Welcome to Batman & Ladybug Girl’s Diner! This sign, which was a wedding gift from a dear friend, hangs over the door from the mud room into the kitchen of our apartment. I hope to develop this area of the blog more over the coming months, and we’ll be starting with “The Pie Project.” But first, some backstory…
When Lloyd and I first started dating, our local diner, Golden Spoon, started offering evening specials. Their Thursday night special was Fish & Chips for $3.99. Now, these were/are the best fish & chips I have ever had in my life. We live in New England, so we know good fish & chips. The two of us could eat for under $10. As my Mama would say, “You can’t even buy the ingredients for that!” This became our Thursday night dinner tradition.
Eventually, we added pie to the tradition. Then we started picking up for our downstairs’ neighbor too. Fish & chips “special” price jumped to $4.99, and what used to be our eat-amazing-food for under $10 total quickly jumped to more like $10 a person with weekly pie added, but it was still a delicious bargain.
A couple of weeks ago we got terrible news. Golden Spoon, which is slated to close indefinitely (until they find a new location) at some point this summer, was stopping evening hours. No more Thursday night fish & chips. This was actually fairly devastating news in our house. It’s become such an institution that Lloyd’s even created artwork about it (to the left, the inside of my Valentine’s Day card). One week of no fish & chips, and I knew I had to do something.
I have no intention of buying a deep fryer to make our own fish & chips, so the next-best option seems to be to make pie from scratch. My cousin has been baking the most beautiful pies lately and sending me pictures, so I was inspired. Bless her, she typed up her crust recipe (which is actually my aunt’s recipe) and very detailed instructions, and sent me an email with the subject line, “Pie Lessons from Afar.”
I’ve been incredibly lazy when it comes to pie crust (before last week, I didn’t even own a sifter!). I like to bake pies, but I’ve always found the crust from scratch to be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when you can get refrigerated pie crust so cheaply. But, I love to learn and take on new projects, so I’m going to tackle pie crust, and I’ll share the journey with you all. Aren’t you excited?! I’ve wanted a series for the “In the Diner” section of the website, so we’re fulfilling three or four different needs.
My cousin recommended that I start with pies that only need one crust. We decided my first pie would be a Tart Lemon Chess pie from The Southern Pie Book by Jan Moon. I kept this whole plan a surprise from Lloyd, and I was quite excited. Wednesday, I treated myself with a quick trip to Target and acquired my first sifter (seriously, how did I not own one before? Oh, yeah, right. Before now, I was too lazy to actually sift anything). Thursday afternoon, I set myself up and got to work.
Isn’t my work area all nice and clean here? At this point, taking photos seemed like the greatest plan ever, as did using the iPad to display my recipe.
See my pretty new sifter! It’s purple! Coincidently, when Lloyd asked me why I bought a sifter, he was quite satisfied with my response, “Because I don’t have one. Also, it’s purple.” Oh, I’m also using one of my ladybug mixing bowls. I’m nothing if not consistent in my likes!
Look at my pretty, fine, sifted flour! It looks like a fresh dusting of snow! Which would be more appealing if we didn’t have 100″ of snow in our backyard. I’ve been converted to using a sifter. I imagine it will also be wonderful for my frosting. I’ll take that to the next level!
I cut in the chilled Crisco with a pastry cutter, even though my cousin’s instructions recommended the two-knife system. I may try that down the road. I actually did own a pastry cutter, so I figured I’d try it.
Not the prettiest ball of pie crust I’ve ever seen, but it’ll do.
I should probably mention that at this point, photographing the process became a little more messy. Also, I had to move the iPad. Flour. Everywhere.
I need some practice rolling out the dough. I didn’t want to handle the dough too much, so I just went with it this time. But, this here is why we need to practice on mastering this skill. Not so round.
I did manage to keep the dough from sticking to the surface too much, so that was a plus.
But, the crust did break in a few places, so we’ll work on that too.
I made it work, though. The fluted edges don’t look too terrible. Actually, it’s looking pretty tasty at this point.
Time to bake the crust. I don’t have a pie chain, though I’m thinking it might be a good investment if this project takes off. My cousin’s recommended bean-weight worked like a charm, though!
Next time I think I need to keep the beans in for a little longer. The bottom of the crust bubbled a bit more than is intended, I suspect. It’s looking like flakey goodness, though!
Filling ready to go!
This was my first time making a chess pie, so I was really unsure about it being finished, but with much assurance from “afar,” I eventually declared the pie done. If you look closely, you can see the filling bubbling through that fabulous, caramelized top. Divine!
I let the pie cool for a bit and moved it to the kitchen table. I took a photo on my iPhone to share with my cousin, but never actually managed to take a photo with the good camera. I cleaned off all the flour and put it away, like a silly person. Please forgive my cell phone final photo.
Lloyd was completely surprised and is quite excited that I’ve decided to make this a weekly project (actually, he thinks I should do it a couple times a week). He thinks that I have a good 52 weeks, or so, needed to perfect my crust.
To make things a little more challenging and fun, I’m committing to making a different pie each week, not repeating for a year. This will be fun and tasty! I probably will not share photographs of every step each week, but I definitely want to document progress.
Oh, and for the record? Pie crust from scratch tastes significantly better than the refrigerated dough. I’m a convert!
Today’s pie stats:
- Pie #1
- Crust: Family recipe
- Pie recipe: Tart Lemon Chess Pie from The Southern Pie Book by Jan Moon
- Valerie’s verdict: Delicious, would both make again and recommend
- Lloyd’s verdict: More tart than sweet–Love it!
- Goal for next pie: Keep crust from breaking while moving to pie plate