Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ethel Makes Caramels

This is not a pie. But it is yummy.

I used the recipe from The Kitchn. However I have never seen ginger extract so I infused some ginger pieces in the cream and used some dried ginger with the cinnamon. I also made a batch with just vanilla. I couldn’t taste any ginger in that batch so I am still looking for extract or something equally brilliant to come my way. As long as you watch your color and temperature, I think these are going to be a go to candy for me.

My sister’s husband had to hide them so I think others acknowledged the win.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mavis Makes A Chicken Pot Pie

From Mavis Makes A Chicken Pot Pie

Stop what you're doing right now, write down the ingredients for this recipe, and go home and make yourself a pot pie. You will not regret it, unless you're the type to regret eating two helpings of chicken smothered in cream sauce and baked under a layer of delicious, buttery pie dough, in which case, I do not believe you are my demographic.

This recipe is from Cover and Bake, one of my two favorite cookbooks, and this one is edited by Cook's Illustrated. Not one recipe from this cookbook has disappointed me, even when I have failed to fully read the directions. It also contains the Test Kitchen's famous take on green bean casserole, which is good enough to make me want to fry my own onion rings. I don't really have a point now, just, I guess, you should own this cookbook, and die a happy, artery-clogged girl.

The Dough:
From Mavis Makes A Chicken Pot Pie

I truly failed in taking pictures for this dough making endeavor, I should have created some sort of make shift camera tripod and set the timer, because my technique was ineffectual, but kind of hilarious. I used the savory pie dough recipe in the book, but failed to use a food processor as is recommended. The cookbook did offer an alternative of freezing the butter and using a cheese grater. I did not discover the issue with this hint until I had started to prepare the dough. First of all, the hint only mentions the butter, not the shortening, so I'm not sure what the intention is there. I attempted to freeze the shortening, but did not allot enough time for it to get hard, so I just used a pastry blender. Second, I must be grater impaired, because I always have a quite substantial nub of whatever I'm grating left to protect my fingers from injuries. So I had to cut up quite a bit of the butter anyway. Third, the hint doesn't really say what should be done after grating the butter. In the end, I used my hands to incorporate the butter and water. This worked out quite well, but only because I only needed about half of the dough, so my mishaps in rolling out the dough were more than covered by the massive amounts of extra dough.

The Filling:
From Mavis Makes A Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe allowed me the opportunity to both poach chicken breasts and shred the meat for the first time. Poaching raw chicken in broth looks kind of gross (see delightful pictures of the pink and yellow color combination, followed by pasty white chicken floating amidst little globules of fat) but produces flavorful results. It also makes your home smell fantastic and unbelievably comforting. The very traditional vegetable choices, and thick sauce made with broth, flour, and milk are just fantastic. Despite all of the steps in this recipe, and my missteps with the dough, we had the whole recipe in the oven in under one and a half hours, with better time management, this just may be a near staple in our home. We chose to cook half of the filling in an 8 by 8 inch pan and save the other half for later. You can also bake individual pot pies in oven proof bowls.
From Mavis Makes A Chicken Pot Pie

The Final Verdict:
From Mavis Makes A Chicken Pot Pie

I am in love with cooking again, in no small part to recipes like this. I find Cook's Illustrated often makes me feel like I'm stretching a bit, and trying something new, but inevitably, their attention to detail helps me through. The final meal was unbelievable, the thyme and wine lent a very subtle sweetness and depth of flavor to the final product. The pie dough, despite my troubles, did not disappoint, it was flaky and tender, and seemed to melt in my mouth. My husband's verdict: "a big chicken and veggie blanket in your stomach" which does not sound complimentary, but I think he is trying to say that this is the ultimate comfort food.

Savory Pie Dough Topping (from Cover and Bake)
makes enough for 1 Pot-Pie Recipe
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
4 T. vegetable shortening (chilled)
8 T. unsalted butter (chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes)
3-5 T. ice water

Process the flour and salt in a food processor fit with the steel blade until combined. Add shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture; process until the mixture is pale yellow and the resembles coarse crumbs, transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle 3 T. water over mixture, fold with a rubber spatula to mix, press down with spatula until dough sticks together. Press the dough into a rectangle and chill for 30 minutes. When the filling is ready, roll dough on a floured surface into a 15 by 11 inch rectangle 1/8 inch thick. Place dough over filling and trim, you can either fold the edges down into the casserole dish, or fold back onto itself and crimp into a pie crust edge.

