Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pie Tips

Pie is my husband's second love (I'd like to think our boys and I place first)!  He has 2 favorites, Hot and Cold... in other words, if it's a crust with ANYTHING in it, he is happy.  Now, although Geoff isn't too picky, he does know a good pie when he tastes one. 
There are 2 key components to Pie Perfection... first is the crust and the second, the filling.  In this first installment, we will dive into creating an amazing crust.
Let's start with the recipe:      

Double Crust
2 1/2 Cups        Flour
1 tsp                 Salt
1 tsp                 Sugar
1 Cup                COLD butter, cut in small pieces 

1/4 Cup             COLD shortening
6 - 8 Tbl            ICE COLD water

1- Cut your fat into small pieces and add to your measured flour and salt and sugar.  Combine the fat quickly by pulsing in a food processor or blender. Your mixture should resemble coarse meal.
2- Slowly add the water and continue pulsing. It should still look dry. Grab some with your hand and squeeze. It should hold together, if it didn't, add a little more water and mix quickly. Test again.
3- Divide the dough in half. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Push the dough into a flat disk.
4- Refrigerate for at least an hour.  
When you are ready to roll...
5- Lightly flour your board. Begin by rolling from the middle of the disk up. Turn the dough one quarter and repeat. Always roll in one direction and turn the dough often making it just large enough to fit your pan.
6- Carefully fold the dough in half over your rolling pin, pick it up and lie the dough on the pie plate (if it tears, just pinch it together again, or use scraps to repair any holes).
7- Roll out the second disk of dough.
8- Prick the pastry with a fork.  Wrap with plastic wrap and freeze the crusts until ready to fill.
Now that you know the basics, here are some tips to make sure your crust is top notch.
- When rolling out your dough, make the top crust slightly thinner than the bottom crust.
- To keep an empty pie from collapsing, gently place a slightly smaller straight-sided cake pan down on top of the crust.  Bake for about ten minutes, and remove the cake pan. Use a fork to prick any places that puff up, and bake until the crust is a light golden color.
- To avoid a soggy crust, fill the crust and get it into the oven or freezer, quickly.
- If you freeze your pie, do not thaw before baking, bake in the frozen state, adjusting baking time accordingly.

Now that the perfect crust is ready, let's talk filling...  There are many types of pie, fruit, custard, and savory...

In this segment, I am going to focus on fruit pies.  Fruit comes in all shapes, sizes, flavors.  Because of this cooking times and quantity of fruit needed in a pie varies. 

When assembling a pie, apples should fill the crust to an inch above the edge, cherries, blueberries, and similar fruit are filled to just below the rim of the pie pan. The fruit will expand when it gets hot and tends to run out of the edges if overfilled.
Here are guidelines for the quantity of fruit needed for a 9" pie:

  • Apple: 8 small, 5 large = 6 to 8 cups
  • Apricot: 10-12 medium = 5-6 cups
  • Blackberry: 6 (1/2 pint) baskets = 6 cups
  • Blueberry: 3 pint baskets = 6 cups
  • Cherry: 1 pound = 6 cups
  • Peach: 10 -12 small or 6-7 large = 5-6 cups
  • Pumpkin: 1/2 pound =1 cup
  • Raspberry: 6 (1/2 pint) baskets = 6 cups
  • Rhubarb: 6 medium stalks / 5-6 cups
  • Strawberry: 4 pint baskets = 6 cups
  • Sweet Potato: 1/2 pound =1 cup
Now that the fruit is picked out, you need a thickener.  Here are some choices:
Is a good thickener to use with fruit to make a filling because it does not have any flavor and creates a smooth texture. It also does not thin when reheating a slice of pie.  Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour, but doesn’t work well if the filling is high in acidity.

 Is often used because it can hold more fruit juices than other thickeners without becoming rigid.  It is not recommended for a lattice top pie or other open fruit pie, as it hardens when exposed to the hot air of the oven. However, it can be used with a two-crust pie.  Tapioca has no flavor and  cooks quickly. If you use tapioca, let the filling mixture stand for at least 15 minutes before you spoon it into the crust to bake. This will allow for more efficient thickening. When you prepare a pie filling, mix the thickener first with sugar and any spices to prevent lumps and uneven thickening, then add the fruit. Granules are gritty if under cooked but are clear and soft when fully cooked.
Is not a desirable choice because it thickens before the boiling point of fruit fillings in the pies.  It imparts no flavor of its own but provides a high gloss, and just 1 tablespoon will firm up each cup of liquid. It’s fine for high- and low-acid fruit mixtures, but it creates a gloppy mess if mixed with any dairy product.
Potato Starch                                                                                                                                        
This gluten-free starch's main advantage over other starch thickeners is that it's a permitted ingredient for Passover, unlike cornstarch and other grain-based foods. Liquids thickened with potato starch should never be boiled.
Once the fruit and thickener are chosen, all that is left is flavoring with lemon juice, sugar, and spices.  Bake and Enjoy!

Some additional helpful tips:
  • -Bake on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil to catch any juices that may run over the edge.
  • -Rotate the pie 180 degrees midway through baking. This helps the pie to cook evenly and balances the surface browning.
  • -When cutting, wet the knife with hot water to make a clean cut that won’t tear the filling.
“Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.”
Yogi Berra

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