Today, we are starting with a math lesson.
Pi – The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
That’s the end of the math lesson!
I certainly can’t tutor you in math. Math was my worst, most miserable subject. I had to take an advanced math class in college. That was a long time ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was painful & grueling. It didn’t seem to matter how long or how hard I studied . . . I just didn’t get it. I made a long distance phone call home, almost every night. My poor Dad would very patiently talk me through long math problems. He never complained about the phone bill either.
At the end of our conversations, he would say . . . “Do you understand it now?” I’d say . . .”Yes, thanks so much Dad.”
I soooooooooo lied! We always got each other. He knew I was still confused! I’m sure he shook his head and rolled his eyes, every time he hung the phone up.
This pie I completely understand from start to finish. Go figure.
I don’t make pie very often, mostly just around Thanksgiving time. I think it’s because I like it too much. It tends to be a little more labor intensive than making a simple cake. If you have pie crust ready and tucked away in the freezer, then it suddenly becomes quick and easy.
The trick to good flaky pie crust is basically 2 things. (1) Don’t over-work the pastry dough (2) Make sure the pie shell or double crust pie is chilled before baking. If you remember to do this, your crust will be awesome!
Every time I opened the freezer, I focused on a small disc of frozen pie dough. Today I finally grabbed it and let it thaw, just until it was pliable and I could roll it out. Pastry needs to be very cold.
The disc of pastry was not large enough for a 9″ pie. What to do . . . what to do? I grabbed a beautiful 6 1/2″ Lodge Cast Iron skillet. Pie crust in cast iron gets a golden crispy bottom crust that really can’t be beat. We can’t eat a large pie anyway. A quick roll with my rolling pin and a couple of finger tucks and done. That’s the beauty of pastry kept in the freezer. So quick.
Cherry pie is one of my favorites, but for some reason it’s not one of the 8 requested at Thanksgiving. Today . . . it’s Cherry! I like Cherry pie filling in the can. I really like the Duncan Hines Wilderness Lite Cherry Pie filling. It’s less sweet – more tart. I also tossed in a handful of huckleberries. Yum.
The little white ramekin is holding some mighty yummy crumble. I like to make this ahead and also keep it in a ziplock bag in the freezer. I can use it for desserts, muffin tops and of course pie. There are a lot of recipes for crumble/streusels, but this one happens to be my favorite. It stays chunky. The walnuts are are optional, but really really really good.
For this little pie, it will take one full 20 oz. can. If you decide to make a larger pie, you will for sure need 2 (20 ounce ) cans.
Now you have a choice:
You can crumble the streusel topping on top of the cherry pie filling now, and bake the pie.
(I started to add the crumble then stopped in my tracks, as you can see below.)
You can bake your pie for about 20 to 25 minutes, then quickly add your crumble to the top. (This way, the filling has a chance to form a barrier at it’s surface. The crumble won’t sink down inside the filling as it bakes) I prefer this method, but you can’t be slow. You have to be ninja fast. Grab the crumble and press it firmly in the palm of your hand, then let large chunks break away and fall on top of the pie filling. I also added a few chopped walnuts as well. Hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds would also be very good.
Quickly place the pie with the crumble back in the hot oven and continue baking until the crumble and the pie are completely done. I typically bake my fruit pies longer than any cookbook tells you to bake a pie. Once the edges of the crust are the perfect color, I wrap a 2″ foil ring around the edges and secure it. This leaves the center of the pie uncovered, but protects the pie crust edges from getting too dark. The reason I like to do this, is because the bottom crust of any fruit filled pie, or even a meat filled pot pie doesn’t cook nearly as fast as the top and the edges. Nobody like a soggy bottom crust!
Usually during the last fifteen minutes of baking time, I like to lower the pie from the center rack to one more step down. This ensures a golden bottom crust as well. For a large fruit pie like apple for example, an hour of baking time isn’t unusual. This pie took about 45 good minutes.
See . . . that crumble sits pretty on top of the filling. Oh . . . . restraint. It’s quite hard, not to eat the entire top of that pie!
Who would like a slice? I wish I could give you one, because it’s darn good. You could use any pie filling you like. My husband will say that Blueberry would be better. Not!
I do happen to make a delicious Apple Raspberry Crisp with this very same crumble. It would also be great on top of this Apple Pie recipe. Just use the streusel instead of a top pie crust. This crumble is good on practically anything except a savory pie.
Below is the recipe for my favorite pie crust as well as the crumble/streusel. The pie crust recipe will yield 2 double crust 9″ pies. You won’t need all of that for a single crust pie with a streusel top. Simply divide the remaining dough in 3 equal parts and flatten it slightly in a nice round shape. Wrap it it saran wrap then in a freezer ziplock bag, and pop it in the freezer. On one of those
pi days . . . pie days, you will have the pastry and the crumble already made. So easy!
One last note . . . I found a great quote that I thought I should pass on.
“It’s not the things we do in life that wear us down, It’s what we don’t do.”
Make pie. Sit down. Eat it. You might not have a chance tomorrow.
- Flaky Pastry:
- 4 cups sifted flour
- 1¾ cups shortening
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 egg
- ½ cup cold water
- Streusel Crumble: (will top 2 9" pies)
- ⅓ butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup white granulated sugar (can use half white and half brown sugar)
- ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
- For Pie Filling:
- for a small 6½" pie use - 1 (20 ounce) can pie filling
- for a large 9 " pie use - 2 (20 ounce) cans
- Note: I like Duncan Hines Wilderness Lite or Country Cherry pie filling or other, such as blueberry, mixed berry, peach, apple
- For Pastry:
- Sift flour, sugar & salt together. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in shortening until pea size pieces remain. In another small bowl, beat the cold water with the egg and the vinegar. Add to the first mixture. Take a fork and lightly incorporate dry ingredients and the wet ingredients together, just until it barely begins to form a dough ball. Do not over mix.
- Notes on preparing dough:
- Divide the pastry dough in half, then in half again. (4 balls) Press each dough ball gently down with hand or a rolling pin on a piece of saran wrap to form a circle shape about 1 " thick. Wrap saran wrap up and over the dough and chill or freeze for a later use. Chill for at least 15 minutes before rolling out.
- This pie dough recipe will makes 2 double crust 9" pies, or 4 single crust pies.
- Fill 9 inch pastry lined pie plate, or use a smaller size. You can lay scraps of dough on a cookie sheet, sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar and bake.
- **Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before filling with pie filling. You will need 2 (20-oz) cans pie filling for a 9" pie. You will need 1 (20-oz) can of pie filling for a smaller pie.
- Prepare Crumble/Streusel
- In separate bowl, mix softened butter, flour, sugar and nuts. Use a fork to combine. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- When ready to add crumble/streusel over the filling, place some crumble firmly in the palm of your hand and squeeze. Let pieces of crumble break off and fall on top of the filling.
- On Baking:
- Place rack in the center of the oven and Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place prepared pie in the hot oven and bake for at least 45 minutes to 1 hr.
- If adding streusel later, let pie bake until edges of pie crust are light brown, then very quickly add the streusel topping and continue baking until pie is done. Place foil strips around the edges of the pies if pastry begins to get too brown.
- Bake until the crumble is a deep golden brown.
- Hint: I always move my pie close to the bottom of the oven during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking time. This ensures a golden bottom crust as well.
- Let pie cool on wire rack before serving.