Friday, November 27, 2009

...was SWELL!

Made this:

Lattice-Top Spiced Pumpkin Pie, from here (Better Homes & Gardens)

[Thank goodness we've instituted the post-Thanksgiving dinner walk with both sides of our family, to make room for the other.]

And babysat my nephew dog, Gibson:

what a sweetie!

When shall you get your Tannenbaum/Christmas tree?

Pie Week Recap

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I know you've all been dying for my overall impressions of pie week. It's been nice to have the last few days to think over it.

My top four pies, overall:
(in order)

1. Butterscotch-- I can't help it. It's just so ridiculously yummy.

2. Black-Bottom Pie--the chocolate wafer crust, the rum was all too much. Delish.

3. Apple Pie: can't beat it.

4. Chocolate Pie. mmmmm mmmmmm there's nothing like a good chocolate pie. Granny will be bringing one to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and I will probably eat more than one piece, just so you know.

There's not a large margin of favor between the above ranks; it was a close close close close call.

The question I've gotten the most has been "what was your favorite crust?"

The Martha Stewart Pate Brisee and Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pie Crust weren't drastically different in their tastes.

The main difference was in the method. Personally, I was more comfortable making Pioneer Woman's crust with the pastry cutter because it was less dangerous. When using the food processor for the Pate Brisee, it seemed really easy to mess up: over-pulsing, adding too much water because you can't see, or overworking it. With the pastry cutter, you can see exactly what you're doing and there's not an appliance that could get away from you. Also you can gauge the water amount better. Too much water, and the crust is sunk, over with completely. Garbage time.

I LOVED the Buttermilk Crust with the apple pie, but that was very unwieldy and less of an everyday crust than the other two. The buttermilk taste was the perfect accompaniment to the apple filling, though.

Jonny's Top Three Pies:

1. Black Bottom Pie

2. Chocolate Pie

3. Apple Pie

The guy doesn't usually just looooove chocolate, so these sorta surprised me. He loves his food to have a crunch, which is why the Black-Bottom Pie found so much favor with its crunchy chocolate wafer crust.

Invaluable baking equipment: pastry cutter (see commentary re: fave crust above) and I loved having the 2" deep pie pans from Lit.

A peek at my grocery list/tally:

I copied and pasted all of the ingredients from all 7 recipes into one word document. Printed it out, and then took a tally of the groceries I'd need, by cups of sugar, sticks of butter, etc.

Only made one last-minute trip to the store. Has to be some kind of record!


Will I ever do Pie Week again?

Not any time soon. I've got a few smaller-scale holiday baking projects coming up. Maybe next year, I'll consider doing a summer edition. We'll see.

So thank you for following me last week in my pie adventure: mishaps, successes, and all.

If nothing else, I hope to have proved that homemade pies are more accessible than you may have thought they were.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and eat some pie!

xoxo Pie Sleuth

Day 7: Apple Pie

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It seems awfully fitting that my 200th post would be the grand finale of Pie Week '09.

Day 7: Apple Pie

What seems more American than apple pie? I decided to look up the association of the two on wikipedia, and here you go:

Although apple pies have been eaten since long before the discovery of America, "as American as apple pie" is a saying in the United States, meaning "typically American".[2] The dish was also commemorated in the phrase "for Mom and apple pie" - supposedly the stock answer of American soldiers in WWII, whenever journalists asked why they were going to war[citation needed].

Advertisers exploited the patriotic connection in the 1970s with the TV jingle "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet". There are claims that the Apple Marketing Board of New York State used such slogans as "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" and "as American as apple pie!", and thus "was able to successfully 'rehabilitate' the apple as a popular comestible" in the early twentieth century when prohibition outlawed the production of cider.

The unincorporated community of Pie Town, New Mexico is named in honor of the apple pie.

Good to know.

Here's my take on the whole thing: good apple pies are really good. Not-so-good apple pies are bad. When I think bad apple pie, I think lukewarm mush at Luby's.

