Chef Jeff Masten never meant to be king of pies. When he opened Left Fork Grill, he planned to serve cheesecake, pudding and layer cake along with pie as part of his comfort food menu. But word of his pie prowess spread, and he now serves 12 to 14 different pies every day. Savvy regulars know to get in orders for their favorite slice even before they’ve decided between corned beef hash or meatloaf for the main meal.
Chef Jeff Masten, the Pie Man
- Always use a glass pie plate, not metal.
- If available, try to use MacIntosh apples.
- After you lay the bottom crust in the pie plate, rap the pan sharply on the cutting board to make sure the dough is fitted to the plate.
- Use unsweetened frozen fruit.
- Use scissors to cut off the excess bottom crust and don’t cut off too much.
- Brush the edge of the bottom crust with water before laying on the top crust to create a strong seal between the two.
- Brush the top crust with an egg beaten with a few tablespoons of milk for a shiny, brown finish.
Jeff Masten’s Pie Crust
- Makes one 9-inch pie crust. For a 2-crust pie, double the recipe.
- 1 cup flour (Masten only uses Gold Medal flour, unbleached. His mother told him to.)
- 1/3 cup lard
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 to 4 Tbsp. water
- Chill the lard at least 4 hours. Sift flour and salt together. Cut the lard in pieces. Add half the lard to the flour and cut in with a pastry blender until it looks like corn meal.
- Then add the other half of lard and cut it in, leaving the pieces bigger. (“The first blending stirs up enough gluten to make the crust hold together; the second ensures flakiness.”) Masten spins the stainless steel bowl as he cuts the fat and flour together.
- Using a fork, stir in water, dribble by dribble, until the dough clumps. Knead lightly and briefly on a floured board. Shape into a flat round and let rest while making the filling. Roll out the dough.
- Tips: Chef Masten sifts in the flour and salt, then cuts in the lard before adding ice water just until the dough forms a ball easily. He rolls it out on a floured board, places it in a glass pan. Apple slices are mixed with a tablespoon or so of flour, plus sugar and spices, then spooned into the crust so they mound up. He brushes the edge of the bottom crust with water, unfolds the top crust over it, pressing it to seal. Then he places the pie on a can so he can turn it as he trims and crimps the crust. Finally, he vents the crust and brushes the top with a mixture of milk and beaten egg for a shiny finish.
How I make my pies
- Cut 1 stick of butter into teaspoon-sized chunks. Put it in the freezer. Be sure you have some ice water.
- Put the clean, dry bowl and blade of your food processor in the fridge. Heck, if your kitchen is really hot, put your 1 cup of flour in the fridge, because cold is the first key.
- Pulse 1 3/4 cups flour and 1 tsp. salt in the processor. Add the butter and pulse on and off for a few seconds at a time, until the mizture is crumbly. With the processor running, dribble in drops of ice water. The second the dough starts to clump, stop the water and turn off the processor. Form dough into a flat ball, wrap it in plastic and let it rest in the refridgerator at least half an hour. That's the second key.
- Roll it out, using as little flour as possible, to 1/4 inch thick. Fold in quarters, drape over a pan, and cut the edges.
- Slice 5-6 cups of peaches. Mix in 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup raspberries. Follow Masten's instructions (above) for filling and topping the pie, then bake it for 10 minutes at 450, lower oven to 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm.
Upside Down Pie, by Les Madeleines' Romina Rasmussen
The classic version is, of course, French. Tarte tatin is an upside-down apple pie. Les Madeleines' Romina Rasmussen makes hers with carmalized apples flambéed in brandy in puff pastry.
- Line a 9-inch pie plate with foil. Smear 2-3 Tbsps. softened butter over foil.
- Press 2/3 cup toasted sliced almonds and 1/3 cup light brown sugar into butter.
- Cover with bottom crust, then fill and cover with top crust. Seal, flute, and prick.
- Bake at 450 for 10 minutes; lower heat to 375 and bake 35-40 minutes. Let pie cool completely before turning out and removing foil.
- Freeform: The French call it a galette, and you can, too. Instead of fitting your dough to a pie plate, make a freeform tart. Roll out the dough and place it on a baking sheet. Heap the filling in the middle, leaving several inches of crust bare around the perimeter. Fold those edges up, pleating as you go and leaving a center portion of the filling uncovered. Dot that filling with butter and bake.
- Handpies: Particularly popular in the South, where they are often fried. Roll out smaller disks of dough, put a few tablespoons of filling just off-center, then fold the circle of dough in half. Be sure to brush with water and seal well. Brush with egg wash and bake.
- Purchased: If even the thought of making your own crust makes you want to lie down and cry, never mind. Frozen dough is fine. The dough you put in the pan yourself is better than the stuff that is sold in the pan. But anything is better than a no-pie existence.