More importantly: for the first time in my life, I made pie crust. Twice.
Why did I do this, this thing that I have feared doing for basically as long as I’ve been cooking? Well, I kinda got shoehorned into it by the apple cider cream pie. Pie recipes always prod you to use homemade crust, but some of them actually include crust recipes. This was one of the ones that did, and it just felt wrong to compromise the intended flavor of the recipe for no reason other than laziness. Also, and way more importantly, the pie crust recipe it wants can be made in a food processor. If there’s one thing I learned from making scones, it’s that I do not enjoy cutting butter into flour mixes, and I still don’t have a pastry cutter, so food processor pie crust is where it’s at for me.
One thing that was really cool about making pie crust is that my mom busted out more of her random kitchen knowledge I had no idea she had. (Previously she introduced me to the concept of, and showed me how to, butter and flour a pan. This may seem elementary to you, but this came from a woman who would rather set her hands on fire than scratch-bake anything.) You need to understand, my mom hates to cook. I mean she hates it. My grandmother, despite being (I am told) an incredible cook, never taught her anything – Grandma was an impatient teacher, my mom was an uninterested student, and the result was that when she got married she barely knew how to boil water. She’s an awesome cook now, don’t get me wrong, but she openly hates it and claims to not be very good at it. Additionally, my parents are more or less scratch cooks, but they’re very much not scratch bakers. Why? Because you have to eat to live, so you better eat well, but you definitely don’t need to bake and eat sweets to live. My mom and I baked only for Christmas when I was growing up, and while the cookies and pie fillings were from scratch, scratch pie crust was never even mentioned. So you’ll understand my astonishment when I took my chilled pie dough out of the fridge and mom started directing me regarding the thickness of the dough and how I should best use my “rolling pin” (by which I mean “empty wine bottle”). She then, to my much-greater astonishment, skilfully transferred the dough from the cutting board to the pie tin and made a gorgeous fluted edge. I mean, it wasn’t perfect, but compared to what I was going to do it was a crowning fucking achievement.
So that was cool. I’ll share my thoughts on the two crusts in Notes & Verdicts, but (spoiler alert) making crust is so, so worth it. The taste and texture beat the shit out of storebought crust, and it holds up better through prebaking and final baking. It also looks pretty cool after it’s been food processed and before you turn it out of the food processor into a disc – kinda like very small Dippin’ Dots.
Making the pie fillings was equally fun, if less eventful. As we know, I get a kick out of recipes with lots of steps. These pies were no exception to that rule. Neither was particularly complicated, but both had enough steps to keep me entertained. (I’m easily entertained. Imagine how entertained I’d be if I ever made anything actually complicated.)
Notes & Verdicts
Apple Cider Cream Pie by Food & Wine
Notes: You probably already know this, but when you’re rolling out pie crust, flour everything. Flour your surface, flour your rolling pin – hell, flour the side of the pie crust you’re rolling out. You’ll thank me if you didn’t know that. Otherwise, the crust came together nicely and held together well. The only change I made to any component of the recipe was a drastic reduction of the sugar in the cream topping from 1/4 cup to 1 tsp, on my mom’s recommendation. I strongly suggest you too make this change.
Verdict: Oh sweet Jesus, you guys, this pie is off the chain. It is off every chain. On its own the apple cider custard can seem a little too tart, but the lightly sweetened cool cream balances it perfectly. The flavor is distinctly apple-y without tasting anything like apple pie. The only thing about this I don’t love is the crust, and that’s only in comparison with the crust I made for the other pie (which you’re about to read about). It is a perfectly adequate homemade crust. Compared to storebought crust, it … doesn’t compare to storebought crust because it’s so much better. Pie gets an A, crust gets a B+.
nutmeg-maple cream pie by smitten kitchen with Perfect Pie Crust from Simply Recipes
Notes: I didn’t use either of the pie crusts Deb recommends. The tart shell wasn’t what I was looking for since I wasn’t making a tart, and the pie crust she suggests requires a bunch of stuff I didn’t have. Her updated suggested pie crust expressly tells you not to use a food processor, so it was clearly out of the question. I googled around for pie crusts from bloggers I trust, and am more than pleased with my result. The filling was entirely straightforward, with the exception that I have no idea why Deb wants you to pass it through a fine mesh strainer. Nothing in it needed to be strained out.
Verdict: Oh my god you guys this crust. It is delicious. It has a distinct flavor separate from that of the pie which complements and balances the sweetness of the pie filling. It is crispy and bakes up so nice. As for the pie filling, it is insanely creamy – funny how over two cups of heavy cream will do that – and tastes beautifully of nutmeg and maple. My only complaint is that it’s a little too sweet for my taste. However, I don’t think it’s possible to reduce the sweetness without sacrificing maple-y-ness, so I probably would not change anything on that end. Pie gets an A-/B+, crust gets an A.