I did it! I made a pie. I. Made. A. Pie. It wasn't pretty, but it sure was tasty. Okay, so there is a definite Frankenstein-esque look to it, but I've never made a pie before.
Stop number one on my trip to pie-discovery: L'Academie de Cuisine for a course on (obvi) pies and tarts. Man, did our instructor make it look so easy. One, two, three: pie crust. Riiiiight. No one in the class was really buying that it could be that easy either. Throughout the class, we shared stories about personal rolling pin showdowns and pie crust disasters. (Ahem.) Once upon a time, Mom might have been known to grumble, yell and even swear at pie crusts. Such behavior may or may not have caused Dad to hide in the upstairs den, pretty much as far away from the sounds of the kitchen as possible. But don't quote me on that. My instructor also told a story of a woman in one of her classes who ran crying from the kitchen in the middle of class. So don't be discouraged (or run away); commit to the pie crust, as ugly as it may be. As Mom always said, after the alleged swearing and rolling pin slamming, "Well, it doesn't matter how it looks, does it? It will taste good, right?" Absolutely, right.
Crust for a Two-Crust Pie
(from Chef Christine Ilich, c/o L'Academie de Cuisine)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks of unsalted butter, cold but pliable
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup cold water
In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt and sugar. Using your hands, mix in butter until the mixture resembles a course meal. Mix egg with water and add about a tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Shape dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
It goes without saying that I enjoy these classes. There is a level of know-how that each chef brings to the class that helps me learn just what all this cooking business is about, such as the relative benefits of butter or shortening when making a pie crust or the affect of adding some egg to your dough. These kinds of explanations are the difference between knowing how to make a lot of recipes and knowing how to cook.
And I get to eat pie for lunch:
(From left to right) Sweet Potato Pie with Bourbon Cream, Maple Walnut Pie, Pear and Frangipane Tart and Apple and Cranberry Crumb Pie. And yeah, the pictures are fuzzy because taking pictures with my Blackberry kinda sucks.
Stop number two: my farmers' market for some sweet, juicy pears. I was so excited to make my first pie, I headed out into the rare D.C. snowfall last Saturday to visit my farmers' market in search of fresh pears. What a wise decision. These pears were the perfect ripeness. After tossing my crust discs in the fridge for a good chill, I sat down with my pears and the new "Star Trek" movie for some peeling, coring, slicing and avenging Romulans.
Pear and Cranberry Pie
(recipe from Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook)
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cup cranberries
6 large ripe pears (about 3 pounds), peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl mix cornstarch, cinnamon and 3/4 cup sugar. Add cranberries and pears; toss to combine. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one of the discs of dough. Try to roll out your dough to be a few inches wider than your pie plate. You can always do a little patching later. making sure that the dough is lightly floured so that is doesn't stick, gently roll dough around your rolling pin and transfer to pie plate. Using a butter knife, trim the excess dough from around the pie plate. Keep the scraps to patch any holes in the bottom or top crusts. Spoon pear mixture into pie crust. Place dabs of butter over mixture. Roll out second disc, and place over filling. Cut a couple of slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle pie with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Place sheet of foil underneath pie plate, folding up edges of the foil to form a rim. The foil will catch any sticky drips. Bake 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature to 375 degrees. Open the oven a crack for a minute or so, (don't walk away!) to allow the oven temperature to reach 375 degrees, close oven and bake 60 to 70 minutes longer, until filling is bubbly in center. Cool pie on wire rack for 1 hour. Serve warm.
Stop number three: my belly!