Summer Berry Pie

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There is an obvious lack of desserts on my blog. For one reason, I prefer savory over sweet any time, any day. But the other reason is that if I do make dessert, I’ll eat it. I mean, I’ll finish it.

When I made the mille crêpe cake for my birthday a while back, my husband and I both had a piece, and then I asked him if he’d want more. He shook his head no. He can get a little carried away as well, like when you get a hankering for that dessert that you know is in the fridge, and it’s 9 o’clock at night.

So into the garbage went that beautiful cake. I know, a waste, but I don’t really know anyone who wants to eat desserts either.

Recently I saw a Strawberry Slab Pie online. It was probably on Pinterest, and when I clicked on the pretty photo it went to the Country Living website.

It’s a strawberry pie baked in a jelly-roll pan and decorated with flowers. A fruit dessert is typically healthier than, say, a chocolate cheesecake to have sitting in the refrigerator taunting me at night. But what intrigued me about this pie is what the pie-maker did with the flower cut-outs of crust.

As with my mille crepe cake, this would be another baking/pastry challenge for me, because I’ve never done much more with pie crust dough than lattice.

First I had to locate some flower cookie cutters, which I found on Sur La Table.

What I also like about this pie is that the filling is basically all berries, plus a little sugar and cornstarch. None of that goopy pie-filling-like stuff.

Here’s the recipe:

Summer Berry Pie

Pie Crust, 2 or 3 recipes

All-purpose flour, for work surface
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled, sliced
1 pound whole blueberries
1 large egg white

To make the pie, preheat oven to 425°F with the rack in lowest position. On a lightly floured surface, roll 2 recipes of dough. Transfer to a pan and trim. Crimp and chill.

I obviously used a shallow, large, round terracotta pan to make this pie instead of a jelly-roll pan.

Roll remaining dough to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough with assorted flower-shaped cutters. Transfer flowers to prepared baking sheet, and chill.

Stir together sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Add strawberries and blueberries and toss gently to combine.

Transfer to bottom crust, packing tightly into pan.

Whisk together egg white and 2 teaspoons water in a bowl. Brush dough flowers with egg wash. Arrange dough flowers, slightly overlapping, on top of berries. Brush edges of dough with egg wash.

Freeze 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes. I had to adjust the temperature after 30 minutes; my crust browned too much. If this happens, place a piece of foil over the top of the pie and continue baking at 400 degrees.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool until set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I served the pie with whipped cream.

I baked some pie-crust cookies separately, and stuck one in the whipped cream for decoration. I’m obviously not a stylist. So I ate it instead.


So, although a bit challenging but not stressful, I will leave the fancy pie-crust makers to their fancy pie crusts. The good thing is that the pie itself was very good.

I love that it’s just about crust and berries.

Check out this pie from Williams-Sonoma.

Flamiche

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A flamiche is somewhat related to a quiche, but with the addition a a generous amount off caramelized onions. It is good.
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Unfortunately, I can not give you the source for the recipe, because it was from the days when I copied recipes out of cookbooks that I borrowed from the library.
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I changed the recipe by adding cheese to the quiche. Why not?!!
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Served with a green salad, it will definitely please you for lunch or a light dinner. You could always add bacon or ham to it.

Flamiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Gruyère
Nutmeg, white pepper, salt
Baked pie shell

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion slices and sprinkle on the sugar. Sauté the onion slices until they are caramelized. This should take about 20 minutes, trying not to burn the onion.

Set aside the onions to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, and cream. Add your desired amounts of seasoning; I used 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, approximately 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
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Place your pre-baked pie crust pan on a jelly roll pan. Place the grated cheese on the bottom. Top with the caramelized onions.

Add the seasoned egg and cream mixture.


Bake the flamiche for about 40 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 325 degrees and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. You can test its doneness by using a cake tester, which should come out clean.

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Let the flamiche rest for a bit, then cut into slices and serve.
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It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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You could use a dip-dish pie pan; the one I used is quite shallow.

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Hazelnut Cinnamon Pie Crust

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When I make a pie crust for even the simplest of pies, I like to change things up. There’s nothing quite so perfect as a pâte brisée, but when you can also add ground nuts of various kinds, and flavorings like rum and cinnamon, the crust pushes the pie over the top!

