Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One in the Oven

If you hang around this blog often enough I imagine some recurring themes will emerge, and I am willing to bet that one of those themes is going to be pie. Got one in the oven right now: apple, with almond crumb topping (recipe and notes on topping here).

Jack and Cole were chasing each other in a circuit through the kitchen, hallway, and dining room, getting faster and faster and louder and louder until they threatened to turn into butter. (Not familiar with the story of Little Black Sambo? He gets chased by tigers, then cleverly begins to run circles around a tree which he then climbs, as the tigers run faster and faster around the tree until they eventually turn into butter. Which Sambo then eats with pancakes -- my kinda children's story!)

Fortunately the words, "Who wants to help me make a pie?" stopped 'em in their tracks, and we all settled down to slice apples (that we picked back in the fall -- a little wrinkly, but still tasty), toss them with a little organic evaporated cane juice (an -ose by any other name is still sugar) and cinnamon, and then tuck them into a pie crust.

This is my favorite Cuisinart pie crust recipe, supposedly developed by Julia Child.


1 3/4 c. flour
1 stick (1/4 lb.) butter, cut up
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt

Blend ingredients in food processor (I just use the metal blade) until crumbly. Add 1/4 cup of ice water and continue blending just until ball forms.

I like this recipe because it makes enough for one large pie -- all my pie plates are the large 10 inch Pyrex pans -- plus enough left over to satisfy the dough rolling, patting, and pounding needs of two little boys. I used to feel bad for wasting food when I let them basically destroy about a third of a pie crust through enthusiastic playing-with, but when I let them hands-on help rolling out the big crust for us to eat it would end up tough -- not just tough but nigh bullet-proof -- from over-handling. Everyone needs a fair turn with the rolling pin, see? So we waste a little, but I have come to feel it's justified in the interest of the tender, flaky bigger picture.

My grandmother, Grace Phillips, who had a terrifically talented hand with pastry, always looked down on my reliance on the Cuisinart for pie crust. She did everything by hand, cutting the shortening into the flour with two knives criss-crossing in a silvery, chiming blur. She was also a big believer in Butter Flavor Crisco, though, so clearly intergenerational pie crust preferences must be allowed.

I use the food processor for just about everything -- it's my desert island kitchen tool, were I to be banished to a desert island and limited to one cooking utensil, this would be it, assuming the island had electricity. There are times when mixing things by hand is essential, but pie crust does not seem to require careful hand blending. To be honest, my Cuisinart crusts are better than when I do it by hand.

18 minutes left on the filling with scent of cinnamon and carmelizing sugar...

I am a believer in starting fruit pies at a high temperature -- 450 degrees -- for the first ten minutes, and then dropping the oven to 350 for another 45 minutes or so. Got to check the crust every so often for over-browning, though. I've sort of thought about buying one of those pie shields -- even gave one as an xmas gift last year to my best friend Heather, who is also known to bake the occasional apple pie. However, I'm not much of a kitchen gadget gal and as a rule don't clutter up my cabinets with single-use-specific gear when a little aluminum foil does the same job.


Murph said...

There is something very pleasing about the two knife/scissor approach for cutting in the butter, but I have to admit to switching to a pastry cutter that i recently picked up just for efficiency sake. I'm never tried the food processor for dough - I would worry it would over work it.

Michelle Gienow said...

It's terribly easy to over-work pie dough in the Cuisinart. The trick is to stop the motor the very second the dough forms a ball, which happens unbelievably quickly. But even homemade pie with an overworked crust is still homemade pie!

I try to minimize my kitchen gadgets so I don't have a pastry cutter, but it's on the bubble -- definitely has multiple uses, so i would earn its place in my crowded kitchen drawers, and I"ve always sorta wanted one...