Category: Rhubarb

Tomato-Chickpea Salad

Tomato-Chickpea Salad

If the goal of feeding folks in the summer is to keep the cooking and the heat at a minimum, I’m in. As my friend Jodie says, “I turn into a troll when the temperature gets above 65 degrees F.” Even it it’s not terribly hot outdoors — or is, in fact, lovely — my house seems to turn into a hot box on June 1 every year. Of course that’s just one reason Americans grill (the contemporary version of the separate summer kitchen) and eat outdoors anytime we can. The other is we’re inordinately attached to kicking back for three months every year. Or we say we are anyway.

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Mother’s Day Bluebarb Pie with Violet’s Pie Crust

Mother’s Day Bluebarb Pie with Violet’s Pie Crust

Chris, left and Violet, right

I think of Violet as my loving friend Chris’s mom because that’s who she was to me. Of course Violet was VIOLET. And if you lived in Atwood, Kansas (population 1,222), you knew who that was.  You knew her rather well indeed if you happened to be a member of Atwood United Methodist Church where she directed the choir, organized many church suppers, and was the leader of the Altar Guild for oh-so-many years.

Continue reading “Mother’s Day Bluebarb Pie with Violet’s Pie Crust”

Rhubarb-Raspberry Almond Crisp or Stewed Rhubarb with Greek Yogurt

Rhubarb-Raspberry Almond Crisp or Stewed Rhubarb with Greek Yogurt

IMG_7555There seem to be fruit people and chocolate people when we’re talking dessert.  You know who you are.  I, for instance, am definitely not crazy about apple pie. (I love fresh apples.)  I make a mean one and will have one small slice on the day it’s baked.  It then belongs to Dave, his Dad, Sean, or whoever else is a pie lover.  I love chocolate.  Dave’s never loved chocolate, though in the last few years he’s begun to eat some.  No longer are all the chocolate things in the house exclusively mine. At formal dinners when chocolate mousse or cake was served, both portions ended up in front of me; for years, he wouldn’t touch them.  Then one day, he began eating his chocolate dessert, leaving me in the dust.  He occasionally drinks a cup of decaf coffee, too.  I don’t know what’s happening to my world. The coffee pot has always been totally mine.

I’ll admit, though, that I’m crazy about rhubarb or pie plant, (which is now in season in Colorado) just as I am about cranberries.  The two have a lot in common when it comes to cooking and eating them.  Both are so rude, crude, and sour that they’re inedible without some sweetening and cooking.  Both are gorgeous, glorious, royalty red.  I adore either mixed with other fruits; apples do well as a companion for rhubarb and cranberries.

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  Last year, I made a much larger Rhubarb-Blueberry Crisp with cinnamon and oatmeal: recipe here.

And, of course, all berries happily couple with each.  Both of these red gems freeze perfectly with no great work.  Throw the cranberries in a heavy plastic bag and dip into them for a year for muffins.  Chop rhubarb in the spring, place just as it is in quart freezer containers, and you can have rhubarb-apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Day brunch. Stewed rhubarb or cranberry sauce can be frozen in small or large amounts; I like the small containers for topping yogurt or ice cream:

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To stew rhubarb:  Heat 2 cups chopped rhubarb with 1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar and water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, and cook until tender–maybe 15 minutes.  Cool and place in two small freezer containers or serve on yogurt or ice cream. Also good on a peanut butter or a cream cheese sandwich. Makes about 4 small servings.  Can double or triple, though make sure and taste the liquid as it cooks to see if you’d like more sweetener. (Optional:  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for each 2 cups rhubarb.)  You can also make rhubarb sauce. Just continue to cook until the rhubarb is mushy and mash with a potato masher.

