Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A slice by request

The creation of the most simple is the most difficult. Take for example piecrust, which if judged by the ingredient list should be no problem. Then why is it so hard to find a good one? One that is flaky but does not crumble, or firm enough that it holds together yet does not tip over the edge to cardboard. With most endeavors the more seemingly simplistic, the fewer places you get to hide any mistakes. This could not be clearer then with a piecrust.

For so long I avoided making this dough leaving it in the hands of my pastry chef friends, and then I would go begging for some. I was finally force to attack this foe and with offered help of a pastry chef I got the support and coaching I need. I have a feel for food, and can execute that delicate balance been solid technique with a feathered touch. But I had in my mind an aversion to this most basic dough. It must have been my second term pastry instructor in culinary school who declared I would never make a pastry chef. And, he was correct. I knew that I had no feel for making marzipan roses or inscribing “Happy Birthday” in a fluid, wispy fashion with a paper cone filled with melted chocolate, and really had no desire to fiddle with that. I did know I have a palate that loved to explore, and a mind that could figure out the science of a problem.

Piecrust is a fast moving technique, well if you are in this century and are using a food processor. Everything in the ready, and once the flour has been spun for a minute the butter bits, and water following promptly and are done before I think. I always add an egg yolk to the dough in order the thwart the amount of shrinkage many of us have suffered – the add fat from the egg prevents the gluten structure from stretching too much and subsequently contracting – I have ended up with a disk as opposed to the pie shell I was trying to achieve.

I can whip out a pie-dough in minutes now, and using a rolling pin was never an issue. I also enjoy baking cakes and other confectionaries, though don’t confuse me with a baker for I will never pipe a greeting across the top of your cake or decorate it with anything then edible flowers I snip for the garden.

Pecan Pie – yields 10-inch pie
Pastry dough
3-cups all-purpose flour
1/8-teaspoon salt
6-ounces unsalted butter – cut into small pieces and chilled
2 egg yolks
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

To make the dough in the bowl of the food processor, fitted with a plastic blade add the flour and salt. Let the machine run for a minute then through the tube, with the machine running, start dropping in the butter pieces. Then add the egg yolks and cold water. As soon as the dough starts to pull together shut off the food processor. Turn the dough out on to a piece of plastic wrap, and tightly wrap up the dough. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before using.

2-ounces unsalted butter
2-tablespoons honey or agave
2-cups dark brown sugar
1-tablespoon water
¼-cup half-n-half
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2-cups pecans

To make the filling place the butter, agave, brown sugar and water in a 2-cups saucepan, and over a medium heat let the butter and sugar melt. Stir every so often to make sure everything melts evenly. Once the butter and sugar is completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the half-n-half and vanilla.

Beat the eggs until voluminous and pale yellow in color. Slowly stir in the butter/sugar mixture into the eggs to completely combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface roll the piecrust out to about ¼-thick, and line a 10-inch pie pan with the dough. With the tines of a fork poke the bottom of the piecrust.

Place in the oven, and cook for 10-minutes. Remove from the oven. Place the pecans in the piecrust and then pour over the egg mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Continue baking until the center of the pie is set, approximately 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool. Once the pie has cooled refrigerate for a few hours before serving.


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