- 25 Oct 2013 -

Chapter 1: Fruit Pi

I am blessed to have tasted the fresh mouthwatering fruit produce of Whidbey Island WA, grown in the abundant organic farms by very talented farmers. I have sampled more pies on the island than most and my absolute favorites are those handmade with love from The Kitchen Door. I met with its creator - Shirlee Read, long time resident of the island and a self- taught pie maker who takes the art of pie making so seriously, it’s scary. Her business has been and will continue to be focused on quality control and customer satisfaction; it is not about expanding, making it big and selling for big bucks. ”Really?! “

Shirlee’s mission is simple - make an awesome pie to celebrate the very best seasonal ingredients the neighboring regions has to offer.  The woman lives up to her words. Her pies are wholesome, fresh and an absolute delight; her recipes unpretentious; her fierce devotion to the craft admirable and her customers loyal!

As I watch Shirlee moving around her kitchen, (check out the cutest kitchen ever!) next to her house in the woods, situated at the end of a little dirt road (literally that is the name of the road!) she is in her seventh heaven with her little chicken farm and garden. She had been in the food business for the longest time, first a caterer, then founder of a cooking school before launching her pie business in 2002. She has so much energy and passion for her work it was intoxicating just watching her in action. In any given week in July/August, she is churning out 90+ pies.  It’s hard to believe that her only distribution channel is the Bayview market aside from the steady orders from returning customers. The biggest pie day of her career was this past Labor Day weekend when she sold 150 pies before noon. Don’t bother googling for any advertising on the web about her business, there is none, her sales figures speaks for itself!

I asked whether she has plans to expand her business as clearly the market is yearning for more!

“Not really”, she smiled and I could tell she had given this response plenty of times before. When she said her pies are hand-made, it is the honest truth. She sources all local ingredients herself and makes everything from scratch. Every inch of that pie pastry has been mixed by her own hands, all savory and sweet pies great and small are her own creations. The only other non-mainstream products she makes are her quiches, her signature granola and killer biscotti, which really warrants another post to do it justice.

I have heard this saying too many times - “I love pies but pies don’t love me back, it’s so hard to get it right!” I asked Shirlee what are her trade secrets. In her down to earth, friendly way she was on a roll without any hesitation.

“If you are looking to steer away from the innocuous humdrum taste of mass produced pies, make your own pie crust. I will give you the recipe I use, it is so forgiving! While you can get away with using a frozen pre-made crust, there is no excuse at all for not making your own filling, it’s just too easy! Mix the fruit, sugar, flour and lemon juice, put in crust, cover then bake and eat…Yum”

The woman is so generous, she even shared her never fail pie crust recipe and raved blueberry raspberry combination pie recipe with our readers (scroll down for the goodies!)

I decided to quiz her on her yardstick for a good pie. Shirlee stopped stirring the green apples and sugar for a bit and looked at me, with hand gestures and all, she was in her element –

“The pie crust first, this should not be milk based or doughy. For the filling, it should be fruit first, sugar later. The flavor of the fruit should be the first to hit the palate. Texture is huge for the filling as it is for the crust, it should not be gelatinous, you should not taste any thickening agents like tapioca.”

Lastly a bonus for you pie makers out there, I asked Shirlee what are the ingredients we cannot skimp on. Without thinking she spoke with authority –

“A big bowl so you can toss versus mash your pie crust ingredients, a pastry cutter, a good convection oven and a rolling pin that is comfortable in your hands and not too heavy.”

So there you have it from the most unpretentious pie maker –

Fresh local ingredients + Homemade crust + Fruit first + Plenty Passion =  Shirlee’s Pies




Shirlee’s Knock Out Blueberry Raspberry Pie

This pie is an absolute winner, one of the best sellers during the summer season. Its so easy to make, and so worth it when you witness the smiles of pleasure as your kitchen is filled with the tantalizing aroma of the pie. Serve it still warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream – now you’re in heaven.

9” pie dish, Serves 6-7


1/2 recipe Shirlee’s Never-Fail Pie Crust

4 to 5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries & raspberries, equal amounts of each (1-½ pounds)

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. flour


Pre-heat the oven to 400-degree F (200-degree C), gas mark 6

In a medium-sized bowl, make the filling by tossing the fruit with the sugar and flour. Let it sit while you roll out the crust.

