Thursday, January 11, 2007

Patriotic Pies

Show Your Colors With a Slice of the Right Stuff

American flag flying proudly on the front porch? Check. Snazzy flag pin on the lapel? Check. A little something to bring over to the neighborhood Flag Day party? Er...not so much. No worries, mate, the solution is as American as pie, and we're not talking apples. Pie is the penultimate comfort food, easy to make, and open to a plethora of interpretations. Today, it's all about the red, white and blue.

Red: fresh strawberry pie. It's no co-incidence that the best berries of the year intersect with this celebration. The crust is simple as it gets, crushed cookies mixed with butter and almonds, baked 'till just toasty and brown. Meanwhile, a simple syrup thickened with cornstarch boils away on the stove for a few minutes, before coating the sliced strawberries. Slip a little orange liqueur in there for the adult palate, or leave as is- you won't go wrong either way.
White: French coconut pie. While the name may hail from another continent, the taste is pure, old-fashioned indulgence. A rich, custard-like center suspends fresh coconut. Almond and coconut extracts hit just the right riff, while toasted coconut ensures even the pickiest palates will be asking for one more taste. The crust is classic pastry, and if, like me, you still haven't mastered that particular art, don't be afraid to turn to Pillsbury's ready-made (in the refrigerated section).
Blue: fresh blueberry pie. We may get lucky enough this warm year to enjoy an early crop, so make the most of it with an open-faced pie. The bottom crust is blind-baked to become the perfect vessel for fresh, juicy berries. Some are cooked down on the stove with sugar, lemon juice, and a touch of cornstarch. Properly thickened, then poured over the remaining berries to morph into a delectably sweet blueberry treat. Gild the lily with a little mascarpone-whipped cream.

And there you have it- three patriotic pies guaranteed to fly proudly. Right off the dessert table, that is.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
1 1/2 cups crushed shortbread cookies (I use Demitasse teabiscuits)
1/4 cups finely chopped almonds
1/3 cup butter, melted
Mix together (the food processor makes this astoundingly easy), and press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 350-degrees for 8 minutes, or until just browned. Cool completely.
strawberries, about 2 1/2 pounds, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon spiced rum (optional)
Grand Marnier, a good splash (optional)

Mash strawberries to equal one cup. Combine sugar, cornstarch, water and mashed strawberries in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until boiling and thickened. At this point, boil for one minute. Remove from heat, and add the salt, almond extract, and optional rum. Cool for ten minutes.
Fill cooled crust with remaining strawberries, and pour the cooked mixture over them. Refrigerate at least three hours, or until set.
Optionally, as strawberry mixture is boiling, macerate sliced strawberries with a splash of Grand Marnier before placing into pie.
Serve with mascarpone-whipped cream.

From Fine Cooking Cook's Talk Forum, 'Noodle'.

French Coconut Pie
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (if using salted butter, omit the salt above)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out, pod discarded OR place pod in a bottle of vodka, and 6 months later you have vanilla extract: use 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon coconut extract (if using coconut milk, omit extract)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon bread or all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white corn meal
1 cup milk or 3/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup shredded fresh coconut
1/3 cup toasted coconut (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 325-degrees. Use a stand mixer, or a rubber spatula if doing by hand; do not use a wire whisk. Be careful not to overmix.
Beat eggs for about a minute to get them blended, light in color, and creamy.
Add sugar/salt, and beat until they just pull together.
Take cooled melted butter, and whisk in the flour/corn meal until smooth and without lumps. This is the only step that uses a whisk.
Add milk, and blend well. Lastly, stir in the coconut, pour in prepared pie pan, and bake at 325-degrees for 24-45 minutes, depending upon the oven's calibration. Pie is done when the center springs to touch. Check pie at 25 minutes, then every 5 minutes after that. Don't over-cook, or the coconut will rise to the top, and get too brown.
Remove and let carry-over heat finish cooking the pie for the next 20 minutes.
If desired, sprinkle with toasted coconut.
Remember- don't refrigerate a custard pie after baking. It causes the pie to shrink and become dense. It will sit one hour at room temperature, and you can serve it warm, or chill the pie once set.
Adapted from Lacy Smith's 'Sugar Daddy's Treat's'.

Fresh Blueberry Pie
Pie crust for a 9-inch pie
1/2 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/4pounds blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 liquid cup, plus 2 tablespoons, divided, of water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Roll out dough and transfer to pie pan, folding the excess under, and crimping the border. Cover loosely, and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour, and a maximum of twenty-four.
Preheat the oven to 425-degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking.
Line the pastry with parchment, and fill with dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the beans with the parchment, then prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Bake 5-10 minutes longer, until the crust is a pale golden. Check after 3 minutes, and prick any bubbles that have formed.
Cool the crust on a rack for 3 minutes, so that it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides with the egg white.
Measure out 1 cup of the blueberries, choosing the softest ones. Place in a medium saucepan together with 1/2 cup of the water. Cover and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water; set aside.
When the water and blueberries have come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, or until the blueberries start to burst and the juices begin to thicken. Stirring constantly, add the cornstarch mixture, the sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Simmer for a minute, or until the mixture becomes translucent. Immediately remove from heat, and quickie fold in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries.
Spoon the mixture into the baked pie shell and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. When set, the berries will remain very juicy, but will not flow out of the crust.
Store at room temperature up to 2 days.
Note: The low amount of sugar in this pie maintains the tart freshness of the berries. Taste the berries before you begin. If they are very tart, increase the sugar by a few tablespoons.
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's 'The Pie & Pastry Bible'.

Sugar Dough
4 ounces unsalted butter
2 ounces white sugar
1 1/2 cups pastry or all-purpose flour
'I know I said you can opt out and buy pre-made dough, but nothing really beats the taste of homemade. This dough is great for every kind of pie. It can be pre-baked, or not, and works best if you have a mixer. If not, work diligently on the creaming of the sugar and butter (which needs to be soft). It will need to be smooth and lump free, or else it will be granular in texture.'
Cream butter with sugar. Add all the flour at once, and if using a mixer, set speed on lowest, and let it pull together into a dough. Once it does, stop the machine immediately so you don't over-mix. Chill, or use right away.
If you don't have a mixer, cream well by hand with a rubber spatula, then add flour. Use your hands to incorporate the flour, like you would when making short bread or biscuits.
Recipe courtesy S. Meers.


Blogger sher said...

Mmmmm. That's something to dream about, especially the strawberry pie. I look forward to making that when the berries some into season.

12:20 PM  

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