Since Colorado springs are long and complicated–often punctuated by big snow or ice storms–our spring crops come later than in the rest of the country; rhubarb and other true spring happinesses are only now showing up. Asparagus is at the market now late in May, and gorgeous birds, like this Western Tanager in my side yard, are now making nests or filling up before flying on…

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If you’re still into spring or just have some rhubarb (I notice the newest food magazines are all summery-grilling issues), enjoy a little crisp. There might not exist a faster baked dessert for your inner pie-lover:

RHUBARB-RASPBERRY ALMOND CRISP

6 servings

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 While vegetable gardening isn’t exactly possible up here on the mesa with our herd of daily deer, there are places in which things do grow. My Colorado rhubarb plant died while we lived in Saint Paul, so this crisp  is made from rhubarb bought at the store.  The cashier says, “Is this chard?”  I’ll plant a new patch this fall.

  • 4 cups trimmed rhubarb cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups raspberries (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup each: all-purpose unbleached white flour, brown sugar, and granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter
  • Ice cream or whipped cream for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in the center of the oven.

To an ungreased 2-quart, oblong baking dish, add the rhubarb, raspberries, salt, and almond extract; toss. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together  the flours, sugars, cinnamon, and almonds.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until well combined — big crumbs — using a pastry cutter, your fingers, two knives, or pulsing slowly in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pour out the flour mixture on top of the rhubarb and raspberry mixture, spreading evenly.

Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 40-50 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.  Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Store totally cooled leftovers tightly wrapped on the counter for 2 days and then in the fridge for another 2 days. (Basic fruit desserts without cream or eggs needn’t be refrigerated. They are best warm or at room temperature.)

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Truth in Recipes:  The basic idea and proportions for my crisp came from an old ’70’s BETTY CROCKER cookbook, which appears periodically as a much-loved guest in my blog. I hope you’ve just such a good old dependable cookbook in your kitchen arsenal.  I’ve jacked the basic crisp up with the berries, the almonds and almond extract, and changed both the kind of sugar and amount called for. Perhaps the recipe is nearly mine by now, but I’m happy to share credit with Betty any day.

TWO-DOG KITCHEN

Just a no reason shot of “the babies,” Tucker and Rosie, whom we often call “Miss Bo-Bo,” as she’s just a tad nutty about running from window to window announcing every person, dog, cat, bird, and bunny that just might be visiting our yard while I bake or nurse a bad cold. I live with a pocketful of kibble trying to persuade her to act otherwise. Exhale.

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Sing a new song; sweeten up a little rhubarb today,

Alyce

Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

R for Rhubarb

This post now featured on Rachel Rappaport’s PIE FAIR LADY blog!  
Thanks, Rachel.  Bake pie! 

I don’t know why you want to make pie and searched for Pie 101.  Me-oh-my.  You love pie? (I adore the movie “Michael”)  Someone you love loves pie, maybe?  You want to make beautiful things and don’t paint–right.  You want to bring pie to Thanksgiving dinner:  “Oh, I’ll bring the pie,” would be fun to say. You’d like to celebrate Pi Day in a more meaningful way.    Making pie, or wanting to make or eat pie, is sort of a passion.  It’s not anything like, “I think I’ll scramble eggs and make toast because I’m hungry.”  Or even “Let’s make a pot of vegetable soup; it’s cold outside and sounds good.”   I mean, no one really needs pie.  People, do, however, desire (is not too strong a word) pie and are sort of sometimes heart-starved and/or breathless for it.  Think of the look on your uncle’s (aunt, cousin, boyfriend, co-worker, super) when words like, “coconut cream” or “strawberry-rhubarb” cross their lips.  Or the rush through a potluck meal if a pie sits alone, waiting, down at the end of the counter in the kitchen.    Is it fond memories of  your aunt’s pumpkin from Thanksgiving of 1967 or your best friend’s apple (from her own tree) in 2009?  Is it the crappy diner crust on a short, slim piece of pecan late one night after a restaurant shift when you had to have something sweet and that’s all there was?

If, by chance you’re looking for gluten-free pie dough, please just go to Gluten-Free Girl…a great blog; here’s one post on pie dough there.

