Pie dough is very versatile. It can contain any or all of the major food groups: meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts, milk and cheese, fats and oils or breads and pastas. So whatever your preference may be, there's a pie for you.
The same goes for the making of the pie crust. You can substitute ingredients to make your crust healthier. I often substitute milk for water or apple sauce for sugar. I'm no longer afraid to experiment because I've discovered that even a “Never Fail” recipe can fail!
The following is a true story about my first experience with pie crusts. To this day, I will never tell someone that any recipe is 100% guaranteed to succeed because it's not. This may or may not have been my first experience with “following a recipe to the letter”, but I do know I've never followed one since!
I was a young bride at the time - before kids. My husband at that time, loved Saskatoon Berry Pie and it was mid summer -- berry season.
Being a dutiful wife, I wanted to please and surprise him by baking his favorite dessert.
If you've never picked Saskatoons, it's an experience in itself. First, the bushes are usually way out in the back country so you have to drive for at least an hour before you even see a bush. Then, you have to drive slowly down the back roads, peering keenly into the brush in the hopes of spotting a purple patch. You may make this trip a few times before being successful. So, you can forget the “economics” of picking your own berries. Although, IF you remember where your berry patch is, you can return next season. (another story -- another day!)
Well, we finally spotted a good patch. I parked the truck - a half ton truck is highly recommended - and grabbed our one and five gallon pails and set out to pick berries. The brush around these bushes is a minimum of three feet high. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt is not recommended.
I found a very nice area on the edge of a farmer's field and started picking. (You're not a true Saskatoon berry picker if you don't eat as you pick.)
Being 5’4" can be a definite disadvantage when picking Saskatoons, because all of the BEST berries are always located mid-way or at the very top of the 25-30 foot bush - again, another story -- another day!
Getting back to pie crusts!
I was given a crust recipe - Never Fail Pastry. The name implies that ANYBODY can make this crust with success, even a beginner like me, right?
I thought to myself, "Perfect! This pie baking will be a breeze!"
I followed the instructions to the letter and baked six of the most beautiful looking pies you've ever seen. I was so proud.
However, there was one minor drawback -- you couldn't get your fork through the crust.
My brother-in-law, eight years old at the time, ate the filling with gusto, but to everyone's surprise, the crust remained unscathed! -- Perfectly hollowed-out, the crust just sat on his plate gaping at us. He and his mother whispered back and forth for a few minutes, hoping I wouldn't hear him say “I can't eat the crust, I'll break my fork.”
Needless to say, it is very important to be gentle with the mixing of pie crusts, at least until you get the feel for it. "Just" mixing the ingredients is one important key - kneading the dough or mixing it thoroughly will result in very hard, but beautiful looking shells.