Because of several "meh" experiences with bad apple pies, I haven't had the urge to bake one myself until this pie project came on the radar.

But then, of course apple pie had to be on the week's agenda. Right?

Let me tell you, there are many many many many many many many recipes for apple pie. I looked all over the interwebs, my mom's older cookbooks, Women's Exchange cookbook, etc.

My goal was to find the most "classic" apple pie possible. Didn't want any deviation which included sour cream or cheddar cheese or any of that nonsense (although I'm sure it's tasty). For pie week, it had to be classic.

Joy the Baker
is one of my fave blogs. I'm not the biggest food blog reader, but I am enamored by her photos and the baking goodness she presents. Her recipes are unapologetically un-fancy but mouth-watering, with "real" ingredients--she doesn't shy away from butter, eggs, white flour, or anything that South Beach would disapprove of.

To everything there is a season, right?

I settled on her apple pie recipe because it seemed unfussy but delicious, time-consuming but not without purpose. Also I was intrigued by the buttermilk crust.

Let's start there.

Flour, salt, and stuff sifted:

Then cut up two sticks of butter into little pieces, and stick them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Then work it into the flour mixture:

Then you turn it out onto a Silpat, and roll out the butter into "thin sheets," before it gets too warm, so you have to work fast.

Then you stick it back in the fridge (or I put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes instead) and let the butter get cold again.

When it's good and cold, get it out, make a well in the center, and pour in your buttermilk.

After the buttermilk is worked in, you can shape it into two flattened balls. And as Joy says, YES it is "shaggy" and hard to work with.

I will also say that at this point, I was thinking, "why oh why is the hardest-to-deal-with dough accompanying the most labor-intensive pie?" and was totally doubting the buttermilk pie crust's ability to carry me through this final [pie] sprint.

This crust DID NOT disappoint. But we'll get to the results later.

Now let's turn to the apple goodness itself.

Started with some lovely Granny Smith and Fuji apples from Easy Way Produce.

These were washed, peeled...

Then I got to use my new apple corer! F-U-N

Sliced 'em up pretty thin...

Then got to add the fun stuff like white/brown sugar, lemon juice, and the like.

Can't forget creepy nutmeg...

Tossed all up.

Now, the smell at this point was so heavenly, I had to keep myself from just getting a big ole spoon and digging in.

But alas, these puppies had to "macerate," ie, sit a room temperature for a while.

There were time lapses in here. This is the point I went for a run with Marth.

When I got back, I rolled out the bottom crust.

This had to sit in the fridge while I worked on the apples.

After the apples were good and macerated, they had to sit in a colander over a big bowl to let the juices drip all out.

You then take the remaining juices, and cook them on low heat with some butter, not stirring, just swirling.

While this is heating, you stir some cornstarch onto the apples until it disappears. Then you add the warmed/caramelized liquid back on to the apples.

Then they're ready to go in the pie!

At this point, I got really nervous. This was the first (and last) pie of the week with a full-on double crust. And since this pie dough was fairly unwieldy, I didn't know how it would turn out.

But I worked it pretty good.

Whipped out a spatula, and got it on top.

YAY! Made some vents (just like "mom" used to do, as they say).

Then you get a foil-lined pan on the very bottom rack of your oven and preheat at 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes. This is good because your pie needs to sit in the freezer during this time, so the dough won't shrink.

Once the oven's been preheated (and the foil-lined pan too), you can stick in the pie.

I set the timer for 22 minutes, after which I added the "pie shield"--then baked another 23 minutes. This turned out to be a pretty lucky guess. The apples are supposed to feel "cooked but not mushy."

Lucky and lovely:

We took it over to my Granny's for a grand finale piece o' pie.

She loved it. did I. It was pretty delish. A true-blue apple pie.

Thanks, Joy, as usual!


"With Love, Apple Pie"
from Joy the Baker

2 1/2 lbs baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick.
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably fresh grated (I packed it in there good)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Remove the dough for the bottom crust from the refrigerator. If necessary, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes or until it is soft enough to roll.