I’m just guessing that usually there’s a lot of love goes into pie.  Making it is not an endeavor one embarks on lightly.  Like weeding the flower bed out back or picking up a gallon of milk at the store.  It’s kind of a devoted, warm-fuzzy, all around commitment.  Bake with a band on sort of thing.  (Being both a cook and musician gives me license for such sentences.)

Whatever reason brings  you to pie, I hope this little (not really so little) tutorial will be of help.  It contains the story of my own pie-making, a photo-essay on making the rhubarb pie (including crust), and the recipes/basic info you’ll need to make it all happen.  FYI:  This long pie post is truly a work in progress.

No fear.  Pie is near.

How I Came to Pie:

Kathy’s Apple Pie

When I was newly married in the mid-seventies, pie-making was already an art not necessarily pursued by the typical home cook.   Oh, of course there was pie.  But it might have been made with a frozen crust from the grocery store or a tube of pie dough you bought prepared but not yet rolled out.  It could have come from any one of a bunch of great bakeries; there are fewer of those now.  Many pies appeared with graham cracker crusts and then you could even buy those pre-made.  To put a point on it, I didn’t know another 20 year old who was baking pies.

In those days, it was the cool thing to take the easy way out with food.  Women were leaving the kitchen and going to work.  They didn’t want to be  tied down to cooking or baking all day and reveled in ready-made products or short-cut techniques.   Think cake and pudding mixes and frozen vegetables, Stouffers’ frozen meals.  Maybe we were the Jetsons’ or the Space Program Generation and somehow perhaps thought cooking food was about to be passe; it would soon appear magically behind Door #3.

Crostatas

But I knew people who baked pie.  My mom, for instance (though she might pull out a frozen crust once in a while herself late in life) and Dave’s Aunt Kathryn–the Morgan pie-baker.   In college, the wife of our department head (the late, beautiful Cindy Izzo), made pie when we ended up there one snowed-out Thanksgiving when we couldn’t get home.   I think each family sort of depended on one person to be in charge of pie.  Often it was someone who was simply willing.  I also had a couple of friends (older than me) who baked beautiful pies.  I really wanted to be one of  those people and so I began.  “Oh!  You make pie?”  Learning to bake  pies goes slowly as most cooks don’t make them often.  We wait for holidays and then wonder why our pies are lopsided.  If you want to bake pie, bake one more often than at holiday time.

 

Coffee Cup Pie for One
Pumpkin Pie

My own early attempts didn’t look too bad or sad (or maybe they did), but were under baked. (Lesson One:  Bake pies in a clear glass pie plate so you can see that the bottom crust is done.)   To say that my husband loves pie is an understatement and I kept trying.  I learned to throw a piece of aluminum foil on top if it browned too much or to put a collar of aluminum foil around the pie from the beginning.  Finally, I began pies at a high temperature and lowered them to a moderate one after 15 minutes so that the pie got done but didn’t burn.  I learned to underbake pumpkin pie just a teense so that it barely shivered when moved and only a few moist crumbs stuck to the knife when I tested it.  Custard should be creamy, not jelloey or like rubber.  I discovered fruit pies maybe needed a few more minutes so that the filling really was making a run for it through the slits in the top crust and the crust had some nice brown to it here and there.  No soft pallid pies for me.

Over the nearly forty years of pie baking, I’ve made everything from banana cream to sweet potato to apple crostatas to pear tarts to quiches.  I’ve made big pies and little pies and even coffee cup pies.  Most of the pies pictured are on the blog; you can search them if you’re interested; most have links.

