Stephen Fries: Our love affair with pie
I asked a few people what food comes to mind this time of the year. Answers included comfort food, apples, pumpkin and pie. Walk into any supermarket and you will see displays of ingredients to make the perfect pie. As the holiday baking season approaches, home bakers are digging out and dusting off their pie baking gear. What’s better on a cold day than to have a pie baking in the oven warming the house and the aroma of cinnamon and spice to dispel the winter blues?
Ask anyone what their favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner is, and more often than not pie tops the list. We have a love affair with pie. Families pass on the tradition of pie making from generation to generation. Making the crust often is the biggest challenge and causes the most fear. With trial and error, you can make the perfect pie. And if rolling out the dough is something you feel is just out of your comfort zone, a pressed crust is an easy alternative if you are making a single crust pie. The crumble is yet another alternative to making a pie.
Always on the lookout for cookbooks written by the owners and chefs of small bakeries and restaurants, I recently found “For The Love of Pie: Sweet and Savory Recipes,” by Cheryl Perry and Felipa Lopez, of Pie Corps in Brooklyn, New York. (2017, Gibbs-Smith, $27.99) After reading the book, I know I will paying them a visit during a trip into NYC and perhaps attend one of their pie baking classes.
I felt as if I got to know the authors a bit just by reading the book. The recipes showcase sophisticated and contemporary flavors made in the traditional way. Those fearful of making a crust will learn the science and art behind preparing the perfect one, and those who consider themselves pie “experts” will find fresh ideas to add excitement to their pie repertoire.
There are recipes for dessert pies, pot pies, hand pies, meat pies, and vegetarian pies. I enjoyed the historical tidbits and the author’s personal experiences. This cookbook makes pie making, as they say, as easy as pie. Check out this recipe for mint chocolate truffle pie with chocolate sea salt crust; and it uses a pressed crust, no rolling the dough! For the recipe for pumpkin pie with brown butter crumbs, visit http://bit.ly/2AvCiTD.
The authors write, “Chocolate has been scientifically proven to cheer people up and make them feel happy, like they’re in love. We have great respect for science, but we didn’t need proof — we see that joy in action every day in our shop. The fresh whiff of mint and the creamy texture of the luscious filling keep this pie light, even with the double chocolate richness. And the pièce de résistance? The sea salt. That sublime, salty-sweet balance makes the perfect chocolate pie.”
Regarding pressed crusts, they say, “This crust gets used in a variety of delicious pies at the shop. Some people look at pressed crusts, or crumb crusts as they’re sometimes called, as an easy alternative to a traditional crust. While that’s certainly true, we don’t see using our chocolate crumb pressed crust as a shortcut, but rather as a way to provide a different experience altogether. A classic choice for many single-crust recipes, crumb crusts have a sturdiness that stands up to moist and creamy flings such as mousse and puddings. Since these fillings need no baking, you’ll need to blind bake this crust for 15 minutes before assembling your pie. For egg-based custards, the crust bakes along with the filling as a whole pie. The crust requires no rolling, just blend the dough and press it into the pan.”
Have ready and chilled 1 (9-inch) pie plate fitted with this recipe for Chocolate Crumb Pressed Crust
Line a rimmed half-sheet (13 x 18 inch) baking tray with parchment
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the crumbs, brown sugar, and chocolate chips; pulse together until finely ground. Drizzle in the butter and pulse until the crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Pour the crumbs into a 9- inch pie plate. Using a glove, or a piece of plastic wrap, press the crumb mixture up sides to the top of the plate, then evenly over the bottom. Chill crust for at least 30 minutes. (For no- bake pies, you will need to bake the crust before using. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake it on the prepared tray for about 15 minutes until it is crisp. Cool on a wire rack before filling.)
Combine the chocolate chips and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a boil. As soon as bubbles form on the sides and it begins to boil, pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let the mixture rest for 3—4 minutes to allow the chocolate to heat and soften.
