Pie-fest 2011: Part 1

For most people, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. For me, it’s the PIE. Since I can remember, I’ve been helping make our pies every year, from mixing the filling to pinching the fluted edges. In recent years, my sister Christine and I have been charged with full pie-duties. That includes everything from making the pie dough to removing the finished product from the oven. And this year, with my new fangled camera, we were a bit giddy in documenting as Christine calls it, the ‘journey of each pie.’

I’ll start the first part of this journey with pecan pie, which I see as the epitome of Thanksgiving. The thing is… I hate pecans. For me, they provide mere decoration on an otherwise delicious pie. And yet I take my pecan pie decorating very seriously. Over the years, Christine and I have developed two very distinct methods:

method #1: the Abstract (for the free-spirited Christines of the world)…

action shot!

and method #2: the Concentric (for the meticulous-minded Margarets).

sorted pecan halves

Either way you do decorate it though, your pecan pie will taste great and look beautiful 🙂

Pecan Pie

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pecan halves, chopped if desired
  • ½ recipe of Pie Dough, recipe follows

(1) Preheat oven to 350° F.
(2) Take the pie dough and roll out on a lightly floured work surface into a 12 inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pie plate by rolling dough around a rolling pin and unrolling over a 9-inch pie plate or by folding the dough in quarters, then unfolding onto the pie plate.
(3) Ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the dough edges with one hand while pressing around the pan bottom with the other hand. Trim the excess dough by leaving a ½-inch edge overhanging the lip of the pie plate. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edge or press with fork tines to seal. Set the pie shell aside.
(4) In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients.
(5) Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Arrange/sprinkle the pecans on top of the filling.
(6) Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 8-10 servings

Homemade pie dough intimidates people… myself included. For many years, I just used pre-rolled pie dough. But let me tell you, making it yourself really makes all the difference. The key is to keep the butter cold, not adding too much water to the dough, and making sure to keep your surface well floured when rolling out the dough. Prayer helps too.

Smitten kitchen has a great pie dough tutorial, which I would highly suggest reading before starting. Soon you’ll be a smug pie pro in no time!

Pie Dough

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

(1)  Fill a 1 cup liquid measuring cup with water and drop in a few ice cubes, set aside.
(2)  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
(3)  Dice the 2 sticks of butter into ½-inch pieces. Sprinkle over the flour mixture.
(4)  Use a pastry blender and begin cutting the butter into the flour, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas—stop! You want to still have visible chunks of butter left.
(5)  Drizzle ½ cup of the ice-cold water over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gather the dough together. You may need an additional ¼ cup of cold water to bring it together but add it a tablespoon at a time (I used about a total of 6-8 tablespoons).
(6) Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there. Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
(7)  Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disk.
(8)  Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour before rolling it out.
Note: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week and in the freezer longer. If not using that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells.

Makes enough dough for one double-, or two single-crust pies

Think you’ve had enough pie?? Ohh think again! If the title of this blog post didn’t make it obvious, this pie journey has only begun. Pie-fest 2011: Part 2 to come soon…

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