Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Pie

Remember that pumpkin pie I made back in October, the one whose crust peeled away from the filling and fell down? I swore I would make another, better pie, and get the crust right. And really, I love pies, but can't really call myself a good pie baker. But I would love to be a good pie baker, and so I have been on the lookout for good pie crust recipes, and a good, all-purpose pie cookbook.

In the library, I came across a Joy of Cooking publication, All About Pies and Tarts. It has recipes from Joy of Cooking, but it also has photographs of the crust-making process. My friend, Anne, and I had a pie-baking party on February 1st, and we tried an apple pie recipe from that book. We used the flaky pastry dough recipe (which uses a combination of butter and shortening), and chose the apple pie recipe that involved pre-cooking the apples.
The pie turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself! Although I've been avoiding shortening (because of all the hydrogenated fats), it really does make the crust a lot flakier. Cooking the apple filling first meant that we didn't have to add any thickener (e.g. corn starch), so the flavour of the apples really shone through. We were able to drain away excess liquid coming out of the apples, so the filling wasn't too runny and the crust didn't become soggy, and the apples didn't shrink down anymore after baking, so we didn't have a gap between the top crust and the filling. I think I like cooking the filling first!
And, as I promised myself I would, I made another pumpkin pie. I used the Joy of Cooking pie crust recipe (as you can see, there wasn't quite enough to fit the deep dish pie plate). Following Moocow's recommendations, I blind baked it first, weighing the crust down with beans. I used the filling recipe I used last time, from The Essential Baker. After the adding filling, I baked the pie at 400 F (not as high as was called for in The Essential Baker, which had stated 425 F) for 10 minutes, and then reduced the oven temperature even more than in the recipe (which was for 350 F) to bake at 325 F for about 50 minutes.
Anne, who says that she is not much of a pie baker, either, gifted me with her pie shield, so my crust didn't burn this time.
And, look! The filling adheres to the crust perfectly. The pie also passed all taste tests, and the crust was nice and flaky, even at the bottom. I just wish I had time for more pie adventures!

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