Guest Chick Monday: Kensington Teen Author Erica O’Rourke

Torn by YA novelist Erica O'Rourke  | Chicklets in the KitchenI’m so excited about today’s guest, Erica O’Rourke and not just because she makes a mean pie crust.  She lives outside Chicago with her family, including two very bad cats. She is the winner of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award for Best Young Adult Manuscript. The first novel of her YA paranormal trilogy, TORN, is available now. To find out more about Erica, you can visit her blog at, or follow her on twitter: @erica_orourke.

Take it away, Erica!

When I set out to write Torn, I knew that I wanted Mo’s mom to own a diner. It made sense for a number of reasons – I wanted Mo to work in her family’s business, and I wanted them to be solidly working class, despite the fact that Mo attends an exclusive private school. Also, if there is a more demeaning job for a high school girl than serving patty melts to your classmates while wearing a hideous apron and kerchief, and then getting crappy tips, I can’t imagine it. But the other reason Mo works at The Slice is Right is because if I know one thing about baked goods, it is pie.

My sister and I grew up helping my mom bake pies for every family occasion. Even now, it is assumed that she will make the Thanksgiving pies, regardless of whose house dinner is at. Apple, cherry, pumpkin. But when we were growing up, pies were a year-round affair. My favorite was rhubarb pie – mouth-puckeringly tart filling contrasting with the short crust. Even now, I am a sucker for a piece of rhubarb pie, though it’s increasingly hard to find. Most of the time you can find strawberry-rhubarb, but that is not the same thing at all, and frankly, an abomination in the sight of right-thinking folks everywhere.

So, I was raised to make pie crust from scratch. People are always amazed by this. “But it is so much easier to buy the premade ones at the store,” they tell me. But I have wrestled those things into pie tins, and they routinely break along the fold lines. Furthermore, store-bought crusts taste the same as the cardboard boxes they come in.  It takes maybe twenty minutes, tops, to make a crust from scratch. You can roll it out to fit your preferred dish exactly, it’s easy to mend if it should rip, it tastes like actual food, and it makes people fall in love with you. (I’m not saying my husband proposed because I make pie crust from scratch. But it certainly didn’t hurt.) It’s one of those things that looks like it requires a tremendous amount of effort, so people are thoroughly impressed and deeply touched. But you and I know the truth. It’s easy-peasy.

My recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook – you know, the one with the red and white gingham cover that your mom has above the stove? That’s it. I always make the pastry for a double-crust pie, even if I don’t need both crusts. Better to have too much than too little. I’ve also adapted it a bit – I use unsalted butter instead of shortening, because I always have some on hand, and also because I know where butter comes from. The same cannot be said of shortening.

The trick to a really flaky pie crust is to use ice cold water – and by ice cold, I mean that you throw a bunch of ice cubes in a bowl of cold water, and scoop out tablespoons as needed. I don’t know why it works – I leave such things to Alton Brown – but it is essential.

My last advice would be to use one of those wire pastry blenders, or in a pinch, two knives. You CAN use a food processor, but it’s terribly easy to overprocess the dough into something tough and tasteless. Better to go slowly, by hand, for the first few pies.

Double-Crust Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6-7 tablespoons of ICE COLD water
Filling of your choice (see notes, below)

1.      Stir together flour and salt. Add butter, using pastry blender to combine until butter is pea sized.

2.      Sprinkle one tablespoon of water over mixture, blend. Continue adding water, one tablespoon at a time, until moistened dough just holds together.

3.      Divide dough in half, form each into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, flatten one dough ball. Roll out to desired size. If dough sticks to rolling pin, flour the pin, too. (Don’t roll it out too thick, or it’s a pain to transfer.)

4.      Transfer dough to pie pan by wrapping it around rolling pin, then unrolling it directly over pie pan. Put in the fridge until you’re ready to fill the crust.

5.      Roll out second crust, transfer to top of filled pie pan. Cut slits in top to allow steam to escape.

6.      Trim the edges, then fold top and bottom edges under to form a neat line. Pinch edges together. (I would tell you how to make this look pretty, but it’s hard to describe. Essentially, you pinch your thumb and forefinger together so they make a V, and place them on the outside edge of the crust. Then you place your other thumb on the inside edge of the crust, and smush it into the V. Really, as long as the edges get smushed together somehow, all the way around the pie, it’s okay. And no one has ever complained about homemade pie crust, in my experience, even if it looks a little wonky.)

7.      Take the extra bits you’ve trimmed off, roll them flat, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar. Then cut them into long, thin triangles and roll them up with the pointy part last. Bake them with the pie (you’ll need to pull them out a little early.) These are your reward for making a crust from scratch, and there’s no need to share if you don’t want to.

8.      Bake your pie at 375 until…well…it’s done. Time will vary depending on your filling, but start checking at about 50 minutes. If the edges are  getting too brown, cover them with foil.

A note about filling:

I don’t believe in using premade fillings. They are gloppy and grody and not found in nature, even if they do contain fruit. Far tastier is to take the fruit of your choice, add a spoonful of flour and some sugar to taste, and a dash of lemon juice. Let it sit for 20 minutes or so. Make the filling before you start the crust, and by the time you roll out the dough, it’s ready. If you want to make something fancy, like pecan or lemon meringue, of course, consult a cookbook.

