Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Pie and My Guy...

I love it when my friends "write in" and ask me to do a specific news. It helps me to not have to think too much. My mother asked me how to make a good pie crust. It's not often I get to teach my mom a thing or two, but this one is for her. So, this time it's about pie crust. Thank you for making it easy!

I once dated a boy from church who's mom told him to marry me after she tried my pie crust. She was the bishop's wife. Her exact words where, "You can't buy crust like that!" She meant it in a good way and I was utterly flattered. I was only 17 years old. I don't think she meant for her son to marry me right then! I say this because her words hit me hard. One may never know what great encouragement will do for a youth. I'm glad she said what she did. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I "grew up". Why did it hit me? Granted, my parents had told me for years they thought I was a great baker, but she helped it sink into my heart. I think it had something to do with her adorable son. I didn't marry her son by the way. I don't even know where he or his mother are today. It was what I needed at the time. 2 years later I was in culinary school for pastry training. I met my husband, Ace-man, in Arizona during that time. When we met, my husband thought I was going to culinary school to be an eye doctor. He had no idea what "culinary" was. Seriously. We've been married almost 13 years. I tell that story because this upcoming recipe is the one I used on " that pie"-- the pivotal pie-- and have used for the last 17 years. That pie may have changed the course of history --for me anyway!. I'm so glad I made that pie crust!! It's one of my core recipes. It's pretty basic. I used it to make a pastry crust good enough to pass the inspection of some pretty cranky chefs. Once I used it for a final exam that was so high stress I think it took 10 years off my life. The pie crust was well received and I passed with an "A". More importantly, it brought me here to Arizona where I met Ace-man. Hi Honey!

If you want to make some great crust, here are some tips. The most basic tips pertain to the main ingredients in crust. Flour and fat I am often asked a lot about flour. Here's a little "101". Typically I have three kinds of flour on hand for most of my baking. Cake flour, bread flour, and pastry flour. Those who are unfamiliar with the different types of flour may be excited to know that if you use all purpose flour, it works for almost all the things you bake (thus the "all purpose" term). The main differences in flour type is the protein content of the flour. This gets important for bread because generally one wants there to be a lot of wheat protein (or gluten). That protein sticks together when exposed to liquid to form long strands and a balloon like mesh to hold gas caused by yeast action. However, if you want a tender cake or pastry, you don't want a lot of that protein to get stuck together! If that happens, your cookie, cake or pie will have a very hard (hockey puck) texture. This also explains the generally high fat, low moisture content of most cookie and pastry recipes. The fat coats the protein and won't let it stick together. Ever heard of short bread? It's called that because the protein strands are "short". Pastry flour has a slightly lower protein content than all purpose flour 9% as opposed to 11%. That 2% can make a real difference. For pie crust, pastry flour is best! If you use whole wheat, find whole wheat pastry flour in the health food section of your grocery store. Yes, you can still use all purpose flour!! Please--please-- please--Just don't mix the dough so terribly long that the proteins get terribly over connected and your crust is terribly hard. How many times can I use "terribly" in a sentence?!

More words on pie:
*Pie dough is good in the fridge up to 4 days--Pat the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Allow dough to soften to room temperature a bit before trying to roll it out.

*Did you know pie dough is good in the freezer for up to 3 months? Yes!! You can make your own freezer pies! Most custard based pies will become runny, and remember that cornstarch will not hold it's thickening once frozen(except for the weird stuff added in processed foods). However, if you thicken your filling with all natural flour (birds and flowers in a light green meadow...ahhhh) it will hold forever!

*You can freeze a pie filled with fruit filling and just add 20 minutes to the baking time of the original recipe.

*Freeze uncooked crust in aluminum pie pans, put in a gallon size freezer bag and stack them if you want to maximize freezer space.

*When you want to bake frozen pies transfer them out of the foil into a stoneware pie plate for crispiest crust.

*Unbaked pie shells can also be filled with savory fillings like Quiche and pot pie stew!

*Now here is the bonus of freezing. Because of the expansion of freezing and defrosting, those protein strands we talked about will stretch, break, and become even more tender. Meaning if you freeze your dough, you can count on flakier crust! How cool is that?!

Basic Pastry crust:
2 9 inch single shells or
1 9 inch two crust pie:

