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Pre-made pie crusts & best fresh apple source for pies?

Ok, my yearly pie urge is here.

Who will have good apples as of this week? Favorite vendor or market and/or variety for pie? I'm leaning toward Gravenstein if it isn't too late in the season.

Also, what would be the best pre-made pie crust? Be nice. My second post on Chowhound was this exact same question. I was broiled by the bakers on the board ...

"Modern technology ie. food processors has transformed pie crust making from an art into a push of a button that any idiot can do in 5 minutes."

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

Re-reading that post, it is NOT as unpleasant as remembered. However, I was new and my answer wasn't being, well, answered. No wonder I like you so much Ruth. You took a little of the sting out of that post. Might be your fault that I stuck around on Chowhoud.

There has to be some new frozen pie crusts out there. Any bakeries that will sell dough? I didn't look closely, but it seemed Berkeley Bowl had a good selection.

Does Andronico's still sell French Picnic pie crusts, mentioned in my long, ago post (I went with Nancy's, IIRC).

Anyone with baking advice ... I am contemplating making my own crust ... here are my questions on Home Cooking.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

If the suggestions are good enough and all goes well ... yeah, remember who you are Krys and the USUAL results ... I might even be inspired to post my first picture on Chowhound

Heck, I might even photograph a screaming failure. It would document what I've been saying about my cooking skills all these years.

Yeah ... hyped ... really hyped.

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  1. Honestly, I like the frozen roll-up Pillsbury crusts just fine. They work in a pinch (fit nicely in the freezer!), and unless you're entering it in a pie contest, I doubt too many people would find it ew-yucky. I've made a few fruit pies and chicken pot pies with them, and they're buttery and crispy. Definitely not homemade, but they do the job.

    If you're going for something more gourmet, though, I'm no help at all. :)

    1. They have pre-made pie crust at Trader Joe's in the refrigerated butter section. I believe it's enough for two pies and you have to roll it out yourself ($3.59). Haven't tried it yet though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chezchristine

        I think the TJ's is pre-rolled: just unfold and put in the pie tin. Gravensteins should be at their peak. Note that they're fairly sweet and soft (perfect for applesauce, because they don't need any sweetening) although they vary -- the softer ones tend to be more yellow. If you want a firm and/or tangy pie filling you should use one of the more traditional baking apples. And if you do use gravs, you should use the minimum amount of sugar.

        If you're going to be at Berkeley Bowl, they should have a plethora of apples to choose from this time of year.

      2. I often buy premade pie crusts from Trader Joes. They are fresh as opposed to frozen so you can put them into your own pan or use them on a regular baking sheet, the edges folded up around your filling for a flat gallette type tart. Unfortunately they're not made with butter and they're not as good as a great homemade pie crust, but they do work well for all sorts of pies and quiches. If I had a food processor I'd probably make my own, but since I don't TJ's is the answer. Looking forward to seeing if others know of any superior sources in SF.

        1. You're a few weeks early. The best pie apples usually come in season in October.

          I've found Monterey Market to be the best place for pie apples. Look for Cox's Orange Pippin or Sierra Beauty.

          Gravensteins make great applesauce, consequently lousy pie.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            The greener Gravs from 3 weeks ago made great pie. The ripe ones now are for applesauce and cider.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Unripe Gravensteins do not make as excellent a pie as ripe Sierra Beauties or Cox's Orange Pippins.

          2. I buy my apples from DeVoto at the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market (he is there on Tuesdays too). I've made two galettes this year (no pies yet -- I generally wait until pippins, my favorite pie apples are ready). One galette I made from gravensteins (very good) and one from pink ladies (too mushy, fell apart too much). Pippins are my favorite pie apples but they don't come in until late October, and Stan said they'd be late this year. I generally don't like gravensteins in pie, but in a galette they hold up and present well. I agree with Ruth and Robert that the best use for gravs is applesauce. I've made a bunch so far this year. I have been eating some of DeVoto's gravs this week out of hand, and they are crispy, juicy and on the tart side.

            1. I use French Picnic pie crusts when I need a pie crust. They are not hard to find - I think even Whole Foods carries them. You can look for locations at

              www.frenchpicnic.com

              I agree with others about gravensteins. My mom has a gravenstein tree and makes great galettes and applesauce with the apples but uses other apples for pie.

              1 Reply
              1. re: reneesf

                Thanks all. I'll skip the Gravensteins. And thanks for confirming French Picnic is still in business.

              2. Rose Levy Berenbaum has a great flaky cream cheese crust that is very good. It's in her pie & pastry bible cookbook.
                I usually tweak it a bit depending on the pie I'm making. Maybe add a bit of lemon or orange zest or substitute some of the flour with ground nuts. I can post my version of it if you like or I'll email you hers.
                I always use Granny Smith for pie..a nice tartness but I can vary the sweetness according to my own taste.

                I've been making alot of streusel pies..maybe a pecan crust with an apple streusel filling & some caramel sauce drizzled on top? Crap ..if I wasn't already planning on making strawberry shortcake tonight I would make that instead.

