Phew. This is the last of my backlogged posts. I made this pecan pie, an adaptation from Epicurious, way back in October, for Thanksgiving. Instead of the whole wheat crust, I used my new favourite recipe from The Joy of Cooking, the same one I used back when I made the two processor pies.
So, assume you’ve made one batch of dough, and you have two discs of dough to use. I made one into a pumpkin pie, but saved the other for this recipe. Roll it out and stuff it in the pan and whatnot, like you normally would.
Chuck that in the freezer to stay cool and grab yourself a small saucepan. Pitch in 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, and 1/4 cup butter.
Melt that sucker over medium heat until it’s all dissolved.
Increase the heat and boil that for a minute, then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Whisk in the cooled maple mixture.
Then stir in 1 1/2 cups pecan halves. Mmmmm. I love pecans.
Pour the filling into the crust.
Bake that sucker for about 55 minutes, or until the filling is slightly puffy around the edges and the centre is set. Mine took less time for some reason (so you see it burned a bit), but it might have had something to do with the pumpkin pie I was cooking at a slightly higher temperature.
Serve at room temperature, with a dob of whipped cream!
Historically in my family, my dad’s mother has been the only person in the world who could successfully make pastry for pies. My mother and I have never been lucky enough to absorb her gift. I am still, however, determined to perfect my technique, and so, five years too late, I am using the Cooks Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe, which I borrowed from Smitten Kitchen.
I had gotten an email from my dad this morning (Monday) saying that my grandmother was unwell, and would I please send her a letter? So I was going to make a pie and take pictures and tell her all about how I had mastered this new skill. Or how I had failed. Either way, it would have been entertaining. Unfortunately, she passed away while I was making the dough, so I didn’t get that chance. She was 102, and healthy to the end. None of us can live forever, but she will nonetheless be missed. So in honour of Barbara Linklater Bell, the Queen of Pastry and all things baked, I present my own deep-dish pear and apple pie.
So we start with the crust.
Whisk together, in a medium-sized bowl, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Next time, I would probably leave out the salt, as it didn’t dissolve and I kept hitting little grains of it when I ate it.
Now, you add your cold fat. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 3/4 cup butter. Both being very cold. That is key. Cut those up into small cubes.
Using a pastry cutter (though you could use a food processor if you wanted), start blending the fat into the flour.
Keep going …
Until you get this powdery, crumb-y sort of material.
Now sprinkle in 1/4 cup very cold water and 1/4 cup very cold vodka. If you’re worried about the booze content, remember that vodka is tasteless and odorless, and all the alcohol in it will evaporate during cooking. This is what gives us that lovely flaky crust.
Fold that in with a rubber spatula, until things start to come together. This will take some time, so be patient. Resist the urge to add more fluid.
Eventually, you will be out of powdery stuff and have all these curd-like clumps. That was good enough for me.
Now pour half that mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.
Gather the edges of the wrap and use it to squeeze the pastry into a ball.
Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly, and do the same with the other half of the dough. Refrigerate those disks for at least an hour.
In the meantime you can prepare your fruit. Peel and cube up about 4-5 pears and 5-6 small apples.
Now, I decided to cook my fruit a little bit beforehand. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that, as the fruit obviously cooks while in the pie. But nevermind.
So toss your fruit with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 pinch nutmeg and 1 pinch ground cloves.
Add in as well 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
And 2 tablespoons flour.
Now, when your dough is chilled and ready you can start rolling it out for your pie pan. I took this nifty tip from Smitten Kitchen to roll the dough (which, with the vodka, will be slightly stickier) between two pieces of plastic wrap. It certainly saves chipping up cemented flour on your countertop.
The Pie helped with the manual labour. Just make sure to remove the folds in the plastic wrap as you roll. It makes everything smoother.
Oh, and preheat your oven to 400°F while you’re at it.
Fit one of the rolled out sheets of dough into your pie plate and tuck it in. Chuck that in the fridge while you do the other one, which will be the top. The plastic wrap is a godsend here in terms of transferring the dough from one place to another. I am never using any other method.
When you are ready to assemble the pie, take the bottom out of the fridge and toss in your fruit (cooked or uncooked, up to you).
Flop the top piece onto the pie. Fold the edges of the top piece under the edges of the bottom piece. Man I really wish I had more light in my kitchen. Or that my lightbox were bigger.
Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork and cut some holes for escaping steam.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until your crust is firm and golden-brown and the innards are all bubbly. And, as my husband says, “your pies never look all that great, but they always taste great.” He’s not being mean — it’s true. I make an ugly pie.
Allow to cool on a rack and warm to serve. What a lovely, flaky crust!
