Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mid-week Kitchen Musings

To begin with, a question from the cherry pit gallery.

My nephew (Goatgetter) asks: why is April making so many pies? Did she get bitten by the pie bug?

Well, yes and no Goatgetter. I definitely got bitten by something. I'm making so many pies because I'm A) trying to improve my baking skills, B) experimenting with different crust ingredients hoping, in the end, to have created my own crust recipe, and C) discovering how different fillings work with different crusts so that I could possibly even create my own filling recipe.

I'm learning a lot through this process. A lot about baking, certainly. But also a little bit about life. Things have gotten complicated lately. The world at large and also my tiny little corner of it. Pie-making (and baking in general) are such a simple and basic exercise. It helps me to deal with the uncertainty and the chaos when I can stand at the kitchen counter for a couple of hours following very specific instructions. It's even more rewarding when the end result is beautiful to look at, delightful to eat, and gives happiness to other people. It gives me perspective.

Enough philosophy.

Here is another baking venture from this past weekend. Prima's birthday cake.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fresh Raspberry

When I open my pie shop (HA!), raspberry will definitely be among the more pricey pies. Not that difficult to make, not time consuming at all. But it took six 6 oz. packages of raspberries to fill the pie. And that's only because that's all I had. There's certainly room for more in there.

Those 6 packages cost about $10.00 at Costco. So, yeah. That there's an expensive pie. BUT...worth every penny. Sometimes I make a pie and I think, "Hm. Yes. Delicious." Other times I make a pie and I think, "Damn. I'm good." This time was the latter.

Here's the recipe I used this week. So simple and so delicious.

I made some alterations to my (as yet unrevealed) pie crust recipe. Used less lard, more butter (combined salted and unsalted), less salt, more water, less vinegar, different egg...I guess I pretty much changed up every ingredient except the flour. I was very pleased with the result. In fact, I think the flour is the one ingredient that could still stand to be altered a little bit. I think if I use slightly less flour, it may be that little bit more tender. The taste of this was perfect. Buttery and sweet. Rolled out and moved very nicely.

Tender and flaky but still stayed intact when cutting and serving. I think I'm very close to the perfect crust. I'm also getting very speedy. I timed myself from starting to put the crust ingredients together to putting the crust in the oven: 20 minutes.

And new pie weights for prebaking!

Notes for next time:
  • When prebaking, allow the dough to overhang 1/2" to 1" around the sides. It shrunk right up in the oven. Not pretty.
  • Not that I actually have to remind myself of this one because it's SO time sprinkle dark chocolate in the crust before you pour the raspberry-jammy stuff in. Duh!

Food porn:

P.S. Wet berries are hard to photograph...all those reflective surfaces!

Next up: Quiche Lorraine. Emeril hasn't failed me yet. A perfect Sunday morning breakfast. Maybe I'll make even make mimosas.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pear Gruyere

Look! My oven's clean!

But this is supposed to be about pie. Here's the recipe for what I made this week.

I love pears. mr. waited until I had finished making the pie to inform me that he's not that big of a fan (how did I not know that after all these years?). But he still liked the final result. The recipe calls for fresh nutmeg, but another source recommended cardamom (an idea I thought sounded good). So, I enlisted Prima's help in deciding which spice to use. We put some grated gruyere and sliced pears together in the same smelling vicinity with (by turns) cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, and cardamom...and then we sniffed to see which combination we liked the best. Fresh nutmeg won. Looked good going in:

But when I cut into the cooled final product there was an astounding amount of liquid. The pears kept a lot of their bite, they weren't mushy at all, but WOW was there a lot of liquid.

I resumed crust experimentation this week. This time I used 2/3 butter and 1/3 lard.

I also used some of the suggestions here for adding gruyere* to the crust (I used about 2 oz). The dough was very easy to work with. Rolled out nicely, easy to move from rolling to pan, even easy to weave into a lattice. I was very impressed with myself.

I thought the taste of the crust was good, though a little salty (see notes below). Prima is still nonplussed by the whole "animal fat crust" thing.

Mmmmm. Food porn.

*In case you aren't aware, gruyere is a little expensive. I paid $11 for half a pound.

Notes for next time:
  • Use a combination of apples and pears. Might that mitigate some of the liquid factor?
  • Might using less sugar cause the pears to give up less of their liquid? (I need to take a food chemistry course.)
  • Use at least part unsalted butter when adding something salty (like cheese) to the crust.
  • Roll the dough thinner. It will still be workable, but less intense when you eat it.

In pie tool news, I love my new Emile Henry pie pan. It's perfect. But I still want a green one like they use in The Pie Hole. This week I need to purchase these items:

Next up: I'm conflicted. I saw some beautiful raspberries last time I was at Costco. If they are there when I do the shopping Wednesday, I may make a fresh raspberry pie. If not, I'll make a breakfast pie (quiche lorraine) for Saturday morning.

P.S. Sometimes I am very impressed with my camera. If you double click on any of these photos and see them full size, the detail is amazing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


If I was a poet, I would write an ode to pumpkin pie. Mr. thinks it's simply a vehicle for whipped cream. I think Prima and Seconda probably feel the same way. And I agree that it's just not as tasty without whip as with. But pumpkin pie, for me, is a microcosm of how warm and comforting and spicy and cozy and wonderful Fall is. (Besides, according to the Libby's can, pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin A and fiber and low in fat and calories! What more could you want?!)

I used this recipe (which can also be found on the back of the Libby's can). The large can (which seems to be the only size I can find) is actually enough for two pies--I'm freezing the other half for another use--soon. My mother (the pie queen) tweaks the spice portions a little, and naturally, I take her cue: using half again as much cinnamon and cloves and twice as much ginger.

Spicier is better, plain and simple.

I used some dough I made a couple of weeks ago (100% lard) and froze. Thawed it in the fridge overnight and then left it on the counter while I made the filling. It was just as easy to work with (and tasted just as good) as when it was made fresh. Good to know.

I decided to get fancy and put a leaf border around the pie.

I like the way it looked, but I can do better.

Oh, it was delicious. I can always rely on this pumpkin pie. No questions. No dashed expectations. As mr. said, "Perfect".

Note to self: next time try whirring the pumpkin up a little bit in the food processor before mixing the other ingredients in. Sometimes it feels a little gritty and I wonder if it can be smoothed out.

In pie tool news: I ordered these this week

However, when I watched this week's episode of Pushing Daisies I noticed these (which have probably been in the show all along, but my mind is a different place these days):

I want. I think it's this. I also think it was an exclusive of Williams Sonoma and is no longer available. Not even on ebay. If anyone can lead me in the direction of finding one of these, I will love you forever x 1000.

I also just found out about something called leaf lard. Seems like it might be worth thinking about when I run out of the lard I currently have. Lard to butter ratio experiments will resume next week.

Next up: Probably some version of a pear or pear/apple pie with a gruyere crust (made known to me, naturally, by Pushing Daisies). I will be needing some severe baking therapy after this week, so a pie-day will be just what the doctor ordered come next Sunday. Please, for now and always, if I mention I'm going to try a pie that you happen to have a tried-and-true recipe for, let me know via comments.

P.S. Thanks for the reminders, but again, I forgot to clean my oven. I'm setting it to go right now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Spiced Apple

I have the same thing to say (generally speaking) about apple pie's breakfast-y goodness as I said about cherry pie's. I think what it boils down to for me is that warm pie just doesn't appeal. Cold pie---yummm. I'm trying to think of a pie that I would like warm...well, (looking at other posts) apparently, Rich Chocolate Pecan, and, I imagine, quiche...I can't think of anything else.

Here's the recipe I used.

I did a little experiment with the crust of this pie. Used the Country Pastry recipe (the one I won't post--ancient family secret), but substituted half the lard with butter (regular, not unsalted). The dough was extremely easy to work with.

Aaaaaahhhhh. That was such a sight for eyes made sore by last week's crust conundrum.

It was so easy to work with, I could have made a traditional 2-crust apple pie, but wanted to try the way the recipe shows because I thought it would be pretty. And it was.

And I thought it tasted just right. Not even a little bit meaty, although Prima still says it doesn't taste as good as the crust last week. Next experiment, tilting the balance of butter and lard in the butter direction. See if it's still as easy to work with.

I grated my own nutmeg for the first time ever in my baking life. I know, why did I wait so long? I have no idea. It's very easy to do and completely worth it for the smell that wafts at you as you grate it.

The recipe indicates that you should put something under the pie to catch drips and that step should not be skipped. I put aluminum foil at the bottom of my oven and this is what ended up there:

Hmmm. A Rorschach. I see either a dog or a serpent. What does that say about me?

So, first piece: Warm. A little too sweet and gloopy for my taste (and mr.'s, for that matter--he likes the very simple apple galette I make--a little tart, not too sweet at all--but that recipe is in a cookbook that is currently packed away).

Second piece (enjoyed with heated Grand Marnier while watching Pushing Daisies): Better, but still not the best apple pie I've ever had. This might not make sense, but it just had a little too much going on. I think, as far as apple pies go, simpler is better.

Notes to self: If you make this pie again, put the apple mixture in your biggest bowl (the one with the red rim). It's a lot of stuff to stir together.

Also try it with less sugar. Or better yet, mom, how about if you just give me your apple pie recipe? Your filling seems a lot less involved.

Next up: I may do kind of a cop-out pie next week. I'm going to be pretty busy with rehearsals and other events. I may just use the pie crust that I have in the freezer (leftover from Rich Chocolate Pecan) and make a pumpkin pie, which will not be new to me. But I will still post and attempt to make it entertaining.

P.S. Food is beautiful.

P.P.S. Will somebody please remind me to clean my oven this week?!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Return to the Pie Hole

Tonight is the long-awaited season premiere of Pushing Daisies, part of what made me want to teach myself the skill of piemaking. I won't be able to watch it live because I'll be rehearsing. If I was not rehearsing I would be busily making pie to eat while watching. I'm recording it though, so I can enjoy it with pie, maybe...Sunday. If you like pie (and quirky TV programs) (and hilarious performances by brilliant Broadway actors) give it a watch. I think you'll like it.