It takes one hell of a bakery to produce anything approaching the goodness of the lamest homemade pie. Why this is I do not know. Many good bakeries produce excellent flat tarts, and wonderful cakes, but a regular old American pie from the same place is often a sad thing. Some diners and restaurants have excellent pies-so what is the story? It may be partially a question of fresh-from-the -oven-ness, but that can't be the whole deal, since homemade pie is also better in its leftover form.
I suspect it has to do with the fact that a really good pie is generally not perfect-looking. Crusts which are underhandled are flakier and better than those without flaw, which have been manhandled into perfection. Probably bakeries have found that their customers don't want stuff that looks imperfect- they think there's something wrong with it. Even my pie-making idols-ladies of my mother's generation who were practised, slick makers of zillions of delicious homemade pies made pies clearly not the work of a machine. Their pies looked tons more skillful than anything I turn out, but they were hand work, and didn't hide it.
It's nice that there are luxuries so easily available to anyone not so poor as to be lacking decent food and shelter, which are virtually unknown to folks who never do any of their own housework. Like line-dried-in the-sun sheets, for another example. But I'm wandering off topic again.
When I say this is my favorite pie, I mean my favorite American style, pyrex pie plate kind of pie. It would be hard to decide between this little number and a lemon tart or tarte tatin. It is even pretty hard to relegate cherry, rhubarb, blackberry and the other lovelies to lesser spots in line. I just love pie. Way more than cakes, or cookies, or even ice cream, they are splendiforous. A nectarine or peach pie with blueberries is gorgeous and wildly aromatic, juicy and tangy, and smells of summer.
Generally, I make it as an ordinary 2 crust pie. As you can see, I am not a particularly gifted hand at the lattice crust. I tend to cut crooked strips, and panic when they break while I'm setting them up. Still, I'll never get better at it without some practice, and I do think the colorful filling deserves a bit of showing off. I generally make more crust than I really need for a double-crusted pie, so that I can cover up mistakes by patching, and don't have to roll everything out just so. I like to use some real lard in a crust, but when I don't have any of the real stuff, I use a combination of butter and crisco. I start with 3 cups of flour, which would theoretically make a 10" double crust pie, but my pan is 9 inches.I just make little cinnamon-sugar thingies with the leftover dough. They are nice with ice cream. This pie crust (which is pretty much a standard fruit pie crust for me) has:
flour 3 cups
sugar 1 tbsp
salt 1 tsp
1 egg yolk
1 tsp lemon juice
unsalted butter 12 tbsps chilled or frozen
crisco or lard 4 tbsps chilled or frozen
It's made in the usual way in the food processor: Dry ingredients are fluffed up. Then the butter and crisco are cut into small squares and added, and the contents pulsed until the over-all texture is mealy. The egg yolk and lemon are pulsed in, and ice water added through the tube while it runs, just until the whole thing comes together. A hour is usually enough chilling time to roll them out.
The filling has:
6 nectarines, sliced-no need to peel them, but if using peaches, you must peel
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsps cornstarch (I don't like to use so much thickening, but this is a very damp filling.)
squirt each orange juice and lime juice
sprinkle each cinnamon, nutmeg
It is dotted with butter. Because the filling can be so moist, I generally sprinkle some fine dry breadcrumbs on the bottom crust before pouring it in. I may be deluding myself, but I think it keeps the bottom crust from extreme sogginess. This pie has a light egg glaze with a sprinkling of coarse sanding sugar on top for color and a little crunchiness. Obviously, these last are entirely optional.