3 tips for making pie (plus a 4th: outsource it)

It’s high time for pie. The team at Pie Birds Pie baked these two beauties and sent us the photo.

Writer: Karla Walsh

’Tis the season for holiday feasting — and baking. For many families, no Thanksgiving table is complete without a pie or two. But if making literal dough isn’t your day job, it can feel daunting to jump in and bake for the big feast.

When it comes to pie, “the biggest mistake I see is that folks often quit before they even start because they’re afraid to do it wrong,” said Kristen Daily of Pie Bird Pies. “But it’s pie. No matter what, it’s going to be delicious and special, even if it’s not picture perfect. Just remember: Everything takes practice, and each pie you make will be better than the one before.”

To help coach you through your best pie yet, we tapped three local bakers who 
do make dough for a living. Each of them also happen to be a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International of Greater Des Moines, one of 40 global chapters of the nonprofit that connects, elevates and celebrates women in the food, beverage and hospitality industry.

Start strong.
 Use the best butter, flour and fillings you can find. “Whether you’re a baker or a cook, my top tip is to use quality ingredients,” said Kimberly Dunn of Domestic Bones. “That doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. I never get all my ingredients from one place. Instead, I like to shop around.”

Keep cool. 
“Cold butter and cold water are key to a flaky and tender crust,” Daily said. Once you’ve mixed the pastry dough, allow it to chill out in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it to transfer to the pie pan.

Cook that crust.
 Lana Shope of Pies and Pastries by Lana has found that many new or infrequent bakers are afraid of overcooking their pies, so they’re overly cautious about the bake time. This can result in an underdone crust. To ensure it’s flaky and golden brown, “bake the pie on a low shelf in the oven, close to the heating element,” Shope said. And remember to slide a large baking sheet underneath the pie pan to catch any drips of juice or filling that bubbles over; your future self will thank you. “If you want to go the extra mile to ensure perfectly crisp pastry, bake the pie on top of a baking steel or pizza stone,” Daily added.

Of course, if you’d rather 
pre-order a pie from the pros, keep in mind that the local Dames d’Escoffier have rescued fruit from Central Iowa trees and transformed them into pies in four flavors, all ready to pick up the Saturday before Thanksgiving and bake from frozen. Bonus: Each pie comes with a sommelier-selected bottle of wine to pair with your holiday menu. Second bonus: All the proceeds support five fantastic food-related causes.

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