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Sunday, November 21, 2010


Pumpkin Pie – Pies & Pastries, Pg. 198 – Flo E. Powers (Mrs. A.F.)

As our neighbors to the south prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and us Canucks begin to prepare for our own holiday spreads once again – we bring you a holiday favorite around many dinner tables.

A true tradition – pumpkin pie is a favorite dessert in the Johnson household during the holidays – taking its place at the forefront of the dinner table, the pumpkin pie comes under great scrutiny by all and is considered the essential component to the quintessential holiday meal. This past Thanksgiving the Dutch Oven Cookbook brought a pumpkin pie throwdown (Bobby Flay Style) to the Johnson home – and a new dessert to the Young family’s dinner table.

Peter’s Mom prepared her tried and true pumpkin pie recipe, while Peter and Jan took on the Dutch Oven recipe – preparing two monster sized pies – one for each dinner table – the Johnson’s and the Young’s.

For our pumpkin pies we used the pie pastry recipe provided in the Dutch Oven. See our thoughts on this and other pie crust recipe’s here. We were both using 11 inch ceramic pie dishes – very large and very deep! We admit – neither of us have a lot of pie making experience, we probably should have started smaller – but we wanted to use our pretty pie dishes. While this pie pastry recipe had a nice enough flavor, we felt it just didn’t hold up to some others we’ve tried – literally – it started to crumble while baking, never mind when trying to cut it.

Here are a few tips when making your pumpkin pie crust. Roll your dough to 1/8 inch thick and at least 1 inch larger than the pie dish. Lift your pie crust by gently rolling your crust onto the rolling pin, unroll the dough onto the pie dish and gently ease the dough into the dish. Trim crust leaving 1/2 inch overhang, fold overhang under and flute crust as desired. To ensure your crust is fully baked on the bottom you should par bake your crust (a process known as blind baking). Place a piece of parchment paper or foil over your pie crust and weight the centre of the crust using pie weights and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 375. Use reserved pie dough to make leaf garnishes for your pie. We used our handy dandy leaf cutters from Williams-Sonoma to make ours, but the same effect can be made by cutting leaves out of the dough by hand.

Onto the real star of this pie – Za Pumpkin!! Again, this recipe will make a standard 9 inch pie – we had to double the recipe to accommodate our monster pie dishes. If you want to make a monster pumpkin pie in a pretty dish, double all the ingredients except for the spices and salt and add only one extra egg.

Flo’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie:

1 Cup Pumpkin (canned pure pumpkin is a great shortcut)
½ Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Molasses
1 Tbsp. Butter (melted)
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
½ Tsp. Ginger
½ Tsp. Salt
2 Eggs (slightly beaten)
1 Cup 35% Cream
1 Tsp. Lemon (not sure what’s up with this, we tried it in one pie and not the other, didn’t notice any difference)

Add Sugar, molasses, spices, salt and melted butter to the pumpkin – mix in food processor. Add eggs and milk and continue to mix. Strangely…or maybe not so strangely when it comes to the Dutch Oven – there is no further mention of the Lemon. Those of you that have been following our journey through the Dutch Oven Cookbook are familiar with the little details, instructions and ingredients that just happen to be missing from some of the recipes. Some garner this the “Dutch Oven Conspiracy” – a conspiracy of the authors to protect their family honored recipe secrets (: In any case – we opted to add the tsp. of lemon juice to Jan’s pie just to see if we could detect any difference in the pies. Turns out that we didn’t notice any difference in the taste, however Jan’s pie did seem to take on a life of its own while baking – a very odd breathing movement – likely more to do with the monster pie dish than the lemon.

Once mixed, pour filling into prepared pie shell and bake at 475 for ten minutes, then at 325 for 45 minutes. If making monster pies your cooking time will be longer – once your pie is no longer jiggley in the centre, it is done. We made the mistake of cooking both monster pies at once (not recommended) – this took at least 2 hours and required us to rotate the pies halfway through baking. Oh – and watch your crust carefully – ours browned quite quickly. If this happens, you should tent your pie with foil to avoid over-browning your crust. We did take one liberty with this recipe - we sprinkled the top with nutmeg before baking since the recipe didn't call for any - other than that, it's all Flo!

While Peter’s mom’s pumpkin pie will always have a place in the hearts…and stomachs of everyone around the dinner table – Flo’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie took the prize in this Thanksgiving throwdown. Its dark, rich, spicy flavors and velvety texture were a sure hit with all! We have a feeling this pie may take up a permanent residency at the Johnson Holiday table. As for the Young’s holiday dinner table – after years of declaring her distaste for pumpkin – Jan had a pumpkin epiphany – she likes it – she really likes it!!

Easy As Pie Crust

Pie Pastry – Pies & Pastries, Pg. 194 – Ada L. Tanner (Mrs. G.P.)

Lately we’ve had our eye on the pie! The Holiday season is upon us – what better time to explore some of the many pie recipes that can be found in the Dutch Oven Cookbook. As we began our adventures in pie making we quickly discovered – behind every great pie is a great crust!

The pastry recipe in the Dutch Oven is a pretty standard one – all the basic essentials you’d expect to find in a pie pastry recipe – just a little light on some of them which is expected considering the time in which this cookbook was published. The recipe will make enough pastry dough for a 9 inch pastry pan; if you’re making anything larger you may want to consider doubling the recipe. We recently used this recipe while making some pumpkin pies and while this pie pastry recipe had a nice enough flavor, we felt it just didn’t hold up to some others we’ve tried – literally – it started to crumble while baking, never mind when trying to cut it.

Instead we have a couple of other recommendations. The first is a simple, light and flaky recipe from a recent pie making class we took, derived from the Matriarch of all things cooking – no – not Martha – but Julia. This recipe yields enough dough for a 9 inch double pie crust.

Classic Pie Dough:

2 ½ Cups Cake and Pastry Flour
1 Tsp Salt
½ Cold Unsalted Butter
¾ Cup Solid Vegetable Shortening
½ Ice Water

Mix flour and salt together. Freeze butter and shortening and grate into flour mixture – lightly coat butter and shortening with flour mixture. Gradually add ice water and mix lightly until ingredients are just combined (may still be a little crumbly). Turn out onto work surface and fold over onto itself, gently, several times. Divide dough if making two crusts. Wrap dough with plastic wrap, form into disk, and chill for 30 minutes to an hour, or overnight. It is key not to overwork your dough, you should be able to see streaks of butter and shortening in your dough – this is what creates a light, flakey texture.

Another great pie crust we recently tried while making apple pies is “Foolproof Pie Dough” (made with vodka) from the masterminds of America’s Test Kitchen. I know right…finally a pie that will really get the parTAY started at your next family dinner!!! Well before you get too excited – the vodka actually evaporates during the baking process. So the added vodka allows for a pie dough that is very workable during the dough stage, and leaves you with an incredibly tender flaky crust that imparts no alcohol flavor.

Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust:

2-1/2 cups 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
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1½ cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening, and process until homogenous 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 a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. Makes double crust for 1 9 inch pie.

When you roll the dough out, you’ll need to use more flour than normal as this is a very moist pastry dough; don’t be startled like we were – it is a very wet dough. Allow your dough to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling.