Friday, November 23, 2012

Pie, Oh My!

I've recently begun making fruit pies, after a lifetime of declaring that cooked fruit was evil, all slimy and such.   My favorite so far has been the blueberry pie, and it seems other folks appreciate it as well.  I use the basic recipe from the Joy of Cooking for both the crust and the filling, but with a few tweaks.

Preheat oven to 425F


2 1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt

Mix with a spatula

The recipe says you can use either 1 cup shortening or 1/2 cup shortening and one stick cold unsalted butter.  I use the half and half recipe, 1/2 cup of Crisco and a stick of butter.  I normally let the butter sit out for a couple of hours, not til it's room temperature but definitely not at fridge temp either.  Break the shortening up into chunks with a knife and cube the butter into pieces about 1/2-3/4" square, then cut into the flour mixture with two knives until the fat is in pea-sized pieces.  The mixture should still be dry and pebbly.

Next, the recipe calls for adding 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp water.  The first time I made my crust, I misremembered a tip from a cooking show about using vodka in the place of water.  The tip, I realized afterwards, was to use vodka as any additional moisture you needed if the measured amount wasn't enough to make the dough adhere to itself, so instead I used 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp of ice-cold vodka, and alternating between tablespoons of cold vodka and cold water if more moisture was needed.   The result is a crumblier crust.

You add the 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp, drizzling it over the dry mixture and using a spatula to cut it in.  Larger balls of dough will form and you try to press them together with your spatula.  If they don't stick, or if you have a lot of powder in the bottom of the bowl, add more moisture, a tablespoon at a time, alternating as I said between the vodka and water.  The dough should still be crumbly, but will stick together.  Knead it just enough to get it to form a ball, wrap it in shrink-wrap and refrigerate it for 20-30 minutes.

Now onto the filling prep.  Your basic recipe for the filling


5 cups fruit (I used a mixture of fresh and frozen for my blueberry pie, but you can use either/or)
3/4 cup sugar as a base (I added an extra quarter cup after the first pie, because it came out very tart)
3 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp lemon juice

Mash the fruit.  You can toss all the ingredients in a bowl together and then plop it straight in the pie, but I prefer to put 2 cups of the fruit in a pan, add the corn starch and lemon juice and sugar, and let it come to a simmer while stirring, then mix it in with the remaining fruit.  It sets better and the pie is less runny this way.

After refrigeration, cut it into uneven halve, the larger piece for the bottom of the pie.  I roll the dough out between pieces of waxed paper.  Peel off the top sheet and then lay the dough still attached to the bottom waxed paper in your pie tin, then peel off the second sheet of wax paper and use your fingers to push the crust into place.  I prefer glass for cooking pies - the crust doesn't get burned.

Pour in the filling, roll out the smaller half of the dough, remove the top layer of wax paper, and position the crust over the pie, then peel back the other sheet of wax paper.  Press the edges of the crust together and cut slits in the top of the crust with a butter knife.  Bake for 30 minutes at 425, then turn the heat down to 350, put the pie plate on a cookie sheet and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles up through the slits in the top crust.

You can serve it with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whip cream.

Whip cream:

1 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (36% fat)
3 tbsp raw sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract

Chill a metal bowl in the freezer for about a half an hour.  Add all ingredients to the bowl and use a stand mixer or beater to whip cream til it forms soft peaks.  Serve slice of pie with generous dollop.  Enjoy!