 
Sour Cream Crumble Apple Pie

“Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?  Can she bake a cherry pie, charming Billy?”
Or What to do with a pie that falls off a shelf, crashes and burns…  Make Cherry Pie Parfait, of course!
Very fast Kiwi Tart .  Crust is made by pouring hot pastry cream on an ultra thin gingersnap cookie !
Turkey Pot Pie from Thanksgiving Leftovers
Strawberry-Hazelnut Shortbread Tart
Derby Pie
Helen’s Cherry Pie (intact)
Pie Crust Cookies (Trimmed-extra- pie dough twisted, fried, and rolled in cinnamon sugar)

 

Betty White’s Mexican Quiche

 These days I am often working on dishes, meals, or recipes for foods that are in season or are being featured at farmer’s market.  The past couple of weeks, rhubarb’s been popping up, and last year I wrote up the recipe for farmer’s market rhubarb pie  for Dinner Place and for Examiner.com.   Not only that, but I had then finally photographed (and my photos are not all that great) the process for making pie dough.    This year, a fellow blogger wrote to me, “I wish I could make crust like that!”  When I went to this blog, there was no long how-to post on pie-making to send her!  And since this blog is much more the all-purpose cooking and baking blog, I began working on this lengthy post, which I will continue to revise and add to.  But, whatever– I just want you to begin baking pies.  I’ve taught any number of people to make a pie crust (and how to put the whole thing together) right in all of my tiny kitchens where I sometimes nearly had to roll pie dough up the wall.  The filling is easier for most people.  Try my methods a few times; don’t give up after once or twice and become one of those who whine, “I just can’t make pie crust.”

If someone asks, I promise I’ll swear I never said this…but if you just can’t make pie dough (and I don’t think there’s anyone who can’t), please buy a refrigerated pie crust –not frozen–at the supermarket or ask a friend to make you a few for a birthday gift each year.  Making pie, however you do it, is really a worthwhile experience.  Even for people like me, who prefer piece of incredible chocolate cake.  There, I said it.

We have a lot of chances to make pie.  Take one!

Whatever you bake, have a light heart about it and your pastry will take it’s cue from you.  Be gentle with it (and yourself)  and get it to do what you want as quickly as possible–the goal is to get it into the oven as cold as possible.  Your warm hands, while perfect for many things, are not its friend.  Keep some fun music on (remember “cook with a band on?”)  and keep everyone else out of the kitchen so you can concentrate.  If you  have a veteran pie-baker friend or partner in the house, tell them exactly what kind of help you need if you haven’t asked them to be your wing man.

But not to worry how things look or turn out…  Nothing is perfect, particularly not pie.  (It’ll get eaten no matter.  Ice cream, or better yet whipped cream, hides a plethora of sins.)  Think of the Amish quilters who intentionally sew one imperfect patch into every quilt because only God is perfect.  Keep baking and your pie-making will improve much like your piano playing, typing, hammering a nail, or baby-handling did as you went along.  I include pictures of all sorts of imperfect pies and crusts; it’s just how it rolls.   Happy Pie!

Time to get your pie on…

rhubarb pie…step by step photos  (scroll down for recipes)

  This dough is made in a Cuisinart food processor.
  See recipes below for information on making by hand.

   Hint #1   Start in the morning or very early afternoon when you have a lot of time; it takes time to make/ bake pie and it takes even more time to cool. Hot pie is a mess.  Also, in the summer, when great fruit is plentiful, it’s hot.  Dame, get up and bake your pies early in the morning.  Like 5a.m. mid-summer.) 

We begin here:  Flour, salt, sugar-if using-, and butter mixed in the food processor work bowl –fitted with steel blade– and pulsed until pea-sized and smaller and larger pieces exist in the mixture.  This is called “cutting in the butter.”  It keeps the crust crispy to have pieces of fat in the dough.

 

Iced water added. Processed until just coming together or just starting to come together.  Don’t overwork the dough.  When you pinch a bit between your thumb and index finger, it should stay together.

 

Meantime, or ahead,  chop the rhubarb into about 1/2″ pieces, place in a bowl and stir together with sugar, flour, and salt.  Set aside.

Hint #2  Make mostly in season, but also a little out of season pie.  Rhubarb in the spring, blueberries in early summer, apple in the fall…Buy extra fruit when it’s beautiful and cheap; freeze enough for a couple of  pies you’ll enjoy at the holidays or mid-winter.  Picture a February evening and a hot blueberry pie cooling on the counter.

