Granted, it was me who taught him how, but in this case the pupil has far out shone the master. The pupil has become the master!
But more than my instruction alone has gone into the making of this contemporary piemaster.
For example, it was Tom's mother who formulated the remedy to cure his pies of their soggy bottom crusts by baking the bottom crust for 11 minutes before adding the apple filling.
And it was Tom himself who developed his own slicing style: alternating thin with thicker roundish slices that he piles into the pie plate and in such a way that they bake through to juicy perfection.
blueberry, rhubarb, strawberry, coconut custard, I mean, you name it!
But here's the thing: My mother is one of those persons who doesn't really need a recipe. It's as if she communes with the food, as if the ingredients just her send telepathic messages regarding how they like to be put together. And so my own pie-ducation consisited of watching what my mother did then trying on my own to duplicate her results. And when those results were less than stellar there was no recipe to consult. I had to just pie, pie again.
And the crust - don't even get me started! My mother's pie crust is so thin, light and tender it could stand on its own even without filling, and, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, often does. And yet it has the tensile strength to hold a mountain of apples together. And though I'd watched my mother make her crust dozens of times, for the longest time I couldn't duplicate her results. Nor could she tell me the precise amounts of each ingredient she used to get those results. "Just about this much," she'd say while pouring some flour from the bag into a bowl or tossing in a forkful of shortening.
I spent ten years experimenting before I finally happened upon the correct flour-to- shortening ratio. (4 to 1. Ridiculously simple, yet it took me forever to figure it out!). But I also had to learn that it's more than ingredients that determnes the quality of pie crust: touch is equally important. In that sense pie crusts are like people: if not handled tenderly they will turn out to be tough and at the same time likely to fall apart.
Which brings me to the reason that, even though he's raised the art of the pie to new levels, Tom Liszkay has still not yet reached the pinnacle of piedom: He has not yet learned to make my pie crust. At this stage he still uses refrigerated crust, and can tell you the merits and debits of each brand. But he's relatively young in his pie career and his crust will yet reach the heights of his filling. In the meantime I'll share my crust recipe with you:
Patti's Pie crust recipe
For two crusts to make one filled pie (but maybe you'd better plan making on two!):
2 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening
a 9-inch pie plate
Cut the shortening into the flour. Add the ice water little by little until the dough holds together. (too little water and the dough will be dry. To much and it will be soggy. Sorry, that's the best I can tell you; you kind of have to practice). Very carefully (here's where we get into the handling part) form the dough into a ball. Divide the ball into two.
On a floured surface carefully roll out half the dough into a circle big enough to fit the pie plate with some over-hang to form a rolled crust. Carefully set the crust into the pie plate.
Roll out the other half of the dough until it's as big as the first half.
Pour your filling into the pie plate. Set the second dough circle on top of the filling.
Roll the over -hanging dough into a nice rolled edge. If you have too much over-hanging dough, cut it off. (If you have enough left-over dough, cut it into squares, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake on an ungreased sheet at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until barely browned).
Cut slits into the top of the crust for steam escape. (I always cut into the crust a little picture of the kind of fruit in the filling then with the knife I "write" the name of the fruit over the picture).
Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes (or so).
Have a wonderful weekend, see you Monday!