Divide the dough into a big half and a little half. Using the big half roll out the bottom crust to fit the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish, with about 1-inch overlapping the edge.  Place the crust in the bottom of the pie dish, leaving the edge hanging over. Give the filling a good stir and then fill the crust with it. Now roll out the little half of the dough (or the rest of the dough) to fit over the top of the pie with at least 1 inch over hanging. Before placing the crust on the pie, cut a decorative design in it, starting with the vent hole in the center. Then fold the crust in half and lay it over the filling, unfolding to cover the whole pie. Using a table knife, trim the rough edges of the dough to within 1 inch of the edge of the pie dish. Then roll and pinch the edges together firmly, creating a fluted edge that stands up around the edge of the pie and seals in the filling. Take your time and make a good seal so all the juice won’t leak out when it’s baking.

(Alternatively, roll out a bottom crust and fold under and flute the edge, creating a stand-up edge on the rim of your pie pan--as if for a single-crust pie. Then roll out the top piece of dough and using cookie cutouts, make a decorative top with them, designing it so there is the same cutout on each piece. Cover the top as much as possible and don’t be afraid to overlap your cutouts!)

Place the pie on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet and put it in a preheated oven for 40 minutes. Check the pie and if it’s not bubbly all over, bake until done, usually another 10-15 minutes. When the pie filling bubbles all over remove the pie to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Shirlee’s Never Fail Pie Crust

The dough for this pie crust multiplies nicely and freezes beautifully when made into crusts for future baking. Just remember to cover it tightly with plastic wrap before putting in the freezer. Try this with Shirlee’s knock out recipe for blueberry raspberry pie!

Makes four 9-inch crusts or three 10 1/2-inch crusts.

Making the crust:

In a large mixing bowl, make the flour mixture by adding:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups Crisco, butter, margarine or lard (or a combination: Shirlee likes best a combination of 1 cup Crisco and 1/2 cup Willow Run margarine or butter)

1 Tbsp. salt, or less to taste: (note: if using salted margarine, add little or no salt)

With a pastry cutter, two forks or your hands, cut and toss the ingredients until the fat is evenly distributed but the texture is still rough.

In a measuring cup, mix together the liquid ingredients with a fork:

1 egg

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

5 Tbsp. cold water

(note: this mixture equals a bit more than 1/2 cup)

Add the liquid ingredients all at once to the flour mixture, and mix quickly with a fork with a tossing motion until all the dry ingredients are moistened equally. You can roll this out right away or cover with a damp towel and let it rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so. It behaves better when cool. When ready to roll out, divide the dough into equal parts depending on the size of your pie dishes and roll it out on a floured board.

Rolling out the crust:

First flour your hands, the board and the rolling pin. Shirlee reminds us to use plenty of flour! The dough tolerates some handling and doesn’t mind the added flour from rolling it out on a floured board! Pick up dough sufficient to fill the bottom and sides of your pie dish and quickly form it into a smooth ball, with sides and top nicely rounded. Place the ball on the floured board and flatten with the palm of your hand to start the nice round shape of your dough. Now pick up the floured rolling pin and, starting in the middle, roll evenly toward the top of the dough. Starting again in the middle, roll evenly toward the bottom of the dough. Back to the middle again, and roll evenly to the right, then repeat to the left.

At this point, your dough should be evenly rolled out, with a start on a nice round shape for your pie dish. Pick the dough up, make sure there’s enough flour under it, and put it back on the board. Now start all over again, always rolling from the middle to the edges. Feel with your hand for variable thickness, and correct with the rolling pin. When you reach the right size for your pie dish, use a flat scraper to lift one side of the dough and fold it over the other. Now pick up the folded-over dough and set it in your pie dish, unfolding it to fit, with an inch overlap. Voila! Your bottom crust is done.

Now pick up another ball of dough and repeat the process for your top crust, making sure to keep everything floured to prevent sticking. Put the filling in the prepared crust, place the folded-over top crust over the filling, and trim the edges (1” overlap). Pinch, crimp or otherwise join the two crusts and make a decorative edge to seal the pie. Cut vents in the top and put it in the oven.

You’ve successfully made a pie!


; Rich Oxtail Stew with Port