Whisk until smooth, using a rubber spatula as necessary to scrape down the side of the bowl. Allow the mixture cool for a few minutes, and then whisk in the eggs, mint extract, and Crème de Menthe until smooth.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sprinkle the sea salt on the bottom of the prepared crust, pour in the filling, and bake for 40—45 minutes, or until the filling is set at the edges and slightly jiggly in the middle. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely before serving, about 2 hours.
To store, cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or double wrap in plastic wrap then foil, and freeze for up to 1 month.
Crumbles: Over 30 Sweet & Savoury Recipes, by Sabrina Fauda-Role (Hardie Grant Books, $11.99) is a delicious collection of sweet and savory crumbles, an easier to make alternative to pie. A crumble (the name originated in England) is similar to cobblers and crisps. Full of new takes on the traditional recipe, it features the classics such as apple & cinnamon, peach and strawberry and rhubarb, and also showcases creative twists such as the olive oil crumble topping, the matcha crumble, and a tasty cheese crust. The warming chestnut crumble will keep you cozy in winter, while the fresh lemon curd and pear crumble is refreshing served cold in summer. The savory crumbles are ideal for inventive holiday brunches and dinners. Try spinach and ricotta sprinkled with pine nuts, or enjoy the fig and mozzarella crumble or this recipe for apple, pecan and maple crumble. For the recipe for apple and Brussels sprout crumble, visit http://bit.ly/2hWwMlq.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the flour, sugar and butter into a bowl. Rub the butter into the other ingredients rapidly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Incorporate the pecans and chill. Peel and core the apples, then cut into large cubes. Melt the butter in a frying pan with the maple syrup. Add the apples and allow them to caramelize for 10 minutes.
Arrange the caramelized apples in a gratin dish and sprinkle with the crumble. Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, until the crumble is golden. Serve warm with whipped cream and maple syrup. Serves 6.
Wine101: Turkey Day Wines, Nov. 16, 6:30-8 p.m., Wine 101, 1220 Whitney Ave., Hamden, 475-202-6657. $20 includes tasting, class, cheese and crackers and a “homework” bottle. Turkey day is upon us sooner than you may want. With all of the cooking, cleaning and company coming, wine pairings should be the least of your worries. We’ll go outside the box of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Gewurz to find some new wines to compliment your holiday meals. With so many options available to us, let’s open our palates to something new. Must be 21+ to attend. Tickets at http://bit.ly/2yLsaco.
Stirring Your Communi“tini” gala, Nov. 17, 5:30 p.m., Scinto Towers Lobby, 2 Corporate Drive, Shelton. $50 online at www.valleyunitedway.org or Valley United Way at 203-926-9478. Top area restaurants will be on hand with tasty bite-size appetizers, each paired with a different 1 oz. signature martini sample. There will be a People’s Choice and a Critic’s Choice award given for the best pairing. Entertainment by Tony Riccio (Frank Sinatra tribute) and Jack Lynn (Dean Martin tribute). There will be a James Bond Costume Contest as well as a “SurPrize Balloon Pop” raffle, featuring a chance to win an exquisite “Rhythm of Love” diamond pendant valued at $2,500. All proceeds go to Valley United Way’s programs, which focus on food insecurity.
Holiday Fantasy of Trees, noon to 8 p.m., Nov. 18-19, St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church Social Hall, 480 Racebrook Road, Orange, 203-795-1347. Greek food and pastries, along with traditional holiday treats, food range from $4-$12, dessert from $1 to $8.
Wine101: Holiday Bubbles, Nov. 22, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Wine 101, 1220 Whitney Ave., Hamden. 475-202-6657. $25 includes tasting, class, cheese and crackers and a “homework” bottle. On Thanksgiving Eve let’s give thanks to good friends, family and the plethora of leftovers we’ll be consuming over the next few days. During this class we’ll explore why bubbles can start the party and continue from bird to pumpkin pie. Bubbles make the flavor pop! Must be 21+ to attend. Tickets at http://bit.ly/2hXc70z.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner — “Give…Til it Hurts!” Dec. 1 or Dec. 15, doors at 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, bit.ly/2cyB02Y, $55 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on as you enjoy a three-course dinner. The cast mingles from table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. The latest TV show is a charity competition.