One of the ways I am inspired to cook is by seeing beautiful ingredients. For example, there were four giant, crisp green apples in my fruit bowl, and whenever I looked at them a vision of homemade apple pie kept coming to mind. So I followed the vision and made a pie, just like that. Not because it was Thanksgiving (when I am supposed to crank out three pies) or because anyone asked me to, but simply for the joy of making these fruit into what they wanted to be. I blanched the apple slices before mounding them into the pie shell so that they would be tender and juicy after baking and not crisp and dry (as so often is the case with my apple pies!), and I spiced them up with cinnamon and cardamom.
Then my sister visited and asked me for her traditional birthday banana cream pie. I've been making these banana cream pies for I don't know how many years! I thought I was off the hook this year, with Anna having moved out to Pittsburgh, but when she came in August for a short visit, how could I say no? This year I made it with less filling than usual because she likes a higher crust-to-filling ratio. Plus, that way we all can take bigger slices!
If you are thinking that I'm not a fan of making pies, you're right. I think my main reluctance in making pies comes from having to deal with finicky pie crust and wrestling it into the pie dish without it falling apart on me. However, I've learned that using a food processor, very cold butter, truly ice-cold water, and minimal time processing really helps in getting a tender, flaky crust. To more easily get the dough rolled out and into the pan, I shape the dough into discs (not balls, as some recipes might direct you to do), wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes. (This helps prevent gluten from developing and making your crust rubbery.) Then I roll the dough out into a circle on the plastic wrap itself, invert the pie plate over the rolled-out dough, and then slip my hand under the plastic wrap and flip the pie plate together with dough to get it right side up. After making sure the dough is centered in the plate, I then carefully peel the plastic wrap off of the dough. And there you go!
Do any of you have some great pie-making tips? I'd love to hear from you!