Before I get into the actual post, I want to say thank you with all the sincerity of my truth seeking heart. I know that I've made the right decision and I'm excited to share with you what I am working on. Also, I am grateful for your patience as I send out all of your patterns. And one more thing, before I get to fully commit to printing, I have quite a bit of fabric stuff to finish as all of that is time sensitive with market coming up. Surprises abound!
Until fairly recently I was a cake person. You know this much about me. We had cake parties. In school I was baking a different kind of cake almost every week... This has changed. Since the beginning of the year I had almost completely cut out wheat and sugar from my diet. And except greek yogurt (obsessed) I'd cut out all dairy too. I eat vegetables. Mostly vegetables and occasionally fruit. It's really difficult in the summer, especially here, to not eat fruit.
Anyway since giving up those things, it's odd, but if I come upon a piece of cake, it is totally gross. It's too dense, way too sweet, and it's like you can taste every ingredient, in a bad way. I'm just not a fan anymore, and that makes me feel bad, like I've betrayed cake. I''ve become the girl who only wants a sliver of cake that your knife isn't sharp enough to cut.
yes. There is wheat, dairy, and sugar involved. But it in a really light and controlled way. My pies are not very sweet, in fact, most of the fruit pies I make border savory. Which is champion in my book, and interesting in others. You don't need a lot of pie to be satisfied. And I love the fresh ingredients that essentially remain whole all in a light, layered, flaky, buttery and thin but substantial crust. That was a gross sentence, but when you eat a piece of well made pie where everything remains intact, you give into outplayed descriptive words. Truth.
A pie crust is an art. I wrote about it here, and I could write more, but other people who are more qualified have written quite a lot about it, like James Beard Award Winner, James Peterson, and you should listen to him. Add Baking to your cookbook collection as soon as possible.
a pie crust is made of essentially 4 types of ingredients. Flour, Fat, flavoring (salt, sugar, citrus peel, herbs, spices, etc.), and water. Like ink! Pigment, vehicle, binder! On occasion the fat catagory is made up of several different kinds, and then sometimes it can include an egg. I like to keep it as simple as possible. Butter. There are lots of reasons to use a more complex dough. Deborah Madison makes a yeasted pie/galette dough that's a fantastic vegan option that uses olive oil, and James Peterson has a really great sweet dough that uses egg, and is great for tarts, and cream pies. So matching your dough to your pie is a project for a graphic designer who is into baking and info graphics. I will not be that designer today.
The garden has been so abundant, and in celebration of my recent decision, I threw myself a little dinner, and didn't tell anyone it was for any reason other than that I felt like having it. So it was a secret I kept for myself, like when you work on a piece of art, or when you are acting a part, or that time I had an important call back and I didn't speak to anyone or tell anyone it was my birthday. You keep secrets as your motivation.
So I made a bunch of pies made from almost all things from the garden, except I didn't grow the pie crust. And it made everyone really happy, and that made me happy. My pleased friends were the launch pad I needed. Not because one has anything to do with the other, but maybe as an energetic start. Does that make any sense? Happiness as a buoy.
Here was the pie line up:
I made four recipes of the standard pate brisee, which gave me about 8 pie crusts. I just knocked them out one after the other in the food processor. When I use a fp, and it's 90 something degrees outside, I cut the butter and freeze it, so it doesn't melt so rapidly.
Savory Pies: Tomato Tart, Caramelized Onion and Zucchini Galette, Sliced Tomato and Squash Galette
This recipe was featured in the July 2005 issue of Martha Stewart living. I bought it in Rexburg Idaho in July 2005. I have had it ever since, and have always wanted to make this. Its always been in some corner of my mind, waiting for the stars to align with ingredients and ability. I used gruyere instead of fontina, just out of preference. Make sure that you season the tart. It calls for course salt and pepper, but I don't recall it telling you to use them, and you will find that the flavor is intense, but mild, and to your friends or family who are used to stronger flavors (salty) it might just seem bland. Season each layer. You will be happier as a result, and it's just a good practice.
Caramelized Onion and Zucchini Galette
I had some time on Friday before I went out, so I caramelized 3 onions. That's a lot of onion. It took a little over an hour to get them where I wanted them. I threw in several sprigs of thyme while they cooked down, and all the little leafies fell off. Then I sauteed some swiss chard, followed by several round zucchinis. When I assembled the galette on Sunday, I rolled out the pie dough and spread a thin layer of the onion (essentially a jam at this point) across the bottom, spread the swiss chard over that, and then beautifully arranged the zucchini in a fashionable and stylish way. I folded up the dough, brushed the sides with cream, and then covered the whole thing with pecorino romano. I baked it a long time, at a high temp, and I let it cool almost as long as I baked it. 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. I wasn't really keeping track of time though, just color. You want it golden.
This was the favorite.
