Posts tagged pies
Thursday, December 1, 2011

apple pie with dulce de leche

half-eaten pie. got carried away, so this is your picture. you're welcome.

It’s December already; how did that happen? Once again, I find myself wondering where the previous month went. I suspect I’m not the only one.

A few things of note…

Bluefish is not photogenic no matter what state it’s in: raw, in-prep, or cooked. Believe me, I know this for a fact. For the last several weeks, Andrew and I have been having fish Sundays. We’ve named them thus, so perhaps “Fish Sundays” sounds more official? I’ve tried to photograph the creature and it’s not looking good. I suppose, I can console myself with a slice of pie. Now pie, especially filled with apples and dulce de leche – that always looks (and sounds) good.

Continue reading apple pie with dulce de leche.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

peach crème fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

peach creme fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust

Friendships can start in the most esoteric of ways. Some friendships commence in early childhood; others – through mutual friends. Once, a cherry pitter led me to one of my best friends – Jennie.

I had accidentally ordered two cherry pitters, and when they arrived, I realized my mistake. Who needs two cherry pitters anyway? I tweeted about my accidental splurge, and Jennie tweeted back, with an offer to relieve me of such burden. After a few tweets, we agreed to meet for coffee. I brought the cherry pitter; she brought her award-winning tomato jam. By the end of our coffee date we both knew – our friendship was meant to be.

Continue reading peach crème fraiche pie with a thyme butter crust.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

blueberry strawberry pie

blueberry strawberry pie

I am a girl who loves a good fruit pie. I can think so nothing more delicious in the summer, and I love making it almost as much as I love eating it. But, I have a bone to pick with fruit pies because they are finicky and temperamental in the summer months. My biggest gripe is that the best time of the year to make fruit pies is also the most challenging. If you’ve ever made your own crust, you know crust’s two mortal enemies are heat and humidity, and guess what New York summers are known for? Meanwhile, farmers’ markets are brimming with the most ripe, fragrant fruit begging to be eaten, canned, and turned out in baked goods. Other than enjoying summer’s bounty as nature intended, what more glorious way is there to showcase fruit at the peak of its season than baking it into a pie? Never mind that you dread turning on your oven when temperatures cross into the triple digits, as you yourself slowly cook in your tiny urban apartment. So when the pie is baked – so are you.

flying pigs farm rendered lardscraper, rolling pin, pie dish, iced coffee

And yet to me, despite the heat and the sweat, the process of making pie is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I love to see the dough, crumbly and speckled with pea-sized pieces of butter come together, love shaping the pie crusts into disks and chilling them. Love to prepare the fruit: pit the cherries, hull the strawberries, blanch the peaches. Love to flour my counter and roll out the dough out and place it into the pie dish. But nothing gives me more glee and jubilation than piling the fruit into the pie shell, seeing it tower before my eyes.

an almost perfect circle

Fruit pies offer a taste of summer, a burst of sunshine topped by a sugary, flaky, buttery crust. Crust is key to a good pie, in my opinion. But with fruit pies, you often face a soggy bottom – the upside of a fruit pie is also its downside. And I used to think, such is the way of the world. I had to just make do and carry on. But there’s a genius solution in place – pre-baking your bottom crust! It’s genius, really, and you can kiss those soggy bottom crusts goodbye.

blueberries, strawberries, thyme

A solution came my way in the form of a book and a New York Times article almost simultaneously. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Bill Yosses’ and Melissa Clark’s new book, “The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion”. I leafed through the entire book the night it arrived in the mail, and there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t want to make, but a recipe for a pie crust caught my eye first. I’ve been a long-time fan of Bill Yosses, the executive pastry chef at the White House; and Melissa Clark’s recipes and I go way way back. I’ve been inexplicably drawn to her recipes, not just for the New York Times, but for other publications like Food & Wine. I have, on many an occasion, clicked on tempting recipes only to discover that they have been written by her. When I saw the method for pre-baking crust, and then saw the New York Times sour cherry pie recipe, I knew that I was never again going to have a soggy crust in my pies. Hurray! I want to twirl around the room in jubilation!

