Home is where the heart is

Oven is on fire - ha haThanksgiving can feel like a drudgery for the cook no matter how fearless she/he is. Luckily, every Thanksgiving, our dear friends Joy & Terry, host the event. I usually bring a salad or vegetable side dish. This year I’m bringing a pie as I stocked the freezer with pie fillings from fruit of the summer and fall bounty.

I have this book to thank for my pre-planning this year.Art of the the Pie  cookbookI met Kate McDermott the author of The Art of the Pie, in June 2012 when I went to a food blogging conference in Seattle. She was a lovely and humble woman who sat next to me,  told me about her story and food blog, Art of the Pie.  I have followed her baking career since our meeting and feel so privileged to have met her and so happy to own her beautiful cookbook. Kate McDermott & I - June 2012Thanksgiving is all about the pie when it comes to dessert. I took a tip from Kate’s book on page 155 on Pre-Cooking and Freezing Apple Pie filling. Partially cook the apple pie filling, allow it to cool, then place plastic wrap on the bottom of a pie plate, the pour the filling inside.Apple Pie Filling -1Wrap up the filling in the pie plate then place in the freezer. Once frozen, you can remove the plate and wrap the filling more securely with aluminum foil if you wish.Apple Pie filling - 2When you are ready for a pie, make the crust and pop in the filling. The filling can be partially thawed and then you would bake it an additional 10-15 minutes at the lower temperature.  I was so happy to have discovered this I froze peach, peach-blueberry and cherry pie fillings from the summer harvest to have ready for the next party.Pie crust crumblesI generally have issues with managing the dough. I made Kate’s Traditional Art of the Pie Butter and Shortening Dough, which has worked well for me in the past. My problem is the timing of chilling the dough, then rolling it out. For today’s pie I chilled it overnight, sat it out for an hour, but it was still a chore to roll it out. One crust rolled out well but the other did not.
img_2129.jpgOne thing about Kate’s book, is that she is not perfect, nor does she profess to be. She admits that baking can be troublesome and she talks about how to to roll with it.

I scrambled around in my pie box where I store items and found some cookie cutters. This was my opportunity as a baker to make a signature crust. Home is where the pie heart is Patty’s Points:

1. The crust rolls out best for me, when chilled after one hour. It is more pliable.

2. I loved making the filling in advance, completely separate from making the crust. This works for me until I have managed making and rolling out the crust with great skill.

3. It takes practice to make pie crust as it is more art and skill than anything.

4. Make the pie crust topping your own. Be creative.

Happy Thanksgiving – Enjoy your family and friends during this American Holiday.

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Pizza pie is amore!

Oh Dean Martin, I wish I had your song playing while we made pizza a couple of weeks ago. The second half of our pie adventure was making pizza with Gabe. It was dough love!

pulling apart the dough

  Gabe Mill’s Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

Makes two pizzas

500 grams unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt (6 grams)

3 grams yeast

325 grams water

Place all the ingredients in a Kitchen Aid mixer with a bread hook and process on the mix setting of “2” for six minutes. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let it rise for about 1-2 hours. Punch down the dough and divide into two balls. Let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter before forming into a pizza.

To form the dough into a circle, grab the edges of the dough and let it hang down (see the top picture of Gabe) and go round and round with your hands on the edges. Slowly a bigger pizza pie dough circle will develop.

the cooking club members

Patty and Gabe

Pizza pointers from Gabe:

1. Measure everything with a scale. Flour is sensitive to humidity and you get a more accurate end-product.

2. The temperature of your oven should be turned up as high as it will go (without going to the broil setting). My oven went to 500 degrees F but I think 450 would’ve been ideal for my little oven. Gabe, being a carpenter, has built his own brick oven kiln in his backyard. The temperature of his kiln can get to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. You can use any type of pan or stone to put the pizza in.  Don’t oil the pan.

4. If you are not using the dough right away, oil the dough and bag it for the refrigerator.  When you take it out of the refrigerator , let it have a chance to come to room temperature for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

5.  You can use Semolina corn meal on pizza peel if you use a stone and a paddle to take the dough in and out of the oven.

6. Put toppings on pizza dough and sprinkle olive oil lightly over top.

7. Check on the pizza after about 8 minutes, then continue to check on it every 1-2 minutes. You can turn the pizza 180 degrees if your oven is not very even in baking.

8. Gabe’s Sauce for Butter knots: minced garlic, butter, white wine, olive oil, and cream.  Combine the ingredients in a pan and heat on the stove top. All the ingredients are to taste. It was fabulous!

