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FEAR OF PIE-ING!

Mention making pie and strike fear in the eyes of even the accomplished cook. What about making pie strikes such fear? The crust, of course! Is it the rolling out? Or maybe transferring from the counter into the pan? Is it making the crimped or scalloped edge? Maybe it’s the memories of tasteless dry tough pies of the past. Why worry about the crust or even bother to make a pie since so many people leave the crust on the plate anyway? Aren’t they the ones who say, “I don’t even like pie;” maybe never having had a good crust? Then there are those who only eat pie—they even prefer pie to cake. Have they only had great pie crust? All are compelling reasons to avoid making pie. Still there may be hope for those willing to face their fear of pie-ing.

It may just be possible to gain some confidence in the art of making pie by practicing the French version of the dessert—called “galette.” One of the only times doing it the French way may be easier! A galette is a free formed tart made without a pie pan. Being pan-less also allows for more “variation” and even requires imperfection. We use this strategy at the cooking school to flake away some of the scariness, and have dub these pastry gems “beach pies.” Seems many guest cottages here don’t have pie pans anyway.

So now when you take away the fear of getting it into the pan and making the edge pretty and symmetrical, there’s still the challenge of making it flaky, tender, and flavorful. For starters, try to find a good pastry recipe. Borrow one from somebody whose pie crust you liked! Or use the one we are listing here. Either way you know that the ingredients work.

Now focus on method. Regardless of the ingredients the method should always be the same. Here are our eight tips for handling any list of ingredients and adapting most pie crust recipes with great success. So fearless pie warriors go ahead and make a “beach pie” for the shear pleasure of accomplishment!

Key points to remember every time:
1. Cold. Start with very cold ingredients (ice cold water, sour cream, egg). Fats should be very cold too. (butter, lard, shortening).
2. Blend dry ingredients first. Combine all dry ingredients well (flours, sugar, salt dry seasonings) in a dry food processor*—with the regular metal blade. Run until well blended.
3. Coat fat with flour. With processor off, add the cold fat in small chunks. Avoid handling the butter, lard or shortening with your fingers as it will warm up too much. “Pulse” the food processor* on and off to distribute the fat—about 5 seconds. Fat pieces should be much smaller though still visible, and well coated with the flour.
*(What? You say your beach house doesn’t have a food processor—oh, well there is a hand method too. To cut fat into the flour mixture, simply distribute the pieces of fat throughout the flour using two table knives that you “cut through” the mix until the pieces of fat are smaller and well coated with flour.)
4. Measure water carefully. Add the exact amount water and any other wet ingredients after careful measuring; again pulse for only about 4 seconds to wet the dough. (It not yet hold together, but do not add additional water until you are sure the mass will not hold together—after next step)
5. Handle very little. Dump the mixture onto parchment or waxed paper. By hand, quickly and gently press the dough together using the paper to mold it into one ball, and being careful not to over-work it. Divide into equal size flattened disks, about 6 ounces each. Wrap and place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to one hour. This step relaxes the dough making it easier to roll; it also helps re-chill the fat that may have warmed up during mixing.
6. Keep from sticking. Roll one disk onto lightly floured surface using a rolling pin. Roll from the center out, all the way around the entire surface evenly. With each roll the dough grows larger until you reach your goal. If it stops getting bigger because it is stuck, lift dough with flat spatula, pancake turner or baker’s tool, and dust under with more flour. Slide rolled dough onto cookie sheet.
7. Shape like a pouch. Place the prepared filling onto center of the rolled crust leaving about 2 inches of dough on the outer edge. Fold this outer edge of dough over the filling, enclosing the filling and leaving an opening in the center. It looks sort of like a gathered pouch! Refrigerate again to let the dough relax after the rolling workout!
8. Bake on bottom shelf of 375° F preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the crust is brown and filling is cooked (fruit is tender).