Chicken Pot Pie (from Cover and Bake)
Serves 6-8
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick
2 small celery ribs, cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick
4 T. unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 t. dried thyme
3 t. dry sherry (we used white wine)
1 cup frozen green peas
3 T. minced fresh parsley

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer chicken and broth over medium heat in a covered dutch oven until chicken is just done, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a large bowl and reserve the broth. Increase the heat to medium high heat, and heat oil in the dutch oven. Add the onion, carrots, and celery; saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shred the chicken into bite sized pieces. Transfer the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the chicken. Melt the butter over medium heat in the same dutch oven; add the flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in the reserved chicken broth, milk, any accumulated chicken juices, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the sauce fully thickens, about 1 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and stir in the sherry. Pour the sauce over the chicken mixture, stir in parsley and peas. Pour mixture into a 9 by 13 inch pan, top with pie-dough, and bake until topping is golden and filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Mavis Makes An Apple Tart

So, um, I'm embarrassingly bad at actually posting to this blog. I made this tart in *cough* October *cough* and I'm just now writing about it today, which is also the reason for me posting twice in one day. But be gentle with me, I had my first blog related injury with this tart, I managed to drop the tart ring on my wrist directly after removing it from the oven (sadly, the pictures of said injury did not turn out.)

I picked this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, which is such a lovely site, because it includes such specific notes about her experiences with the recipes. The best thing about this tart is how easy it is, and really, the elegance of its appearance. It was great fun to make. However, if asked about the result, I would say it's good. Not great, not something I would crave, but solidly good. So let's break out this tart.

The Dough
From Mavis Makes An Apple Tart

Part of the reason I wanted to do a blog on pie is to master pastry dough, so I am determined to try many different recipes and techniques until I am satisfied that I have a dough I can reliably make every time with consistent results. I am also unreasonably annoyed at the prevalence of the use of the food processor for every pie dough recipe, so I want to try out every possible alternative before moving to the food processor. Ironically, I am not opposed to the stand mixer, which was my tool of choice for this recipe. This recipe also had basic ingredients, but used the stand mixer to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. After that, I think I was supposed to use my hands to add in the water, but instead, I just lazily turned the stand mixer on again. The dough combined almost immediately after I dribbled in the water into the most lovely and workable ball of dough. I believe I did not chill the dough long enough to prevent the dough from sticking slightly to my counter, but I experienced no adverse effects overall. I chose to overlap the dough, gallette style, which was rustically pleasing, but unnecessary (I always want more crust when eating pies though, so this worked out well.)

The Filling:
From Mavis Makes An Apple Tart

The filling is just apples, peeled, cored, sliced, and arranged in the dough. The tart is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar before baking. The peels and cores are reserved to boil done with water and sugar to make a syrup that's brushed on the finished tart.

The Final Verdict
From Mavis Makes An Apple Tart

This is a dessert you can throw together on a weeknight, really, especially if you are any faster at peeling apples than I am, and I assure you, you are. The finished product was beautiful, but underwhelming in taste. The tart dough was tasty, and flaky. I think if you have local and freshly harvested apples, the tart would be fantastic, but with middling super market apples, the tart was just good. My husband's final verdict "tartuffeian" but you would need to ask him what exactly that means.

Alice Water's Apple Tart via Smitten Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t. sugar
1/8 t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter, softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 T. chilled water

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a mixer, add 2 T. butter, blend until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add rest of the butter, mix until biggest pieces look like peas. Slowly dribble in water while mixer is running until dough comes together. Flatten into a disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove, let soften so it's malleable. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Place in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2 lbs apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
5 T. sugar
1/2 cup sugar

Overlap apples on dough in a ring 2, continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back over the apples. Brush melted butter over the apples and dough, sprinkle the 5 T. of sugar over the apples and dough. Bake in the oven until the apples are soft with browned edges and the crust is dark golden brown, for about 45 minutes, turning the tart pan every 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place the reserved peels and cores in a saucepan, cover with water and add the 1/2 cup sugar. Simmer for 25 minutes and strain. Remove the tart from the oven, cool for 15 minutes on a rack, brush with glaze and serve.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ethel and the Pumpkin Pie

My hubby has already requested this pie again so before I go into everything that went wrong I’m going to state that this is a success.

