Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friday Pie-Day

Peach Cherry Pie

Peach Cherry Pie

Berry Pie

My friend Emily has this thing called "Friday Pie-Day." It involves making pies on Thursday night and delivering them to work the next morning. She wanted to improve her pie technique (which was excellent to begin with), so we met up in Squirrel Hill and made four pies: two Peach and Sour Cherry with Oatmeal Crumb Topping, and two Mixed Berry Crumb.

We baked for a good five hours, stopping to eat dinner and run to the store for extra flour and cornstarch. While the pies were baking, we watched the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance. It was a nice change of pace; it's been a while since I baked with a friend, in someone else's kitchen.

Pies aren't an exact science. Eventually, you learn to make them intuitively- adjusting quantities of sugar, water, and thickener as needed, and changing the fillings using what you like or what's on sale.

Learning to make pie has been a process of trial and error. I made the dough by hand, with a stand mixer, and with a food processor. I tried adding vodka and vinegar to my crusts to make them more tender. I tried rolling my crusts directly on the counter, between sheets of plastic wrap, and inside of gallon-sized ziplock bags. I've been making pies for years, and I still think there's more to learn.

If you make enough pies, your personal preferences will take over. For a long time, the only recipe I made was printed on cardboard Crisco wrappers. I made all of my crusts with butter-flavored shortening, because that was what my mother used. Now, I have a preferred arsenal of crust recipes, and several pies that I make repeatedly. I rarely follow recipes exactly.

In the case of last Friday's pies, I reduced the amount of sugar in both recipes. I substituted sour cherries for bing cherries and raspberries for a mixture of rasperries, blackberries, blueberries, and cherries. Both recipes came from Ken Haedrich's Pie. It's a great book, though some of the 300+ recipes are better than others. I'll leave you with the recipe for the Peach and Cherry pie.

Flaky Pie Pastry (for a double crust)
adapted from Ken Haedrich's Pie

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold water

1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse the machine 5 or 6 times to cut it in. Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Scatter the shortening over the flour and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture again. Drizzle half of the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the dough starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl. Test the pastry by squeezing some of it between your fingers. If it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a tsp or so of cold water over the pastry and work it in with your fingertips.

2. Using your hands, pack the pastry into 2 balls, making one slightly larger than the other; this larger will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten into 3/4 inch disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the discs in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Peach and Sour Cherry Pie

Pie dough for a single crust

4 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced ripe peaches
2 cups sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
Big pinch of ground nutmeg

Oatmeal Crumb Topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking)
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1. If you haven't already, prepare the pie dough and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

2. On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9.5 inch deep dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

3. Combine the peaches, cherries, granulated sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix well, then set aside for 10 minutes to juice. Preheat the oven to 400F.

4. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the fruit along with the nutmeg. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top of the fruit with your hands. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. Put the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Empty the crumbs into a large bowl and rub them between your fingers until you have large, buttery crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

6. Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375F. Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them over the surface with your hands. Tamp them down lightly. Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the top is dark golden brown and the juices bubble thickly at the edge, 35-40 minutes. If the topping starts to get too dark, loosely cover the pie with tented aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes of baking.

7. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Perfect timing! I was just about to make a peach pie when I encountered your crust recipe. My relationship with crust has changed. I always used the store-bought, refrigerated stuff, since I had heard that making crusts were a pain in the butt. Consequently, I never really cared for crusts, finding them to be a cardboard-like intrusion in an otherwise delicious dessert. Oh, how wrong I was. Delicious, buttery, tender, and flaky!