Prep 15 mins
Pies took on a starring role in our November Cooking Class, but that’s not the only place these sweet gems of Americana star in our culture. I felt like an armchair traveler reading the book, American Pie. Pascale Le Draoulec travels across the country from San Francisco to New York tasting pies and learning about America’s regional culture along the way. I wanted to jump into the book and experience this dream trip right alongside her. Pies again took the starring role in the movie, Waitress, when actress Keri Russell stars as Jenna, a waitress whose fabulous pies are about the only sweet ingredient in an otherwise dreary existence. The luscious footage of her pies directed me right to the refrigerator for a sample right off the screen.
Pies are certainly part of our American culture, but there is no time for Pies like Thanksgiving. Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Apple are generally the stars, but this November we branched out to a few new ideas that I’ve been wanting to try. Take a look at the results.
First we started with the basics. Making the perfect pie crust takes some practice. Mix the dough up in 15 minutes in a bowl or even less time in a food processor with the recipe below. The key to a flaky pie crust is to pulse on the food processor or stop mixing in the bowl when the butter or fat are the size of peas. Pie baker, Carol rolled out a beautiful dough, using the outside edge of her hand to smooth out the jagged edges and keep it in a circle as she turned the circle on her well floured surface each time she rolled. Notice the beautiful flecks of butter or fat that promotes a flaky pie crust. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin or fold it in half and work quickly to move it onto the center of your pie plate. For a one crust pie, ease it inside the pie tin, trim to 1/2″ beyond the rim and fold under the outside edges onto the rim. The happy task of creating a decorative edge begins – you can simply use a fork or use two fingers to create scallops or ridges. Whatever you do, press lightly, so the crust stays delicate and flaky. If you are making apple pie, which requires two crusts, don’t finish off the edge until you place the top crust over the filling. When using a top crust, cut decorative steam vents into the crust like Hannah did with the heart on her apple pie above.
When working with pate sucree or sweet tart pastry, I recommend beginners press the dough right into your pie tin. This crust resembles a cookie dough and it is more tender and more difficult to roll out. When baked it is more crisp, like a cookie.
I love the symbolism of this photo. The team of Nancy, Lynne, Darcie and Stacie all shared in the making of this beautiful sauce and tart. The tricky part was getting the caramel sauce to the temperature and point that it caramelized and then getting it into an ice bath immediately before adding the walnuts…and you can see below they did a beautiful job.
Each member of the team took home their very own beautiful Caramelized Walnut Tart to bake and share.
We learned to make a Chocolate Cookie crust for both The Grasshopper Pie and Black Bottom Pie. These two recipes looked sensational.
The Black Bottom Pie is a little more challenging since it has five layers – 1) the Chocolate Cookie Crust, 2) a Chocolate Custard, 3) a Rum Custard 4) a Whipped Cream Topping and 5) Chocolate Shavings. The team of Katie and Kerry took their Black Bottom Pies home to complete where the final details would be undisturbed before the unveiling.
The Grasshopper Pie made with Creme de Menthe and white Creme de Cocao is named after the Mad Men era cocktail my mother used to order at fancy restaurants. These pies were easy to prepare and set up quickly in class – ready to be taken home and shared. This pie would be perfect for a Christmas table.
The team of Susan and Sayoko made up my favorite of the season, the Sweet Potato Pie. See my previous post to get the recipe. The class sampled this pie and like me, those who had never tasted Sweet Potato Pie were amazed at the rich, creamy and spicy flavor. If you like Pumpkin Pie, you will fall in love with this pie.
While we were working on our dessert pies, we dined on a Sausage and Red Pepper Polenta Cobbler that Carol and I had prepared in advance to serve the troops.
The recipe taken from Greg Henry’s new Cookbook, Savory Pies was a huge hit. You can learn more about this new cookbook and find a lot of unique Savory Pie recipes by visiting www.SippitySup.com. I was disappointed that I didn’t win the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in his Savory Pie Giveaway, but I really want his book, so a signed copy will be on my bookshelf soon.
Foolproof Pie Crust
This recipe makes 4 crusts for 9″ pies. It will make 2 double crust pies or 4 single crust pies. The vinegar adds elasticity to the crust for easier handling. You can freeze the dough by placing each disk of dough in a ziploc freezer bag. Unthaw in refrigerator or on the counter for about 20 minutes before using. Do not bring to room temperature, keep it chilled until you roll out your pie dough.
- 4 cups flour
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup margarine or butter
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 Tbs vinegar
- 1 Egg beaten
- 1/2 cup ice water (ice cube in water)
1. Mix 3 dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl
2. Add shortening and margarine to the dry ingredients and cut the fat into the flour mixture with 2 knives until fine crumbs form.
3. Combine egg and vinegar into ice water and pour over the pastry mixture.
4. Mix ingredients together with a fork until the mixture forms into a ball. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour in order to handle the dough.
5. Separate pastry dough into 4 pieces. Wrap in wax or plastic wrap. Flatten each ball into a disc and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
6. When ready, place on floured surface and roll out to a size that is 1″ larger than your pie plate.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Oven Temperature: 425°F