I love to bake. Cookies, muffins, loaves, tarts, pies, cakes, squares and bars. Here's the problem: I live on my own. A single woman should not have a whole cake or pie to herself. In reality, I'm fairly disciplined and won't eat it all in one sitting, but still, a piece of cake a day for a week is not a good thing for a woman in the dating world. Being invited to potlucks is always a good excuse to bake something, but with no potluck to go to this weekend I invited a few friends over for tea and pie.
I'm far from a perfectionist when it comes to cooking and baking. I think it has something to do with my hippy upbringing. I grew up in a community where if the pie wasn't chunky, funky and made out of whole wheat, it wasn't worth eating. I prefer my baking to take on a more traditional look and feel. In an attempt to refine my pastry skills I decided to try a few tricks that I had read about.
The first trick is to make finger indents around the edge of disc of pastry before rolling out the pastry. This helps to prevent cracking around the edges during the rolling process. This makes rolling out an even pie shell quite easy.
The second trick is chilling the pie shell before blind baking it. The change in temperature is supposed to create a flaky crust and prevent the shell from shrinking. I've read that the dough needs to cook before the butter melts, so keeping the shell as cold as possible before putting in the oven is key.
I put the pie shell in the fridge for 30 minutes before putting it in the oven. The crust had a decent amount of flake to it, but the shell still shrunk away from the pie dish.
I used my stand mixer to make meringue for the first time. I didn't realize how quickly egg whites and sugar could go from liquid to hard whipped egg whites. I completely missed out on the "soft peaks" stage and was left with thick meringue. Despite having a slightly shrunken crust and over-whipped meringue, the pie turned out quite well. It was a hit for afternoon tea and luckily there's not enough left to last all week!