I have continued my journey with pie, but I’ve been having so much darn fun with it, that I haven’t been reporting too much. I’m getting closer to my perfect crust, and it’s fun to try different fillings each week.
Here is the pie history:
May 13 – Rhubarb Streusel. Sadly, I have no photo of this pie, because I took it to Green Bay, where friends hosted us when I ran the Green Bay Marathon. I forgot to take a photo. Trust me when I tell you the pie turned out far better than the marathon.
May 20 – Apple Crumble. No, apples are not in season in May, at least not in the Midwest, but I had a hankering. What can I say?
May 27 – Peach. The dog ate it. I’m not kidding. Here’s a photo of the dog who ate my pie. Damn dog.
June 3 – Apricot galette. It exploded in the oven from the custard you add during the last 15 minutes of baking. But it was delicious. I actually didn’t share this one. Sometimes, I think it’s a miracle that I don’t weigh 300 lbs.
June 10 – Mixed berry. To date, the best pie I had made, including crust.
June 17 – Plum blackberry streusel. A Bon Appetit recipe. Messy, but the unique flavor was well worth having purple fingers.
June 24 – Open-faced blueberry. This has been my favorite pie so far. It uses 4 cups of blueberries (though I think you could definitely increase this to 5 or 6), but you only cook one cup of the berries (or 1/4 of the berries you’re using if you increase the total amount) with some sugar and thickener, then mix it in with the fresh berries, dump it in a baked pie crust, and let it set for a few hours. Eat it with some lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream. Summer doesn’t get better than this.
Did I say this was my favorite pie so far? OK, I thought so.
June 30 – Peaches and Dream pie from the cookbook Baked Explorations. It’s basically a way-too-sweet peach custard pie. My verdict? Blech. Others seemed to like it well enough, but you won’t find it being made in my house again.
July 1 – Run for the Roses, aka Kentucky Derby pie. It’s got chocolate, pecans and bourbon in it. Need I say more? This was supposed to be one of two pies I brought for the 4th of July (my sister doesn’t eat fruit), but it turned out to be a grief pie. My doggie nephew Bruno was laid to rest on July 3. He was the sweetest little Italian greyhound, who loved to give kisses, but a tumor got the best of him. We miss that lovable trouble-maker. Understandably, my sister and brother-in-law were in no mood for July 4 festivities, so they stayed home, and I brought them this pie to comfort them.
July 1, part deux – Strawberry cream cheese pie. This is the pie I brought to the 4th of July festivities at my parents’ home. Again, I sadly have no photo of this pie, and it’s too bad, because it certainly was a beauty. I used strawberries I picked myself from a farm just north of the city, and that definitely put this pie over the top. It had a cream cheese base layer, a cooked strawberry layer, and an uncooked strawberry topping. My dad went nuts over it and asked me to make it again next year for his birthday. No problemo, padre!
July 8 – Peach streusel. The organic peaches were wonderful and juicy, and I used more than the recipe called for, but didn’t increase the thickener. Oops. It was a little soupy, but unlike the Peaches and Dream pie, this one was indeed dreamy. Tip: Don’t make a streusel for a peach pie unless it’s going to be completely consumed the day it’s made. It gets soggy and unappetizing after day 1. Stick with a top crust instead.
July 15 – Open faced apricot pie. I’m finding that I’m quite fond of apricots. This pie was lovely and fragrant. Too bad I dropped half of it on the garage floor, and had to throw it out along with the pie plate that shattered and shot like shrapnel all over the place. Sweeping up that mess was no fun. The raspberries were from a roadside stand. (I love writing that!)
July 22 – Cherry-rhubarb. I used the last batch of Cherryland’s Best Door County Cherries that I froze from last year for this pie. This one was a beauty. Randy took it to work (after I sampled a piece), and it was gone within 2 hours. Yeah, it was that good.
Here’s the piece I sampled. How’s that for discipline!?
I also made a savory Zucchini-Ricotta galette this week, which we had for dinner yesterday. I wasn’t that excited about it, but we have zucchini up the wazoo from our CSA, and it seemed like a good way to use it and exceed my pie quota for the week. I’m an over-achiever like that. I also got a little wild with the crust, and used a mixture of unbleached all purpose, whole wheat pastry, and spelt flour. It was incredibly flavorful. I dare say it’s a repeater, though I would probably amp up the cheesy base with some spices or herbs next time.
So there you have it. I may have been slacking off in the writing department, but the pie-making has been full-speed ahead.
A word about my crusts. Flour is a big deal. Turns out, so is sugar. I love the texture that pastry flour gives a crust, but I can only find whole wheat pastry flour in the stores. So, if I use it, I add a couple of teaspoons of sugar to the crust. If I don’t add sugar, the crust seems a better fit for a savory rather than sweet filling. You can skip the sugar if you use a white flour.
But pastry flour is more expensive. A good alternative is bleached all purpose flour. I know, the idea of using bleached flour is a little unappetizing, but it has less protein which makes for a more tender crust.
Don’t use White Lily flour for pie crust (though in cakes it’s great!). I actually discovered this a number of weeks ago, but in an effort to use up what I had bought, I mixed the White Lily flour with unbleached All Purpose flour for a couple of the pies I made. It’s just too soft and delicate. It’s a pain to roll out and crimp, and it doesn’t hold up to fruit fillings. I’ll stick to using it for cakes and muffins.
If you want to knock your friends’ socks off with your crust, use an Irish or European butter, which has a higher fat content than American versions. You CAN taste the difference. One of my favorite crusts to date has been made with Kerrygold butter.
At the end of the day, you can use regular butter and unbleached all purpose flour for your crust, and it will still be loads better than your average store-bought version. Before this here pie journey, that’s how I made pie crusts whenever I made pie, and it was great! The crust is perhaps a little crunchier, but it’s homemade. You bring a homemade pie anywhere, and people are not going to start asking you what kind of flour and butter you used. They’re going to Mmmm and Ahhh about it, as they should.