Rachel Willis taught a pie baking class at the Charlottesville Cooking School that I was lucky enough to assist with last Saturday morning. I had assisted with her cake baking class last winter and knew she was amazing. I knew she had won a pie baking contest last fall, so I was intrigued as to what her pie secrets were. I consider my own pie skills fairly decent. Granted, I can’t hold a candle to my mother’s pie making ability, but I have gotten to the point where I’m pretty convinced her skills are a gift that cannot be learned.
I learned from Rachel that while that might be partially true, there are skills that can be learned. I’m just going to go ahead and gush about how amazing that class was. I thought I knew a lot about baking a pie. Holy Moly did I learn a lot about pie. How to do a crust. How to roll it out (okay, I knew that was my weakness). How to do a lattice top pie AND make it look easy. Different thickeners for the filling. Different flavor additions. I’m still sort of absorbing all the knowledge I took in. I haven’t had time to bake a pie yet with my new knowledge, but I am definitely looking forward to apple pie season in ways I have never looked forward to apple pie season. And I LOVE apple pie. It is my chosen birthday dessert, as long as it’s homemade to my specifications. (Different late harvest apples is key.)
So the class. She had the students bring fruit to make their own pie – sort of Iron Chef of pie baking classes. There were blueberries, apples, peaches & cherries. (Some of which were combined). She greeted the class with a rhubarb custard pie with some orange accents. Even her experiments in pie are amazing.
She started by teaching us how to roll out the dough.
While she was at it, she demonstrated a lattice top pie.
And how incredibly easy they are to do.
I feel a lattice top pie kick coming on.
She had premade dough for everyone’s pies, of different varieties. After preparing the filling for pie, everyone rolled out their selected crusts and got the pies in the oven. The idea was that we’d sample the pies everyone baked.
Once the pies were in the oven, she demonstrated how to make a crust.
And then everyone got to make a crust to take home, as well as their remaing pie.
She works half her fat in at one time, then works in the remaining half. That’s what the dough looks like once you’ve worked in the water and before you dump it into plastic wrap to let it sit and chill. Totally different from how I do my crusts.
Her crusts are so much more flakier than mine and now I know why. It’s not just one reason, it’s several.
I wish I had more pictures but about this point in the class my camera battery died. I have no shots of the various blueberry, peach, cherry, apple & blueberry pies that came out.
We sampled them all and they were good.
I did however, get a shot of the chicken pot pie Rachel made for lunch.
And that was pretty darn tooting amazing too.
Part of why I love assisting with classes at the cooking school is because of the knowledge I walk away with. This class was by far, the most informative class I’ve ever had there. Rachel is a seriously superlative baker. She knows what she’s doing and she can explain to you the how and why of certain tricks.
I was most impressed with how she had her class use glass baking dishes. I swear by my aluminum ones, but she even has me rethinking the usage of glass dishes. Rachel, you really should teach more baking classes. I could definitely use some help with my cookies next.