blueberry strawberry pie

Pre-baking is the bees knees! So ingenious I’m sad I didn’t think of it myself. It makes absolute perfect sense and is worth the extra time spent in the kitchen. You can pour yourself one of these and read a book, or look out the window, or stick your head in the freezer for a minute to cool off. Whatever you do, you can pass the time swimmingly because it’ll be well worth the extra effort.

blueberry strawberry pie

I bet there aren’t any disagreements over wanting a flaky bottom crust. So we’ve got that going for us, right? Now that the matter is settled, let’s move on to the content of the crust. There’s some debate out there, an each option with its own fervent following: all-butter, butter-with-shortening, or butter-with-leaf lard? My own personal preference (at this point) is tied between an all-butter and a butter-leaf-lard crust, between which I will alternate depending on my mood and if I have access to quality leaf lard. No matter which recipe you go with, you want to find the best quality butter around. Better butter means higher fat content. Higher the fat content means a flakier crust. It’s that simple.

blueberry strawberry pie

Whatever method you choose to go with for your crust, you will want to work quickly, be it cutting your butter into flour (in a pre-chilled bowl, of course!), shaping your dough into disks, or rolling it out. You have a few minutes between the too-hard-and-crumbly dough and too-warm-and-tearing dough; and overworking the pastry releases the dreaded glutens, diminishing your crust’s flakiness. I am not trying to frighten you, my lovelies, but instead give you as much information and ammunition to tackle this perfect-time-for-pie-but-it’s-too-hot-to-make-it conundrum. Knowledge is power, and I know you will do beautifully. But most importantly, I want you to not be afraid. Worst case, if your pie refuses to roll out, you can gently press pieces of it into the pie dish and then when you are ready to top your pie with the second crust, you can use a cookie-cutter to shape crust circles and lay them on top (another genius Melissa Clark idea). Which will save you the possible aggravation and yield a rather pretty pie. And you will get points for taste and looks. Bonus.

blueberry strawberry pie

Then you can kick back and pretend the whole thing was completely effortless, because neither heat, nor humidity got anything on you. You can totally reward yourself with a slice of pie, because you earned it, friend. Just be sure to share some with me.

blueberry strawberry pie

Blueberry Strawberry Pie
Crust adapted from “The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion” by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark and from NY Times piece by Melissa Clark

Ingredients:

Crust:
20 tbsp (283 grams) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed (use high fat butter like Plugra)
7 tablespoons (100 grams) heavy cream
3 tablespoons (40 grams)rendered lard (or use more butter)
3 3/4 cups (469 grams) all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling the dough
1 tablespoons (12.5 grams) granulated suga
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Filling:
8 cups blueberries and strawberries (mixed)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (57 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon (7 grams) creme de cassis
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg white (28 grams), room temperature, lightly beaten (if using a traditional crust on top and not cutting out circles)
1 1/2 teaspoons Demerara or granulated sugar
1/4 cup (45 grams) cornstarch

Preparation:

For the crust:

Pre-chill a stand mixer beforehand. Once cold, place butter, cream and lard. Beat on low with a paddle attachment until smooth. In another bowl, thoroughly mix together flour, sugar and salt. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until the mixture comes together like a fairly wet dough. Add the remaining flour and mix until the dough just begins to come together. Once that happens, turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead gently into a small ball. Divide the ball in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into disks. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (or up to 3 days).

For the filling:

In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cut-up strawberries and thyme. Add lemon juice, sugars, salt, creme de cassis and vanilla extract. Set aside to macerate for about half an hour.

After the half hour passes, add the cornstarch and mix it until it completely dissolves. Set aside.

