07 August 2012
Caring about and enjoying food, I think, is closely linked to the desire to share it. I often write about that here, but most of the time I am sharing meals and baked goods with only one other person. Our trip to Maine provided a contrast to our kitchen table for two. We ate most of our meals surrounded by a jumble of family.
Sometimes we sat at the big long table in my mom's kitchen with nieces clamoring for who they would sit next to. Other nights we balanced plates on our laps on the screened in porch. Big family meals are perfect for summer cooking when we grab what we have on hand and make sure to eat plenty of the vegetables and fruit that are in season: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, blueberries. We ate well and appreciated the food but I savored the company even more since big family meals are, for now, rare.
Last summer I wrote about blueberry pie and many summers of berries in Maine. When my dad planned a picnic for us last month, he suggested maybe I could bring a pie. I couldn't take this request lightly. My dad loves pie in nearly all of its forms: the classics like apple and pumpkin but also key lime and banana cream. In July it must be blueberry pie. As much as I enjoy pies, I've always struggled with the crust. In my attempts to treat the dough gently and not add too much water or over mix it, I always end up with something that breaks and crumbles too easily or doesn't go far enough to cover the top and bottom of the pie.
Lucky for me, I picked up a copy of Alana Chernila's Homemade Pantry before we left on our trip. I was eager to try making graham crackers, chocolate sandwich cookies, and mozzarella cheese from this beautiful book that covers an abundance of recipes for making pantry staples from scratch. The pie crust is also the base for her famous toaster pastries, which I haven't tried, but I had to share my version of the crust recipe because it helped me make the perfect pie.
Our picnic by the bay was incredibly windy, we huddled around the fire to block the wind and encourage the flames. After dinner we walked around the park, bathed in the beautiful light just before the sun set. When it was time for dessert we passed out plates, cut the pie into slices and then dug in. With our hands. We forgot to bring forks, but that wouldn't keep anyone from the flaky buttery crust and deep purple filling.
Perfect Pie Crust
Adapted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila
This recipe makes plenty for a two crust pie. Alana's version uses a stand mixer to make the dough but I didn't have one at the time. Instead I froze the butter and grated it into tiny pieces which I mixed with the flour. The crust is so buttery but really if that is what it takes to make an amazing pie crust, I am all for it. My blueberry pie filling recipe is here.
2 sticks of unsalted butter, frozen
2 1/4 all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup cold water (or more as needed)
Taking one stick at a time out of the freezer, grate the butter, using a box or other grater, into a bowl. When all the butter is grated, dump in the flour and salt. Using a fork, toss the butter and flour together until they are each evenly distributed. If there are any larger chunks of butter, break them up gently so that small pieces of butter are mixed evenly with the flour. Stir the cider vinegar and water together and sprinkle over the butter and flour. Again use the fork to toss everything together until the flour is evenly dampened. Begin pressing the dough together. If there is too much flour and not enough moisture, sprinkle in a couple more tablespoons of water until the dough is evenly moist and can be pressed together to form a ball of dough. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, flatten them into disks, and wrap in waxed paper to keep them from drying out. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to three days.
When you are ready to make the pie, flour the counter or use waxed paper for a surface to roll the dough. Take one half of the dough out of the fridge. Roll the dough, flipping it over occasionally to keep it from sticking, until it is about 1/4 inch thick and larger than your pie plate. Place it over the pie plate and gently press it down so it covers the bottom of the pie plate and drapes over the sides. Roll out the second piece of dough to approximately the same size. Pour the pie filling into the plate covered with the bottom crust. Place the top crust over the pie. Tuck both layers of dough on top of the edge of the pie plate. If there is a lot more dough than you need around the edges, you can trim it, but leave enough to make a pretty edge around the plate. Press the two layers of dough together and form a nice edge with your fingers or a fork. Cut slits in the top of the pie to let out the steam.