pieI like to make pies. This is mostly because I like to eat pies. But it’s also because making pie crust is the closest I get to meditation.

It’s the beautiful alchemy of it all. You have this recipe that has at most four ingredients, one being water, and it’s all in the ratios and the mixing and the patting and the rolling. And it’s something that if you overdo, you can’t undo.

Here’s my pie crust recipe:

* 2.5 cups flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 3/4 cup Crisco (chilled)
* Ice water

That’s it. It makes enough dough for two 9″ rounds. This time around I used whole-wheat flour, which was a bit of a disaster. Serves me right trying to kid myself about the healthfullness of a FUCKING PIE made with whole wheat. Too glutenous, hard to roll out, simultaneously crumbly and spongy. I’d recommend using half that and half unbleached, if I were you.

Actually, the best pies are made with white flour and LARD. But I’ll leave that to the folks who enjoy being seen at the supermarket with a giant container of lard in their shopping cart.

Crisco is still better, if considerably worse for you, than butter. And it doesn’t take on the nasty refrigerator taste that butter does. And this isn’t Canyon Ranch, it’s fucking pie-making pedantism.

The first steps are simple. First you mix the flour and salt in a chilled bowl. Then you add the Crisco in spoonfuls. You take a pastry cutter (or a fork) and you gently mix it all together until it resembles cornmeal. This takes approximately 3 or 4 minutes, unless you’re an idiot.

Next you make a well in the middle of the mixture. You dump in 4 tablespoons of icewater. Mix the dough with the fork/cutter a little more. EASY NOW. The whole trick is to not get the mixture too…there’s a technical word, but we’ll just call it overworked. Wait until it’s of the consistency where it’ll form a ball without being gluey. Add more water, add more flour…whatever you need to do, buddy.

See, this is the magical part. How much water? How much mixing? I don’t know. You’ll figure it out. It’s crucial that you not touch the dough with anything other than the fork/cutter, because a) you want it to stay as cold as possiible and b) it’ll get tough. When it’s perfectly mixed (and not overmixed, see above), THEN you can take your hands, shape two equal-sized lumps, and stick ’em in the fridge under some waxed paper. For an hour.

In the meantime, pour yourself a drink and have a few cigarettes. And I should warn you–the preparation of the filling is not at all meditative or contemplative. It’s pretty boring. The pie pictured above is a raspberry-blueberry pie. They had shitloads of supercheap berries at the farmer’s market, so there you go. Stick ’em in the freezer for a couple hours beforehand. It’s helpful for some reason.

Please don’t try to do this with storebought berries. You’ll end up making a $47 pie, and for that much you might as well just go to Citarella. (The best plan B is actually the frozen prepackaged berries–they’re decently priced and only slightly scary.)

I used two quarts of raspberries and one quart of blueberries. And then I mixed in a half-cup sugar (this is a taste issue–adjust accordingly while I stare in disapproval) and a few tablespoons of flour. Of course, I forgot the tablespoon tapioca pearls. (You really should use those. And it’ll be the only time you’ll ever use them. You’ll carry the box around from apartment to apartment, for decades, until finally one day you’ll say “Fuck it, I don’t need tapioca pearls” and throw them away, along with your Cream of Tartar and agar agar. Then you’ll decide you want to bake a berry pie the following week.) Set that mixture aside.

Take the dough out of the fridge! Put it between two sheets of wax paper (unless you have a marble countertop/cutting board, which you don’t) and get your rolling pin out of the freezer. (Yes! I have a special space-age rolling pin! Imagine that! I don’t even have a decent saucepot and I have a $50 rolling pin.) Gently roll the dough from the middle to the edges. North, South, East, West. When you have something of even thickness that roughly approximates a circle, stop. Now you put it in the pie dish. There’s a trick to this, but I’ll let you figure it out. Press it into the dish. Stab it with a fork. Set it aside.

Repeat this process. It’s more important to make this the pretty dough, as it’s going on top and all, but in the grand scheme of things: fuck it.

Dump the berries into the pie dish. Miraculously flop the dough on top without it breaking apart. Crimp the top and the bottom together. Slice the top, or poke holes in it, or whatever. Sprinkle some sugar on top and brush some cream on the top.

The oven is preheated to 450 degrees. (Oh, that’s the one other thing you were supposed to do while drinking and smoking. Whoops.) Stick that pie in, leave it for ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn the oven down to 400. Bake for 35 or so more minutes.

When the pie comes out, let it set for a half-hour or so before you cut into it, otherwise it’ll be like that scene in Johnny Tremain. Finally, when you’re ready, when it’s ready, you caaaaarefully slice the pie, transfer it to the plate, plop some icecream on it, and waaah-lah.

After the first slice is eaten, you can commence to eating the pie in earnest, ie straight from the pie plate, with a serving spoon.

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