My earliest memories of playing with pie dough are of being with my great-aunt in her antiquated kitchen in her old, Chicago apartment. Relatives say my aunt was a nervous woman, but she doted on me with such interested patience that the world always stopped for the hours we played together in her kitchen. I suppose she actually made pies that we ate while my brother and I alongside made pies that we didn’t. We rolled and crafted and sculpted the scraps of her pie dough, sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar, and then baked them with the pride of state-fair winners.

Her sister, my grandmother, also had a passion for pie baking, but her passion served a different purpose. My uncle laughs that he could always tell when his mother was mad because she’d be rolling pie dough. And I remember once seeing her constructively venting her anger on the malleable, submissive dough. What other medium allows one to beat it with a large, wooden club, and squish it until paper thin? If the rage is not exhausted with one pie, dough can quickly be mixed and rolled anew. And when all is done, what better way to say “I’m sorry” and make up than with a fresh-baked, homemade pie?

I began baking pies to eat when I was in high school. My aunt’s daughter-in-law gave me a recipe called “Fool-proof pie dough”, and it is fool-proof, -always easy to work with, always bakes up flaky and light. I’ve since tried other pie dough recipes and can understand why pie dough has a bad reputation for being difficult. I always come back to the fool-proof recipe and am not surprised that it is very similar to the pie dough recipe used by national championship pie-baking winner, Helen Myhre. Click on “continue reading…” for the recipe and to see how I’m passing down pie-dough traditions to my children.

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