Pie, Made Easy


In David Mamet’s comedy “Boston Marriage,” the character Claire says: “Yes, this shall be our party. And we must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

That sentiment can hold true for the baking process, too — even in these days leading up to Thanksgiving. Making pie from scratch can be calming if you accept it for what it is: a deliberate building project that offers the tactile pleasure of working with smooth, cool dough. It takes time, much of it waiting, and ends with a dessert that tastes better homemade even if it isn’t as picture perfect as one from the store.

Usually, the most intimidating part of preparing pie is the crust. (My sister said, “It feels like failure waiting to happen.”) Knowing how anxiety-inducing rolling dough can be, I created four pies with press-in crusts for The Times’s newest collection of Thanksgiving pies. (Pro tip for crumb crusts: Form the sides first, then pat the bottom flat.) For the other five pies, here are tricks that can take the fear out of making classic crusts from scratch:

To take the guesswork out of how much water to use, I developed a pie crust recipe with a set ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Chilling the dough for at least an hour, and ideally for a day or more, allows the flour to hydrate further. That resting time makes the dough easier to roll, more flavorful and less likely to end up tough.

Rolling dough is like a dance: You have to sense when your partner — in this case, a disk of dough — is ready to move. If the chilled dough is too firm, it will crack if you press it with force. Let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, and your rolling pin will glide right over it. When placing the rolled round in the pie plate, you should feel the suppleness of it on your fingers and keep it from going taut. Gently lift and tuck the sheet into the corners to press it flat against the pan without stretching it.

Blind baking, or baking pie dough before filling it, helps the crust stay crisp. Refrigerate or freeze the dough fitted into the pie plate until it’s very firm. (The butter needs to be cold for a flaky, tender crust.) To ensure that the bottom doesn’t puff or balloon, dock it with a fork, lightly poking holes all over without piercing all the way through. To keep the sides from slipping and shrinking, the dough needs to be weighted down. Start by crumpling a sheet of parchment paper into a ball, then open it back up and press it against the dough. All those creases help the paper sit flush against the sides. Fill the paper-lined pie plate with dried beans or rice all the way to the rim to fully weigh down the dough as it bakes.

That’s what Ina Garten says, so it must be true. With the exception of the lattice-topped blackberry apple pie, our other new pies work just fine with store-bought frozen crusts. If buying one eliminates the hurdle to homemade pie, great! There’s a lot of happiness in pulling a pie out of the oven and serving it at Thanksgiving, no matter how you get there. And in the presence of that pie, there won’t be any stress at all.

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee investigations involving former President Donald Trump.

  • The new special counsel, Jack Smith, has been prosecuting criminal cases for nearly three decades, including in New York and The Hague.

  • FIFA’s president rebuked critics of Qatar’s human rights record and shrugged off the decision to ban beer sales at stadiums during the World Cup.

  • Twitter teetered on the edge of stability with Elon Musk asking to learn about underlying technology after 1,200 more employees quit.

  • Representative Lauren Boebert’s rival conceded in one of Congress’s closest contests. Here’s where uncalled House races stand.

  • A former anti-abortion leader said he received a leak about a Supreme Court opinion years before reports on a draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade set off a national uproar.

  • The Biden administration backed immunity for Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a lawsuit over his role in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the failed blood testing start-up Theranos, was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for defrauding investors.

🎬 “The Fabelmans” (Wednesday): The partnership of Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, the great American playwright, has produced some of the better American movies of this century (“Munich,” “Lincoln,” “West Side Story”). They have paired up again for this tale of a family — the creative boy obsessed with the movies, his artsy mother and his no-nonsense father — much like Spielberg’s own. In her review, Manohla Dargis said the film is “wonderful in both large and small ways, even if Spielberg can’t help but soften the rougher, potentially lacerating edges.”

📚 “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century” (Tuesday): Just in time for the start of this year’s gift-giving season is one final giant book about a complicated historical figure. Hoover was the first director of the F.B.I., a role he held for almost half a century, and this biography by Beverly Gage offers new details on how he exercised power under eight presidents.

Are you still figuring out which of Genevieve’s fantastic new pie recipes to bake first? If so, let me suggest her stunning pecan sandie pie. A glorious mash-up of a giant cookie, a restrained nut tart and a classic pecan pie, it’s far more elegant and less sweet than the usual gooey, sugar-glutted versions. And even better, its toasted pecan cookie crust can be pressed directly into the pan; no need to dig out the rolling pin. You can bake it up to three days ahead of serving. Which means that if you have some time to spend on it on Monday, you can cross Thanksgiving dessert off your list — in a truly magnificent way.

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As Genevieve demonstrated, baking season is upon us. A kitchen scale might be your most essential tool not only for pies but also for consistent cookies, perfectly risen bread or a lofty souffle. Weighing your ingredients is more accurate and less error-prone than using measuring cups, so there’s less chance your cakes will be dry or your cookies leaden. It’s also faster and cleaner to use a scale. Rather than fumble with a bunch of cups, just pour everything straight into the mixing bowl sitting on your scale. A good version costs as little as $20, and will make you a more confident baker. — Marguerite Preston

No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 2 Stanford, women’s college basketball: The best player in the country, Aliyah Boston, is back for South Carolina. Last season, Boston, a 6-foot-5 center, was nigh unstoppable, recording a double-double in 27 consecutive games and leading her team to a national championship. When The Athletic asked reporters to predict this season’s champion, South Carolina was the clear favorite. The only other team they picked? Stanford. “The Cardinal have the talent to match up overall, and the size to mitigate Aliyah Boston,” wrote Brian Hamilton. 3 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on ABC.

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