On a well floured surface, roll the bottom crust 1/8 inch thick or less and 12 inches in diameter. Transfer it to a pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours. (I put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so and it seemed fine.)

In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and toss to mix. Allow the apples to macerate at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours.

Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least 1/2 cup of liquid.

In a small saucepan (preferably lined with a nonstick surface), over medium high heat, boil down this liquid, with the butter, to about 1/3 cup (a little more if you started with more than 1/2 cup of liquid), or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid but do not stir it. Meanwhile, transfer the apples to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.

Pour the syrup over the apples, tossing gently (Do not be concerned if the liquid hardens on contact with the apples; it will dissolve during baking.)

Roll out the top crust large enough to cut a 12-inch circle.

Transfer the apple mixture to the pie shell. Trim the overhang of the top crust so that there is only 1/2-inch of overhanG. Tuck the overhand under the bottom crust border and press down all around to seal it. Crimp the border using a fork or your fingers and make about 5 evenly spaced 2-inch slashes starting about 1 inch from the center of the pie and radiating toward the edge. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour before baking (I put it in the freezer for 20 minutes, uncovered). This will chill and relax the pastry, preventing shrinking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F at least 20 minutes before baking. Set oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on top of it before preheating. Place a large piece of greased foil on top of the sheet to catch any juices.

Set the pie directly on The foil topped baking stone and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the juices bubble through the slashes and the apples feel tender but not mushy when a take tester or small sharp knife is inserted through a slash. After 30 minutes, protect the edges from overbrowning with a foil ring.

CoOl the pie on a rack at least 4 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Buttermilk Pie Crust

from Joy the Baker

2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter
2 1/2 (12 ounces) cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (5 to 6 ounces) buttermilk

1. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. Measure out the buttermilk and store in the refrigerator to keep it cold (you could even put it in the freezer for a few minutes too).
2. Sift together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Take the cold butter from the freezer and toss it with the flour mixture.
3. Dump the cold butter cubes and flour mixture onto a large work area for rolling. With a rolling pin, roll the mixture, flattening the butter cubes with the flour into long, thin, floured butter sheets. Work quickly to ensure that the butter stays cold.
4. Place the flour and flattened butter back in the large bowl and chill for 10 minutes. When the butter is cold, remove the bowl from the refrigerator, make a small well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Add the cold buttermilk to the bowl all at once. Begin to bring the dough together. Moisten all of the flour with the milk, using your hand to break up large clumps of milk and flour. The dough will be rather shaggy, but you can add another tablespoon of buttermilk, if you see that all your flour isn’t moistened. Form the dough into two disks. The disks will be rough, and hard to shape together, but once they rest in the fridge for an hour, the moisture will redistribute and they’ll be easier to roll out.
5. Chill the dough for at least an hour in the refrigerator. At this point, the dough will keep in the fridge for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to three weeks. For freezing, roll the dough out into sheets and wrap them in plastic film.


Started this puppy around 1:45 pm, and finally cut into it at 9:15 pm. If I made it again, I could time things better, but that's the way it rolled this time around.

non-vinyl/digital accompaniment: That Thing You Do! soundtrack (one of my faves!)

I'll be back later for a recap/final thoughts, not to worry.
But for now, the Sleuth has sleuthed.

xoxo Pie Sleuth

Day 6: Chocolate Pie

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I have a confession to make.

I haven't always loved, or even liked, chocolate.

I would always chose a strawberry milkshake, fruit desserts (sherbet, cobbler), or fruit candy (Starburst, sour patch kids, hot tamales...). Never used to choose chocolate.

But they say your taste buds change every three years, right? Probably true.

Day 6: Chocolate Pie

Nowadays...things have changed.

I still don't necessarily crave chocolate, but say, for example, my granny was going to make her famous chocolate pie. I'd seriously have to keep myself from eating half of the whole pie. So delicious.

