Monday, August 2, 2021

Pie Season

Happy August!

For my money, this month marks the height of the summer fresh fruit season which means peak pie-baking time. With a long and legendary career as a prolific August pastry chef, I kicked off the 2021 season in fine style today by baking a blueberry pie.

When it comes to pie recipes, I'm a purist. I don't normally go for exotic add-ins or special technique; give me a basic pie crust and some fresh fruit tossed with flour and sugar, and I know the results will be spectacular. 

Let's be honest. The fruit is the star of the show.

^ Rolling out a pie crust from scratch, I recognize, may be perceived as an intimidating skill by the novice. But with a little practice, this is a forgiving process. See how mine has imperfections galore?

A rip here, some wrinkles there, and a messy blob of flour in the bottom. 

But no matter. With a pinch here and there, the holes are easily repaired. And the flour simply bakes into the pie with no fuss or muss.

^ I like to mix the pastry first, get the bottom layer settled in the pie plate, and leave the dough for the top layer balled up and on deck while I turn my attention to the fruit. Stirring the flour and sugar into the berries is a bit of a lost cause, so it's perfectly reasonable to let those ingredients settle to the bottom of the fruit bowl and then gently dump it all into the pie crust, distributing as evenly as possible

As long as everything ends up inside the crust in the end, it'll be fine.

^ There are different schools of thought on top crusts. For sure, it's fairly easy to roll out the crust on my counter but a bit of a trick to somehow scoop it up and get it settled on top of the pie. 

I personally am a fan of the quarter fold technique. 

Which is to say that I take that circle of dough lying flat on my counter and fold it first in half, and then in half again to get a sturdy little wedge. Easily enough I can scoop it up and position it on top of the fruit, and then unfold it in place. 

Works like a charm.

^ Venting - the process of creating openings in the top crust - has been raised in the Instagram age to an exotic art form. 

I remind myself that vents serve a practical purpose to release steam as the pie bake and allow for all the delicious juices to bubble up to the surface and temptingly trickle onto the top crust

A few quick and dirty slashes can get the job done.

But there's considerable creative delight to be found in amping up the artistry of the vents. 

Personally, I prefer my food to looks nice in a rustic and simply charming way, and my vents definitely lean toward function over form.

Ditto my crimping chops. My grandmother taught me the basic pinch-up-and-down fluting style, and while I know there are fancier ways to seal the edges of the pie, I think of her every time I use her tried-and-true method and wouldn't have it any other way.

^ Into the oven she goes, riding atop my mother-in-law's pie dripping catcher. I'm not sure if there is a proper name for this device, but it serves to catch the juices that bubble up through the vents and drip off the surface of the pie which would otherwise spill on the bottom of the oven. My husband grew up licking the drips of spilled pie juices off this serviceable pan, and I'm happy to keep the tradition alive.

^Oh, pretty girl. 

Out from the over she comes, golden brown and bubbling lovely juices, and onto one of my mother's cooling racks. She is imperfectly perfect, which is good enough for me, and sure to be delicious when I cut into her after dinner tonight.

Pie season has officially begun!

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