Thursday, October 17, 2013


This one is for all those pie maker-wanna be's.  Yes: YOU CAN.

Truly the last of 2013 roes.
As a little girl,  I watched my momma make pies. She never followed a recipe, probably because she had been making pie for so many years that she didn't need one: About a cup of this, a bit of that, a few apples, some of this, a dab, a bit, throw in some. . . . Her pumpkin pie was always wonderful. And most of the time she made it out of winter squash, those giant, oblong, faded orange squash that no one really likes to eat. Dad didn't grow pumpkins, so mom used whatever she had. In those days, we ate what dad grew in the garden year round, as mom canned or froze everything. For meat, he hunted deer and elk and our farm pond provided fresh fish. We were pretty self sufficient back then. I gave up a long time ago trying to cook like mom did, especially her fried chicken because it never turned out like mom's. Her baking and cooking secrets went with her in 1990; today I just have memories and have had to find my own way around the recipe books. I do use her Joy of Cooking cookbook, an original published in 1940, a gift from her mother-in-law.

When we first married, we lived with hubby's grandparents on the family farm. I'd watch his grandmother cook. Now that woman could cook. Everyone loved her pumpkin pie. I'd watch her roll out the crusts. She could literally walk or spin it a circle as the dough slid easily on the red linoleum counter top underneath the light pressure of the rolling pin. She would end up with a perfect round crust. I never got her recipe for pie crust either, but her pumpkin pie recipe, hardly a closely guarded family secret, was on the Libby's pumpkin can. 

The first Thanksgiving after she passed, I volunteered to make the pumpkin pies. Expecting rave reviews because I followed her recipe right from the can, I was rudely disappointed when the whole in- law family declared nearly in unison, "This doesn't taste like grandma's." Now, I know that our grandmothers hold the dearest spot in our hearts and their recipes are sacred; however, I never made another pumpkin pie for the family again. I began making killer pecan pie. I let them try to replicate the recipe. Each year they'd taste and test the pumpkin filling, following the Libby can recipe to the final grain of cloves. Some years the pies were better than others, but never quite tasted like Martha's. Now, as we all age, the recipe is taking on another modification as Splenda subs in for sugar to accommodate the diabetics in the family--and with good results. Certainly not grandma's pumpkin pie, but close, they declare.

So over the years I have learned not to try to replicate someone else's recipes because to do so is just an impossible task. Instead I have developed my own specialities. And I find myself answering exactly what my momma used to say when people ask "what's in it?": "Well I threw in. . . and I added. . . and this time I tried. . . ." Lesson learned: develop your own cooking style, make your own favorites, start your own food traditions. We can learn from our grandmas and our mommas, but in the end we have to be secure enough to go out on our own to make our tradition.  I have my favorite cookbooks: Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens, (both wedding gifts in the mid '70s) and The Joy of Cooking, along with the internet, especially

My Pie (Channeling Martha Stewart)

The Head Gardener got a call from his farmer friend to disc the vegetable field. He salvaged a couple of huge hubbard squash. I asked him cut this one in half for me, I scrapped out the seeds, then placed it face down on the cookie sheet with a bit of water and baked it for an hour at 350 degrees F. 

I found the squash pie filling recipe online:

  • 2 1/2 cups of mashed squash (cooked)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbls. sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp each ginger and ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
I doubled the recipe to get enough filling for 4 pies. I baked 3 and froze the rest.

I was inspired to change the way I make my crust after I had rhubarb pie at my friend's house a few days ago. She used shortening to make her crust which was smooth, flakey, and perfect. I switched out the 2 sticks of butter that my Martha Stewart Recipe calls for with a cup of butter flavored Crisco. Here are the results:

I was in trouble from the beginning because the dough would not roll out or stick together. I kept adding more flour to get it to stick together. Unfortunately, I ran out of flour. I could barely get the rolled crust in the pie plate without it breaking apart. I couldn't get it to roll out to the proper size either, so I picked and patched, then poured in the filling and over-baked it.

With plenty of squash left over, I followed my tried and true Martha Stewart pie crust recipe the next day:

The key to her recipe: use very cold butter,  1/2 a cup ice water, (water is a variable depending on the humidity-- could require more or less) and process in a food processor only long enough to get the dough to stick together. Some use forks to get incorporate the butter with the flour, others use the pastry blending tool, but I am lazy and want instant gratification, so if Martha Stewart and Ina Garten use the food processor, so do I.

The dough will be cold, smooth, buttery, and workable, but it must be chilled before your roll it.

Well chilled dough should roll out without cracking or splitting. I never have been able to get my dough to spin on the counter top, nor do I get a perfectly round crust either, but I think this one turned out pretty nice. Be sure to give the counter top a good dusting of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the it. Brush off excess flour.

