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Thursday, April 26, 2012
Let Them Eat...
Pie! Ok, so the quote is cake...but at this time of year I love pie! Delicious, homemade pies bursting with delectable, mouthwatering ingredients encased in a light, flaky pastry. What could be better on a warm spring or summer day?
Early pies were mostly meat pies, and it wasn't until after the Crusaders returned to Europe in the 12th century with a taste for Arab confections that honey, sugar, and fruits began to be incorporated into pies.
The first all fruit pies became popularized in England during the 1500s, and it's known that Queen Elizabeth I grew very fond of them. She also loved tarts highly sweetened with sugar. Numerous recipes for pies were developed by chefs employed by the nobility, and pies and tarts eventually became a pleasurable treat enjoyed by all.
Great care should be taken in heating the oven for baking your pastries. If you can hold your hand in the heated oven while you count to twenty, the oven has just the proper temperature and it should be kept at this temperature as long as the pastry is in; this heat will bake your little lovely to a light brown and will give the pastry a fresh and flaky appearance.
Here are a few vintage tips for you that will be sure to help you have a successful pie baking experience.
Apple pie will have a new flavor if you grate a little orange rind into the sugar and sprinkle over apples in usual way. Or, sprinkle the sliced apples with a few drops of lemon juice and dot with butter. This gives your pie a little something extra. I like to pre-cook my apples on the stove top to soften them a bit before putting in the pie shell. It ensures the apples will be perfectly baked when the pie is done.
Cream pie or custards will not become watery if milk is scalded before using. When a custard pie shrinks from the crust, it has been baked in too hot an oven. The oven should be hot for the first eight or ten minutes, in order to bake the pastry so that it will not become soaked with liquid. Then reduce the heat or the custard will boil.
Meringue will always stand up high and perfect if a generous pinch of baking soda is added to beaten egg whites. Here's a tip for your meringue...add four or five marshmallows cut into pieces or 1/2 cup miniature ones, to meringue just before spreading. These marshmallows give both flavor and body to the meringue. The latter is important if your pie is to stand for sometime before serving. Keep those portions of your meringue pie unbroken and fluffy by cutting with a knife dipped in cold water.
Have quick and thrifty cream pies anytime. Use the flavorful packaged pudding powders. Prepare as directed on the package. You can vary with nuts, coconut, fruits, or by layering or marbling different flavors.
If a flaky upper crust is what you love, before putting the pie in the oven, brush top crust lightly with cold water. The result will melt in your mouth.
For a nice shiny appearance to your top crust, brush before baking with milk or with milk mixed with a little egg.
Egg wash for glazing pastry: the yolk of 1 egg and 1/2 cup evaporated milk or sweet cream. Beat the yolk of egg, add the milk or cream to it and use to brush over the surface of your pastry, applying it with a soft pastry brush. This mixture can be refrigerated for a few days.
To keep your fruit or pumpkin pies from becoming soggy, brush the sides and bottom crusts with the beaten white of egg, then sprinkle lightly with flour and add the filling. This prevents juices from soaking through the crust.
To keep juice in the pie, mix the juicy fruit filling with sugar and 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca. I especially love this tip for my blackberry pies.
For well filled custard pies without spilling: Pull rack part way out of oven. Set pastry-lined pie pan on rack. Pour filling in clear to top. When pie’s filled, slide rack back into oven.
If you love lattice crust on your fruit pies, weave strips of pastry on waxed paper. Slip hand under paper, then quickly flip lattice top over onto fruit. Much less mess than attempting to weave your crust on to a the fruit itself.
After crimping the edge of the pie crust, lift the edge of the crust gently all around with your fingers. This keeps the dough from sticking to the dish while baking and makes it easier to take out the pieces of pie.
To keep “shells” (crusts baked before filling is added) from bulging or shrinking during baking, fit the sheet of dough carefully into the corners of of your pie pan. Do not leave any air spaces between pan and dough. Prick the bottom with a fork. Of course, you can purchase pie weights or use beans to keep your crusts down as well.
Fasten the upper and lower edges of two crust pies together tightly. Brush the lower edge with water. Press the upper edge down with a fork or fold into scallops with the finger tips.
Don't forget...prick or slash the top crust to allow steam to escape.
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