Take dough out of bowl, divide in half.  Put half in frig and press other half between 2 sheets of waxed paper.  Some people use plastic wrap.  You can also chill it all for an hour (or up to two days) and pull it out later.  Many people like chilled dough.  Freezing is another option.  (See below for rolling dough using flour on the board/counter.)

 

Roll out from center, going around the dough like the hands on a clock, lifting dough and paper occasionally, until more than big enough for pie plate. Put plate upside down on crust to measure.  Extra pie dough is no problem; make pie dough cookies or a baby pie.

 

Flip dough over and roll quickly-once!-with rolling pin to release dough from waxed paper.

 

Gently peel that side’s paper off.

 

Turn dough over onto pie plate and carefully pull the other sheet of paper off.

 

Gently press dough down into pie plate as evenly as possible so no air pockets exis  Edges should hang over.

 

Alternate method:  Dust counter, dough and pin well with flour and roll your dough out from the center.  Lift and move the circle of dough up from the floured board several times while rolling in order to prevent the dough sticking to the board.  You may have to sprinkle a bit more flour on the board, dough or pin each time you move the dough.

 

Into the pan, trim with a small sharp knife or kitchen scissors so that you have 1″ of dough beyond the edge of the pie plate.   Crimp (pinch) edges quickly; you don’t want to heat the dough with your fingers any more than you must.

 

Fill with rhubarb mixture and dot with butter.  The butter and the flour in the rhubarb will create the thickener.  Now for the top crust…

Hint #3:  Don’t skimp on the amount of fruit or filling for your pie.   Fruit particularly will cook down and, once baked/cooled, the finished pie won’t be nearly as tall as when you first put it together.  If you’re going to go to all the trouble of baking pie, fill that baby up.  (Custard pies will rise  while baking and then settle back down a bit when cooled. For custard pies only: place your unfilled pie crust in the pie plate on a baking sheet that is already in the oven with the oven rack just barely pulled out; fill it there to avoid spilling and then gently push the rack into the oven and close the oven door.)

Take that top or second piece of rolled-out dough and loosely roll it around your rolling pin.   
Alternate method:
Fold dough carefully and gently first in half and then into quarters.

 

Lift it on to  the pie, being careful of placement so you don’t have to do it twice. If you’ve folded the crust, place it on the lower left quarter of the pie with the corner right at the center of the filling so that you can gently unfold it to cover all of the filling.  It needn’t be perfectly round!

 

There, it’s on and covered and just needs trimming.

 

Trim evenly with sharp knife or scissors. (I like to make pie crust cookies out of extra dough.)

 

Seal or crimp edges quickly; don’t over work dough.
You can use your index finger or thumb to press down into the edge every 1/3″ or so or use the tines of a fork pressed down all around the edge of the crust.  If you don’t seal the pie, filling may run out toward the end of baking.
Below:  Don’t forget to make slits in the top of the pie so the heat can escape.  I’m a bit artistic-ha!- and put quite a few.

 

Place on a rimmed baking sheet (not your favorite cookie sheet) in case of boil overs.

 

It’s done when it’s browned and bubbling through slits. Glass pie plates help you see if it’s done.

 

So close and yet so far away.  This must cool nearly completely or you’ll cut it and have a sea of filling all over.

 

I love pie.  A little ice cream wouldn’t hurt.  See how the filling stays put in the pie because it cooled completely before I cut it?

Hint #4  The amount of sugar you need for your pie is not static.*  If your fruit is very ripe and sweet, you’ll need less.  I like a sweet-tart rhubarb pie; some recipes call for 2 cups of sugar.  Mine has 3/4 cup and even less if you choose a sweetened pie dough like Dorie Greenspan’s “Good for Anything” dough.


