Friday, June 8, 2007

A Perfect Pie Day

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AN ANTIQUE PIE MEASURE MARKS VENTS AND PORTIONS

It finally happened. After more than a year of trying to get our acts together, despite a busy week for all (including lots of time in the garden and family arriving tomorrow for a few days, and some writing deadlines), Edie, Rosemary and I had pie day at the Pond house. [My friend Linda, who is a school librarian and helps run her family farmstand, dropped in for a time, too. She has her own pie recipe which she wants to share at another time and she brought each of us a beautiful dozen of free-range local eggs.]

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I should preface this blog entry with the fact that I have long suffered from pie-crust-a-phobia (there must be a scientific term for this). Mine inevitably tear or rip and I have ended up just cutting and pasting and pushing the crust into a pie pan and hoping for the best. I equate it with when I tried to learn to sew on a machine and just gave up in frustration over too many jammed bobbins. Pie-making is one of the few things I have dreaded in the kitchen and have gone out of my way to avoid--so much so that we order pies at Thanksgiving from an excellent pie baker or have friends bring them ["Oh, bring a pie! PLEASE!]. I can bake and cook almost anything--even if I lean towards comfort foods--and pie fillings have never been an issue. But the thought of making pie dough and rolling it out has brought near fits and fevers.

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FRESH RHUBARB FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE GARDENS and CALIFORNIA STRAWBERRIES MAKE A GOOD PAIRING

Meanwhile, about this time of year, during rhubarb season, my husband starts "watering", as he says, for a rhubarb pie. Temple could eat pie morning, noon and night and in old Yankee tradition will gladly have pie for breakfast. So he pesters a round of unwitting pie-making friends and they gladly oblige while I roll my eyes, secretly grateful.

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ROSEMARY WORKING THE DOUGH

I realized today, thanks to Rosemary, that it is all about the right equipment, the proper temperature and minimal handling (and a certain finesse with the rolling pin). The rest is, well, as easy as pie. Among many lovely culinary talents (she also made the turkey cheese log last Thanksgiving--see "Harvest Home" blog from November 24, 2006), her pantries are in my book. She brought the makings of dinner, too, among her pie paraphenelia: chicken thighs marinated in lemon and garlic and onion, risotto with cheese, fresh asparagus, and a marscapone fruit tart.

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ROLLING THE DOUGH

We blended flour, and a bit of sugar and salt, with part butter and part shortening (all cold) in a food processor, chilled it for a bit, then mixed in a special blend of liquid, tossed that in and worked it up just a bit, patted it into small disks, wrapped it up and chilled it again. Then we made our filling out of rhubarb or strawberry/rhubarb (Edie found some amazingly sweet California strawberries at a local market), rolled out our bottom shells, filled them, then rolled out the tops. Before baking, we brushed on heavy cream, and dusted them with sugar. I learned one important thing: roll evenly from the center outwards and use a firm but light hand.

ROSEMARY'S PIE DOUGH (a variation from an old recipe)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups cold fat—I use 8 oz. unsalted butter and 1/2 c. Crisco® (or any preferred combination)

1/2 cup ice water
1 egg
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

If using a food processor blend the dry ingredients, add the butter (cubed) and pulse a few times. Add the shortening and pulse again until all the fat is cut in. Dump in a large bowl.

Blend the liquid ingredients well and begin to add to the flour/fat mix, fluffing it up with a fork. This is generally the right amount of liquid but sometimes needs a little less or a little more. In which case, just add drizzles of ice water.

Dump onto a counter top and press quickly with the heel of your hand, flip the edges over the middle and press again to bring the dough together. Divide into 4 equal pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and chill.

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CRIMPING THE PIE IS A FUN FINISH

RHUBARB FILLING

5-6 cups rhubarb
1 1/2 c. sugar
pinch salt
3 Tbsp. Minute Tapioca®
1 tsp. orange zest
2 Tbsp. butter

Brush top crust with cream, sprinkle with sugar.
425 for 20 minutes, 375 for another hour--check every 20 min. and cover edges.
Alternatively, bake at 375 the entire time--about 1 1/2 hours.
Make sure filling is bubbling well before removing from the oven.

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EDIE DISPLAYS HER PERFECT PIE READY FOR THE OVEN

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APRONS AWAIT ANOTHER DAY in OUR KITCHEN CORNER

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A RHUBARB PIE FOR TEMPLE AND A WEE ONE FOR DOT (dear friend, neighbor and faithful blog reader)

After our pie afternoon we were treated to Rosemary's dinner on our patio--which she effortlessly put together while we were making pie. I planted a variety of pumpkins and squash in the morning, had good friends over and learned how to make perfect pie dough in the afternoon, and even got some potential PANTRY book-related writing assignments in the midst of it all (in an uncanny coincidence that I can't detail now). My husband is glad that he will have pie more often (and that I've finally used the granite countertops to roll dough on!). A perfect day: three pies and three disks of dough for the freezer. And rhubarb pie tomorrow for breakfast!

2 comments:

Genny said...

Love how you have your kitchen corner decorated! Those pies look yummy!

Meredith said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has not yet mastered the pie crust.