Suggested Fillings:
1. Apples with cinnamon and honey or sugar. Apple, date and walnuts—with allspice, coriander and honey or sugar.
2. Berries in season with sugar and a touch of almond extract.
3. Savory Four Cheese—such as ricotta, farmer’s goat, grated mozzarella, and parmesan, a few fresh herbs like parsley or chervil, and seasonings of sea salt, pepper, coriander and allspice to taste.
4. Roasted tomato, black olives and fresh basil on a bed of seasoned ricotta cheese. Seasoned with salt pepper and coriander, and sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Recipe: Apple Beach Pie (aka Galette)
Crust: Use key points for method
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, very cold (you may substitute ½ cup well chilled lard or shortening for half the butter)
1/3 cup very cold water
½ tsp. white vinegar
1 egg, beaten with the water
Filling
2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced (Golden Delicious or Granny Smith)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
dash sea salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground coriander
2 tsp butter
Blend sugar, salt, coriander and cinnamon; toss with apples. Place apple mixture onto the center of the crust; dot with butter and sprinkle with vanilla. Close pie by gathering up the edge and folding toward the center leaving the very center exposed. Bake as above.


OUR JANUARY 07 ROAD TRIP!

A COOKING ROAD TRIP IN JANUARY ……On Saturday, January 6, we set out for a little road trip heading south on 101. Objectives: drive on the best roads to avoid weather issues; relax allot; visit friends and family— do a little cooking using ingredients from the local markets; see some sights! And from all perspectives our objectives were met! It was an easy drive—longest leg 11 hours but most days were 5-6 hours of driving. Once we reached a destination we were chauffeured around, and that was sure nice. First stop was Calistoga and the Napa Valley—a wonderful place for foodies! Good friends moved there recently and took us to the Cakebread Cellars winery and HONIG Winery. Both favorites of ours and the tours very worth while. From Napa we arrived at cousins in BREA, CA for a quick overnight getting ready for the long drive to SCOTTSDALE AZ, via Palm Springs. Road conditions still great, but hills around Palm Springs had a liberal dusting of snow, and the temperature allowed for Sweaters and not the short sleeves both of us packed. Snow also threatened in Scottsdale but held off for our visit. In Scottsdale we visited family who said Yes, when we offered to cook, and proceeded to invite 20 of their friends and neighbors! Felt a little like a Small Plates class back at EVOO! While in Scottsdale, we toured the Taliesin campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. It was inspirational! http://www.franklloydwright.org/index.cfm?section=home&action=home

Leaving Scottsdale/Phoenix, we headed back to BREA, CA to visit those cousins again, this time long enough to take a short side trip for a little family reunion in OCEANSIDE. Again we volunteered to cook and what do you know? They said YES, too! By now we were mentally listing how to make this a permanent part of our road trips. MEALS in exchange for lodging, not a bad deal. The tools we brought along were simple and easily did the job! Yes, we ‘roughed’ it at some households where cooking supplies were from generations long passed. (It’s okay though Aunt P and Uncle J) Oh, and never assume every household has a cutting board! But still and all our basic supply kit of one good French knife, a paring knife, bread knife (we made bread everywhere we went) did the job. Also we had packed our seasoning trinity: sea salt, fresh black pepper (mill), and of course, our coriander mill with extra seeds on the side! We packed EVOO, too, forgetting where we were going—to olive country! Next time we’ll buy it along the way.

We had no idea what we would make each time, until we went to the markets. It was especially easy to shop in Napa—picking up fresh lemons, eggplant, red peppers, zucchini, portabellas, and fresh herbs. We picked up a few homemade sausages in our friends favorite butcher shop—and they were amazing! In Brea and Scottsdale, we also went to Italian markets to pick up some of our ingredients—we find these stores to be similar whatever city we are in—run by the family and been there for years! They are pretty reliable and reminded Bob of Cleveland shopping trips. We loved these market trips because it is a good way to get a feel for the area’s food scene and at the same time we’d usually sample interesting finds along the way.

The trip home was very pleasant considering we just missed the LA freeway snow and ice ordeal. Exactly one day later and we would have postponed our return by at least a day. Who would expect snow on the CA roadways! Actually we avoided all snow issues in January—even back home–it snowed 6 inches on the beach! Our house/poodle sitter, Glynis Valenti took great snow pictures for us.