Holiday Pies from Heaven and Hell

My Granny was a baking diva, and she taught me almost everything she knew. But, unfortunately, there was one thing she just simply couldn’t get me to catch on to…pie crust!

Believe me she tried, but since her instructions were “Pour some flour in a bowl, add some shortening, and then use two butter knives to cut the shortening into the flour.” there was barely enough information to guide me even when she was looking over my shoulder. She literally eyeballed every measurement and it turned out perfect every time.

Ok, almost every time. One of the best things about my Granny was that she wasn’t afraid to look back on her mistakes and have a good laugh, one of which was a lemon meringue pie which she had to use kitchen shears to cut because the crust was so tough! It wasn’t edible, except for the filling, but she served it anyway. Of course, that happened way before my time, and as far as I ever saw every pie from apple to pumpkin looked and tasted pretty perfect.

So, like many families, holiday pies were a big tradition in our family and were just part of the all day action in the kitchen the day before Thanksgiving. And though we all helped, it was Granny’s eye over the bowl guiding the amounts of flour, fat, and ice water and encouraging us through the moments where we were really not sure it would all come together.

Granny and my mom baking pies for Thanksgiving. I took this photo with my treasured Polaroid camera when I was about 10.

Granny and my mom baking pies for Thanksgiving. I took this photo with my treasured Polaroid camera when I was about 10.

With her gone, and wanting to give my own family the delicious pies of my past, I tried her method along with countless other recipes. But pie crust is one of those things that for even seasoned bakers like myself can be incredibly difficult. It was a challenge I was willing to face, though,and thanks to my searching and the tireless staff at Cooks Illustrated and Food 52 I can finally make a pie crust!

It would probably shame my Granny to know that I (gasp!) measure the flour, and cut the butter and shortening in with a Cuisinart, but hey, at least I am finally baking pies. And if you ask my husband, they are delicious. (Just don’t ask my kids, because for some reason they are deathly afraid of fruit!)

So, if you are ready to roll up your sleeves and try your hand at a homemade pie this Thanksgiving, take my advice and use this recipe for the crust. The recipe is for a single crust, so for the apple pie below I doubled the recipe to have pastry on both the top and bottom. It works like a charm- which I think may have something to do with the vodka 🙂


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