My mom and I both love cooking and have always wanted to take a cooking class together. Yesterday morning, we finally did it! Sur La Table was offering 50% off some of their cooking classes this week, so we signed up to take their Perfect Pie Class.
My mom’s taught me most things I know about cooking and because of her, I can cook veggies a hundred different ways, make just about every type of savory dish, and bake most desserts. Neither of us have much experience making pies, though, and we’ve especially found making homemade pie crust to be tricky the few times we’ve tried it. When we were choosing a class, we wanted to pick something that was a little bit out of our comfort zone, so pie class it was.
I’ll share a general overview of the class, as well as what we learned about making pies and specifically making flaky pie crust. 3 items were on the agenda for the two-and-a-half hour class: flaky pie dough, strawberry rhubarb pie, and individual lemon meringue pies.
The class kitchen was really spacious and full of fun kitchen gadgets, so my mom and I were in heaven. There are 8 slots per class, and the class was divided in half into teams of four, so my mom and I worked in a group with two other ladies. My one critique of the class is that we found it strange to have groups of four with each group only making one large pie and four mini pies, especially since Sur La Table’s classes are a little on the pricier side. Ever heard the saying about “too many cooks in the kitchen”? Fortunately, the other two ladies in our group were kind and we were able to sort of divide up the small workload, but I think groups of two would’ve worked much better and might make the classes more ideal for something like a mother-daughter date or date night.
Strawberry rhubarb pie was the first pie of the morning, so we began by chopping fresh strawberries and rhubarb for our pie filling. This was my first time working with rhubarb! The filling was just strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch (we learned this pie needs a little more cornstarch than some berry pies because rhubarb releases a lot of liquid), lemon juice, vanilla bean pasta, and salt. Next, we mixed and rolled the dough for the two pies (tips to follow). Once we popped it in the fridge to chill to use later in our lemon meringue pie, our instructor brought out dough he’d made earlier that morning for us to continue our strawberry rhubarb pie.
We rolled out the chilled dough, pressed it into the bottom of the tart pan, poured the filling in, and began weaving our lattice top. This video does a good job of explaining how to weave the crust in case you’re curious because I think it’s easier to learn by watching than reading about it!
Once the lattice top was finished, I brushed the pie crust with an egg wash and another member of our group sprinkled the crust with regular granulated sugar for color and crispiness.
All ready for the oven!
Once our first pie was in the oven, we began working on our individual lemon meringue pies. We pulled our pie dough out of the fridge from earlier in the morning, rolled it out, pressed it into our mini tart pans, and par-baked the crusts after we filled them with pie weights. While the crusts were baking, we made our lemon curd over a double-boiler. Then, we filled our pie shells with lemon curd and baked them again.
Once they came out of the oven, we topped them with meringue and finished them off with a blow-torch (or you can use a broiler at home). This may’ve been my favorite picture from the class.
Here’s my cute finished lil’ lemon meringue pie that I got to take home.
Our strawberry rhubarb pies were still slightly warm when the class was over, so most of the class didn’t get to taste them or bring them home, which was a bummer. Our instructor had made both pies early that morning, though, so we got to sample small slices of his during class. The lemon meringue pie was good, but the strawberry rhubarb pie with vanilla-bean freshly whipped cream on top was amazing.And my mom and I happened to stick around long enough after class that we got to bring a piece of our actual strawberry rhubarb pie home for my dad and brother, in addition to our mini lemon meringue pies, so that was a plus.
Overall, the class was a fun experience and a great mom-daughter activity for a rainy day. I can’t imagine paying full-price for the class ($69/person), but I’d recommend it if you can get a good deal on it and either a) have three people to bring with you or b) don’t mind a couple of hours of small talk with strangers. ? I learned a lot about making pies, and I can’t wait to try my hand at making some on my own this summer!
Tips we learned for making perfect pies:
-For the best crust, our chef instructor recommended using butter with the highest possible butterfat, such as Kerrygold’s Irish butter. Although some people swear by shortening, he says using proper technique with butter dough (i.e. not overmixing or overkneading, keeping the butter as cold as possible process the process) will produce a flaky crust with better flavor.
-The most important thing to remember when making all-butter pie dough is to keep the butter cold the entire time. You want to keep little, almost invisible “pockets” of butter intact throughout the dough which is what makes the crust flaky, instead of allowing the butter to blend with the flour during the mixing and rolling stages. Letting the butter become too incorporated makes the dough mealy or tough.
-Using a food processor to cut the butter into the dough allows the butter to stay as cold as long as possible because it’s speedy, so we used mini food processors, although using a fork or pastry blender works, too. Cut the butter into the dough until the dough resembles small pea-sized crumbles.
-Par-bake (partially bake) a crust if you’re making a pie with an already cooked filling, such as a lemon curd you’ve made on the stovetop. You don’t need to par-bake the crust of a pie with a filling that’s completely raw before going into the oven, such as an apple or strawberry-rhubarb pie.
-When par-baking a crust, poke a couple of tiny holes in the crust and then place a square of aluminum foil on top of the crust and fill it with either pie weights or dried beans. Either will work! Be sure to press the foil down into the crust so it can’t bubble up.
-Use a tart pan instead of a pie pan so you can pop the pie easily out of the pan and you don’t have to worry about crimping the edges or making a pretty border. Set the tart pan on a larger baking sheet in case the filling leaks.
-If top pie crust starts getting too brown during baking, lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the crust to shield it while letting the filling continue to cook.
-Wait at least 30 minutes before slicing into a pie from the oven. It’ll make for much prettier presentation and still taste delicious. For a cream pie, waiting several hours or even overnight if possible.
So tell me…
What’s your favorite type of pie?!
Banana cream pie or chocolate pecan pie
Do you prefer to top your pie with ice cream or whipped cream?
Before yesterday, I would’ve answered ice cream with no hesitation and I think I’d still prefer ice cream for something like warm apple pie, but I loved the vanilla bean whipped cream!
Do you have any pie-making tips you can share?