Monday, April 26, 2010

Pie Sunday

Ok so I'm not sure what's come over me lately. I've acquired practically an overnight obsession with pie. If you remember from a past post, I'm not that much of a sweets person. Give me mashed potatoes and gravy or mac and cheese for dessert anytime. At least, that's what I thought. I spent six hours in the kitchen yesterday making two pies: Peach Blueberry and Chocolate Cream. What's going on? I don't understand it. And another wierd thing: I've listened to nothing but bluegrass music for the last week. It's on my iPod, my home XM Radio, and my in my car. I've also been having these daydreams lately about living on a farm. Maybe it's because I've been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. She didn't live on a farm, but she had a garden, and she lived a simple but wholesome life.
I've also been thinking about this farmer I met a few months ago. I'm not going into personal details here. Those of you who know me well enough, you know the story, and what I've been trying to find out about it. I also can't get the movie "Food, Inc." out my head. Seriously, if you haven't seen this movie, watch it. I'm not kidding, it will change the way you see and think about the food you eat.
Lately I've just wanted to get back to simpler things. And what could be more simple than working with fresh ingredients, and making a pie? So, I spent Sunday afternoon making pies. It was kind of nice actually. It was so breezy outside, and a few thunderstorms with sunshine peeping through. Music on, TV off, windows was a good Sunday.
Now what does a single girl do with two whole pies? Well, after pictures and a big self-pat on the back, I took them to work and shared them. I'll admit it's nice to hear "wow that pie sure tastes good!", but really I think I just like to share my "food love" with other people. I think that's why I have dinner parties so much, or just randomly cook for people. Food makes people feel good, especially when it's made with love. ((insert warm fuzzy feelings here))
Peach Blueberry Pie
For Crust: I'm not even going to claim this pie crust recipe. If you're not aware of the blog "Smitten Kitchen", go check it out. Her photographs alone are worth a look. Deb's All Butter Really Flakey Pie Dough is the best recipe I've found so far. I never doubt her, and neither should you. After you've rolled out the dough, punch a few holes with a fork in the bottom pie shell, and brush with eggwash.
For Filling: 3 cups peeled and sliced peaches 2 cups organic blueberries 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 1/4 cup all purpose flour 1 teaspoon vanilla Mix all the filling ingredients, and let them sit about a half hour. When filling the pie crust, use a slotted spoon as a lot of liquid will come off the fruit. This will keep the pie from being too runny. You could do a lattice top which takes a lot of patience, but the end result is so pretty and totally worth it. Or you could just roll out the top layer of crust and crimp. Make sure to cut a few holes in the top to allow the steam to release. Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes. Then, cover the pie LOOSELY with foil, and bake for another 30 minutes. Make sure to let it completely cool. It'll be hard to resist I know, but you can wait. Chocolate Cream Pie
For the crust:
2 cups chocolate grahm cracker crumbs
7 tablespoons butter melted
1/4 cup sugar
Combine all the crust ingredients and press into a 9" pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, and let cool.
For the filling:
2/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 large egg yolks 3 cups whole milk 5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (the filling will be thick like pudding). Check out the fancy video...
Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours. Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. For topping : 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream 1 tablespoon sugar
Top the pie just before serving and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Strawberry Pie

This week I've been thinking about what we eat, and where our food comes from. When I was a young girl, my grandmother's basement was chock full of canned goods that she canned from her garden. She had green beans, bread and butter pickels, dill pickels, tomatoes, apples, apple sauce, apple butter, corn, beets, yellow squash, and on and on. All of these came straight out of her garden. We always had "fresh" green beans at Thanksgiving. Oh how I wish she would've taught me how to can and preserve food. I'm sure she would have been delighted to show me too. Had I known then what I know now, I would've come down from that apple tree in her backyard that I spent HOURS in as a child, and paid a little more attention to her working in the kitchen. So, I called my mother last night, and she's going to teach me how to can. I don't have an acutal garden, but I'm planting a few things this year to get the feeling for it: herbs, tomatoes, lettuces and some hot peppers. Spring is here, and the strawberries looked AMAZING at the store. I've decided to master the art of the pie this year. I think my friends and co-workers will be pleased since I'll be giving away all the test pies (minus a piece or two).
When someone says "strawberry pie", I immediately think of cardboard crust, unripened strawberries, and red gooey glue. Okay, I think of Shoney's. Yuck. I've never understood why someone would want to eat that red gooey glue. Here's the ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, water, strawberries, corn syrup, modified cornstarch, citric acid, cellulose gel, FD&C red#40, FD&C yellow #6, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate (preservatives), salt, sodiumcitrate, artificial flavor. No thanks. I'll stick with the filling with five ingredients I can pronounce. I have to say, I was pretty damn proud of myself on this one.
For the crust, any recipe will do really. You could even buy store bought frozen crust ((GASP)), but I wouldn't tell anyone. Just buy two, because you'll need one for the bottom, and one to make the lattice. I didn't have an actual rolly thing to cut the dough into pretty strips, so I just used a knife. Before baking, brush the crust with eggwash and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. That gives it a nice rich golden color, and a slightly sweet crunch.
For the filling:
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons minute tapioca (this keeps the pie less runny)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
5 cups sliced and diced fresh strawberries
Stir the filling ingredients. Place in pie shell. I think you could even do this non-lattice (is that a word? ha!) Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with sugar. Cover LOOSELY with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake for another 30-35 minutes until the fruit is bubbly. Don't forget to put a baking pan of some kind on the rack below the pie to catch splatters and drips. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if you want, but I just ate it plain.