Tag Archives: Christopher Kimball

Stations of the Crust

A walk through the making of a pie.

Pastry Station

The beginning  and the end of pie…the crust, the dough, the very pie-ness of pie. Contrary to all sorts of nonsense, pie dough is easy. Easy as Pie.

Three ingredients – flour, fat, liquid. Infinite variations.Change the flour, change the liquid, change the fat…The basic of basic: a 3:2:1: ration of  flour:butter :water. In Ratio (Michael Ruhlman precise by weight measurements; or in more eyeballing, not quite so scientific throw together school (mine) :  2  1/2 cups flour, 2 sticks butter, 1/4-1/2 cups water. You might also want a teaspoon of salt (not quite so necessary if you’re using salted butter) and perhaps a spoonful of sugar, but if  you don’t know if you need sugar, DON’T PANIC, don’t fret – leave it out and after you eat this pie, know more, know better for the next pie.

Add the butter to the flour, rubbing it in, letting some of the pieces remain the size of pease.Sprinkle the 1/4  water on top, stir it together until it comes together in a ball. Add a little more water if it’s still too crumbly. Don’t over-mix – you don’t want to wake up and excite the gluten. When it holds together, divide in half and make into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour, or even a full day. This waiting time lets the water molecules mix with the flour molecule and all be evenly hydrated. These 2 disks are enough for a top and bottom crust.

This is the outer gold of the pie.

pie_crust

Apple Station

5-10 apples, depending on their size, how high a pie you want to make and how patient you are with peeling and coring and slicing.If you don’t like slices,you can chop the apples….but in the end you want them to fit on a fork with some crust and then fit into your mouth. Or roses….you can make roses from apples instead of slices or chunks….

MA101146_WHOLETART01

Martha Stewart Living Feb 2005 – there are YouTube videos galore about this, too.

Any apple can make an apple pie – what are you looking for in a pie? Old Farmer’s Almanac has an Apple GuideApple Guide if you don’t want to trust your own taste.You can also mix apples…really, it’s your pie.You can mix otehr fruit in, too, but then it isn’t an apple pie, it’s and apple and____pie. Apple make good company. Cranberries. Squash slices. Pears. Onions (caramelize them first). Sweet Potatoes. Regular Potatoes. Bacon. Cheddar Cheese. Etc.

Spice Station

Sugar and spice  and everything nice…

Sugar – white or brown? A little to enhance the other flavors or is it a flavor in an of itself? Maple sugar? Maple syrup will make it drippy….

Cinnamon – a little or a lot? Ginger? Nutmeg? Let your nose lead you…

Lemon juice is often added to keep the slices from browning – News alert : Cooking the apple is ALSO going to brown them, so add the sugar, add the spice and add the lemon juice if you like the taste.Or add a little of another juice. Apple juice/cider is good. Lemon juice is  very 20th century flavor in apple pie; a spoonful of lemon liquor would work, too. Grated orange peel is another option.  Caraway, dill seed or fennel seed add nice flavor. A spoonful of rosewater or orange flower water. Cinnamon and rum…lead with your nose!

barbieri_paolo_antonio_-_the_spice_shop_-_1637

Paolo Antonio Barbieri. The Spice Shop – 1637

Rolling Station

Now the component pieces start to come together as a whole. Before you gather together the pie pan, the rolling pin, the dough and the filling, there’s another decision – Is this pie to be bakes now, or is it to be assembled and frozen to be baked later? If you want to bake the pie now – turn on the oven to 425°F. If later – get rolling!

Sprinkle a little flour on a clean flat surface. Unwrap one disk of dough. With a rolling pin

rollingpin_japanese

One kind of rolling pin

 

roll one disk into a circle about 2 inches wider around then your pie pan. There are lots of rolling out videos and magazine hints. In the last few months both Christopher Kimball in his new magazine Milk Street has a new no-shrink dough

and – just about everyone else has a pie rolling video out. Apple Pie alone could entertain you on the internet for weeks on end…..

Roll out one disk, put it on the pie plate.

Roll out the other disk.

Put the Apple in the bottom crust. Dot with butter. Maybe sprinkle with sugar.

Put the top crust on.

Almost pie.

julia6

The other kind of rolling pin

Crimping Station

In pie, crimping is good. It holds everything together.It can be pretty, too. Remember that that oven is heating up, and the longer the filling sits in unbaked crust, the soggier your bottom will be. And a little venting in the top. Even a pie has to let off some steam.

 

Baking Station

Now is the time to pass this pan, with apples and butter and flour  through heat, where it will be transformed. It’s not really pie until it comes out of the hot oven.

Start at 425°. After 10 or 15 minutes take a peak – is it browning up? Is it smelling good. A good pie crust is golden brown, not pasty palely white. Let it cook! Turn it down to 375° when you see color on the pastry, and let it continue baking until juices are bubbling.Let the fruit cook, too. 30-45 minutes – don’t rush it.

Cooling Station

If you REALLY want to eat pie hot – even though pie is not at all it’s best then – use spoons and dish it up like like a baked pudding. Forget all pretense of slices.

As it cools, contemplate – whipped cream, ice cream, cheddar cheese?

pie-science2

 

Henry Ward Beecher on Apple Pie

[B]lessed be the unknown person who invented the apple-pie! Did I know where the grave of that person was, methinks I would make a devout pilgrimage thither, and rear a monument over it that should mark the spot to the latest generations. Of all pies, of every name, the apple-pie is easily the first and chief.

