mmm, pie

For unknown reasons, I made a sudden decision last week that I should know how to bake. Maybe it's a nesting thing? Some unconscious desire to be June Cleaver? Because I need to gain even more weight? Or maybe it's just because I like desserts. B, in typical health-nut fashion, was less than thrilled. Anyway, I decided that I would start going through my mom's Baking with Julia book, which claims to be "a full course in the art of baking," and trying to master the recipes one at a time.

The book starts with what it calls the 10 basic recipes. I assume this means the 10 basic French baking recipes, because they include things like choux paste and genoise, which don't seem all that basic to me. Anyway, the very first recipe is for pie crust. The great thing about the '10 basic recipes' is that they each have a few large pages devoted to explaining every last detail and giving helpful hints. I assembled my ingredients with care - even going so far as to use Julia's recommended brand of flour for it's higher protein/gluten content.

I followed the recipe exactly. The butter and shortening were chilled in the freezer and the water was icy. The book had an entire paragraph about how to mix the dough in a mixer instead of by hand. I figured that was safer and easier, so that's what I did.

When the dough was made, it seemed suspiciously fluffy, but I scraped it out of the bowl, wrapped it in plastic, and put it in the fridge to chill for a day or two. Yesterday after work, I took half of the dough out to make two crusts. I 'generously floured my work surface' and even remembered to dust flour on the rolling pin. But something went wrong. The dough looked right, but every time I tried to move it, it just fell apart. I finally splashed a little bit of water on it and it stuck a little better, but there was no way to make a pretty pie crust out of something so delicate.

While I was doing that, B was peeling and slicing apples for me, even though he would have rather been doing almost anything else in the world. We piled the sliced apples in the bottom pie crust, and then managed to get the second barely-together crust over the top and cut some slits in it. Then we cooked a mixture of butter, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, and a little bit of water until it was nice and syrupy. This we poured over the top crust so that it soaked through the crust and coated the apples.

It is a very ugly pie. There is no French elegance here.

But the parts of the crust that were covered in the syrup caramelized into a sweet, crunchy goodness. The parts that were not covered in syrup came out flaky and buttery and tender. The Granny Smith apples were just tart enough to hold their own in the syrup. I eschewed all modesty and exclaimed more than once to B and our friends who were over for dinner that "wow, I make some damn good pie." No one disagreed and our friend Tsvi proclaimed it the second best apple pie he had ever tasted.

Tonight, I will find out whether that was beginner's luck. I will use the remaining dough to make a peach-raspberry pie. If it works out, I will consider that a pass and will go on to the next recipe - choux paste. Anyone up for cream-puffs next week?


crystal said...

I made cream puffs from scratch last weekend! I followed a receipe from a "Better Cooking" book I got awhile back.

We filled them with instant pudding. The pudding was good, the cream puffs were eh-ok. I guess they just weren't sweet or whatever... and they defalated.

I was going to blog about it, but I forgot to take pictures. And blogs without pictures are boring, I'm realizing.

I have to start taking lots of pictures to keep up with you and J.

Annie in Austin said...

Peach raspberry sounds wonderful, Steph!

My own newlywed piecrusts were made with a recipe from the old Fanny Farmer Cookbook - easy and no-fail. I still like the recipe, but now use Canola oil and skim milk when I make it.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

J said...

I hope you keep blogging about each recipe. I want to know how it goes.