Here’s the rhubarb at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.  Trim and dispose of leaves carefully; they’re full of oxalic acid and are poisonous.

rhubarb pie

Coming home in my basket

alyce’s recipe

  • 2- 9″ pie crusts, purchased or homemade *
  • 5 cups rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1/2″ pieces (leaves are toxic)
  • 3/4 c white sugar  If you sweeten your crust, use 1/2 cup sugar.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small dice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together rhubarb, sugar, flour, and salt.
  3. Place one pie crust in a 9″ pie pan (preferably glass).
  4. Gently spoon rhubarb mixture into crust.
  5. Dot rhubarb with butter evenly.
  6. Place second crust on top.  Trim edges evenly around the pie pan. Crimp, pinch, or press down with fork tines the edges of the crust to seal the pie.  (If you have a lot of leftover crust, twist each small piece, fry it up in hot canola oil and roll in cinnamon sugar.  Eat pie crust cookies while warm.)
  7. With a sharp, thin knife, cut vents into the top crust to allow steam to escape from filling.  You can make a favorite design (smiley face, your daughter’s first initial, etc.) or just make 4-6 arrows or wide “v”s spaced evenly.  If you’d like, you can gild the lily by sprinkling the top crust with a dusting of white sugar or by brushing on a whisked together mixture of an egg yolk and a tablespoon of heavy cream or milk.
  8. Bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet  at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and cook another 45 minutes or so until crust is golden and rhubarb is bubbling through the slits.  If crust is browning too quickly, cover lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil or cut 4″ wide pieces of foil and wrap them around the edges of the pie.  You’ll need 2-3 pieces.
  9. Cool completely on rack before cutting.  (or the filling will run all over)
  10. A fruit pie can remain stored and covered well at room temperature for a day or two.  If not using within two days, refrigerate.  If you must freeze, I recommend freezing your rhubarb, not the pie.  See below.  (In a hot, humid climate? Cool completely, wrap, and refrigerate from the get-go.)

{printable recipe for rhubarb pie}

Pie Dough…about it:

Pie Dough Recipes:

I often use an old recipe (below) from the small manual that came with my first Cuisinart in the early ’80s maybe.  It’s a pâte brisée (paht bree-say) dough, which is typically for a French tart (add a little sugar) or quiche.  I particularly like it for custard pies (including pumpkin pie), pies made with a blind crust (i.e. a cream pie that’s filled after the crust is baked), or quiches.  This is a “short” crust (more crumbly than flaky–as in “shortbread”) and quite dense, which helps to keep the crust crisp versus soggy within a day or so.  It is also an all-butter crust in a baking age where vegetable shortening is sometimes frowned upon as a processed and somewhat unhealthy ingredient.  

Shortening?  Lard??  How about no crust at all?

I will say this about shortening:  I do not  pretend to know the ins and outs of the health side of shortening (my can now says “no trans fats”), though it has come to replace lard in baking for many people. (Though not all.)  I do know two things about shortening:  it makes a flaky crust and it makes a crust that holds up well to a fruit pie.  We also do not eat many pies.  It’s not as if you’ll consume shortening, or even lard, daily.    You can make all shortening (Crisco, for example) crust or you can make a part butter, part shortening crust as does Dorie Greenspan (“Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough”), who has written several baking books, as well as a first class blog.  If you do use shortening (it’s cheaper and some people really like it better or simply must avoid dairy), make sure you chill it thoroughly or even stick it in the freezer for a while. Cold fat is the key, though baking pies in the middle of life (nursing babies, re-writing a proposal, doing the wash) can leave you baking a pie with room-temperature dough. (It bakes.  It eats. And there’s usually not time enough to begin again.  Just go on.)

I have never baked a pie with lard (rendered pork fat), so I don’t have much to say about it.  I can say that there are amongst us veteran pie-bakers (one of my dearest friends) who would  not use anything else for their flaky crust. In the course of cooking history, I just guess bakers have used fats from many sources–usually the most easily (closest and/or cheapest source) available.  Witness my mom who kept bacon grease in a tightly closed tin and used it to cook all kinds of things, particularly eggs.  (Never for pie that I remember–though it might not be bad in a pot pie.)  Oddly enough, I remember that tin sitting on the counter and not in the refrigerator.  Butter has always been a choice and expensive ingredient, especially when you had to milk the cow, allow the cream to separate, and make the butter yourself.  Pies use a lot of fat, which adds considerably to the cost of the finished product.  Hence a history of using less-expensive fat.