                Looks like someone on HC board already posted a link to that cream cheese recipe..it really is a good recipe.

                4 Replies
                1. re: sugarbuzz

                  I read that link and it looks excellent. I'd be grateful if you posted your variation of it on that board.

                  1. re: sugarbuzz

                    I haven't seen a proper, ripe Granny Smith apple in years except from one farmers market vendor and imported from New Zealand. What they call Granny Smith in California is ... I have no idea. Not good for anything except compost.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      OK, Robert ... two pies this year ... I want a notification on the board when and where you see the perfect Sierra Beauties or Cox's Orange Pippins. I'll save the frozen pie crust for that (I can only make one pie crust every decade or so ... it takes that long to forget the pain). I can peel fruit, that never kills me.

                      But I must bake my apple pie this week ... I'm like a latex balloon. After a few days, I deflate. The moment passes.

                      And I'll post the taste off results apple-wise ... since the crust won't count.

                      1. re: rworange

                        The apple farm had an orange pippin two weeks ago, don't know whether it was Cox's. Sierra Beauty will probably be October since apples are late just like everything else.

                  2. I haven't tried it, but I've been told that Whole Foods has a premade piecrust that contains butter & is good. It is a Whole Foods' brand. I think it is in the frozen section, but could be refrigerated. Good luck with the pie.

                    1. I've had very good luck with the premade pie crusts at The Pasta Shop (in Berkeley and Oakland). They have both sweet and savory, and they're great to keep around for quick pie time.

                      1. I just bought some beautiful, small macintosh apples at the Tuesday, Berkeley farmers market. They are not my favorite eating apple, but they were available and apples are a sturdy lunchbox favorite around here. The little ones are pretty tart and, though I've never apple-pied 'em, I'll bet they'd be great
                        (crisp + tart= good pie apples in my book). Now who sold them to me? I can't remember, but I've not seen him at the market before and the farm is in Sonoma somewhere (he had a Sonoma county farm magazine).

                        The Bowl is getting some good local and organic apples now, too. Local Granny Smiths (and I mean from the west coast here when I say "local")are not around for a while.

                        I usually but a pre-made crust from the freezer section at the Bowl. It's two crusts packaged together and it is semi-whole wheat. You're probably looking for a roll-outable crust, though, unless you're doing a tart, right?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: MollyGee

                          >>> You're probably looking for a roll-outable crust, though, unless you're doing a tart, right? <<<

                          Nope. If I don't have to get near a rolling pin, I'm happy. Well, I do have to find that rolling pin. If buying the frozen crusts that are in aluminum pie shells, I just flip the other on top of the filled shell and remove the 2nd pie tin. Looks are not that important to me and usually it looks ok. Sometimes the top will tear a little, but not too often.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Ah. That's clever. When it comes to apple pie no one awards points for lovely.

                          2. re: MollyGee

                            Oh no, I can't find his business card now! But the Macintosh apple man, his name is Torrey, and he and his apples are splendid. I bought half a bushel from him because I've never had such good Macs out west, and they are the premier applesauce apple of my youth. Eight quarts of sauce and four apple cakes later, I still have one layer of apples in the box to get through... but alas, they do not make a good pie.

                            1. re: MollyGee

                              Here's a photo of my apples. The one on the left is from The Bowl and is a variety I've never heard of and don't remember. The others are the macintoshes from the farmers market:

                              http://i93.photobucket.com/albums/l76...

                              The apples are very small. I can just about close my fingers around one when holding it.

                              Sorry. I'm having fun now that I've figured out how to post pics.

                              1. re: MollyGee

                                Those look delicious! Please continue to post pics, and I hope that rworange does of her final result.

                                RW, your urge is contagious...now I'm itching to make pie!! Yeah, I told babette on the "dry cake" thread that I would make a cake this weekend, but now I'd rather have pie. Pie. Well, I might wait for a few weeks til I see really good apples at my farmer's market.

                                I agree w/ others on the Gravensteins; right now they make great eating apples but not pie. If you have a hard time deciding on one type of apple for your one apple pie this year, you should consider using a variety of 2-3. I like a mix of tart, sweet, fragrant (whatever tastes good to you and is a "pie apple") and find that it adds nice complexity.

                                As far as the store-bought crust, I know the team at Cook's Illustrated has recommended a brand that is sold at Whole Foods. Not sure if it's the house brand or that French Picnic that was mentioned earlier. Happy Baking!

                            2. The Apple Farm should have Rhode Island Greenings this Saturday (Sept. 9) which I think are a terrific pie apple (though I agree Sierra Beauties are fantastic too.) Greenings are unremarkable to look at--small, dull green--and not much fun to eat--fairly dry, not much sugar. But in pie, the slices get tender without losing their shape, and they develop an intense apple-y flavor that just knocks me out. Gowan's (also in Philo) is the only other Northern Cal grower that I know of that has any Greening trees; I've seen them at the Bowl in years past but never at a store in SF.

                              1 Reply