Stone fruit pie, chocolate cream pie and a crust discovery

My husband is on a pie baking kick. He’s decided he needs to develop his pastry skills (everybody needs a goal), and who am I to discourage him? For Memorial Day he made this beauty:

Mmmmm…Stone Fruit Pie with Almond Streusel from Food & Wine. This one has peaches, apricots, plums and cherries. While he was at it, I asked him to double the crust recipe so I could make a Chocolate Cream Pie. Why have one pie when you can have two? WELL. The crust was a revelation! A REVELATION, I tell you! Flaky, tender, but also crisp and not a bit soggy under all that fruit and pudding. What was different?

Baking powder.

I did a little research. Rose Levy Berenbaum, trusted author of The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Biblewrites in her own Basic Flaky Pie Crust Recipe that “baking powder lifts and aerates the dough slightly without weakening it, but it makes it seem more tender.” Whatever–it worked. That, and baking the pie in the lower third of the oven.

The crust I blind-baked for the chocolate pie turned out well, too. I’ve had problems with the last couple crusts I’ve blind-baked–all sorts of shrinking and tough pastry horror stories. This time we remembered to refrigerate the dough overnight before rolling it out, and then froze the unbaked crust in the pan for 30 minutes before baking (with foil and pie weights). Cue the singing angels!

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