Sliced Tomato and Squash Galette
Before people showed up, I decided that we probably needed an extra savory pie. I had the dough, and I had (have) 50 billion yellow squash starring me in the face, I still had caramelized onions, sliced tomatoes from the t. tart, and I had some feta that had been sitting in water for as long as is healthy for feta to sit in water in your refrigerator. It was a little bit of a stab in the dark, but it seemed like all of these things would work together. The one thing that I was worried about was water content. I thought that it might be too wet, and therefore the crust would be soggy, because I hadn't precooked the tomato or squash. Behold! The caramelized onion was acting as a barrier the whole time, and baking at high temperature, and again, cooling it for an extended period of time let it all come together in a really beautiful way. This either tied for first or was the second favorite. Again, make sure you season each layer.
We could come up with a billiondy garden galettes to keep everyone fed and happy all summer/ fall long.
Sweet Pies: Plum Hazelnut Galette, Blueberry Pie
This is not an overly sweet pie, so we ate it with dinner. The combination of hazelnuts/sugar/cornstarch make such a fantastic texture/flavor under the plums. These were the tiny plums that I was gifted a couple weeks ago. They kept surprisingly well in the fridge. The recipe calls for plum or red currant jam to glaze the tart after it's finished, but I didn't have either of those, but I did have more plums so I improvised. One of my favorite cookbooks is Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Carrarini, and she has a recipe for vanilla apricot compote. I decided to make it just the same, but with plums. I reduced the syrup down to the point of a jam (once the fruit was added back in), and it was hot pink and beautiful.
This is a gem of a pie. Pie in the most American of ideals, or at least in my domesticated imaginary visual dictionary is apple, or blueberry. That's text book pie. So it was deemed dessert by everyone at the table, even though I had made no such declaration. The lattice top did all the talking. The recipe comes from Baking, and is a must, and a can do anytime blueberries are in season.
Blueberry Pie filling
adapted from Baking by James Peterson
4 pints blueberries
1 cup sugar (I use 3/4 cup organic cane sugar)
1/4 cup lime juice (I used lemons)
1 tablespoon cornstarch combined with 2 tablespoons cold water
cook blueberries, sugar, and lime juice in a pan with a lid for 10 minutes, or until they release their juice. Drain the berries over a large saucepan, and bring the liquid to a boil. When it has reduced to about 2 cups, add the cornstarch mixture and bring back to a boil. It says to let cool... but I usually just add it back to the blueberries at this point. I let the whole thing cool in the freezer while I work on the pie shell. You could use this filling for pretty much anything. I made hand pies with it, and it would be great for turnovers or danishes. I have also eaten spoonfuls of this with yogurt. It's pretty standard, and really great.
There were also a few salads, to break through the richness of things.
Some notes about a pie or a pie meal in your future:
Galettes. They are as stress free as a pie can possibly be. Several reasons: they are more "rustic," they don't require a specific pan, and they appear like you were really going for something, and that usually works out in your favor.
Menu planning. Make more savory than sweet. I'm a total sucker for a savory pie. And as a true blue vegetarian, this is a perfect way to feed your carnivorous friends all the vegetables all night long and not have anyone ever peep a grumble, even if they are normally just giving you a hard time. Planning a pie menu lets you optimize your seasonal eating. Include a couple of light salads to cut through the butter, and maybe play a game before you even think about dessert. Maybe you should just play Art Auction.
Parchment paper. I lined the table with it like a table runner as to not have to put pies on plates, especially because I don't use pie plates, I use tart pans with removable bottoms, and I'd never serve out of those... also I always roll out dough between two sheets. It makes things manageable. Mess wise and pie dough handling wise. Plus you can reuse it several times before it starts to wear. Not true with wax paper, which is totally gross.
Serving. I put out knives and servers around each pie on the table. You were responsible for serving the pie in front of you. That worked out great. When I do this again, I hope that I will have had the foresight to purchase something like these. And hopefully Sabre will have had the foresight to contact me so that we are using my fabric on the inside of them.
Like most baked goods your success depends on your patience. A pie is not a thing to ever rush. It's just not going to cooperate, and you aren't going to be happy, and then you will think that you can't really make a pie. You can. You can make a really beautiful pie. A true secret (probably not a secret, just not a practice) to a successful pie crust, is putting your finished pie, before you bake it, back in a cooling device for at least 30 minutes before you bake it. It will allow your pie crust a fighting chance at not falling apart, being flaky (butter should melt in the baking process, not before), <---- and not being transparent when you do bake it (a symptom of melted fat). Also, and I can't stress this enough... let your pie cool. Resist, step away, leave the house, do whatever you have to do, but let your pie completely cool before you start picking at it or cutting into it. It needs to cool to be its best, and to come back together. It's chemistry. You'll be so glad that you did. The whole pie cooling in a window thing, is really a thing.
The night was a success, and I think you should probably also have a pie dinner 2012. I could see making it a tradition if for nothing more than it's special, and delicious. But I like the idea of doing extra nice things to quietly celebrate a moment for yourself.