If you cannot eat all the fat involved in a pie crust, many pies can be made with just one crust, which will also cut a lot of calories,  or no crust at all.  Quiche, too, can often be made with no crust.  Grease pans well for crustless pies. 

Here’s a little pie (pumpkin) I bake in individual ramekins with no crust at all.  It can be made in the oven or microwave (1 minute)  It’s actually just custard, right?  You can really do a whole pumpkin pie in a 9″ pie pan without crust.  This one has a dollop of creme fraiche on top, as well as an extra sprinkle of Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon.

Pie storage:  Invite friends and eat it up! Pie is best the day it’s made. 

Any pie made with a filling including eggs and  milk must be stored in the refrigerator if not consumed on the day it’s eaten.  Do not pay attention to pumpkin pies that sit for a week on the shelf at Sam’s.  If your pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving is made on Wednesday night, store it in the garage where it’s cold-if you live “up north”  or refrigerate it. Take it out a couple of hours before to dinner so that you eat it at room temperature, which is how you want to consume custard pies.   If you make it early Thanksgiving morning (as do I–custard pies are best the day they’re made), it’s fine on the table until Thursday night.  When you eat it for breakfast Friday morning, it had better be cold.

A fruit pie (made with a butter or a shortening crust) can sit out covered on the counter for a day or two with no harm and is, in fact, tastier than if you chill it.  It’s not something you want to refrigerate; think of refrigerated bread.   However,  use your own good sense…if it’s in the nineties and you want to keep that fruit pie three or four days, refrigerate it, too, or you’ll have moldy pie. 

About sizes of pies and pie plates:

Just about any pie can be made in any size pie plate or pie pan, as some bakers say.  Typically pies are 8″, 9″, or 10″ in diameter; tarts are about 9″.  There are are also 4″ individual pies and 3″ -or smaller- – individual tart pans.   But the standard size these days is 9″.  In fact, it’s hard to find recipes that detail pie recipes for different size pies, but that information is still available in old cookbooks and might be out there on the net.  It’s just as difficult to find something like an 8″ pie plate, but you can still find them in pie shops, antique shops, and places like Goodwill or the Arc.  It’s well worth the time to hunt out several sizes of pie plates because you might not always have enough ingredients for two 10″ pies, for example, but you might have enough for one 10″ and one 8″ or one baby pie. You can also pull out a ramekin or an oven-safe small bowl (or other oven-safe container) and make your pie.

Pâte Brisée— Made in a Cuisinart — This is the dough I use most often.
                                                        for each 10″ pie shell 

1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1/4#  unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 8 pieces (1 stick) 
1/4 cup ice water (measure 1/4 cup water into a 1 cup measuring cup half full of ice)

Place flour and salt in the work bowl of the food processor fitted with steel blade.  Pulse a couple of times to distribute salt.  Add cold butter and pulse briefly several times until butter is worked into flour in several different sizes (1/4″ – 1/2″).  With machine running, slowly pour water through feed tube until dough begins to come together.  Stop machine and carefully remove dough from work bowl.  Working quickly to avoid melting the butter within the dough, form into a ball and then flatten into a disc.  Roll out and fill immediately (see above) or chill, well-wrapped,  1 hour or up to two days ahead.

You can also make this dough up to two months ahead and store it in the freezer.  If you store it rolled out in the pie plate (Pyrex or metal pans are freezer safe.), you can just make your pie and bake it with a frozen crust. 

If you do not have a Cuisinart, make this pie with a pastry cutter (here’s another video) or two knives.   Recipe courtesy CUISINART.