For Thanksgiving, I only made one pie, since there were only four of us, and that was a pumpkin pie. I did add some rum-soaked raisins to the pie as well. A good pie, as it turned out, although not necessarily better than a traditional pumpkin pie, which we all love. I just wanted to literally spice up the crust.

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So, I chose to make a hazelnut-based pie crust. In my tutorial for making pie crusts, I mentioned adding nuts as an option for introducing different flavors as well as textures into a basic pie crust. It’s just so fun and easy.

The only negative in adding ground nuts to a traditional flour-based pie crust is that the dough is more on the crumbly side, and is a tiny bit harder to work with. However, if I can do it, anyone can as well.

So here’s what I did.

Hazelnut Cinnamon Pie Crust

Place the hazelnuts, 1/2 cup of flour and the brown sugar in a food processor jar. Process until the hazelnuts are very fine.
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The addition of the flour will keep the nuts from becoming nut butter.
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Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and the rum. Then add the shortening and butter and process just a little.
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Then, adding icy cold water as needed, continue processing the dough until it balls up.
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Turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap.
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With your hands underneath the plastic wrap, fold over and forcibly pat down on the dough until it sticks together and forms a disk.
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Wrap up the disc and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

The next day, get the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit a little bit to warm up slightly. You can alternatively try beating on it with your rolling pin.

Unwrap the disk of dough and place it on a gently floured surface.

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Using the same technique as you would a pâte brisée, roll out the dough into a large circle, sprinkling a little flour as needed.

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To assist in placing the rolled out crust into the pie pan, use a very wide metal spatula. I would invest in one if you don’t already own one; I’ve used this a lot when a regular spatula just won’t do.

Then carefully place it over the pie pan.
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Trim the edges of the crust that overhang, and then crimp the edges carefully.

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Place the pie crust in the refrigerator until you fill the pie. At that point, also place the pie pan in a jelly roll pan, or on a cookie sheet. That way you don’t wreck the integrity of the crimped crust grabbing the pie pan with oven mitts.

There will be a future post on the eggnog ice cream I topped the pumpkin pie with that filled this fabulous hazelnut cinnamon crust pie!

Tomato Tart

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It isn’t tomato season yet where I live, but sometimes I prefer good, canned tomatoes over fresh. And this is one of those times that canned tomatoes are superior to fresh in a recipe.

This recipe comes from a book entitled, The Best of Bugialli, by none other than Giuliano Bugialli. Even if I never used any of the other recipes in this book, which I have, I’d keep this book just for this one recipe – Torta Di Pomodoro – translated to tomato tart.

It’s actually one dish that daughter number 2 asks for on occasion, which always makes me happy. Mostly because I’m thrilled to oblige, but also because I love it too. What’s not to love? It’s tomatoes in a pie crust. But it’s different than other tomato tarts I’ve come across in my many years of reading recipes.

So here it is. It’s a very long recipe because one part is the crust, and the other part the filling. But it’s honestly a very simple, straight forward recipe. You can make the crust and the filling the day before.

I’m typing the recipe as it is in the book, and then following it I will add my five cents’ worth.

Tomato Tart

For the crust*:
8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons cold sweet butter
5 tablespoons cold water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Filling:
1 medium-sized celery stalk
1 carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized red onion, cleaned
1 small clove garlic, peeled
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 pounds very ripe tomatoes or 1 1/2 pounds drained canned tomatoes, preferably imported Italian
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Basil leaves, optional

Prepare the crust: Sift the flour onto a board and arrange it in a mound. Cut the butter into pieces and place over the mound. Use a metal dough scraper to incorporate the butter into the flour, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time and seasoning with the salt and nutmeg. When all the water is used up, a ball of dough should be formed. Place the ball in a dampened cotton dish towel and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

Prepare the filling: Coarsely chop the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley and basil all together on a board.

If using fresh tomatoes, cut them into large pieces. Place the fresh or canned tomatoes in a non-reactive casserole, then arrange all the prepared vegetables over the tomatoes. Pour the olive oil on top.
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Cover the casserole, set it over medium heat, and cook for about 1 hour, without stirring, shaking the casserole often to be sure the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom.

