Once the temperatures drop, two things happen—I switch the thermostat to “heat” and start baking pies.
I can’t help it. I suppose it began with my Grandma’s Coconut Cream Pie. I’d walk a mile over hot coals to get me a piece of that pie, with its homemade flakey crust and white, whipped center. The season didn’t matter; as long as you had a fork and an appetite, any time was a good time for Grandma’s pie. That’s what I keep trying to tell people: just because it’s November, you don’t have to limit yourself to pumpkin and pecan. In fact, my momma always made the most wonderful apple pie. Even some lemon meringue can bring just the right amount of refreshing citrus to break up the season’s heaviest savories.
Better yet, don’t just make one pie. Make ‘em all!
When I pull out my baking set, I’m fixin’ to get serious. I don’t aim to just make a pie; I aim to make a number of pies worthy of a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Y’all know the kind I’m talkin’ about—those big delicious pies with a beautifully designed egg-wash crust. Us kids would sit there and eye those pies, waiting for the adults to finish eating their supper. We’d even offer to help clear the table just to speed things up. After what felt like a lifetime, I’d finally stuff a forkful of pie into my mouth, and my eyes would roll back into my head with pure happiness.
My Grandmother’s secret to the perfect pie was rolled into the crust. In her book, a woman “earns her pearls” by makin’ a homemade piecrust. It’s almost impossible to find authentic, homemade piecrusts these day—they’re practically extinct. Sure, you can buy a passable frozen or refrigerated piecrust, but they don’t hold a candle next to the old-timey, rolled-out ones. That’s why I put together my instructions for a perfect pie dough. It’s an easy, step-by-step process to make the perfect crust, just like Grandma did. It’s not an exact science, so it takes some practice; but then again, I was never all that keen on science anyhow.
Once you roll out your dough, don’t forget the final touch: a little decoration. Grandma pressed floured fork tines into the edge of every pie she made. It was her special signature that us kids new to look for. I tend to scallop my crust, but if I have some extra time, I’m known to get a little fancy with cutouts and even braids.
Pies are at the heart of so many gatherings and celebrations, so it’s no wonder that we love them so much. Whichever pies you decide to bake this season and however you go about decorating them, take a moment to enjoy the process and to breathe in the homey smells that fill your heart and your home.