With the acquisition of the birthday camera*, I’m incredibly happy that I can now properly reinstate the ‘Food Porn’ tag, the contents of which are sorely lacking for someone who cooks so regularly. I’m also woefully behind Kat’s power curve of excellent food-based ideas. I can think of no better way to kick things off than with an open and honest discussion about the merits and methods for the creation of pie.
For the record, I have no personal issues with cake. I love cake. Among its many redeeming qualities are the fact that it acts as a willing substrate to tiny figures of brides and grooms (or brides and brides or grooms and grooms) or soldiers or clowns or whatever little characters one might feel the need to attach to the top of food. You can draw pictures on a cake. Sometimes, women in various states of undress jump out of them. Cake is also the name of an excellent band. So, cake is perfectly adequate for all of one’s dessert/entertainment needs. If there is one thing about cake that turns me off, it’s the frosting. Frosting sucks. Also, cake is not pie and vice versa.
Pie is the food of the gods. With pie, one may enjoy the health benefits of fruit (let us not speak of ‘the rhubarb conundrum’) with the bonus of a flaky crust. The foundation of any pie, that which decides its qualifications as either ‘adequate’ or ‘incredible’ (pronounced een-cray-dah-bluh), is the quality of the crust along with it’s ‘flake factor’. It is, indeed, the true test of a baker’s mettle. Crust recipes are generally very simple, but the trick is in the way one transfers words into action. The following is a primer on how to make the ideal pie crust, because no one should ever, EVER have to purchase a pie. Not when such things are so criminally simple to construct. Like all other things worth doing, this is worth doing well and practice, as always, makes perfect.
Let’s go ahead and make an apple pie, just because we can. BEHOLD!
Peel and core them suckers real good like and slice them into little hunks. Dump them into a bowl along with ~1 cup of sugar and toss them with reckless abandon. Once thoroughly tossed, chuck them into a colander and set it over a large bowl for at least one hour to let the sugar leach out the moisture. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with apple juice all over the bottom of your stove and/or your crust will end up soggy and the apples will collapse into something that resembles fruit-like apple-flavored mush product.
El Crusto de los Pie-o
2 c. flour
10 tbsp shortening (I’m a butter-flavor Criso man,myself)
5 tbsp warm water
That’s it. Seriously. There are two secrets to turning this into a flaky crust: #1- Leave your spoons, forks, whisks, etc., in the drawers and use your hands like the cavemen did when they made their pie crusts. You want to combine the shortening with the flour in a bowl until it’s completely incorporated. Add the water and start to form the dough into a large ball. You may need to add a little more water, but do so only one tbsp at a time until the ball stays together. Secret #2: DO NOT OVER-MANIPULATE THE DOUGH. The warmth of your grubby little paws does things to the dough involving physical chemistry, so you want to form that ball of dough ASAP. Over-manipulation = A tough & chewy crust instead of a flaky one.
Separate the dough into a larger ball and it’s slightly smaller twin.
Flour up a couple hunks of wax paper, place the larger dough ball on them, put another piece of wax paper on top of the dough, then roll that sucker out in every direction.
Transfer and form the dough to the contours of a standard-sized pie dish, then dump the apples into the crust and distribute evenly. Throw some cinnamon and nutmeg and, what the hell, maybe a dash of cloves on top of the apples.
Roll out the other ball of dough and place it over the apples. Pinch down the edges of the top and bottom crusts, then you can either take a fork and poke holes throughout the top crust or take a knife and make slits in the top. It doesn’t matter which you do, as long as you do at least one of them.
Put your handiwork into a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes in order to let the crust know who’s boss, then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and let it bake for 45 minutes. Remove and LET IT SIT FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES. You want to give the filling time to form a semi-solid mass during the cooling process. If you cut too quickly, instead of using a fork to transfer your slab ‘o pie to a plate, you’ll need a ladle.
And finally, the only proper way for pie to be served:
* I clearly need to spend a great deal more time with this camera to figure out how to make the pictures less mediocre. It’s on my list of Things That I Need To Do At Some Point Down The Road, Sooner Rather Than Later, Ideally.
Sir @ February 8, 2010