Apple-Pie should be eaten while it is yet florescent, white or creamy yellow, with the merest drip of candied juice along the edges (as if the flavor were so good to itself that its own lips watered!), of a mild and modest warmth; the sugar suggesting jelly, yet not jellied; the morsels of apple neither dissolved, nor yet in original substance, but hanging, as it were, in a trance between the spirit and the flesh of applehood.

Not that apple is no longer apple! It, too, is transformed; and the final pie, though born of apple, sugar, butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon, is unlike none of these, but the ideal of them all, refined, purified, and by fire fixed in blissful perfection.

Enjoy!

 

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Homemade Ricotta

This is seriously easy and exceptionally good.

For REAL, authentic in every detail ricotta, first you milk your cow…..

Woman milking a cow - Karel Dujardin - 1650 Dutch

Woman milking a cow – Karel Dujardin – 1650 Dutch

or your sheep or water buffalo OR you could got to your favorite market and pick up a gallon – whole milk, please, regardless of beast of origin.

Modern Day Milk Jug

Modern Day Milk Jug

What I’m going to suggest isn’t EXACTLY ricotta, but 1,000 times better then anything in a plastic carton

The particular brand is not important - if you ave a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then there. Otherwise, keep reading.

The particular brand is not important – if you have a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then go there. Otherwise, keep reading.

I’ve been working a lot with curds and whey lately, partly as part of my job and partly because it’s the fresh dairy time of year.

A small time out before I go any further.

RICOTTA MEANS ‘RE-COOKED’

IT IS A CHEESE MADE FROM WHEY LEFT OVER FROM CHEESE-MAKING.

First you have milk, then you add rennet,then you have curds and whey, then you take the whey and with THAT you make ricotta (at last!)

Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the keratin proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin. Thus, ricotta can be eaten by persons with casein intolerance.

Thus speaketh Wikipedia, the most complete and least technical explanation I could find. In English. True ricotta is more complicated and involved than what I’m about to suggest.

Two simple truths:

  1. It is easy to curdle milk.
  2. Fresh is better then packaged, especially for dairy products.

Cook’s Illustrated to the rescue.

Because I keep back issues, and because I’ve been reviewing them, I rediscovered  simple, easy homemade ricotta.

Cook's Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

Cook’s Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

The reason I LOVE Cook’s Illustrated  and consider them an Influencer?

Things like this:

This technique will yield 3 1/2 cups of a superior-tasting ricotta facsimile (true ricotta is made from whey created as a by product  of cheese-making) that can be used in recipes from lasagna to manicotti to cheesecake and ricotta pie.

And if this isn’t a lasagna/manicotti/ricotta pie time of year, when is?

Homemade Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk

1 tsp salt

2 lemons, juiced,  for 1/3 cup lemon juice plus another tablespoon (1/3 c lemon juice = 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon. 2 lemons = approximately  6 T)  OR 1/3 cup white vinegar

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta - wash them first so you can use the zest after. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you'll get more juice out.

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta – wash them first so you can use the zest after for something else. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you’ll get more juice out.

thermometer (or trust your impeccably clean fingers )

cheesecloth (flour sack towels work even better, cost less and wash up more easily, if you’ve got them. If you’re going to be making cheeses at home, you’ll want some of these. K-Mart, Vermont Country Store – they’re everywhere)

Flour-sack towels - evidently they're quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd...You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two.....or dry a dish.

Flour-sack towels – evidently they’re quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd…You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two…..or dry a dish.

 

  1. Juice the lemons and put the juice aside.
  2. Heat the milk and salt to 185° over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pan. If you’re doing this  Old-School and not using a thermometer, the milk should be at a simmer, not a boil and not still still. Use your impeccably clean finger, dip it in and the milk should be hot  – not warm, hot, but not boiling. Heating helps, boiling hinders.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the lemon juice, stir it in.
  5. Allow it to stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Solid white curds should now be visible above  liquid translucent whey.
    Curds and whey - where's Miss Muffet?

    Curds and whey – where’s Miss Muffet?

     

  7.  IF it is not setting up, add another tablespoon of lemon juice, stirring gently and let stand for another 5 minutes.
  8. Once there are curds,gently scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a cheesecloth lined colander (over a pot or a bowl or in the sink; there will be more whey dripping).

    If it's very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows...but get it into the fridge before to very long long. This is food prep, not science experiment.

    If it’s very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows…but get it into the fridge before to very long . This is food prep, not science experiment.

  9. DO NOT try to speed things up by dumping the whole pot of curds into the colander – the weight of the whey will destroy the beautiful, delicate curds, you’ll have a mess and be stuck with buying packaged ricotta.
  10. Drain without pressing (which will essentially give you paneer, a soft cheese that can be sliced) or squeezing. Let drain overnight in the fridge over a bowl (do I really have to say that out loud? Since I’m the one not always good with The Obvious….at least for one)

    Ricotta draining baskets - you could invest or you could improvise....

    Ricotta draining baskets – you could invest or you could improvise….

  11.  Keep refrigerated and use within five days.
  12. Makes about 3 1/2 cups of ricotta.

 adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September/October  2009, p. 31.

 

Go to University of Cincinnati Clermont College ricotta making site for Real Ricotta .

 

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