Assembling and Baking the Pie:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the disks of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness and fold it in half. Then re-roll to a round about 12 inches in diameter and the thickness of about 2 quarters. This thickness will give you the layers of flakiness you so desire in your pie dough, particularly the bottom part. Transfer the dough to a Pyrex 9-inch pie pan (or a dark steel pie pan), and trim the edges so they are even with the rim of the pie pan. [Pyrex is particularly useful here as it allows you to see the doneness of the bottom crust due to its transparency.] Cover the dough with plastic wrap you used in chilling this disk, and place in the freezer for 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the pie pan from the freezer and line the dough with aluminum foil on top, delicately pressing it to form to the shape of the pan. Place the baking beads, dried beans, or uncooked rice (or lentils, etc.) on top of the foil. Bake for 30 minutes and allow to cool on a cooling rack afterward. After the pie cooled off, preheat the oven again to 350F.

While your shell is baking, roll out the second disk of dough. Using cookie cutters (I used the circle ones of various sizes) cut out a bunch of circles from the rolled out dough. Place on a baking rack and refrigerate until ready to decorate the top.

Pour the berry filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Place your pie dough circles on top of the pie, starting in the center and filling out to the outer sides. Make a pattern pleasing to your eye. I liked placing my circles slightly atop their neighbor circles to create some kind of a cohesion. I used tiny circles to fill in some gaps. When done with the top of the pie, sprinkle some Demerara sugar on top of the pie.

[If you prefer a traditional pie topping, you can, instead, roll out the pie shell and create a traditional pie crust topping. Be sure to slice a few vents on top to allow the pie to breathe. If you do make a traditional topping, then be sure to use the whipped egg white as glue for your pie crust top. Brush the edges of the pre-baked shell with the egg white before placing your rolled out raw shell on top.]

Bake for 1 hour, on an aluminum foil covered rimmed 11 x 17 inch baking sheet on the center rack until the pie is deeply golden and you can see the thick juices bubbling through the openings.

Let cool before serving as it allows the starch to set a bit and give the pie some structure. Otherwise, your pie will ooze and fall apart when you are trying to serve it. While it’s the pie’s taste we are all most concerned with, it is a great feeling of accomplishment to be able to serve the pie to your guests where the slice has great structure and holds its shape.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

sweet cherry pie

sweet cherry pie

Move over, apple pie, you’ve got serious competition as far as I’m concerned. I know I once pledged my undying love for you, but that was before cherry pie and I had made acquaintance. I really didn’t expect it to be this good, but I must say, I’m over the moon here.

sweet cherries

Granted, sour cherries is really where it’s at, but I missed the sour cherry season, because while other folks were busy making sour cherry treats, I was busy looking for an apartment, then packing, then moving, then unpacking. And by the time I pulled my baking gear out of boxes, sour cherries were gone, done for the season, and instead these sweet ones were all over the place.

this pitter is a life-saver!

Not to be deterred, I decided to give these sweet cherries a whirl in a pie. And to up the ante further, I picked the hottest, most humid of days to do so. Yes, I like an extra challenge, why do you ask?

no more pits!no more crust fear!

I’ve written about my thoughts on making a successful crust here, but I’d like to reiterate the cold factor one more time. It’s incredibly important to achieve a flaky crust, but in summer weather when you have 100% humidity and 90 degree weather, cold should be the manifesto with which you set out to make the crust. I kept my rolling pin, bowl of flour and butter in the freezer for this to make sure I kept my ingredients as chilled as possible. My one gripe is that butter, when kept in the freezer, will crumble under the knife, instead of making perfect little cubes. I’m a sucker for those perfect little cubes – even if they’re seconds way from being blended with the flour into pea sized bits.

sweet cherry pie

A few years ago, I attempted a pie crust on what turned out to be the hottest day in all of the summer season. And you know, that totally scorched me. I couldn’t come near a pie crust recipe, let alone try and measure out my ingredients. All, I want to say here is that if I conquered my fears and delivered, in this pie, my most successful, flakiest crust to date (and it was anti-crust weather), you can do it too. Just work quickly with determination. Like I said in my latest pie post, pie crust smells fear – and you are stronger than the pie crust!

sweet cherry pie

I loved the filling idea from Deb at Smitten Kitchen and so adapted it for the pie here. But I stuck with the sweeter version of my usual pie crust, which I wrote about when I made the Honey Bourbon Caramel Peach Pie – it’s the same pie crust as you might find in many books, but with two teaspoons of sugar instead of the usual one.

sweet cherry pie

So while the cherries are plentiful and inexpensive and we still have a month of summer left, find the time for this pie – if you make your crust in advance and chill it, it’s a cinch – and a delicious one at that.

cherry pie

Continue reading sweet cherry pie.

