Monday, July 5, 2010

Nothing Says Happy Fourth of July like a Pie

Happy 4th of July! Our otherwise quiet neighborhood comes alive on the 4th of July; music from the park drifts (okay, occasionally blares) in, everyone is outside talking and laughing, and the streets are lined with lawn chairs as everyone jockeys to reserve the best spot for watching the fireworks. In many ways it seems to signal the start of summer.

Once again I am realizing that, at least in my mind, holidays revolve very much around the food we eat. For me July 4th means lots of bbq, rocket pops (remember those red, white and blue popsicles?), and of course pie. This year's pie was an experiment, but one my husband, after much reflection and only a little prodding, called "the best fruit pie" he's ever had. Now lets just hope I'm able to recreate this success again!

My original idea was to make a classic apple pie, but alas- not enough apples! In an attempt to use what I already had on hand I combined a few different recipes to concoct my very own Apple-Peach & Apricot Pie. In addition I tried out a new pie-crust recipe, which came out with such flaky, buttery goodness that even Martha Stewart might cry (those would be tears of joy of course).

The crust recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust 102 tutorial with a few additions from America's Test Kitchen's Apple pie crust recipe. The two keys to getting this crust super flaky are not breaking down the butter too much, and keeping it cold, cold, cold! Here goes:

Super Flaky, Buttery Crust

Makes one double crust pie or two single crust pies

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup or 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very cold!

1. Measure out 1 cup of cold water and add a few ice cubes; set aside.
2. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar and salt. Dice cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces and add to dry mixture.
3. Using pastry blender, cut in the butter and work into flour mixture until butter is the size of tiny peas and no smaller!
4. drizzle about 1/2 cup of the ice water (but not the ice!) over the flour & butter mixture. Blend and gather dough together using a rubber spatula. Add additional water as needed 1 tablespoon at a time (you will probably need about 1/4 cup more all together). Once you have large clumps of dough, use your hands to gather it all together and gently knead into a ball. Divide the dough in half and shape each clump into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour, but preferably two. (Dough will last for about a week in the fridge, or longer if you freeze it).

5. After dough has chilled, prepare your pie filling and proceed as follows.

6. Liberally sprinkle work surface with flour (you can always wipe off excess flour so use enough to really be sure your dough won't stick). Take first mound of dough out of the fridge and place on top of floured surface, sprinkle top with more flour and roll out dough from the center. Continue rolling dough until you have enough rolled out to cut into a 12 inch circle. Trim dough using knife. Move to pie plate by folding dough loosely into quarters and then unfolding in pie plate.

7. During this process keep dough COLD! You should always be able to see the pieces of butter throughout the dough- this will help create that flaky crust you want. If needed you can place dough back in the fridge throughout the rolling process.

8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 with the other half of the dough. Fill crust with pie filling of your choice and then top with crust- you can create a lattice top for the pie, or simply cover with the rolled dough and slit the top to vent.

9. Another key to a FLAKY CRUST: before baking place pie in the freezer for 10 minutes. During this time place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 500 F. After chilling the pie reduce heat to 475 and place pie on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until top is golden. Reduce heat to 375 and rotate pie; bake for another 30 to 35 minutes and filling is bubbly and top is a nice golden brown.

Filling for Apple Peach & Apricot Pie

6 cups of peeled and sliced fruit including apples, peaches, and apricots
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1. You want enough peeled and sliced fruit to equal about 6 cups. I used 4 cups of apple (about 5 medium apples) 1 1/2 cups peaches (3 medium white peaches) and 1/2 apricot (4 small apricots).
2. In a medium bowl mix together sugar, flour, salt and spices. Add fruit to the flour mixture and toss to fully coat the fruit. This mixture will become very juicy. Fill pie crust shell with filling and bake as directed above.

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