Tuesday, March 9, 2010
You guys know I don't bake, right? Baking and I don't play well together. Because baking requires adherence to, you know, rules. I don't do rules.
So how does a self-professed non-baker find herself ass-deep in pie dough one fine weekend?
Lard. That's right, folks. Nothing motivates a girl to bake like a hermetically sealed, Fed-Exed parcel of homemade lard.
My wonderful friend Phoo-d wrote this post recently about her adventures in rendering lard from local pigs. Imagine my delight when, while futzing around on Facebook, I got the following IM: "Hey, any interest in some homemade hog fat?"
The thrill, my friends. The thrill.
A few days later, this arrived on my doorstep. I was seriously blissed out.
By the time hubs hit the door at 6 o'clock, I'd worked myself into a froth. "Honey!! Lookee what I got!" I crowed, waving the package around. "This is the coolest thing I've ever gotten in the mail. Ev-er!" I might have even done a celebratory version of the Yummy Dance.
He raised a suspicious eyebrow. "What. Is. That?"
"Homemade hog fat, Dude! I got lard in the mail! Isn't that awesome?" By this time, the girls had gotten wind of my enthusiasm and were now bouncing off the walls with me, singing "hog fat/hog fat/we got some hog fat..."
He reached for a bottle of wine and poured himself a sturdy glass. "Only you," he said, shaking his head and retreating down to the man-cave.
Hmph. Some people don't know awesomeness when they see it. I was stoked.
But then came the realization that homemade lard=baking. I emailed my friend Phoo-d in a bit of panic.
"I've never made pie crust before. Help! This has 'fuck-up' written all over it."
Luckily, Phoo-d has a clear head and walked me through the process. "It's honestly not that hard," she said.
I stacked the deck a little. I consulted Cook's Illustrated and found their Best Recipe for pie dough. I also invited Mama over; she spent many a long North Dakota winter wrestling pastry dough. She knows what she's doing. With Cook's Illustrated, Mama, and Phoo-d's generous offer of "call me if you get into trouble," I was ready.
The hardest part was figuring out what kind of pie to make. Shameful admission: I don't really like pie. My husband doesn't really like pie either, except for pecan. I was not going to waste my pie-making efforts on an audience who doesn't really appreciate pie.
Luckily, there just so happens to be someone in my life who loves pie.
Daddy's favorite pie is cherry. Alas, it's totally not cherry season. But apples? We've got them in spades, so apple it was.
Mama and I donned our aprons, rolled up our sleeves and dove into the world of pastry dough. I think we did just fine.
We did so fine, in fact, that we also made quiche. I don't do pie, but I love me some quiche. This made a light and satisfying dinner when paired with a glass of wine and a crisp green salad. And yes, my man does eat quiche.
American Pie Dough for Fruit Pies
from Cook's Illustrated
makes dough for one double-crust 9-inch pie
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting dough and work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
6-8 tablespoons ice water
Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue cutting until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough does not hold together.
Divide dough into two balls and flatten each into 4-inch wide disks. Dust disks lightly with flour, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
from Cook's Illustrated
makes 1 pie
1 recipe American Pie Dough for Fruit Pies
2 pounds Granny Smith apples (4 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (4 medium)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest from one medium lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Prepare and shape dough into two disks as directed. Refrigerate until needed.
Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425.
Roll one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex regular or deep-dish pan. Unfold dough.
Gently press dough into sides of pan, leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.
Peel, core and cut apples into 1/2-to-1/4-inch slices and toss with 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and spices. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.
Roll out second dough disk and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so the folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits on dough top. If dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Brush egg white over top of crust and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until juices bubble and pie is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.
Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomato and Fontina Cheese Quiche
adapted from Mark Bittman
makes 1 quiche
1 disk American Pie Crust for Fruit Pies, without added sugar in the recipe
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups grated Fontina cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup blanched asparagus tips
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced
Preheat the oven to 425. Prick the crust all over with the tines of a fork. Line crust with tin foil and weight down with rice or dried beans. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the weight and foil; turn the oven down to 325.
Combine eggs, cheese, liquid, seasonings and vegetables and beat until well blended.
Place the baked crust on a baking sheet. Pour the egg mixture into the crust, right to the top. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the mixture is set but is still moist; it should still jiggle just a little in the middle. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.