Transfer the dough to the pie plate by rolling it over the rolling pin then carefully place the rolling pin at the bottom edge of the pie plate, rolling it back to the other edge to lay the dough out. Carefully lift and scoot the dough into place so that it evenly covers the pie plate. If the dough breaks, it can be patched together by wetting it slightly to join the pieces together.

Pat the crust into place, making sure that you press it gently into the crease of the pie plate. Using my thumb and forefinger, I press the dough between them to make the ridge of the crust.

I am so excited by now. The crust looks perfect.

I add finishing touches by using little leaf cookie cutters to place fall leaves around the edge of the crust. I dip them in a bit of milk to get them adhere to the crust. You could get fancy and dust the leaves with sugar. Now, the pie is ready for the oven.

You will have left over crust that you. One rule of good crust is not to over work the crust or it will be tough, but I hate to see the crust that I trimmed off go to waste, so I roll it out, smear it with some butter, sprinkle on some brown sugar, and sugar and cinnamon, roll it up, and bake it along with the pie--like momma and Martha used to do. Makes a nice snack for the kids, husband, or yourself.

So here are the finished pies. I over baked them again. I need to pay more attention to the baking part. The squash pie recipe called for 55 minutes at 425 degrees F. I need to remember to reduce the heat perhaps to 375 F. I took a pie to friends last night. Reviews were decent, despite the overly brown crust. The filling is good, tasty. 

The hump in the first pie is a bubble in the crust. My best guess: butter tends to that. So I think I needed to press the crust down a bit more firmly.

I know those who buy the frozen crust or the ready made. Be brave. Make your own. You can do it. As with anything, making a good pie crust requires practice. If you fail, keep trying. 

Thanksgiving in the US is a month away, so you  have plenty of time to practice. If your garden produced an ample supply of butternut, acorn, or hubbard squash and you are running out of ideas as to how to use them up, make a pie.

I had fun with this post. My husband thought I was a bit crazy with camera in hand as I was working, but then he understood and he ate the pie, burned. scorched as it was. 

Have a great week end.


  1. Do you know that much of the so called Pumpkin pie filling sold around here is mostly to make a squash pie sounds really good.

    Your pies look delish...I'm still working on my crust, each time it gets a bit


  2. Another wonderful blog momma. You are amazing. I can't even bake white bread. Turns out like a brick. But I bet I could grow some amazing wheat!!

  3. We don't bake squash pies here, but yours look very appetising. I make flapjack cookies to my gran's recipes....but the children always say 'Not as good as Gran's'!

  4. I enjoyed reading this post. I learned basic cooking from my mother when I was young and my most used, worn out, cooking book was a wedding present long time ago. In our country making pies is not so common, but I learned to make rhubarb pie when I was in Southampton, England as an 'au pair', now I make occasionally shepherd's pie or rhubarb pie with varying results, haha, it is still difficult. I think your squash pie will taste great, as it looks on the photos, and the explanation gives courage to try over and over again.

  5. Oh boy, the trials of making pastry dough. My mother used lard, and I think that's where the best flavour comes from and she made the same cinnamon rolls. Sometimes she made pastry just to make them, and they were so good with a cup of tea.
    Sometimes I can make good pastry, but for the small amount of pies I make...I just buy Pillsbury in the dairy section.
    Our thanksgiving was last weekend so now I'm thinking about Christmas baking. :-)

  6. Oh my goodness Ann I'm SO HUNGRY now!
    I have bookmarked your recipe as I've always wondered how to make these delicious looking pies :o)
    Rose H

  7. Ann, I really enjoyed this post! I, too, have so many memories of my mother and grandmothers' cooking. I think my grandmothers both used pure lard in their pie crusts and my mother used Crisco. The lard ones were most flaky. I buy mine, but I am picky about brands. I should try a homemade one! I do know, though, that mother always took a fork and poked around the middle and sides of the crust at intervals before putting the filling in and it never bubbled. Try that. But your pies look mouth-watering good!

  8. My family made good pie, too. I LOVE pie, but our kids don't adore it as much as I do, so I don't make it often. My mama is coming for Thanksgiving and we shall collaborate and make several fine pies. I'll take photos.
    YOUR pies look wonderful! Yum! Yum!

  9. I'll take a slice! It looks great to me! I make a great apple pie that my family devours, especially my son. I cook the apples ahead of time and add pureed ginger and a splash of vanilla and cream. I'm the only cook/baker in the family and learned by doing. Happy fall! Great post. :o)

  10. I don't bake much any more but I always loved making pies. I think pie crusts are easy. Make them quick, don't over work the dough and they turn out good. My hubby loves pinwheels or twists with the leftover dough! Sweet hugs! I emailed you....let me know if you get it! Hugs again!

  11. We just picked our pumpkins today, with plans of carving and roasting the seeds. I'm very impressed with your Martha-ness :) Yum! xoL

  12. Great post on pie making. I'm inspired to start baking again. I do love making pies... mostly sweet ones I admit... and I make the crust from scratch. Lovely photos you've posted.