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Pass the contents of the casserole through a food mill, using the disc with the smallest holes, into a second casserole.
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Add the butter and season with salt and pepper.

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Place the casserole over medium heat and let the mixture reduce for 15 minutes more, or until a rather thick sauce forms. Transfer the sauce to a crockery or glass bowl and let cool completely.

Butter a 9 1/2″ tart pan with a removable bottom.

Flour a pastry board. Unwrap the pastry and knead it for about 30 seconds on the board, then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 14″ disc. Roll up the disc on the rolling pin and unroll it over the buttered pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cut off the dough around the rim of the pan by moving the rolling pin over it. Using a fork, make several punctures in the pastry to keep it from puffing up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the pastry, then put pie weights or dried beans in the pan. Refrigerate the pastry for 1/2 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and lift out the foil and weights or beans. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile, finish preparing the filling: Add the eggs and Parmesan to the cooled tomato sauce. Taste for salt and pepper and mix very well with a wooden spoon.

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Remove the tart pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Let the crust cool for 15 minutes, then pour in the prepared filing.

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Bake the tart for 20 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the oven and let the tart cool for 15 minutes before transferring it from the tart pan to a serving dish.
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Slice the tart like a pie and serve it with the fresh basil leaves.

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* You of course don’t have to use this recipe for the crust, especially if you have your own favorite that you use. And if you dislike making pie crusts, store-bought can also be used.

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notes: I’ve made this tart many times and I have a few suggestions. First, reduce the tomato mixture as much as possible, or it will be too watery. Secondly, I use 3 large eggs and one extra egg yolk. Thirdly, I’ve always had to bake this tart for at least 15 minutes longer than it says in the directions.

Pie Crust Tutorial

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Tomorrow my post is a tomato tart, based on a recipe by Giuliano Bugialli. Because my blog is written primarily for people who don’t do a lot of cooking but want to, I thought I’d first go over making a pie crust.

A lot of people would rather purchase pre-made pie crusts than try making one at home. And if you must, that’s okay. But if you try this one pie crust one time, you will see how much better it tastes, how easy it is, and how much less expensive it is as well. And that’s minus whatever preservatives might be in the pre-fab crusts .

I’m going to use a food processor to show how I make pie crust. Even Julia Child, the grand dame of French cooking and old-school chef, began using a food processor in her later years. It might have even been Martha Stewart who showed her how well it worked, without compromising the quality of the dough, during one of her cooking shows.

Nonetheless, if Julia Child can use one, so can I. There are just a few rules that are important. But they are simple rules.

First, have everything on hand. That would include your food processor, flour, cold butter, shortening, a pourable container full of icy water, and a large piece of plastic wrap. Here’s a recipe.

Pie Crust, also called Short Crust Pastry if you want to be fancy…

2 cups white all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cold butter, diced
4 tablespoons shortening*
Pinch of salt
Icy cold water, at least 2 cups just so you have enough

Sprinkle a little bit of flour onto the piece of plastic wrap and set aside.

Then place the flour, the diced butter, shortening and salt in your food processor. The butter is diced so that it will incorporate more easily into the flour. (My pie crust for the tomato pie contains nutmeg, which is why you see it in the photo.)

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Pulse the food processor’s blades until the mixture looks like crumbs.

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Have the water in one hand, and use your other hand to run the food processor. Start up the food processor on the continuous mode and begin slowly pouring the water into the floury mixture. A slow drizzle will work well. If you over pour the water, you will get globs of wet flour, so it’s best to go slowly if you’re concerned about this. Normally, over processing the dough will create a stiffer dough, which isn’t good, but this can be worked out later when you’re making your pie crust. So just make sure there’s a constant drizzle.

At one point, stop and look at your dough. If you see some parts that look like dough, but other parts are dry and floury, you definitely need to add more water.

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Stop when a giant dough has formed within the jar of your food processor. You’ll know when it happens. Keep in mind that when you’ll be working with your pie crust, and if it’s a little too wet, you can always add more flour. However, if the dough is too dry to begin with, there’s no turning back. You can’t add water to dry dough. It doesn’t work

One your giant blog of dough has formed, remove it from the food processor jar and dump it onto your piece of plastic wrap.

