Saturday, June 25, 2011
I have some pretty big news to share; I decided to move back to Belgium. When exactly I will be moving out of the country hasn't been decided. My guess is any time between the end of summer and the end of the year. I do know I'm moving out of my current apartment by the end of august. I guess I will mostly be blogging about cleaning out cabinets for the next two months. The months after that probably mostly about "nomadic cooking" in other people's kitchens. Eventually I hope to focus my blog on building a solid pantry completely in line with the idea of cooking from scratch. I hope to share with you some of my local finds and "un-finds". I have to admit it scares me a little to be cut off from the endless availability New York has to offer. On the other hand, I am sure I will come to love other opportunities local communities have to offer, like going directly to the farm.
The first thing I am using up today is an over-sized tub of blueberries. And what better way to use them then in an all American desert. An early goodbye ode.
I looked up a couple of different recipes for blueberry pie. You would think that putting blueberries and sugar between two layers of crust about describes the idea, but I have made some bad pie crusts and I was determined to get to the bottom of good crust making. The two dangers are a dry crust or a tough crust. Basically they are both caused by wrong amounts of water. Using the correct amount of water is tricky however as it depends on your flour and on the weather. I found the solution on the website from "America's test kitchen". Using half water and half vodka. The vodka, allows you to add "too much" liquid at the beginning to make a wet workable dough, but vodka evaporates quickly and doesn't allow the gluten to develop during baking thus preventing a tough crust.
Another thing I took away from their recipe is using both butter and shortening. That was said to give it the flaky texture caused by shortening and the flavor added by the butter. If you ask me, there is really no reason to use shortening unless you are dairy intolerant. Butter should make it just as flakey. The idea is to eat as wholesome as possible. I know I cant make shortening at home but I can make butter, so that's exactly what I did. I made butter and used it in addition to the shortening that I am trying to use up anyway.
Most recipes call for a food processor. They tell you how many times you need to pulse the mixture to make sure its not over blended, ...
I like to do this by hand. The dough blender that you can see in the picture does a really good job. It cuts the fat into the flour and leaves a grainy, sandy texture. If you are worried about over processing the dough, start with two thirds of the flour and cut in all the fat, then stir in the other third of flour. That way you are guaranteed to have some uncoated flour in there to help you with the layers you are trying to form which will result in a flaky crust.
Another problem with fruit pies is the water that comes out of the fruit. Most recipes call for starch as a binding agent. Of course then there is the risk of having a thick solid pie. If you use jam making tricks like natural fruit pectin with sugar, you don't need to use that much starch. Apple and citrus have high levels of pectin. I used grated apple, lime juice and lime zest. Just because that's what I had at the house.
I put half the blueberries in a saucepan, mashed them with a potato masher and started to make some jam. Then, after it had cooled for a little bit I added the apple, lime juice and lime zest, sugar and starch. I am sure these could have been added in the pot, but I was worried of over activating the pectin as it still had to go into the oven for about an hour. I made the right decision because it came out solid enough.
Another thing I have sitting in the cabinets is matzo meal. I haven't gotten around to using it up. It works great as a starch to absorb some liquid from the pie, so that's what I used.
For rolling out the dough, make sure it is chilled, all recipe books tell you this, and its worth it. It really works. Another thing that works great it rolling it in wax paper, it peels right off. I measured the width of the paper and knew that a round exactly to the edge would be 12' in diameter. Perfect for a 9' pie dish.
Make some hols in the top layer, however you like to. It really doesn't matter, its just to let the steam escape. Let esthetics be your guide. Make sure you get rid of the excess dough around the edge. Leave about 1/2' to cramp the edges together.
I realized I had extra lime juice, lime zest, vodka and sugar. Voila, a shot was born. I did melt the sugar first in some hot water to make a simple syrup.
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Cup (6oz) chilled cubed butter
1/2 Cup (2oz) vegetable shortening (or butter)
1/4 Cup cold water
1/4 cup vodka
1 egg, beaten with a tbsp of water
5 to 6 Cup of blueberries
2 tsp lime or lemon zest
2 tsp lime or lemon juice
1 grated apple (squeeze the juice out)
3/4 Cup raw sugar
2 tbsp Matzo meal (or another starch)
For the crust: Mix 2/3 of the flour with the salt and the sugar. Cut in the fat in 3 additions. gently mix in the rest of the flour using a spatula. Add the water ad the vodka and mix until the dough comes together. Make to disks, one a bit larger then the other and refrigerate for one hour.
Take the disks out and roll them into 11' and 12' rounds between 2 sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. If it becomes too soft ans sticky, put it in the freezer for one or two minutes. The larger round goes in the pie pan and becomes the bottom crust. Make sure it is nicely tucked into the corners. The top round needs to be pierced with air holes before it is put on the pie and the edges are crimped.
For the filling: put 3 cups of blueberries in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Mash them with a potato masher and let them cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes until nice and thick. You will see both large and small air bubbles come to the surface. Take of the heat and let the mixture cool down.
Mix the rest of the berries with the "jam", the grated apple, lime juice, lime zest, sugar and matzo meal, and put it all into the prepared bottom pie shell. Close the pie, cut and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with the egg mixture. Bake in a preheated oven on 400F for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350F, bake for another 30-40 minutes or until ready. The blueberry jam will start to bubble a little bit out of the holes, that's when you know it is ready.