Several other pie dough recipes can be found here.

Smitten Kitchen’s take on Cook’s Illustrated fool-proof crust with vodka here. 

Baking Books for Pie:

I  typically recommend general baking books for pie like out-of-print (but still available) The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham or Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan,  though there are certainly entire tomes donated to pies and pastries.  Unless you’ve mastered basic techniques and are ready to move on, these books should provide plenty of recipes.   I, for years, made pie from my Betty Crocker Cookbook  (early ’70s) and found it really useful, particularly when I wanted to bake pies of different sizes.

If you’d like a book devoted to pies and tarts, try The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum , Pie and Tart from Williams-Sonoma, or Martha Stewart’s  Pies and Tarts, the 2011 version.  An oldie, but goodie, is Bernard Clayton, Jr.’s The Complete Book of Pastry Sweet and Savory, which is out of print, but still available.  My copy, purchased in l985, has this inscription:

l985! Bought myself!  Mostly to learn Danish technique.

This book contains everything from pie to quiche/tarts to puff pastry to pizza to Danish.

One specialized book I’m quite fond of is Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan.  There are super desserts from Parisian patisseries and the Whole Lemon Tart is tops and fairly simple.  It’s also a, “Paris, Take Me Away” book if you’re unable to make the trip and taste the pastries yourself.  Ah, Paris!   (Sigh.)  New in the lineup for pie books is Pie it Forward by Gesine Bullock-Prado (just published in April of 2012), and while I haven’t read it, it looks like a book that includes lots of excellent pie information – including a recipe for pizza pie.

Pie Blogs

There are a lot of baking blogs, but I haven’t seen one that’s just about making pies until now.  Try Rachel Rappaport’s Pie Fair Lady; she features pie from all kinds of people…including me!   When I first wrote this post, there weren’t any blogs devoted solely to pie-baking. There were blogs ABOUT PIE–as in finding it, buying it, where are you getting any…..:  The baking blogs at the top of the heap of flour can be found here. 

I also like Rose Levy Beranbaum’s blog, though it deals with lots of baking info, not just pie; read it here.

*My Nastiest True Pie Story
 
My much-loved father-in-law loves lemon pie (especially lemon meringue) and my much-loved mother-in-law always tried to make it for him–just like his mother did.  She’d try and try and it’d never come out.  You know this kind of story, right?  One time, she asked Grandma Morgan, “What’s your lemon filling recipe?”  The answer was lemon pudding mix.  Ok, so that’d bake; that was fine.  She did that.  All’s well, huh?  But, no; it wasn’t.  The pie was always too sweet, as was any lemon meringue pie my my mother-in-law came up against. “Too sweet.”  “Too sweet.”  “Too sweet.”  And so on.  For years and years.  Ye gods and little fishes.

One year, I think it was 1999, I just heard enough of “Too sweet.”  My in-laws came to visit and I baked the most beautiful lemon meringue pie that ever was baked.  I’m not kidding; it was stunning.  It could have won awards.  (I’m not a contest person, though–too much fear of failure, I think!)  But there was one thing about this pie:  there was barely any sugar at all in it.  I mean, like almost none.  This is something you maybe could get away with if you had terribly sweet fruit or something, but not with LEMON.  My sweet sister-in-law took the first great big bite and froze with it in her mouth.  Her eyes came up to mine and I put my finger in front of my mouth, “Shh.”  She ate no more.  But my mother-in-law started in on hers and ate it all without a word.  Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I said, “How was that pie?  Not too sweet?”  The answer was (and I’m honest here), “No, it was great!”  Needless to say, no one but her ate that pie.  She had it all to herself.

I can’t believe I did that, but I did.  You can ask Dave.

So tell me your pie stories?


Sing a new song as you bake with a-band-on,
Alyce

All photographs copyright Alyce Morgan.  Please ask for permission before using.

Parts of this post were originally posted on my blog Dinner Place (Cooking for One) 6-2-11.
This post last updated 11-6-12.