy, France. An Emile Henry 9-inch, ceramic, deep-dish pan is a superior and old stand by for many pie bakers. Keep in mind that all recipes will not have enough filling for a deep-dish pie, since they are deceivingly larger. Especially, when regarding a fruit pie recipe, you will need 6 cups of fruit to properly fill a deep-dish. If you try to use it for a 4 cup fruit recipe, the outside crust edge will be too tall and your presentation on the plate will suffer as the back crust topples over from the weight of being too heavy & tall.
The red dish above is the Emile Henry deep-dish, purchased at Williams Sonoma. The patterned dish is a regular sized 9-inch ceramic dish with adorable decorations purchased in the home section at TJ Maxx. The pie server is one I purchased from a flea market in the mountain town of Dillard, GA. With the sharp edge serving as the cutter, you do not need a separate knife to slice the pie.
Find following a couple of photo examples of slices of pie, so you can compare a deep-dish with a regular 9-inch dish. For future reference, I like a deep-dish pan for a 6 cup fruit pie recipe, a pie with a meringue or a whipped cream topping, and a crumble top. Additionally, if you don't want to leak all over the oven, a quiche is safest in a deep-dish pan, as well.
Lemon Meringue Pie baked in a deep-dish pie pan
A regular 9-inch pie dish is perfect for those Thanksgiving favorites, Pecan pie, Pumpkin Pie and any fruit pie that lists 4 cups of fruit in the recipe. See below...
Pecan Pie baked in a regular 9-inch ceramic pie dish
A funny story about my favorite rolling pin is that we go Wayyyy back! When I took a wood workshop at Kansas State in the mid-80's, I really got into working on the lathe. We had a dizzying array of wood varietals stored in a shed attached to the wood working class. I picked out about 5 different species of wood and made all of them into candlesticks. During that process I found out that I was super allergic to a wood imported from Africa called Bubinga. I loved the purplish color (being a good K-stater), but my allergies could not handle that one. I chose a more domestic wood species, Hickory, for my next project, which was a rolling pin. I loved the idea of making practical items that I could use the rest of my life.
I didn't have lots of time to work on making pies during my studies in the Architectural School at KSU, but I loved the idea of baking lots of them after I graduated. In high school, I was baking for our family all the time!
After shaping the hickory wood on the lathe into the rolling pin, it was sanded to death and then treated with a tung oil. Since hickory wood has very large open grains, I wanted to make sure the wood patterns didn't show up when rolling out a pastry. And, it was a success.
Here is a picture of my hand-made rolling pin created in wood shop class at Kansas State University around 1986. This rolling pin has been used on countless pie crusts and zillions of sugar cookies since then! I always hand wash the rolling pin and it has stayed in perfect condition for 30 years!
Other bakers prefer marble rolling pins. Marble stays cool, which is perfect for pastry and it has a little more weight to it, so rolling becomes effortless. I do feel like you can accidentally roll the pastry out too thin with a marble pin. My old standby wood pin has a lot more control on the thickness of the pastry or cookie dough.
Speaking of marble, I received a marble slab from Williams Sonoma a couple of years back for a Christmas present and it has really improved the rolling experience.
I highly recommend this pie tool for beautiful pastry, especially if you are going to do cut-outs, braid the pastry or do anything else special to your top pie crust. See below for a pie crust rolled out on the marble slab.
Of course if you have a Corian, Granite or other hard surface kitchen counter, it will behave in the same way as the marble slab. It is a game-changer for me because I bake in a kitchen with laminate countertops.
A pastry blender is an essential tool for combining your fat, salt & flour for a proper pie crust. Pick one that feels good in your hand. This is one from Good Grips.
The fluted pastry cutter has multiple uses for pie makers. It can make beautiful wavy edges on a lattice top pie. A simple little touch like that makes for a real show-stopping pie. But, I also have used the circle shape as a stamp around the edge of a pie or all over the pie crust top (see Apple Pie illustration below).
My husband (egged-on by my friend, Mel) gave me this super micro-plane zester for a Mother's Day gift one year. Everyone should have one of these tools in their kitchen! I consider it a pie tool, because I like to add lime zest to my Key Lime Pie and the Lemon Tart also uses plenty of zest. This tool will save you lots of time and is a toss into the dishwasher item, too!
This photo shows a Blueberry Pie under construction, using the fluted pastry cutter.
This Apple Pie illustration shows stamping with the fluted pastry cutter on the upper crust
As you branch out with your decoration on pie crusts (and I sincerely hope that you will), the opportunity comes up to personalize your pies for special people, spelling out their name on the top crust. Or even just a word expressing your current feeling... like we had some of our favorite people over for a dinner party and I made a large 3 berry cobbler with a top crust. Serving as my vents for the big pie was the single word, FRIENDS.
I have started collecting cut-outs to use with my pies and have found these two tins at a garage sale. I've also used pie crust cut-outs laid out directly on top of the filling to make for a fun, custom pie. The heart shapes cross-over uses into our batches of sugar cookies around valentine's Day or look great on a Valentine's Day Pie, using the heart openings as vents.
It seems that individual pies have become a new favorite for entertaining. The cool part is that each person gets their own pie. Also, for those crust lovers out there... you get extra crust in this mini pie. This is a new pie pan for me that I got from a Pampered Chef party. I just adore it... and plan to whip up lots of mini-pies in the near future. I have done some mini apple pies, see below. Why do miniature things look so adorable?
Who knew there were so many Pie tools? I guess you ask a Pie Baker Lady (pie-nerd) and you will get an avalanche of kitchen gadgets related to baking a pie. Keep reading for more great ideas!
For partially-baking or pre-baking a pie crust, you will need some type of weight to put on top of the crust once it is inside the pie dish. There are a number of ways to do this method.
There are pie-weights (not shown) where you line the pastry with aluminum foil and then add the weights to keep the crust flat. I opt for not purchasing another kitchen implement (super small kitchen) and I use the same concept, but with beans or lentils, which are already in my pantry.
My favorite option by far are the silicone pie weights. They look cool, too... kind of like flowers. The inside is a non-stick metal with perforations that allow for even baking. The flower-like red edges are silicone edge flaps. Each one shown, one from Williams Sonoma and one is a Cuisinart brand has a handle or knob in the center to easily lift the pie weight out when it is finished pre-baking. That is lots easier than dealing with a pie pan full of beans or little pea sized pie weights.
The last wooden object shown is used for evenly distributing the pie crust into the pie dish right after it is laid into the pan, especially in the corners. I find this tool indispensable when making the mini pies. Not sure how you would do it without this tool.
A common problem with beginner pie-bakers is getting the outside edges too browned or burnt. This mistake can easily be avoided by using a variety of pie crust edge protectors.
My favorite and the most accessible method is aluminum foil. I like to make a 2-3-inch foil edge that tents over the outside edges of the pie crust to protect it from browning too fast!
Other methods include an aluminum pie crust shield or a silicone pie shield. They perform in a similar manner, although the silicone edge is long and awkward and if not very careful can be dredged through the top of the pie when removed. I find the aluminum one to be good in a pinch, but tends to make a browner edge than I prefer.
Here is what the silicone pie edge looks like.
It is adjustable, which is handy.
However you bake your pies, remember to surround yourself with all the fun tools of the trade. Thanksgiving being right around the corner gives you a good excuse to hit your favorite kitchen gadget store and stock up on the best pie tools, so your pies will be perfect for your guests.
And don't forget, my cookbooks are available at my website. Order yours today to get in time for Thanksgiving! www.piebakerlady.com
Remember that life is what you bake of it!
Pie love you,
The Pie Baker Lady