I’ve officially had my first pie crust flop, and of course, it happened on Thanksgiving. I made my Thanksgiving pies over at my mother’s house, where we were having dinner. She had all the crust ingredients I needed: flour, butter-flavored Crisco, salt, water. I mixed them together like I always do, and then attempted to roll out my crusts, but they completely fell apart. It was a total disaster. After two failed attempts at rolling it out, I ended up just mushing the crust for the pumpkin pie into the pan, like I do for a pie in a jar. Only, because it had been rolled out twice already, when it cooked up, it was beyond tough and into the hard-as-a-rock category.

With the apple pie’s crust, I knew from trying to roll out the one for the pumpkin pie that something was horribly wrong, so I added a bunch more shortening and a little more water, hoping that would make it hold together. It still didn’t, so I basically had chunks of crust scattered across the top of the apple pie, instead of a top crust. No, I did not take pictures. What? You got a problem with that? Then make your own ugly pies and start your own pie blog.

Of course, the only people at Thanksgiving were my family (my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, and my parents, and of course J and our son), and they all said how delicious the pies were. My family members are really nice people. Fortunately, I’d brought all my own fillings, so the fillings turned out great.

The next morning, I got back up on the horse again, because I needed to make that blackberry and cream pie for J’s extended family. His cousin Rachel lives nearby, and her parents and sister and niece were in town for the holiday. Rachel’s parents live on a farm, so pie is something they make and eat all the time. I knew I needed to at least not embarrass myself, and hopefully make a pie that they really enjoyed. So I mixed my flour and my salt and my butter-flavored Crisco, and added the water from my sink, and held my breath as I rolled it out…and it was fine. Perfectly normal crust, just like I always make. This was the point where breathed a sigh of relief.

In hindsight, here’s what I think went wrong. I think the flour at my mother’s house wasn’t fresh enough, and I think my dad shouldn’t have kept the Crisco in the fridge. Instead, I should have brought my own flour and Crisco.  I mean, I always say pie crust is easy, and it is, if you have the right ingredients.  If you don’t, though, it’s obviously a complete mess.

Anyway, finishing the story: the blackberry and cream pie turned out awesome, and everyone raved about how good it was. Rachel’s mom said she’d never seen a pie like it, and I said, “Betty Crocker 1950’s cookbook, page 314!” She’s going to look it up.  I also brought them some pies in jars–an assortment of the different flavors I’ve attempted so far, including one blackberry and cream one. J’s sister Mandy had told them about pie in a jar and they were fascinated by the concept and curious to try them out.


Thanksgiving is coming

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I bet you’re wondering, what is the Pieist planning to make this year? Well, it’ll be two tried-and-true classics for me: pumpkin, and apple. I have a big bag of granny smiths in the fridge, and of course J has been hoarding canned pumpkin ever since he learned that there is a shortage. I’ll be taking my pie-making supplies over to my mother’s house and hoping to enlist some family members to help me peel and core the apples, which is my least favorite part of the job.

But what’s more exciting is what I’ll be making for the day after Thanksgiving, when we’re visiting J’s cousin and her family. It’ll be blackberry and cream, which is now J’s favorite and one that he regularly requests. Thank goodness he picked all those blackberries last summer and we have a big bag of frozen ones in the freezer. I use the recipe on Page 314. Something about the cream with the tart berries makes for a really good flavor combination.

Since I am now obsessed with pie-in-a-jar, and I have figured out that two-crust pies are too much crust for a pie-in-a-jar, I am now focusing on one-crust pies. Today’s edition: blackberries and cream. J and our son picked a bazillion blackberries this summer, and we froze the excess, so I have a ready supply of frozen berries for pies for a while. Before trying it in jars, I thought I’d make a full-sized version.

I used the recipe on Page 314. One thing I love about the Betty Crocker cookbook is the little commentary about some of the recipes, and this one’s commentary is classic example: “Mrs. Edward A. Cook of Wayzata, Minnesota, learned this old-time trick with berries from her husband’s mother who brought it from New York state.” Awesome.

This time, I decided to use the deep-dish pan my mom got me for my birthday. Only, the problem is, I can never get the crust to roll out enough to be big enough to work quite right. But, whatever, I still think it turned out fairly pretty. I sort-of folded down the edges and then textured them with a fork.

