Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pie Eyed

Rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, peach, pear and plum: the summer pies arrive!
The picture is of my tart pie apple tree whose luscious tee-totally lip-puckeringly sour apples start falling off the tree en masse about the second week of July. I don't call them "ripe" so much as "ready". So I pick them up and I pick them from and I make a batch of my very own Dum Luk's Sauce (Follow link to find out how) and I make an apple pie. Like this:
Pastry is the reaction of flour and fat to heat. Gluten is a valuable ingredient in flour if you are making bread. Well developed gluten encloses gases released by the yeast as bread rises. Without the gluten the dough would pass the gases, so to speak, and collapse. But in pastry well developed gluten makes the crust as tough as shoe leather. Work quickly and lightly when mixing and rolling pastry. Roll the dough in one direction only to give the gluten as small a work out as possible. Use pastry flour or flour that is low in gluten (a soft wheat, not a hard wheat) and free of the most glutenous parts of the wheat grain. Keep making it and before very long you will receive accolades for your pies. Here's my current implementation. It freezes well for other times of the year. The lard does make a difference to the flakiness of the crust, while butter provides flavor. There are many other fats that work as any basic cookbook will show.
Pie Pastry
Yield: 3 Pies
-ml- Lard to make it flaky,
Butter to make it tasty.

1/2 cup lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 tbl ice water, approx.
21/2 cups flour

Cut lard and butter into flour and salt
until the texture of coarse meal.
Add just enough ice water to
gather the pastry in a ball. Chill.
Cut in thirds.
Roll one third out for each crust.
Prick all over the bottom
for a crisp pastry.
This makes pastry for
a one crust pumpkin

and a two crust mince.
Any basic cookbook will provide several variations on the idea of flour, fat, liquid to make a crust. Once I met a cook who insisted that bisquick made the only acceptable pie crust. Maybe so. But I call that cobbler, not pie. You may call that a distinction without a difference if you so desire.

But pastry is not quite half a pie. Filling is the balance. Filling is fruit and sugar and flavorings and thickeners. Meat, vegetable, fish and fowl fillings are a different story for another time as are nut pies.
Whatever your fruit, rinse and drain it. This should leave enough moisture for most ripe fruits. Slice if needful and put enough in a bowl. Add as little sugar as needed. Learn to appreciate the tart-sweet spectrum. It will broaden life's pleasures. Add such flavorings as fit: lemon for a sweet apple or berry, nutmeg is always good. Try anise with apples as well as the more usual cinnamon and cloves. Cardamom intrigues.
Flour thickens best if added here and stirred with the fruit to spread it around. Added separately it tends to clump and miss the juice. Instant tapioca also works.
With the filling ready, roll out the pastry to line the pie plate. Again it is liberty hall to make any shape from a shallow tart with fluted edges to a square deep dish. Pour in the filling with any juice that 'sweat' from the fruit. Top or not as you prefer with pastry lattices, or relief sculptures, or nubbly vistas of brown sugar, flour, and nuts adhered with butter.
Bake -- on a drip tray to save the mess in a moderately hot oven about 4000f. for 25 minutes or as long as it takes. Stick a fork or toothpick in a visible piece of fruit to test for doneness. The juice should bubble and look glossy thick. The pastry should be brown. Serve it with sharp white cheddar or fresh churned ice cream. Down it in milk or cream or whipped or just a modest continent of sour cream. All right, yogurt if you wish. Have a slice for breakfast to empty the plate for the dishwasher.
Then there's peach pie ... for another time.
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