Friday, July 3, 2009

honey bourbon caramel peach pie

honey bourbon caramel peach pie

Make. This. Pie. Now. Honestly, I don’t know much else to say about it except just tell you to drop whatever you are doing and just make it this weekend. For the 4th of July weekend. You know, an American pie for an American holiday. I know (yawn) how Patriotic and assimilated of me! But honestly, no one loves a holiday centered around picnics, barbecues and cookouts more than me. I swear, I live for these things!

I know that the saying goes “as American as apple pie”, but in the summertime, no one wants to bake with apples when there’s so much other in-season fruit around. Cherry pie, blueberry pie both seem to come to mind more readily than apple pie does, especially this time of year. Berries shine in summer pies – while apples are better suited for fall baking.

fragrant and ripe

If berries aren’t your bag, or if, like me, you’re always conflicted as to whether you want to eat the berries as they are, or cook with them, consider peaches. I can’t think of a scent more evocative of summer than that of ripe peaches filling the room. Beautiful, ripe, fragrant, full of sun and hot, sticky summer air, peaches often deliver their finest arias after being cooked. rather than on their own. Though, never underestimate that first bite into a ripe peach, its juice running down your arm. Baking peaches gives them a lovely, sunny, caramel sweetness.

peaches!

When I made this pie, I followed most of the instructions, but of course, couldn’t resist adding a little bourbon to the caramel. I was going about my business, making the pie, when I heard the bourbon in my cupboard call out to me, whispering sweet, seductive nothings into my ear. And when there’s an opportunity to add bourbon (hee-hee, ha-ha!), I am unable to resist. I file this behind the I-know-a-good-thing-when-I-see-it tab. And bourbon, like Martha would say, is a good thing, indeed.

making honey bourbon caramelbutter

I bet many of you have holiday plans this weekend and are going to picnics, barbecues, cookouts. I bet you might even have to bring a dish with you. Why not this one? True, you have to make pie dough ahead of time. But really, the whole thing comes together rather quickly especially if you skip the blanching process, which I did, because I was ridiculously short on time and pulled the pie together in under an hour (that’s with crust being made the day ahead – which, by the way, took like 15 minutes!)

It’s funny how with some dishes, I’ll have a story for you and with this one I am so excited about this pie, that’s pretty much all that’s coming to mind. I think you should make this and I know you will love it. Except that I know how many of you feel about making your own crust. I get more questions about crusts and anxiety about making them, than perhaps any other cooking insecurity. And I am far from being an expert.

honey bourbon caramel, poured

Believe me, I know where you are coming from. Until this very pie, I was in the same boat, afraid of making my own crust, nervous about how it’ll turn out. I finally figured it out and I’ll share what I’ve learned with you. But my very first pie crust was a serious fail. A historic, memorable, go-down-in-history-to-scar-you fail. It gave me crust anxiety for years to come. Of course, it doesn’t help that I chose to make my first crust on the hottest, most humid day of the summer. And you know – pie crusts and humidity are mortal enemies. Crusts like to be cold and summers like to be hot and muggy. And with all this abundant, ripe, beautiful fruit in the summer, we have a conundrum. We want a beautiful, flaky, buttery crust – and it absolutely refuses to cooperate? Happen to anyone lately?

all butter pastrycoarse meal texture
making all butter pie crustthis is what you want your dough to do

My very first pie crust, was an abomination. It tore, refused to roll out and just about melted in my hands. It didn’t help that I was a nervous wreck around it and didn’t work quickly enough. Crusts are like dogs – they smell fear and my crust, sensing I was petrified, showed me who’s boss. The whole thing still is traumatic enough to make me shudder. But please just trust me when I say this – a beautiful, delicious, flaky, homemade pie crust is well within your reach. If you want to give it a go – you can absolutely do it! Here are a few pointers that I hope should help to guide you along.