It turned out pretty delicious.  My only concern with pie-in-a-jar with this recipe is the cream, I mean, will it still taste good if it gets frozen?  How would that work?  Then again, the pumpkin ones have cream in them and they freeze just fine.  I guess I’ll just have to experiment and find out.

Since I don’t work on Mondays, that’s when I tend to make a lot of pie, as well as prepping meals for the rest of the week.  This week, I happened to have a couple of carrots and onions hanging around, and I’d just gotten my AmazonFresh order delivered with a big bag of potatoes and some ground turkey.  So I though to myself, “What can I make with this stuff?”  The answer was, of course, Shepherd’s Pie.

Now, I absolutely despise pot pies.  One time when I was a kid, my mom made some kind of pot pie and I refused to eat it, so she told me I was going to sit in front of it until I ate it.  So I sat in front of it, not eating it, until it was bedtime, and then happily skipped off to bed.  Seriously, I hate pot pie.  But the idea of shepherd’s pie, with all that mashed potato goodness on top, now THAT appeals to me.  I’d never made one before, but I found a Rachel Ray recipe online, and put it together.  Then I put it in the fridge until the day we were ready to eat it, then J popped it in the oven.  Honestly, the flavor was not so hot.  It needed a LOT more spice.  But the overall concept was not bad and the mashed potato part was actually tasty.  I may attempt this again at a later date with a different recipe.

Once that was done, it was time to make a real pie.  I decided to make two one-crust pies: a pecan one, and a French Apple one.  That morning when I dropped my son off at daycare, Char (our neighbor and a great daycare provider) gave me back the foil pie pan that had contained the apple pie I made for her last week.  I said, “Oh good, I’m going to make more pie today, so I’ll make you another one.”  She said she liked both apple and pecan, so I figured I’d give her whichever one was the least pretty, and take the pretty one to my office so I could impress my coworkers.

I mixed up the two-crust recipe, rolled out two crusts, and put them in two pans.  Then I sat down with Betty again to try to figure out the whole make-the-crust-pretty thing again, since I am clearly not an expert yet.  I noticed the zig-zag crusts featured on a lot of pies, and I thought to myself, “I could make that.”  And I did!  The trick seems to be to cut the edge of the pie crust with scissors, then make your design.  It kind of folded itself as I was pinching it into the zig-zag pattern, like I’d pinch it and the far edge would fold up and the inner part of the edge would fold in so it was two layers I was pinching together.  I doubt I’m explaining that very well, but there you have it.

French Apple pre-cooking

Pecan Pie pre-cooking

The French Apple turned out a little dark on the top, so J took that one over to Char’s when he picked up our son.  So, the pecan made it to the office.


Sorry about the photo, I ended up using my cell phone because the batteries in our camera were dead.

I sent out an e-mail to my coworkers that morning entitled “Pecan Pie: Breakfast of Champions,” and sure enough, the thing was gone by noon.  Guess it was tasty!  The one coworker who gave specific feedback beyond “That was yummy, thanks” said that he thought it was nice and buttery-tasting.  Butter flavor Crisco, I heart you.

Last weekend, I decided to make pumpkin pie-in-a-jar.  I used the standard 2-crust pie crust recipe on Page 299, and the pumpkin pie recipe from Page 312.  I used a can of organic pumpkin, and I cut the amount of milk down to just a cup because I was using 2% instead of whole milk, and the last time I made that recipe, even with whole milk, it was pretty runny.

Pumpkin Pie in a Jar before cooking

Holy cow, it was delicious!  And remember, I don’t even like pie.  J loved it too and said there was just the right amount of spice in the pie, and the crust was perfectly flaky.  The crust tasted really buttery–could it be the fresh container of butter-flavored Crisco?  Or was it the butter-flavored Pam I used to spray the jar before lining it with dough?  Either way, YUM. So I ended up making 7 of them.

Right after coming out of the oven

Out of the jar


Cut in half

It was so much better than the two-crust pies I’d made that I decided to thaw out the apple ones I made last week and take off their crusts, and turn them into French Apple, a la the recipe at the bottom of Page 302.  I always thought that style of pie was Dutch Apple, but Betty calls it French Apple, so there you have it.