The strength of this pie is in its texture (always a huge component for me), and its uncomplicated taste.

This being my granny Fran's recipe, as with my grandma Martha's Butterscotch recipe, the instructions are few.

"Do this. Add this. Combine this."

This only leads me to believe that mid-century cooks knew what they were doing without the recipes having to hold their hands.

As a millenial cook, or whatever you want to call it, I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the extra instruction. In fact, I need it. But it's probably good to exercise one's cryptic-recipe-from-the-50s muscle.

That said, let's start with the crust.

This being my fifth different crust to make this week, I was interested at how it would turn out because it was the only one that didn't have to chill in the fridge before being rolled out.

This was also the only recipe so far that has required sifting. Yes, seriously.

Add vegetable oil and milk to the sifted flour and salt:

Stir up:

Form into a ball and place between two sheets of wax paper:

Roll out:

Then into the pie pan:

Flute the edges, prick with a fork:

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes:

While that was cooling, I got started on the magical chocolate goodness/filling.

Sugar/flour/salt, add the cocoa powder [got the cocoa powder from Penzey's--I love that place]

Stir beaten egg yolks + 1/3 cup whole milk to the dry ingredients:

After adding the remaining milk, put in a saucepan to cook.

This is where I needed a little more instruction than the recipe offered. The recipe says "Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thick."

Aw man...This stuff cooked for over an hour, maybe even an hour and fifteen minutes before I gave in and called my granny. She said, "Oh, I let it cook over medium or a little higher heat, and let it boil before adding the butter."

So I turned up the heat and within approximately two minutes or less, it was boiling. Then I could (finally!) add the butter and vanilla.

Poured into the pie shell before getting to work on the meringue:

Fourth time's the charm: the meringue!

Adding my friends cream of tartar to the egg whites, and then 6T sugar once the egg whites are frothy.

Beauty, ready to spread around.

I used one of those pie shield thingys because the crust was already looking brown-ish, and didn't want it to get overdone.

ohhhh goodness... probably baked about 3 minutes too long (and I took the pie "shield" off after about 14 minutes).

Took it over to share with my family.

Dad, how'd I do?

(I didn't really ask that because this is one of his favorite pies that his mother can't really compare with her years of experience.)

Gaining some experience...what pie week's all about.

[my dad added the fork for the photo]

A room full of some of my favorite humans (and puppy):


Granny's Chocolate Pie

3 eggs, separated
1 2/3 cup milk (I used whole)
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T cocoa powder
1/2 stick butter
4 T flour
dash of salt

Mix sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt. Beat egg yolks. Add 1/3 cup milk and combine with dry ingredients. Add remaining milk. Cook over low heat (I had to cook it over medium heat until it boiled for it to thicken), stirring constantly until thick. Add butter and vanilla. Pour into 9" baked pie shell.

Beat egg whites with 1/4 t cream of tartar. Beat until stiff. Add 6 T sugar. Put on top of pie.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes (I say no longer than 17 minutes, though). Cool about 2 hours before cutting.

"Stir-n-Roll" Pie Crust

1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 T. cold whole milk

Mix flour and salt. Pour oil and milk into one measuring cup (but don't stir); add all at once to flour. Stir until mixed. Press into smooth ball, flatten slightly.

Place between two sheets of waxed paper (12" square). (Dampen table top to prevent slipping.)

Roll out gently to edges of paper. Peel off top paper. If dough tears, mend without moistening. Place paper side up in a 9-inch pie pan. Peel off paper. Ease and fit pastry into pan, flute edge. Prick thoroughly with fork.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool. Add filling.
[see above directions for the pie and their baking directions.]

Granny is bringing this to Thanksgiving and I cannot wait to see (AND EAT) her perfect pie, especially now that I've made one, to see what I can do better next time.

vinyl accompaniment: The New Glenn Miller Orchestra in Hi-Fi (in honor of the greatest generation)

One more pie, m'friends. Whew! Can you just stand it?

xoxo Pie Sleuth
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