I have definitely gotten better at making pies. Earlier posts talk about cursing, crying and throwing things in various failed attempts to get a flaky, great tasting pie crust, but I believe those days are now firmly behind me. Sure there may be relapses now and again, but the last several attempts have turned out decently.
The technique that finally helped me succeed (as much as I have so far) is to freeze the flour and butter for at least 4 hours before using the food processor to cut the butter into the flour. The recipe doesn't seem to matter as much, but I have used the Dorie Greenspan version, the Bubby's Pies version and numerous others and the only way any of them work out for me is to freeze the flour. My pie crusts are still not perfect. I still struggle with how much water to add and how much kneading I can get away with to get it to come together -- but they are edible and now I'm not completely embarrassed to share my pies with friends and family.
For this particular pie I had some fruit (cherries, blueberries and rhubard) in my fridge that needed to be used quickly before it went bad. Instead of following a recipe, I borrowed from several recipes. I used the Bubby's crust, but the filling technique and crumb topping from Nick Malgieri's book Modern Baking. The joy of the filling is that it was soft and juicy, but much firmer than other fruit pies I have attempted and I did not end up with a liquid puddle in the bottom of the pie pan. I also used a technique that Dorie Greenspan uses where she puts a 1/4 cup of bread crumbs on the bottom of the crust to help soak up excess liquid and prevent a soggy bottom (because nobody likes a soggy bottom...) I didn't have bread crumbs, but I threw a 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs on the bottom and it seemed to work... it certainly didn't hurt anything.
Most 9-inch pies call for 6 cups of fruit. I used a technique from Nick Malgieri's Modern Baking on the filling. I took a cup of the mixed fruit, combined with 3/4 cup sugar and some cinnamon and brought it to a boil. While it was coming up to a boil I put 4 tbsps of corn starch and 2 tbsps of water into a bowl. Once the fruit was boiling I took some of that liquid and mixed it into the corn starch mixture until it was smooth and then added it back into the pot and brought the whole thing back to the boil again.
After it comes to a boil again remove it from the heat and add it back to the uncooked fruit and toss until everything is combined well. Next scatter the crumbs (bread or graham cracker) across the bottom of the crust and then fill the crust with the fruit. You're also supposed to scatter 3-4 tablespoons of chilled butter over the surface of the pie before adding the crumb topping, but I seem to always forget and this time was no exception -- the good news is that it tasted fine without the extra butter.
I went with a crumb topping on my pie because I suck at top crusts and crumb toppings taste so good. I can't remember the proportions for the crumb topping, but I would figure that most crumb toppings for 9 inch rounds or squares would work for this pie. I used a little cinnamon and a little nutmeg for this crumb topping just to add a little more depth to the flavor.
All in all this pie was a success. I still have room for improvement for the crusts, but each attempt seems to be a little better than the last one and I love the technique of boiling some of the fruit and mixing in the corn starch -- purists may think corn starch is cheating, but it works and right now that's far more important to me than purity.
Bubby's All Butter Pastry Pie Dough
8-10 inch double crust or 12-inch single crust
5 to 6 tbsps ice cold water
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
11 1/2 tbsps cold unsalted butter
Measure the water for the crust (with a bit of extra water in the measure in case you need a touch more) and then add ice cubes. Chill it in the freezer.
Measure out the flour (unsifted) by leveling off dry measuring cups, and add the flour to large bowl. Add the salt to the flour and give it a quick stir to combine evenly.
Use cold butter, measure out the amount you need, and then coat the cold, solid stick with the flour in the bowl. Using a dough scraper or a long butcher knife, cut the butter lengthwise in half, and then lengthwise in quarters, coating each newly cut side with flour as you go. Dice the butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Break up any pieces that stick together and toss them all to coat them with flour. If it is warm, chill briefly before continuing.
Using a pastry cutter, press the blades through the mixture bearing down repeatedly like you would to mash potatoes. Repeat this gesture until the largest pieces of fat are the size of shelling peas and the smallest are the size of lentils. Rechill if necessary.
Add water one of two tablespoons at a time, quickly tossing the mixture with your hands after each addition to distribute the water evenly. Work the dough as little as possible.
Continue adding water a little at a time until there are no floury bits left -- just little comet-like cobbles that don't quite cohere. To test the dough for consistency, lightly pat together some dough the size of a tennis ball. If the ball crumbles apart or has lots of dry looking cracks in it, the dough is still too dry; let it bread apart. Add a drop or two more water to the outside of the ball and work it just a little. If it holds and feels firm and supple, mop up any remaining crumbs with the ball. IF they pick up easily the dough is probably wet enough.
For a double crust divide the dough into slightly uneven halves and shape each half into a ball. Cover each ball tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour to relax and slow the gluten development.