As I didn’t have the back up power of the mother I decided to stick to her crust, as I now know how it should look and feel.  I was very careful to make sure everything was cold and it rolled out beautifully.  I pinched the edges and it looked amateurish but not horrific.  I placed aluminum foil over it and put it into the oven to par-bake.  I checked on it and it looked like something that was deep fried at too low of a temperature.  A big soggy napkin at the bottom of the pan. 

I would have given up except that the filling was all put together.  I just started over.  This time I kind of crimped it over the edge of the pan hoping it would hold it up and I omitted the aluminum foil thinking that in my cruddy oven I didn’t want to open the door and let out any heat to remove it.  The second crust was a little puffy and not as pretty, but it was useable.

The filling I got from two Fanny Farmer recipes that I fused.  I wanted to use the cream from another recipe because I bought a half-gallon of cream earlier in the week to make some caramels (so yummy but that is another story).  I wanted to use the ginger and bourbon from another. 

Pumpkin Pie adapted from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.  Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 1984

2 cups pumpkin (I used a beautiful pie pumpkin that I got in the final CSA pickup)

3 eggs

1 ½ cups cream

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 TBL. bourbon

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. cloves

This made a lot.  I baked the extra as custard.


Mom’s Pie Crust for a single pie

1 cup flour

½ tsp. salt

1/3 plus 1 TBL. Shortening

less than ¼ cup cold water

The Verdict

It was yummy.  The crust was so-so.  The custard was a little stringy from the fresh pumpkin but it tasted like squash.  It was sweet but not heavy on the tongue.  I think the combo of flavors was uber tasty. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ethel (and her Mom) Make an Apple Pie

Hello! I’m Ethel and am Mavis’ partner in piedom.

I have been in the kitchen most of my life.  I was often perched in the doorway keeping my mom company as she made dinner.  My mother is very animate and was always giving lessons.  She would have me feel bread doughs (like a baby’s bottom) (an analogy that still bothers me) and would show me the consistency of shortening and flour that has been appropriately cut together.  I can make a decent loaf of bread and I think my cakes are as good as my mom’s.


Pie is scary though.  Even the best cooks have fillings that won’t set or cheese cakes that crack.  I have seen hundreds of crusts that resemble cardboard.  I don’t like to do anything poorly so I have avoided the genre of pie making completely.


This Pie Experience


It started with buying apples at 12:30 in the morning.  My parents were coming up the next day so I thought it was a good time to try my first real pie.  I briefly remembered the America’s Test Kitchen suggestion to use two types of apples but couldn’t remember what they required.  And with it being so late and I was half asleep and meandering the grocery store, I didn't care.  I used half Granny Smith and half Macintosh expecting the grannies to give structure and the Macintosh the strong sweet apple flavor.

The next day I started on the dough about two hours later then I expected.  When my parents arrived at our new apartment I only had the dough made.  It was far drier then I anticipated and so I put it in the fridge to hydrate (as all the cooking shows suggest) while I cut the apples.  My dad was hungry so we decided to let everything sit and went to feed him. 

Upon returning my mother decided that it would be easier to start over then to use my dough.  I had to hang my head in shame.  My mom did confess that she started with the Fannie Farmer recipe 30 years ago and found the dough too dry as well.  My mom leans more towards the tender then flaky and her best suggestion for hydrating dough is to add more fat.  She is a pie rolling queen, though. 

 The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.  Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York.  1984

For 9 inch 2-crust pie

2 ¼ cups flour

½ tsp. salt

¾ cup vegetable shortening

6-7 Tbl. Cold water  (I used 8 or 9)


6-7 apples

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

lemon juice and lemon zest


Mom’s Pie Dough (probably adapted from Betty Crocker but the origins have been lost through time)

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup plus 2 Tbl shortening

up to ½ cup cold water (start with less)

My mother states that as she over measures everything so it is probably closer to 1 cup of shortening.  My mom always uses butter flavored Crisco.