2 1/4 cup pastry flour (for whole wheat pastry flour increase water to about 1/3 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening (crisco works but if you want non trans-fat try "Spectrum" brand)
3T cold water
3T vinegar--this is my secret ingredient! SShhhhhh!
Directions: Mix flour and salt, cut in shortening with a pastry blender. combine lightly until the mix resembles course meal or tiny peas: its texture will not be uniform, but will contain small crumbs and small bits and pieces. Sprinkle water and vinegar over mixture one Tablespoon at a time and mix lightly with a fork, using only enough water so that the pastry will hold together when pressed gently into a ball. This will vary on the moisture content of the flour.
Divide the dough into two balls. Roll the bottom dough out in a circle 2 inches larger than the pie pan(that's 11 inches in diameter), then fit it loosely but firmly into the pan. I do this by lightly folding the dough in half and gently picking it up with my hands. You may roll it out on parchment paper or wax paper to ease this "pick up" process. By far my favorite method is to roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper. I use a light swipe of a damp washcloth first on the counter, this moisture holds the paper in place. Once rolled, I remove the top piece of paper, flip the crust into the pan and remove the second piece of paper. Roll out the top crust. Fill the pie generously with pie filling of your choice, then put on the top and prick in several places with a fork or cut vents. Crimp or flute the edges and bake as directed I usually cover the edges with a strip of foil or a metal ring called a pie guard. Pie will get nice and brown but the edges will get almost black without the pie guard.
Or... just buy the dough from the freezer section! You don't have to make your own! But try it once! You may be surprised how much you like it!! I don't know how many hundred thousand recipes there are for pie filling, but here are 3.I don't want my letters to be too long so I won't do too many recipes!
Diabetic: Please note that if you are sugar restricted, sugar is optional or if you use Splenda sweetener, it won't "cook out". Yes! You can just use a can of pre-made pie filling. No, I am not coming to your house to check!
Apple pie filling:
1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey (splenda is okay)
1/2 tsp salt2 tsp cinnamon plus spice blend
3T flour
6 large firm granny smith apples, cored, peeled and cut in thin slices
1T vanilla
3T melted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and put in a prepared pie crust (bottom). Top with other half of the dough, rolled out to a 12 inch diameter. Using a knife, cut off the extra edge so that there is about a half inch of dough hanging all around the outside edge of the pie plate. Roll this "dough lip" under until almost flush with the edge. Seal edged lightly pressing down with a fork or pinching with your fingers into a crimped fashion. Cut several vents in the top (small decorative cookie cutters are sometimes used)--you can now freeze it or bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Cover edges with foil or pie guard and lower oven to 350 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes. For frozen, bake at 425 10 minutes and lower to 350, then bake 50 min. to an hour.
Blueberry is my favorite pie-
-the Ooompa Looumpa's usually have to roll me out of the chocolate factory for a squeeze!

4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3T flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar1
T lemon juice1
1/2 tsp double strength Madagascar Vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2T melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line the pie pan (9 inch) with half the pastry dough . Wash over the blueberries if you use fresh. If using frozen blueberries, it is not necessary to defrost them completely. Sprinkle the flour over the blueberries in a large bowl and add all remaining ingredients. Mix and coat well. Pile the mixture into the pan and roll remaining pastry dough to 12 inch diameter. Drape over the top of the blueberry filling of love and happiness. Follow crimping instructions used for the apple pie filling. Cut vents (5-6 cute little holes or one 1 inch hole in the middle). Freeze, then put in a gallon size bag with baking instructions-- or just Bake 10 minutes at 425 then lower to 350 for 30-40 minutes. To bake from frozen, add 20 minutes to final baking time.

Tough guys eat Quiche!
Ham and Cheese Quiche For the freezer (or not)
2 9 inch pastry shells
2 cups diced fully cooked ham (soo good with crab instead of ham)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
2T minced fresh onion
1 clove fresh pressed garlic
4 eggs
2 cups half and half
3/4 tsp dill weed
fresh cracked pepper
Directions: Bake pastry crust 10 minutes at 400 degrees. While baking crust, combine onion, garlic, eggs, half and half, and seasonings. Removed crusts from oven and cool, divide cheese and ham between the two shells, then pour in the egg mixture. Cover and Freeze up to 3 months (make sure they are set up flat or they'll leak all over!) or... put back in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. To cook from frozen bake 400 degrees 50-55 minutes. If you cut the pie into 8 pieces it is 25 carbs. each.

Tess notes: In general, it takes between 2 and 3 T of flour to thicken a 4 cup recipe of fresh fruit for a pie filling. Except peaches-- they take 4T of flour. Sugar is optional always! I don't use a lot of Splenda but a lot of my diabetic friends do. You can cook your own pie filling on the stove top too! Just simmer 10-12 minutes. Cook the full amount of time to allow the flour to thicken and the starch to cook fully. Allow to cool and use as you would any can of pre-made filling! The benefit is that this will have more fruit and no additives! If I am going to use a filling right away and not freeze it... I use cornstarch to thicken it. It takes 1-2T (usually right about half as much flour), and the starch cooks much faster so it will be ready quickly- 5-7 minutes. I have been know to use maple syrup in place of sugar in peach pie or Carmel sauce in place of sugar in apple pie--or vise versa.
. If you grind your own flour (over-achiever!--You are probably one of my best students!),Pastry flour: use 2/3 hard wheat, 1/3 whole barley or whole oats by weight (for cake flour I do exactly half and half) . Oats and barley have a very very low gluten content--unfortunately for those on gluten free diets, they do have a small amount of gluten. The flavor of these grains in pretty neutral. Or you can just use soft wheat for the cake flour and add 1/3 hard wheat for pastry. I love the taste of oats and barley.

Here's to more pie... and having a great guy to eat it with!! Thanks Ace!

1 comment:

TARA said...

Love the story! I hadn't heard what prompted you to study to be an eye doctor... After all these years would you believe that I've never made a pie in my own kitchen? I made a few batches of pie dough at Deer Valley but I've never done it at home! With such an excellent post I may just take that on.