FEAR OF PIE-ING!

Feb 15th, 2007

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.