French Apple Pie In A Jar

The test one came out just a wee bit dark brown on the top, and alas, despite adding more apple filling, it still sank in and ended up looking like there was hardly any filling in there at all.  I think the problem could be that I cut the apples too small–perhaps larger chunks of apple would stay intact?  Because basically inside the pie was like apple sauce.  Tasty, though.  To avoid the browning problem, next time I will cook it for 45 minutes instead of an hour.  I cooked both of them at 400 degrees.  The pumpkin one was perfect when cooked for an hour.

A Pretty Apple Pie

J decided to make apple butter, which resulted in a large number of leftover Granny Smith apples just begging to be turned into a pie. So, I pulled out my trusty recipe on Page 302, again adding the juice of one lime to help keep the apples from browning. I’ve decided that the lime adds a little something-something to the apple pie that people seem to enjoy, so it may become a routine inclusion in my apple pies. At least, until my supply of limes runs out.

I also finally read the instructions about how Betty recommends you assemble the pie, including the crust instructions on page 300. I followed them exactly, including cutting the excess crust with scissors and tucking the top crust under the bottom one. I also attempted a fluted edge.  AND, the piece de resistance, I used the apple-themed crust cutter my mom got me for my birthday.

When it cooked up, though, the fluting had disappeared.  Still turned out fairly pretty, though.

I gave the pie to our neighbor and daycare-provider, Char.  She declared it delicious. Mission accomplished.

This weekend, I made my very first pie-in-a-jar. If you haven’t yet heard about pie-in-a-jar, well, you really aren’t up with the latest in pie fads, now are you? That’s OK, I wasn’t either until a friend of mine told me about them. Of course, once I heard about pie-in-a-jar, I immediately had to surf the net to find pictures and directions. Props to LlyodandLauren.com and NotMartha.org for the directions.

So, I started with 8-ounce wide-mouth mason jars.  I made a standard one-crust pie dough recipe from Page 310.  Turns out the 9-inch recipe makes about 3 pies-in-jars.  I used the Lloyd and Lauren technique of just smushing the dough around the inside of the jar (after spraying it liberally with butter-flavored Pam.  Because everything is butter-flavored in my world). I tried to make the crust as thin as possible, so I held each jar up to the window as I was adding the dough and made the crust thin enough that I could see light through it.

I then took some frozen raspberries from our freezer, nuked them a little bit to take the edge off them, and made the Fresh Berry Pie filling for an 8-inch pie from page 304.  This made more filling than I had crust for.  I used about a half-cup of filling in each jar, then topped them with a crust circle, cut with the jar lid.  Then I just basically tried to roll down the edges of the dough, and then textured them with a fork.  I am seriously not great with the pie-beauty techniques yet.  Then I baked a couple of them, one at 375 degrees for an hour, and one at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.  Both turned out perfectly cooked.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “Hey Pieist, where’s the photos?”  Unfortunately, J and I ate them before a photo could be taken, so you’re going to have to learn to live with disappointment.  Once again, J found them to be heavy on the crust and light on the filling, the same opinion he had about the mini apple pies I made the other day.  They are definitely heavy on the crust compared to a regular pie.  The other thing I discovered is that the raspberry filling volcanoed when it cooked, spewing out the slit I’d made in the top, then oozing back in and setting up as it cooled.  Fascinating.

Having decided that these things are completely adorable before you cook them and will make excellent gifts, even if they’re a bit heavy on the crust, I moved onto making apple ones, figuring that apple was slightly less likely to explode compared with the raspberry.  I made a double-recipe of the two-crust pie recipe from Page 299, which made about 10 pies-in-jars.  I made a half-recipe of the traditional apple pie filling for an 8-inch pie from Page 302, using a granny smith apple, with one addition: I tossed the apples with the juice of half a lime, so they wouldn’t brown up as I was going through the process of making all these little pies-in-jars.

It was tasty, but again with the too much crust.  I think because these pies are so crust-heavy, a one-crust pie would be a better option, like maybe a pumpkin one.  Stay tuned.