Monday, August 24, 2009

Blackberry Pie

Blackberry Pie

This pie can be adapted to a lot of different fruits. This uses a filling called a cooked juice filling. It works well for any fruit that is fragile and doesn't need to be cooked before being put into a pie but may give off a lot of juice as the pie bakes, namely berries. If you've ever tried to make a filling with fresh berries only to find that they released a lot of juice and made for a rather soggy pie, then this filling is perfect. It also works well for all kinds of canned or frozen fruit. It makes a gel out of liquid, sugar and cornstarch which you fold the fruit into before putting it into the pie. A different version of this method can be used for fruits that maybe be fresh and a little firmer but could benefit from some cooking before going into the pie. The fruit is lightly sauteed before creating the gel to make sure that the fruit comes out fork tender but also all the juices are appropriately thickened. The pie crust recipe is a great all purpose pie dough and the key to all great pie crusts is simple, keep everything very cold and don't overwork the dough. The following are step by step instructions that will enable anyone to make a flavorful and tender pie crust and a perfect filling for all those juicy summer fruits that are coming into season.

Blackberry Pie (makes 1 double crusted 9" pie)

Pie Dough (enough for a double crusted pie)
2 1/4 cups + 2 TBS (12 oz) all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (8g) of salt
5 tsp (20g) sugar (optional if using for savory dish)
1 cup or 2 sticks (8 oz) butter
1/2 cup (4 oz) of very cold water (measure from a container of ice water)

Blackberry Pie Filling
1 3/4 cup (14 oz) of juice*
7 TBS (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
large pinch of fresh grated nutmeg (optional)
6 TBS (39 g) cornstarch
2 1/2 lbs of Blackberries*
1 TBS lemon juice
*this works well for any berries, or stone fruit, feel free to substitute or mix fruits. You can use fresh fruit or frozen fruit. The juice can be a number of things, if you are using frozen fruit, completely thaw out fruit and use all juice and liquid that comes from the fruit. If using fresh berries you could use water, or a fruit juice or crush some berries and mix with some water to create the liquid.

To make the pie dough:
As mentioned at the top of the post, the key to a tender crust is to keep everything very cold and work the dough very little. You can make it by hand or in a food processor. Ideally, if you have time and space, measure everything out and leave it in the refrigerator for a while to make sure even the flour and butter are very cold. If not, just make sure that the butter isn't sitting out for any length of time. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut the butter up into smaller cubes.
If using a food processor, pulse the mixture until it resembles cornmeal- careful not to go to far so that it looks like the dough is coming together (the butter has gotten too worked in at this point)
If making by hand, slowly work the butter into the flour until you have very small little pebbles of butter. Don't keep any of it in your hands for too long, I like to grab a large chunk of butter with some of the dry and pinch the butter into a flat sheet trying to work in as much flour as possible, then drop that piece and find the next chunk of butter. Continue doing that until all the large pieces are broken down. You can also use a pastry blender or fork to help make it so you're not making contact with the butter (to keep it from getting too warm).
After the butter is cut into the flour, add the water and if using the food processor, pulse a few more times to gently bring the dough together.
If doing by hand, pour the water in and then bring both hands down to the bottom of the bowl, and then bring them up through the mix, as if to fluff the mixture. Continue doing this until it looks like things are equally distributed. What this does is helps to distribute the water without much hand contact with the mixture. Look for pockets of water or sticky dough and break that up with pockets of dry ingredients. Mix just until the dough comes together then you can wrap it in plastic wrap or use a bag, and form it into 2 1/2" thick circles and wrap and chill the dough (you can leave this in the refrigerator for a few days, or if making ahead of time freeze for later).