I also think that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen has an indispensable primer on pie crusts – definitely check it out!

all butter pie dough

So here are my few thoughts on what can make your pie-crust-making life a lot less painful. Hope this helps.

Cold butter

First of all, this might sound silly, but as soon as you cube your butter, please shove it back in the freezer and give it a few minutes’ sitting time. While you dump all the other ingredients into the food processor (does the job that much faster – hence keeping it all colder!) – your butter gets a little colder after you touched with your warm hands.

foldedpie dough
the overhangbrushing with milk

Not overworking dough
Until I saw the picture of what the dough should look like, I had no idea what coarse meal really meant. I’ve included a few pictures for you, including how it looks before and after being pinched – so you can do your own ready-test.

making vents

Chill whatever equipment you can
I chilled my rolling pin in the freezer. Every little bit helps, you see.

honey bourbon caramel peach pie

Rolling Dough Out – keep it quick
Finally, I figure out how to roll out the dough. Short, purposeful movements from the center to mid-point of your disk (never to the end) as you flatten the dough. Continue to dust with flour to prevent sticking.

honey bourbon caramel peach pie

I hope this helps and I hope you all have amazing holiday weekends full of delicious food, fabulous parties and lots and lots of sun! Happy 4th of July!

Continue reading honey bourbon caramel peach pie.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

apple cranberry pie

last picture before i broke the camera

This entry is over three weeks late. I can’t quite begin to tell you the drama of how the pictures before your eyes were the very last I took with my camera before I banged it on the corner of the table and it had stopped working (the one above is the very last photo prior to the incident). On Thanksgiving Day of all day. On the day when I was finally going to pull out all stops and show you just how awesome a roast turkey can be. How incredible and simple a cranberry sauce is. How awesome, tasty, seductive even my famous porcini mushroom soup is. Thrice I have made that soup and thrice I’ve been unable to take pictures of it, for whatever reason. But back to my camera agony – yes, the camera broke immediately after I took a glorious shot of the apple pie and then, then it was all gone. The camera unwilling to turn itself on, the sheer terror that had overcome me, the frenetic pace of the morning (cooking since the early hours) – it all just came unraveled.

If I sound like a bit of a techie geek, I suppose it’s proof enough that for the last three weeks, I’ve been walking around like the living dead, somewhat. A bit off kilter, somewhat out of my element – as if I was missing a limb. After the camera was fixed, coincidentally I discovered that the battery went dead – and it took me another week to get the battery (weeknight and all do not allow for any kind of errands).

little did i know of the dangers that lurked ahead...

It was a dear consolation that the pie turned out well. Particularly after my summer pie crust scare and panic. Having never really failed at a baking project, the crust of the summer was a disappointment and a warning that not all could go smoothly in the kitchen.

with cranberries

While I’ve done almost no cooking in the last three weeks due to work, I still have to post this recipe. It came from the Martha Stewart cookbook I very much love and use when I cook – I find that there are very few books I actually want to own. The crust in this recipe was everything I wanted a crust to be – buttery, flaky, easy to work with!! Making the filling was easy enough though I found that I needed fewer apples than what the recipe called for – I used about 5 apples, which I think is less than 3 lbs. I added about a cup of cranberries on my own – but you can keep this cranberry-free if you think it’ll be too tart.

Now that my camera is fixed, I can start taking pictures again, however, who knows when I cook next? And with a vacation right around the corner (San Antonio, Texas, here we come!!) I am hoping to at least capture some of the sights, sounds and tastes for you all to enjoy.

happy pate brisee

Continue reading apple cranberry pie.