A note about apple pie:

I have STRONG FEELINGS about apple pie. Namely, that one should use tart apples meant for baking, because mushy apple pie is a crime on par with high treason. We have never gone wrong with Jonagold or Granny Smith at my house, and I’ve heard that Galas are good, too. When you make your filling, as described above, throw in a little cinnamon. The other thing I do is take an extra-fine grater and grate some cheddar cheese into the pie crust before I add the water. It adds a nice savory touch to the crust without being overtly cheesy. I can’t give you a specific amount, sadly, as I tend to eyeball it. You want the dough to be flecked with cheese. You do NOT want the dough to resemble a pizza.

Erica is including a giveaway – one commenter will receive an autographed copy of Torn, along with a swag pack – bookmarks, character trading cards, and a full set of postcards. They also include a secret code that will take the reader to a hidden scene on my webpage.  Because of the wonkiness of the posts showing up, y’all have until Tuesday night to comment.


27 thoughts on “Guest Chick Monday: Kensington Teen Author Erica O’Rourke

  1. Erica, thanks so much for stopping by and I can’t wait to read TORN.

    And my gosh, that looks so good that I want to go out and make a pie! And I’ve never done that before, even WITH store-bought crusts. I think I like step 7 best. YUM.

  2. Ooo! A kindred spirit 🙂 I love making pie crust from scratch. It’s so much easier than it sounds. Every fall, I make an apple-pear-raisin pie that is a family favorite (Granny Smith apples, FTW– especially with the sweeter pears and raisins). I also *love* apple-cheddar turnovers (which I will now make with your pie crust recipe!).

    Thanks for sharing this. So yum!

  3. Hey Erica!! I can just see you slaving over your pie. You’re the cutest pie maker ever. I’m not a pie person except apple pie, and then it has to have something called Hard Sauce on top of it. Yummy. And you’re right. The apples need to be crisp and tart. We use Granny Smith’s in my house.

    TORN is in my TBR pile. I can’t wait to read it!!

  4. Hi Erica,
    Great post! I, too, am a from-scratch crust maker. You are so right that it’s easy-peasy. I figure, if you’re going to buy a crust from the store, you might as well just buy the whole pie. Whatever you concoct with the fake crust won’t be truly homemade anyhow.

    I’ve just started TORN and Mo has such an appealing voice. I can’t wait to get deeply into the book–it’s already wonderful!

    Thanks for the crust tips — I’ll definitely try the ice water. I wish you all the luck in the world with TORN.

      • Hi, Liz! Thank you for stopping by — visits with you always make my day!

        Abigail, you definitely need to try this. But make sure you crank the air conditioning when you’re making the dough, as hot weather does not aid in the cause of a flaky crust.

  5. Morning ladies! 🙂

    Great post Erica, wishing you the best with your writing!

    I love making my own pie crust, it’s true what you said, if you are buying an already made crust, just buy the already made pie. Nothing against those pies, by all means, buy them if you like, but home made crust is just devine! So flaky and the taste is waaaaay better! Also true is the ice water, the icier (sp?) the better.

    I have to agree with Abigail, we need the recipe for your apple-cheddar turnovers Kimberly K…….. please!! 😀
    They sound so yummy!

    Have a wonderful day!

  6. But…but…but… making pie crust is SCARY!

    every time I bake a pie, I feel guilty about using a pre-made crust. I recently made a pie recipe that came from a NY bakery, and it was an oatmeal cookie crust. So I couldn’t use a prebaked crust. and I was scared. And it was actually pretty easy. But I am still terrified of homemade pie crust. I have no clue why. There are certain baking things that just scare me. You make it sound so EASY though!

    • Lizzie, I totally understand. One trick is to roll out on a piece of waxed paper. It keeps the dough from sticking to the counter, if that’s giving you trouble, and you can kind of…flip it…to get it into the pan. But think of it this way: as long as you don’t overwater the dough, whatever you make at home will taste 10x better than a store-bought one. And if you’re worried about overwatering, add the water one tablespoon at a time. After each TBSP is thoroughly mixed in, squeeze a bit of it like playdough. Does it hold together? Done and dusted!

      YOU CAN DOOOOO EEEETTT!! Good luck!

  7. I’m adding Torn to my TBR list and am happy to throw my hat into ring for the signed copy. Thanks for a helpful post (helpful to my hubby, who does the cooking at hour house, that is) and a terrific giveaway, Erica.

  8. I LOVE pie crust. When I was a kid I used to eat the filling out of pies and leave a crust graveyard behind. I don’t know exactly when my juvenile tastebuds matured, but I now rescue the crust bones from my kids’ plates before they’re scraped into the trash.

    Sadly, the one and only time I tried to make a homemade pie crust for a pecan pie, the whole pie mess stuck to the pie plate. The only good thing that came from it was no one wanted to try the pie so I ate it right out of the dish with a spoon! It sure did taste good, but I never attempted my own crust after that. With your recipe and directions, Erica, I’m ready to give it another go! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    • Thanks, Lis’Anne! I, too, enjoy the crust more than the filling these days. That’s why homemade crust is even more important. And if it sticks in the pan, there is NO SHAME AT ALL in eating it with a spoon. NONE.

  9. Hey, Erica and Chicklets!

    I am way late to this party–I’ve been busy travelling and reading Erica’s fabulous TORN! (It’s hard to tear myself away from those pages.) Thanks for this apple pie recipe. It sounds scrumptious! I’m very fussy about my pie crust and apple pies.

  10. Pingback: Guest Chick Monday: Lizzie Pierce and some good ol’ matzo ball soup | Chicklets in the Kitchen

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