New Castle News

June 29, 2013

Culinary Conversation: Pies are worth the fuss it takes to make them

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE —

I’ve reached a conclusion about pie. Just about everyone likes to eat them.

But not everyone likes to make them.

The phrase “easy as pie” isn’t always applicable for those trying to master the task.

It’s not quite as difficult as assembling an Eiffel Tower replica from toothpicks or making an origami swan, but making pastry can be touchy.

Through the years, I’ve made my share of pies and could write three or four more columns about the subject. And I’ve learned many lessons about accomplishing the perfect pie crust. One of then is to go easy on the water. Although liquid makes the dough easier to work with, it yields a tough result. You need just enough moisture to hold the dough together.

Another bit of advice is to use only enough flour when rolling out the dough to keep it from sticking.

My favorite tip — after the dough is mixed, let it sit for a while in the refrigerator. That makes it easier to roll. Trust me on this, or ask a longtime pie baker.

If you’re worried about how to make the edges look pretty and don’t want to spend all day doing that, try a fluted crust. Just make sure the edges of the dough are about 1/4-inch thick by folding the excess underneath the edges of the crust but on top of the rim of the pie tin. With thumb and index finger of one hand, press dough around the index finger of the other hand to form a flute. My grandmother taught me how to do that, and it’s a method I still use to this day.

And on the heels of a request for the sandwich spread sold at the former Latsko’s Market comes another request — this one is for the frozen pizza burgers that were available at the former Waldman’s Meats on Sampson Street. My brother said he always loved getting those pizza burgers and wonders if there is anywhere else that has something very similar.

Let us know. And please, share your pie-baking experiences and recipes with us. That will help make you a part of the upper crust at Culinary Conversation.

Coconut Cream Pie

Scald 2 1/2 cups milk.

Mix 2 or 3 yolks with 3 heaping tablespoonfuls of corn starch, 1/2 to 1 cup sugar, 1 cup coconut and pinch of salt. Add to milk. Stir until thick. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla and a chunk of butter. Cool slightly. Pour into shell.

For meringue, mix whites with 6 tbsps. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar and pinch of salt. Beat until very stiff. Spread over filling. Sprinkle with additional coconut.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 350 until meringue browns.

Caramel Apple Pie

Pie crust:

3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps. milk

Mix together, divide into two and roll out between wax paper. Peel one side off; turn over onto pie plate and peel off other side. Fit into pan.

Filling:

9 cups tart apples, sliced thinly

1 cup apple cider

1, 12-oz. jar caramel ice cream topping

20 caramels

4 tbsps. butter, melted

2 tbsps. lemon juice

2 tbsps. apple cider

3 tbsps. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. salt

Cinnamon and sugar mixture

In a large saucepan, heat cider, ice cream topping and caramels over low heat until smooth.

Add apples and cook until tender. Remove apples with slotted spoon and set aside. Blend lemon juice, 2 tbsps. apple cider, cornstarch and salt together. Add to liquid mixture, stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove from heat and add melted butter and apples. Set aside.

Line a 9-inch deep dish pie pan with pastry. Put apple mixture in pie shell. Cut top of pie pastry into strips and top pie with those. Brush top of pie with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake at 425 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Fresh Berry Crumb Pie

Crumb crust/topping:

1 cup hazelnuts or almonds (about 4 oz.)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tbsps. cornstarch

2 pints fresh berries such as blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries

Preheat oven to 350. For crumb crust/topping, spread nuts in medium baking pan. Roast the nuts, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 10 minutes.

Remove nuts from the oven and turn out on a cloth towel. Rub off and discard the papery skins. Increase oven temperature to 450.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the nuts until finely ground, about 10 seconds.

In a large bowl, mix together nuts, flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs form.

Using fingers, evenly press half of the crumb crust/topping mixture into the bottom and sides of an 8- or 9-inch tart pan.

For filling, in a medium bowl, mix together sugar and cornstarch. Gently fold in the berries. Spoon the berry mixture into the crust, spreading evenly.

Sprinkle the berry mixture evenly with the remaining crust/topping.

Bake until topping is golden and filling is bubbly, 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Pie Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

8 oz. shortening (or use half butter or oleo)

1 egg

1 tbsp. sugar

3/4 tsp. vinegar

Cold water

Combine flour and salt. Add shortening and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine eggs, sugar, vinegar and enough cold water to make 1/2 cup. Pour over flour mixture.

Using a fork, mix just enough to combine. Form into 2 balls, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

To roll chilled dough, sprinkle a minimum amount of flour on work surface and with a rolling pin, roll into a 13-inch circle.

Fold dough into quarters and transfer to baking pan. Press into bottom and sides of pan. Proceed with recipe.