We had ours with Fussells, a present from Fussellette.
I am not a perfect person, and it is my habit to make mistakes when trying new things. And this blog is not about the perfect dessert or the best paint job – it is about experiments in grown-up living. What follows, then, is not the first, and not the last, of my epic fails in the kitchen. It has, however, inspired me to try again to see if I can get this right. I have added it to my DIY To-Do list on the right-hand column.
***EDIT: The Pie wanted you to know that, despite the aesthetics of the thing, this was the best-tasting pie I have ever made.***
I found a pound of key limes at Sobeys about a week ago so I thought I would make some key lime pie. Obviously.
Key limes are smaller and sweeter than their more common cousins.
Now, key lime pie and lemon meringue pie are easy. Really easy. I decided to experiment a bit with the recipe. The problem was that I was missing certain ingredients, which inspired me to experiment still further, and I was also coming off a rotten day, so making mistakes in the kitchen only added to my general frustration. DON’T BAKE WHILE ANGRY.
The recipe I will give you below is how I should have done it, and I will explain as I go about how I actually did it.
I have two very shallow 8″ pie plates, and this recipe filled both of those. I also have a deep 14″ pie plate, and it would probably fill that one by itself. One of my next purchases is going to be a standard 9″ pie plate.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Start working on your crumb crust. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs, 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, and 2 tbsp granulated sugar. In the normal recipe, you would use plain graham crumbs and leave out the coconut. But that wasn’t fancy enough for me.
Add in 1/2 cup of melted butter and stir until the mixture is crumbly but still dry. You should be able to squeeze a handful of the crumb mixture between your hands and have it stick together, but not be greasy. My major failing with the crust is that several of the recipes I was using for inspiration had me add an entire cup of butter, which made my crust soggy and prone to collapse. You might need more than 1/2 a cup to make your mixture cohesive, but you shouldn’t need much more than that.
Put your crumb mixture into the pan and pat it up the sides and across the bottom evenly. For a nice, flat crust surface, press a slightly smaller pie plate into the larger one to smooth the edges.
Place your crusts in the oven and bake them for 10 minutes. Let cool and ‘rest’ while you do the rest of this.
Take a pound of key limes (about 24) and gather the zest of about half of them. I use a fine food rasp from Lee Valley with a zester catcher. It makes my life a lot easier. I recommend you pick one up. You can use a wood rasp as well (that’s pretty much what this is, anyway).
Zesting 12 tiny limes took quite a while, and only rendered about 2 tbsp of zest, but that’s all you really need.
Now we juice the limes. First, roll each lime on the counter while pressing with your hand. This will bruise the flesh inside and make them easier to juice.
Cut all the limes in half and juice those suckers. This took forever for me because the juicer kept sliding all over the place. I had to put down a silicone baking mat, kind of like this one from KitchenAid, to get the thing to stay still. Have patience. You should end up with about a cup of juice. Feel free to add more from a bottle if you feel you need more.
After this, I was already frustrated, and things started to go downhill for me. As I’ve said, I put too much butter in my crust, which had sagged to the centre of each pan. I pressed paper towels into the molten crust to remove excess butter and shored up the edges as best I could before baking them again and letting them cool.
Moving on … separate 6 egg yolks and plop those suckers in the bowl of your mixer. Most recipes say to use 4 yolks, which is what I did, but I had problems with the stuff setting. I will explain why shortly. Add your zest to the bowl along with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and mix on high for about 6 minutes until the stuff is pale and fluffy.
At this point you add your condensed milk. All the other recipes call for a 14-oz can of condensed milk (or, if doubling the recipe, two cans). What I have discovered, however, is that a 14-oz can is slightly over 400 mL, while the available cans in Canada seem to only contain 300 mL. Also I only had one can and I needed two. I did, however, have a 500 mL can of baker’s coconut milk (this is why I added the coconut to the crust). I figured adding the coconut milk would make the filling not as sweet, which is why I added a bit of sugar to the yolks and the zest. I might even add more sugar next time. Anyway, the coconut milk makes everything a little more runny, so that is why I suggested using 6 yolks instead of 4, just to make sure everything sets.
So you add in your coconut milk and your condensed milk and mix it on high again for another 5 minutes or so, until thick. Pour in the lime juice and mix until incorporated. Pour into the cooled crusts and bake for 25-35 minutes or until the filling has just set (as in, it shouldn’t be liquidy). Cool on a rack, then chill for at least an hour and serve with whipped cream.
Having only used 4 yolks, I had trouble getting my pie to set, though it was all right after I had chilled it. It was certainly not a pretty pie, but I plan to make up for it.