Sunday, January 3, 2010
Dear Sweet New Year's Pie!
The kitchen smells of butter. The air is glazed with the warm scent of flaky bread rising. In the oven the pie simmers with cranberries and pears making love under a bed of brown sugar. I’ll let the love brew for another hour or so, before painting the crust with an apricot reduction. My taste buds are ready to rock out, bringing in the New Year with coconut confetti and Pear-Cranberry Pie: home-made style baby!
The Taste Tester…
I baked my New Year’s pie as a surprise treat for a good friend of mine, let’s call him The Pie Expert. The pie expert has rightfully earned his title, for in my circle of friends no one is as knowledgeable, experienced in eating, or loves pie more than he. Case and point, when the pie expert got married there was no wedding cake, oh no, there was wedding pie. So who better to judge my maiden pie voyage?
His comments were few, (perhaps because his mouth was stuffed with delicious pie . Or perhaps he was considering how he could spit it out and not insult me. It was new years, after all, he also could have been drunk.) The Pie Expert’s verdict:
“It’s good” – Vague, but positive. However, one must consider the friend factor. It is well known that friends will often lie to be polite.
“It’s not too sweet.” - Upon further inquiry I learn this is a good thing. Pie expert explained that the pie had a nice balance between sweet (the pear) and tart (the cranberries).
“The crust is nice and firm.” – It turns out this is a particularly important element of pie construction. One must make a substantial crust that can support the weight of the fruit without wimping out and becoming mystery mush. Good to know. I often hear that the crust is the hardest part about making pie, so with the hardest part in the clear I'm going to call this match: One point for team Ingrid.
So Let’s talk Shop…
Baking pie wasn’t the intimidating feat I imagined it to be. No mountains of butter were scaled, no pie bridges burned, or tsunamis of cranberries splashed upon the floor. Just follow the directions - chop, toss, press, cover with crust and bake. Easy as pie.
I decided to get a little creative with the decoration of this pie. The original recipe (which came from the creative crafting queen Ms. Martha Stewart) showed you how to create a lattice work by using small square cookie cutters. Instead of weaving a lattice you cut out the holes in the flattened dough, and then use the cut-out squares as a crust. My thought is – good effort Martha – but if you’re going to use cookie cutters why not use something fancy? Why be square when you can be a flower shaped?! I got my craft on with a flower cookie cutter, originally used to crate fondant flowers. You can get these at Michael’s Arts n’ Crafts. If cake can be pretty, then pie can be pretty too! So I double dog dare everyone to get out their cookie cutters and fancy up some pie!
Because I haven’t invented the scratch and sniff icons yet, you’ll have to drool over some photos. (Taken by Russell Gearhart Photography).
(Comes from “Martha Stewart's Holiday Sweets Magazine” Winter 2009 Issue, Pages: 8, 9, 16, 17)
Pear-Cranberry Pie Recipe
All purpose flour, for dusting
1 recipe Pate Brisee for crust (See Below)
4 ripe Bartlett pears
4 1/3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
½ cup apricot preserves
1. Roll out one disk of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Fit into 9 inch pie plate and trim edges. Chill 1 hour or up to overnight.
2. Roll out second disk of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out pattern with cookie cutters. Use square for lattice effect. Cut around edges so that you have a round pie top.
3. Use leftover dough to cut out additional squares, flowers, (your choice of shape), for the crust of the pie. Chill pie top and cut out shapes in fridge for 1 hour or up to overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Peel and core pears. Very thinly slice 2 pears lengthwise; cut remaining 2 pears into 8 wedges each.
6. Toss pears, cranberries, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Pour into pie shell; gently press to make level. Dot with butter.
7. Whisk egg yolk and cream to create egg wash.
8. Place pie top design/crust over the top of the pie. Gently press edges of crust togther to seal; trim edges if necessary.
9. Lightly brush egg wash on pie top.
10. Arrange shapes along the edge of the pie to create crust. Lightly glaze each piece as you go. You can make shapes overlap or butt them up next to one another. This depends on the design you wish to create.
11. Put pie in the oven on middle rack. Bake until golden brown and juices bubble – aprox. 1 ½ hours. Pull out and cool when done.
12. Meanwhile, heat preserves in a sauce pan over medium heat till warm. Puree in a food processor till smooth. Press through fine sieve into a bowl. Brush warm pie with generous amounts of apricot glaze. Let cool.
Pate Brisee Recipe (Pie Crust Dough)
(Also from above mentioned Magazine)
Makes one 9-10 inch double crust pie.
3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup and 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
¼ to ½ cup ice water
1. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (Read previous blog post on evil food processors for exciting adventures in pulsing!)
2. Evenly drizzle ¼ cup ice water over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (it should not be wet or sticky in texture). If too dry, add more water one tablespoon at a time.
3. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic and shape into a disk.
4. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to overnight. Freeze up to 1 month (thaw before using).