"People love pie. Even if it is not as perfect as you want it to be, people will eat it," says Millicent Souris, author of the cookbook How to Build a Better Pie. "Pie is not cute or darling or maternal. It's a flaky crust filled with something sweet or savory then baked. It's as old as the hills — simple and classic." And it's definitely not something to be afraid of. After all, pie is what America had for dessert each night before dessert became the subject of fetishized fads, be it cupcakes, cake pops, or macarons. And that's because it was something that almost anyone could make.
Souris' no-nonsense approach to cooking and baking is just what first-time (and seasoned!) pie bakers need. In the introduction to her book, she points out that so much of food culture today is obsessed with making things bigger, better, and more outrageous, at the expense of teaching people kitchen basics. So with a little advice from her book, we're going to start at the beginning and help you hit the ground running as fast as possible.
The usefulness of many of these things will seem self-evident, while others may not seem very useful — that is, until you need them. Just make sure these things are in your kitchen for a smooth and stress-free pie-baking experience.
Pie plate. Check. Wooden rolling pin. Check. Measuring cups and spoons — both liquid measure and dry measure. Check. Aluminum foil, baking sheet, mixing bowls, pastry brush, parchment paper — check.
Baking beans. What? At some point, a recipe is going to call for a hill of beans. Dried beans, to be exact. Any type will do. But why? Well, dried beans are used in a technique called "blind baking," in which the crust is weighed down with beans to help maintain its shape. (No, you don't have to put on a blindfold.)
Bench scraper. Great for cleanup whenever you're working with flour or dough directly on your work surface.
Cast-iron pan. An 8- to 10-inch model will do nicely. Great for pot pies and many other things, a cast-iron pan can be passed down through the generations with proper care. Click here to see 5 Myths About Cast Iron.
Pasta cutter. Great for making dough strips for lattice top pies.