Monday, July 28, 2008

pie crazy

what's summer without a peach pie?

My in-laws graciously brought me lots of goodies on their recent visit, including The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It's a great read and inspiring. So I've been baking a lot of pies. In the process, I've learned three very helpful techniques:

- To make fruit pies less liquidy and more flavorful, Rose recommends mascerating the fruit in sugar, collecting the juices, boiling the juice down into a syrup, and adding the syrup back to the fruit. I love it and will definitely apply this to other recipes besides Rose's.

- If you add too much liquid to pie dough, too much gluten will form, creating a tough crust. Thus most pie crust recipes only add a tablespoon or two of liquid, making a very dry dough that is difficult to roll out. Cook's Illustrated has a clever technique that uses vodka for some of the liquid. Vodka is 40% alcohol, which doesn't form gluten when mixed with flour. But the additional liquid makes the dough more supple and easier to roll out. The vodka evaporates on baking and adds no flavor. I tried it and the dough was a dream to roll out and tasted great, although some of my tasters slightly preferred Rose's crust. (See the recipe and video here)

- When making the pie crust, you need some of the flour to be coated with butter (to ensure flakiness) and some dry (to ensure tenderness), which is why you have to cut the butter into the flour, not mix. But getting a good ratio every time can be difficult, either having too big of butter chunks with lots of dry flour or most of the butter smoothly blended into the flour. To help get a good ratio every time, Cook's recommends mixing the butter with only half the flour, then stirring the remaining dry flour in before adding the liquid. This means exactly half of the flour is totally coated with fat, while the other half the flour is totally dry. I love it because not only is it so darn clever, but it works!

I wanted to stick to fruit pies in summer, but by popular demand, I made this pecan pie. After the first bite, I was so glad I made it.

apricot/raspberry - pretty, tangy and yummy
I used my own apricot preserves to glaze it - yay for me

I didn't get any good photos of this nectarine/raspberry pie, but I thought it was the best of the bunch

Recipe: Single Pie Crust with Vodka
abbreviated from Cook's Illustrated (see original here)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons vodka , cold
2 tablespoons cold water

1. In food processor, mix 3/4 cup flour, sugar and salt together. Add butter and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Use as you would regular pie crust dough, rolling into a 12-in circle about 1/8 thick. Before filling, it should be blind-baked at 435F for 20-25 minutes (removing pie weights after 15 minutes). For all the details, see the original recipe.


Alice said...

YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMM!!!! I want to come over and dig in right now!

Amy Mc. said...

That looks yummy. You have inspired me to make a pie this weekend!

blik said...

Can you make me Pecan Pie again?? YUM

Steve said...

I just found your great blog.

How did you make your pecan pie in Switzerland? I made my own over Christmas, but all my recipes wanted Karo syrup ... so in the end I got creative, which was delicious but not quite Pecan Pie.

Next time out I'll also try your crust tips.

Steve another American in Zurich

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