Saturday, July 19, 2014

Easy As Pie

Help, I'm baking and I can't stop!

My serious pregnancy-caused carb cravings plus my whole baking-instead-of-nesting thing plus all the fresh summer produce that's everywhere this time of year has added up to an overpowering urge to bake, bake, BAKE.

I've had to hold myself back from baking more than we can reasonably eat, and even then there's a glut of extra baked goods hanging around.

This baking extravaganza has some upshots - of course, there's eating all the baked goods!  I've also finally come to a place where I feel comfortable whipping out a pie from scratch. Fruit, even when in season, tends to be pricey enough that I rarely have enough to bake a whole pie.  Most pies call for about 6 WHOPPING cups of fruit, so I haven't had much practice at pie crusts.

Well, last week I was tipped off by a post over at Food In Jars about a crazy sale on sweet cherries where they were only $1.99/lb for one day only.  I managed to swing by even though I was on my way out of town for the weekend and bought 10 pounds of sweet cherries.  And even 10 pounds felt like NOT ENOUGH.

The things I did with those cherries!

I made made homemade Maraschino cherries, and I made a batch of cherry bounce, and of course I baked a cherry pie, which is Jack's favorite pie.  Mm'mm... cherries.

Then this week a neighbor's blueberry bushes finally had enough fruit that she invited me over to pick, so I actually had enough for a pie!  A BLUEBERRY pie, which is my favorite pie, and which I haven't had in YEARS!

For both of these pies I used Cook's Illustrated foolproof pie dough, and both times it turned out a fantastic flaky pie crust.  The first time I struggled with it a little bit since it's summer and blindingly hot in my kitchen, and you do not want the pockets of butter in your crust to melt.  So I had to keep stopping to put my pie crust in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill back down, which turned making a pie into a project that took the entire afternoon.  Sure, the pie was DELICIOUS, but I wasn't sure it was worth all that time and effort.

Well, for the second pie I put my butter and lard (which I used instead of shortening) in the freezer and then proceeded with the recipe from there.  That worked so much better!  I was able to mix the dough in one session without the butter melting, and also rolled it out in one session.  Jack even said this pie crust was better than the first one!

Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I frozen 1 stick of butter)
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I used lard instead, and froze it as well)
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.

Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

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