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Sprinkle a little flour over the blob, and then working with the plastic wrap, place your hands underneath and mold the dough into a firm, flattened disc. No kneading is necessary. Fold the plastic wrap over the disc and refrigerate it for a couple of hours, or overnight.

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When you are ready to use the dough for a pie crust, have your pie pan ready, some flour handy, and your rolling pin available.

First, unwrap the disc and place it on your surface, with a little flour sprinkled on top. Try to use as little flour as possible, because believe it or not, the flour can add up and create a dry crust.

Then take your rolling pin and beat the cold dough with it. This will loosen the dough a bit, and allow for better rolling**.

Then start rolling out the pie crust. This recipe will easily make a 9″ or 10″ pie crust, so you should have plenty. Don’t worry if you aren’t making a complete circle – that’s nearly impossible. Roll it out about 1/4″ thick – too thick isn’t good, and too thin will cause tearing. Any tears you do get can be sealed, so don’t worry about those, either.

As you roll, carefully lift the crust and turn it over, so you can thoroughly but lightly dust the crust with flour, if necessary. Every wet spot on the crust can potentially stick to the pie pan, and you don’t want that.

When it is larger than the diameter of your pie pan and the correct thickness, fold the crust over the rolling pin and gently place the dough over the pie pan. Make sure it is centered, and then gradually press down on the bottom of the pie crust. After you do that, work your way around the sides and press the crust into place. If you have long fingernails, use your knuckles.

There are many ways to make a fancy pie crust edging, but I’m going to make mine absolutely plain, because it’s not necessary to be fancy. Simply take your rolling pin and roll it over the top of your pie pan, and all the excess dough flaps will essentially get cut off. There! You now have a pie crust.

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As you can see, mine isn’t perfect. I was working too quickly, which I often do for some unknown reason, and the dough tore, but it’s seriously no big deal unless you’re entering a pie competition. The dough will seal as it cooks. But if you are concerned, dip your finger into water and mush the tear together to smooth it out. I’m only talking a drop of water.

The rest is up to your recipe. Sometimes, as with the tomato tart, the crust has to be cooked ahead of time, just like with a quiche. If that is the case, line the pie crust with foil, and then fill up the bottom of the crust with pie weights, or simply beans; these work just as well. Bake the pie according to the recipe. Sometimes the foil and weights are removed, and the crust is cooked more for browning purposes. Often, the pie crust bottom is pierced with fork tines before the browning step, because this technique keeps the pie crust from puffing up. If puffing occurs, and you push down on the puff, then the crust will break and crumble. (Can you tell I’ve done this before?!!!)

If you’re making a pie that requires you to fill it immediately and bake, then make sure you also turned on your oven before you began working with the pie crust.

The best advice I can give with pie crusts, however, is that they be refrigerated after they’re placed in the pie pan. If the crust dough is warmish, then as soon as they’re in the oven, the fat will ooze out of them, and the results will not be pleasant. It will be a soggy mess. Trust me on this, because I was once in a hurry to bake some puff pastry, and didn’t take the time to put it back in the refrigerator for a mere 30 minutes….. I remember this hard lesson learned from many years ago!

Now that you’ve made a pie crust, think of all the fun things that you can add to it – like dried herbs, or white pepper, or cayenne or chili powder…. Then, you can also add finely grated cheeses to it… Or finely chopped nuts….. Oh, it gets even more fun!

If you happen to have some dough left over, you can easily make a couple of pie pockets, with savory or sweet fillings, or top a stew with the crust for a prettier presentation! Don’t let it go to waste!

* Supposedly, the best fat mixture for pie crust is a 50-50 mixture of butter and shortening. The butter adds flavor, and the shortening provides flakiness. You could certainly use either or if you prefer.

* I went to the Aspen Food and Wine Festival many years ago, and had the pleasure of being in attendance at a Julia Child cooking demonstration. At one point she was making a pie crust, and she began beating the crap out of her dough with a giant rolling pin. Everyone started laughing. I mean, even if you knew what she was doing, it was still funny. Here was this 6 foot something hulk of a woman beating a little piece of dough! She seemed sincerely stunned at the laughter! Can you just hear her? No, really, you have to beat… the dough… to get it more pliable……