The Results

This was one of my early experiences with this oven.  I hate it.  It has solid metal burners that give no control.  The oven has no window or light so you can’t see what is going on unless you open the door.  It drops in temperature much easier then any other oven I have owned.  The crust really didn’t darken and it cooked at least 30 minutes longer then it should have.  The crust was brittle and dry and the apples had steamed themselves into mush. 


It was the best applesauce I had ever eaten.  

I have never calibrated an oven but I think it will be required before my next experience. 


Monday, October 27, 2008

Mavis Makes A Squash Pie

Welcome to the inaugural posting here at Umble Pie. I am Mavis, an aspiring pie maven, and crusty broad.

Everyone has their culinary fears, and at the top of my list is pie, more specifically, pie crust. My fear can be traced back to observing my mother making pies. My mother, who grew up on a farm, raised livestock for 4-H, canned vegetables throughout her youth, and readily prepares bread and candy, swears like a sailor when she attempts to roll out pie dough. So this blog is an attempt to cure me of my anxieties.

In an attempt to finish out my garden produce, my first pie will be using up the last of my butternut squash puree. My weapon of choice is my 75th edition of Joy of Cooking. I should admit here that I am not a terribly thorough recipe reader or follower really. I tend to skim recipes and jump right in without reading the full recipe from beginning to end first. So, it should come as no surprise that I am a truly terrible baker. However, I actually did read the entire pie entry before embarking on my first pie journey. My feelings on the failures of my first pie tend to place the blame squarely on myself and not the cookbook, but I will say that there were two promises that were unfulfilled in this recipe. The cookbook claims that refrigerating the pie dough will both tenderize it and prevent shrinkage, if that’s true, I can’t imagine what results my dough, left out of the fridge, would have yielded.

So, let’s get down to the recipe.

The Dough: This recipe for dough is pretty straight forward: shortening, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and ice water. I used a pastry blender to mix the fat into the flour and added exactly the amount of ice water specified in the recipe, but in my case, it was not enough. My dough was much too dry, but I was too timid to follow my instincts, mostly because all pie dough recipes are constantly shouting about not adding too much liquid. I refrigerated the dough overnight for ease, and did not let it warm up enough before rolling it out. The dough kept cracking and falling apart; I managed to get it into the pie plate, but was not able to get any sort of presentable pie crust edge. The upside of this crust: it was incredibly flaky, and held together perfectly when dishing out slices of pie. The downside: it was hard to work with, shrank when baked, and not as tender as I would have liked.

The Filling: This recipe was also pretty basic, but did not disappoint. My homegrown squash was beautifully colorful and tasty, the spices were well balanced, and the Joy of Cooking recommended serving the pie with a bourbon-infused whipped cream. It did take at least 20 minutes longer to cook than the recipe recommended, but this may be due to oven differences, or the water content in my squash versus canned pumpkin.

The Overall Verdict: My husband called me a “pie wizard,” but I should warn you that he never complains, and has been lulled into complacency by store-bought pies. I have to say that I am much happier with this pie than I would have thought, and also, I would like to bathe in bourbon flavored whipped cream.

Happy Pie Making from Mavis!

Mavis Makes A Squash Pie

Basic Pie or Pastry Dough (from the 75th edition of Joy of Cooking)
(Measurements are for a 9 inch double crust)

Sift together:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. salt

3/4 cup chilled lard or vegetable shortening
3 T. cold unsalted butter

Cut half of the shortening into flour mixture with a pastry blender or fingers until it has the consistency of cornmeal. Cut the remaining half into dough until it is pea-sized. Sprinkle the dough with:

6 T. ice water

Blend the water gently into the dough until it just holds together, if necessary, add additional water. Divide the dough in half, shape each into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Pumpkin or Squash Pie (from the 75th edition of Joy of Cooking)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 9 inch pie plate with half recipe of Basic Pie or Pastry Dough. Glaze the crust with 1 large egg yolk. Dock the crust, line with foil, and weight down with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, finish baking for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

Decrease oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk thoroughly in a large bowl:

2 eggs

Whisk in:

2 cups cooked pumpkin or squash puree
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice or cloves
1/2 t. salt

Warm the piecrust in the oven until it is hot to the touch, leaving the filling at room temperature. Pour the filling into the crust and bake 35 to 45 minutes until firm. Cool completely on a rack.