For some of us, the hardest part of making a pie is rolling out the dough. Turning a lumpof dough into an even 12- or 13-inch round can be a struggle, especially if you’re somewhat spatially challenged like me. Happily, the artisans at Catskill Craftsmen, makers of butcherblock furniture and cutting boards, created a pastry board just for us.
The 16×22-inch beautifully crafted hardwood board is imprinted with various size markings, including circles for 8-, 9-, and 10-inch pies. My pie dough rolled out and released effortlessly from the smooth, oiled surface, but I did have to roll the dough slightly larger than the recommended size to have enough overhang to work with. I also found the U.S. and metric rulers around the perimeter to be useful for any shaping or cutting task where size is important. The board costs $23 plus $6 shipping and is available online at www.cooking.com or by calling 800-663-8810.
After several readers wrote to us in praise of unglazed terra cotta and stoneware pie plates, I decided to try one for myself. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. The porous nature of unglazed stoneware lets it absorb moisture and create an intensely dry heat, which is terrific for crusts. My pie crust turned out crisp yet flaky and tender, and it was beautifully browned, too. Just like our letter writers, I’m now sold on unglazed stoneware for baking.
If you try one of these pie plates, remember that stoneware conducts heat a little differently than metal or glass, so be prepared to adjust baking times accordingly. My test pie cooked about 15 minutes faster than if it had been in a glass plate.
I found my pie plate through Chicago-based Sassafras Enterprises, manufacturers of a line of unglazed stoneware baking equipment that includes pizza and bread pans as well as pie plates. You can order directly from the company or ask for a retailer near you (800-537-4941). My standard 9-inch pie plate cost $15 plus $4 shipping; a version with scalloped edges is also available, as are 11-inch pie plates.