Unlocking the pie mystique with Lion House cookbook

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 23 2010 6:00 a.m. MST

As a teenager, Brenda Hopkin could make cookies, cakes and candies, "But pies were difficult for me. They always made a mess of your whole kitchen, and you didn't know if they were going to turn out and be successful."

But that was before she became a pastry chef at the Lion House, where more than 35,000 pies are made each year.

"Once I used the Lion House pie dough, things worked out," said Hopkin, who has been at the Lion House for 20 years, and head baker for 10 years.

Hopkin is sharing the recipe for that dough, as well as the many flavors and fillings, in a new book, "Lion House Pies."

The Lion House, named for the reclining stone lion perched above the porch, was once the home of Brigham Young. Owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ground level is now the Pantry, where hot lunches are served cafeteria-style to the public. The Lion House also supplies baked goods for other Temple Square Hospitality restaurants and catered events.

Although some of these recipes have been shared in previous popular cookbooks, such as "Lion House Classics" and "Lion House Bakery," Hopkin said some of the books have gone out of print. "So we decided to pull the recipes from our books that people can't get any more."

This book also comes in a smaller, spiral-bound format, so the opened book lies flat and is easier to use in the kitchen.

A highlight of the cookbook is the DVD of Hopkin showing all the tricks of the trade: mixing, rolling, fitting, filling and fluting. Because even with a good recipe, pie-making is all about technique. It's a lot easier to try when you can see how it's done.

"There's such a mystique about pies, and really, it's like anything you do, if you practice it a little bit, it gets easier," she said.

She's not sure who originated the Lion House dough recipe; it was already in use when she started working there 20 years ago. It calls for four kinds of fat — lard, butter, shortening and margarine.

"It takes the properties of all four to make a really good pie crust," Hopkin said.

"The lard is what makes it flaky and easy to work with. The dough is soft and pliable, and it's easy to work into a pan and easy to re-roll. It doesn't crack and fall apart."

It also calls for a little bit of baking powder, which gives the dough "a little lift and makes it more flaky," said Hopkin.

On the DVD, Hopkin answers questions that often plague pie-makers.

For instance, how do you get the rolled-out dough into the pan without any wrinkles or tears? (Gently fold it over your arm to transfer.)

How do you weave a lattice top without getting filling all over it? (Weave the strips on a sheet of parchment paper, and then transfer it on top of the pie.)

How do you get a top and bottom crust to seal together? (Brush milk or water on the edges before sealing.)

Although many people recommend using a pastry blender or an electric mixer to mix the fat into the flour, she prefers using her fingers, telling the DVD viewers, "There's something calming and soothing about it."

Although pie-making is still a messy business, Hopkin advises people to make four to eight pies at a time, bake, and then freeze them in gallon freezer bags. 

When pies are frozen, stack them on top of each other in the freezer. You'll only have one mess to clean up, and you'll have pies ready for future use. When you're in the mood for pie, set your pre-baked frozen pie in the oven at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, to let it thaw, heat the interior and crisp the crust.

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