Free-form pies have always been a way to turn a little into a lot.
Empanadas, samosas, knishes, turnovers, strudels, galettes and even kolaches are all slightly (or not so slightly) different variations on hand pies, but they all share some commonalities that Cathy Barrow explores in her latest book, “When Pies Fly: Handmade Pastries From Strudels to Stromboli, Empanadas to Knishes.”
“These are pies that you could make anywhere you have an oven,” she said. No special pie pan needed.
Barrow teaches pastry and pie classes across the country, and all of her students want to learn the mysteries of pie dough.
“The sentence that reads, ‘Mix the flour and butter until it looks like, ‘Fill in the blank: Peas, damp sand, cornmeal.’ It drove me insane because I never knew what it meant,” she said.
Her solution is twofold. First, for a traditional pie dough crust, simply pulse the ingredients in a food processor 15 times.
“For many people, that alone has solved their dough phobia,” she said.
But the second tip is to encourage people to make different kinds of dough, including strudel.
“For a long time, I had it in my head that in order to make strudel, you needed to have 30 able-bodied large relatives to stand around a table the size of a basketball court,” she said.
But in reality, she discovered that the dough is easy to handle and is relatively forgiving, once you get used to stretching it with your knuckles, kind of like pizza dough.
Most Americans are familiar with sweet strudels, but savory strudels are common in Europe, and because the master dough recipe doesn’t have any sugar in it, you can easily make a batch and use some of it for a savory dish and another for something sweet.
Barrow says she understands if you are in the camp of people who will never, ever make your own pie dough.
“I just want you to make pie,” she said.