Tuesday, August 5, 2008

34. Basic Pastry Dough (p. 790)

My wife is a bit of a culinary non-conformist. As I've already mentioned (and much to my dismay), she doesn't eat beef, pork or lamb. Nor is she a big cake-and-frosting fan. She'll always pick a fruit dessert over cake, ice cream or chocolate. So, for her birthday last week, she told me that instead of a birthday cake, she wanted a birthday pie ... a cherry pie, no less. While I am a huge cake fan, I also love a good pie, so I was more than happy to oblige the birthday girl's quirky request.

Much to my surprise, however, The Book doesn't have a recipe for a good-old-fashioned cherry pie. Sure, there's the Cherry Almond Pie, and the Sour Cherry Crostata, both of which I'll make in good time, but what my wife had in mind was a classic cherry pie.

So, for the filling, I turned to my well worn 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking (on permanent loan from my mother-in-law's kitchen library). But for the crust, I decided to try The Book's Basic Pastry Dough. For most of my cooking life, pie crust looked like this ...

But, in the spirit of trying new things and learning to become a better cook, I resolved to make my wife's birthday pie completely from scratch. The Book's pastry dough is easy enough to make, and it tasted great. As you know, I've already sworn off boxed brownie mix. And after making this pastry dough, I'm ready to say so long to the Doughboy for good. It's been good knowing you, man.

The Book says that this dough can be made either by hand or in the food processor. I used my trusty Kitchen Aid food processor and I was very happy with the results. Maybe I'll do it by hand one of these times, but for the first try with this recipe, I wanted to make it as easy as possible. You start by pulsing together some flour, butter and vegetable shortening (My wife's not going to be happy when she reads this ... butter's bad enough, but shortening? That's pure fat, right?) until it resembles coarse meal. Then you add some ice-cold water, a little bit at a time, until it just comes together.

The dough then gets turned out onto a surface, and divided into eight pieces. Then comes the frisage, the very chef-y sounding, but easy-to-do process of fully incorporating the fat into the dough by smearing each of the eight pieces across the work surface a couple of times with the heel of your hand. After that, the dough is formed into two five-inch disks, wrapped in plastic, and chilled for at least an hour.

After chilling, you can roll the dough. I could be better with a rolling pin, and with practice, I'll get there, but, nevertheless, the dough is easy to work with. It's not too sticky, and any tears or cracks are easily repaired.

I rolled out two large circles and placed one of them in the bottom of the pie plate. I filled it with the filling (more on that in just a second), and then I cut the second circle into strips and made a pretty lattice top. I brushed the pie with a lightly beaten egg, and cooked it according to Joy's cherry pie instructions.

The filling was not all I hoped and dreamed it would be. First, I didn't have the foresight to get enough sour cherries for an entire pie. A few weeks ago, I picked up a pint of beautiful sour cherries at the Downtown Manchester Farmers Market. I guess I never realized that pie cherries and the sweet cherries you get in the grocery store aren't the same thing, and I never knew that sour cherries had such a short season and are hard to come by once the season is over. Well, next year, I'll know better and I'll stock up when I get the chance. I was about two cups short, and I made up the difference with sweet cherries, and reduced the sugar a little bit. (Remind me to tell you sometime how much I love my new cherry pitter. What a great invention!) The filling's flavor was fine, but it was very liquidy. I'm sure it had something to do with the cherry substitution. That, and the fact that I used tapioca flour as a thickener rather than the quick-cooking tapioca called for by Joy. The bottom crust was a little soggy, but I'm not going to blame The Book for that ... it was all Joy's fault (and I suppose I bear some of the blame for my modifications to Joy's recipe).

The filling aside, the crust itself (and that's what this post is about, after all) was delicious. Crispy, flaky and buttery without being greasy. It's everything you want a pie crust to be.

The Book has lots of pie and tart recipes - many of which call for this dough - so I know that I'll get lots of practice making it as I work my way through the project. I wouldn't be surprised it I'm able to make it by memory before long.

Date Cooked: August 3, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: B+


Ryan said...

That is one gorgeous looking pie! We're talking magazine cover quality here. Awesome work!


Adam said...

Thanks, Ryan. It tasted great, too. I was hoping to become a better cook through The Project. Little did I know that I might also improve my photography skills, too.

Ryan said...

Ha! I had the same thing happen. Last Christmas all I wanted was a higher end camera with a nice lense.

Here's a link to some great tips:


Kiki said...

I've been tricked! Crisco in my birthday pie! The nerve. I bet Ned on Pushing Dasies doesn't use shortening! Oh, and you neglected to mention there was a cherry pit in my first slice. So much for the wonderful cherry pitter ;)

But seriously, I thought it was better than any birthday cake I ever had. Maybe next year I'll let you make a fruity cake.