Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Pie Season!

Great news! Berries are ripening and the heat is rising...sounds to me like it's time for some pie! Growing up, we had a hill of raspberries, a stonewall covered in black berries and a field with more blueberries than we knew what to do with. We had rhubarb growing in the corner of our garden (plus I can't count the amount of stalks my mom picked from random ditches in the Maine countryside), AND we lived right down the road from Stevenson's Strawberries, a fantastic "U-Pick" farm with the most delicious strawberries. Needless to say, summer in Maine is full of pie. Lot's of pie. And it is fantastic.

Now that I live in a city (and as I've mentioned, a backyard-less apartment), I'm scrambling to find a way to get the satisfaction of making a pie from start (picking the berries myself) to finish. Being the car-less person I am, I've devised a strategy. 1. I'm going to go to a U-Pick area at least once this summer (but hopefully more). Just google (bing? I've yet to try it...) "U-Pick [insert city you live in]" and you're sure to get results. I've found over 25 places just in King County (which is the greater Seattle area) 2. I'm going to pick a bajillion berries while I'm home in Maine in late July/early August 3. I'm going to make the most of the farmers market, and get as much as I can there. Buy local! What I'm saying is, I'm going to get a few really good days of picking berries in, and then I'm going to get the rest at the farmers market, where I can be sure of (or easily find out) where the berries came from, how they were grown, how the people that grow them are treated, etc.

During a long car ride, earlier this spring, it was discovered that a few of the guys in our group of friends claimed to not like pie. "It's just not that good" they said. I was appalled, but interpreted it as a challenge. Memorial Day in Seattle this year was wonderfully warm, and there just happened to be some rhubarb (the only appearance so far) at the farmers market, so I decided it was time to prove to my friends that, quite honestly, pie IS that good. It's delicious. My favorite type of pie is strawberry rhubarb, and since I was baking to impress (when am I not?) I was sure to use the Cook's Illustrated recipe, which is sure to be amazing. The pie disappeared quickly, thanks to the multiple pieces the former pie haters had. Challenge accepted... Elspeth wins! If you're looking for a way to impress and satisfy, I highly recommend making a strawberry rhubarb pie. It has yet to let me down. Here's the recipe, enjoy!

Cook's Illustrated's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie Dough: 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 11 tablespoons unsalted butter (8 T per stick, 1 stick = 1/2 cup...), cut into 1/4 inch cubes, 7 tablespoons chilled shortening, 1/3 cup water, chilled with ice, use more if needed.

(Hint: The key to a good crust is the chilled shortening and cold cold water! Don't skip this step to save time. Also, the mixture of shortening and butter is great, as each lend their own improvements to pie crust.)

Pie Filling: 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, 3 cups fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces, 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3-4 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca (though I use corn starch, use), 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. The recipe also calls for 1 tablespoon orange zest, but I only include it if I have an orange on hand).

Mix flour, salt and sugar, sprinkle cubed butter and toss with flour mixture. Cut butter into flour, add shortening and continue to cut into flour until mixture resembles course cornmeal. Butter bits should be no larger than small peas. Sprinkle all but 1 T of ice water over mixture. Using the blade ofa rubber spatula, fold to mix. Press down dough with broad side of spatula utnil dough sticks together, add water as necessary. Divide dough into 2 balls, with one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4 inch wide disks, dust with flour, wrap in plastic and regfrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When ready to assemble pie, heat oven to 400 degrees and remove dough from fridge (shouldn't be out for more than about 10 minutes). Toss fruit with sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and tapioca/corn starch (and orange zest if using). Let mixture stand for 15 minutes. Use this time to roll out the dough. Roll the large disk first, making a 12-inch circle. Transfer dough to pie pan, making sure there is dough that hangs over the lip. Turn in fruit mixture to pie shell and sprinkle butter pieces over fruit, refrigerate while you roll top dough piece. Roll smaller disk into a 10 inch circle, lay over fruit. Trim edges of dough to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pan and pinch together. Cut slits in the pie crust to allow steam to escape during cooking. If pie dough has warmed too much and become very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes before baking. Place pie on pie sheet (this is so that if any filling boils over, it doesn't burn onto the bottom of the oven). Bake 20-25 minutes until top is golden, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble, 30-40 minutes. (Hint: I often place a ring of tinfoil around the edge of the pie during the last 15 minutes to prevent the edges of the crust from overcooking.) Let pie cool on a wire rack for at least an hour so juices have time to thicken. Serve! Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Elspeth, you make it sound like baking a pie from a Cook's Illustrated recipe would be... um, easy as pie. Sorry for that. But really. This sounds kind of hard.