To make the Blackberry Filling:
Make sure all the fruit (if frozen) is completely thawed or drained of any excess liquid. You can use all the liquid as part or all of the liquid called for in the recipe. Place the cornstarch into a small bowl, and add enough of the liquid so the cornstarch dissolves (about 1/4 cup) Pour the rest of the liquid into a large pan (either pot or saute pan) and add the juice, sugar, salt and nutmeg, if using. Bring to a boil and slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring back up to a boil. Make sure this comes to a complete rolling boil (so you see bubbles in the middle as well as the sides of the pan) and then take off the heat. Add the lemon juice and gently fold in the fruit. Spread this out on to a cookie sheet or large baking pan so that it can quickly and completely cool before putting it into the pie shell. This can be made a day a head of time. The cooler the mixture the better, not only will it make sure the pie dough isn't going into the oven warm, but it will also take longer for the filling to heat up in the oven, which means it will end up cooking less (a good thing since the filling is already totally cooked).

To Roll out the pie dough:

Make sure your pie dough has had at least an hour to rest and chill in the refrigerator. Using a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough (making sure to add more flour as necessary) until it's about 1/8" thick. Roll both portions of dough out, and place one back into the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the pie. Using one of the rounds, line the bottom of the pie pan with the dough, making sure to center the dough, so you have enough to come up all sides of the pan and hang over the edge. Make sure the dough is pushed (from top/ excess dough that is hanging over) into the corners at the bottom of the pan. At this point you only need that dough to go out to the edge of the pie pan, not any further, so using the edge of the pie pan as a guide, trim the rest of the dough away. Place this in the refrigerator and let it sit at least 30 minutes so the dough has time to relax and chill. Take it out of the refrigerator and pour all the filling into the pie, making sure it's tightly packed and level on top. If using the top crust (you can take a shortcut and sprinkle strussel on top) Place the top crust on top of the pie and trim around the edge, leaving enough to tuck under the bottom crust (about 1/2" or so). Go back around an pressing the bottom and top crust together, gently tuck it under so you no longer see the bottom crust and then if you want decoratively crimp the edges. Make sure to put a few vents in the middle for steam to escape. Place the pie on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan and bake in a 425 degree preheated oven until the pie is a golden brown. This pie will take about 5 hours at least to fully cool before it will cut cleanly, so make sure to make it ahead of time to leave plenty of time for cooling. If you cut while the filling is warm at all it won't hold it's shape very nicely.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream/ Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry Ice Cream

Fresh. Simple. Full of flavor. Perfect. This ice cream has only 4 ingredients, but it produces a vibrantly flavored ice cream that is bursting with strawberry flavor. I had some heavy cream left over that I needed to use up and a freezer full of peak of the season strawberries and thought I would give this recipe I had found in Gourmet a try. As it turns out, I didn't have as much cream as I thought which turned out to my advantage because what was a simple and creamy strawberry ice cream turned into a wonderfully creamy but slightly tangy strawberry frozen yogurt. While it is still half cream the reduction of fat allowed for more strawberry flavor to come through. This had a great texture and involved no cooking! Give it a try. I will certainly be trying this with other fruits! I realize it's been over four weeks since my last post, but I have a few more posts in store so be sure to check back in the up coming week for some more summery foods!

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (adapted from Gourmet)
(to make this an ice cream, use all cream instead of 1/2 yogurt and 1/2 cream)

1 lb of coarsely chopped strawberries (can be frozen and thawed out)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp of salt
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of 2% or whole milk greek style* yogurt

Put the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Let them stand for 30 minutes or so and then in a blender, blend half until smooth. If they are frozen and thawed out, they will be a lot softer and you might find that you can just mash them with a fork and that should break down enough of the strawberries. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt and cream, add to strawberries and refrigerate until very cold**. Freeze using an ice cream maker. Enjoy!

*Greek style yogurt is thicker and creamier. If you have never tried it, buy some and check it out. It is a little more expensive than some other yogurts but it's thick creamy texture and mild flavor make it worth the price.

**I found another advantage of the frozen strawberries was, if they were just defrosted so the berries were soft but everything was still very cold, it made it so there is no need to chill the final mix.