9. Use fresh tomatoes with some salt for the pizza sauce. It brings out the freshness of all the ingredients.

10. This dough is great for bread making too. After it rises,punch it down, form it into a baguette then let it rest for 10 minutes before putting it into the oven.

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pizza uno

pizza

I lost track of how many pizzas we made, maybe ten? We had a variety of toppings, feta cheese, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes. We even had a dessert pizza. Bake the pizza dough without anything atop, spread a mixture of marscapone cheese with fig jam and crinkle malt vinegar with sea salt potato chips atop. Sounds weird but it was yummy.

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We all gathered around the table to finish up our pizza, drink some wine and limoncello to cleanse our palate. Julie, our school teacher among the group, read the book below. The Little Red Hen didn’t bake any pizza but she did do the dishes. It was a nice ending to a beautiful day and everyone pitched in to clean up which was even better for me as the host.

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Gabe the Pie Man

appletini pie

The Fearless Cooking Club met last weekend to celebrate National Pie Day January 23rd. We invited self-taught baker, Gabriel Mills, who demonstrated his expertise at pie and pizza pie making.

Gabe was born in Baker, Oregon (really) and he and his sister were raised by three sets of people. His mother was bi-polar where home was chaotic. Then raised by a nice elderly couple where the woman taught he and his sister how to cook and bake. There was an atmosphere of no fear and she was a kind teacher. Then they were sent to live with a not-so-nice aunt and uncle. It was never okay to ask for a toy as a gift, but to ask for a practical gift like a rolling-pin or kitchen tool was fine. At age 13 years he began his quest to unseat his aunt as the family Pie Queen. He became the family Pie King when the relatives gathered for Thanksgiving and they gobbled up his pie and left hers still in the plate. So began his baking career.

Gabe brought us all a pound of butter he buys wholesale, $2.00 apiece. That’s a lotta butta!

James Farm Butter

85 grams flour (2 cups)

1/4 teaspoon salt (use a pinch for a sweet pie)

1 Tablespoon sugar

155 grams unsalted butter (cold) or (2/3 cup)

113 grams cold water or (8 Tablespoons )


prepping for pie crust

Add the cold butter cut into small cubes and cold water to the dry ingredients on the pastry sheet and work them together using two dough scrapers with the goal of keeping it cold. Work the dough by stacking formed pieces together on top of each other making thin folds.

pastry scrapingWrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in freezer for at least twenty minutes before using it in a recipe or for up to four days in the refrigerator. It may be placed in the freezer almost indefinitely.

Each crust weighs 120 grams for a 9-inch pie pan. Pre-heat the oven to 370 degrees and place in the middle of the oven. Follow the directions for the filling of your pie recipe.

Gabe’s Go-To-Tips:

1. Measure everything with a scale. Flour is sensitive to humidity and lack-there-of (especially in the Mile High City where it is pretty dry). You get a more accurate end-product if you do.

2. Gabe likes the Pie and Pastry Bible  cookbook by Rose Berenbaum as his baking reference. He said that some of the recipes are quite lengthy to prepare, but the result is worth it.

3. Gabe uses a non-slip pastry sheet for rolling out the pie dough. As you can see in the picture, Joy brought her vintage Tupperware pastry sheet. I had one just like it oh-so-many years ago but it got cut up and damaged. You can still find them at Tupperware or you can find a vintage one on EBay. A marble slab is the ideal board for keeping the pie ingredients cold.

4. Gabe likes aluminum pans as he gets a consistent end-product result. He brushes the crust with egg white and sprinkles it with sugar.

5. Gabe likes Gold Medal flour, but King Arthur flour is his prime choice as it is organic. He usually buys it if it is on sale as it is a little more expensive.

6. If you use your hands working the dough, it warms the dough. The pie dough is very forgiving because it eventually ends up in the refrigerator or freezer before using in a recipe. If need be, the dough can be placed there for a time to get the temperature right and then return to the work board to get it back to a good consistency.
Gabe the Pie Man

Patty’s Points:

1. I looked up James Farm butter and could only find that it is distributed out of New York. What little I could find on the internet was that in the Julie and Julia movie, Julie Powell leaves a pound of James Farm butter at the Julia Child kitchen replica at the Smithsonian. Butter made in the old USA. There is also a band called James Farm. They got more hits on the internet than butter searches.

2. The pie pictured above was baked by Gabe prior to the baking party. It is an Appletini Pie with gin and vermouth added in. He likes to use Honey Crisp with Granny Smith apples together. He also likes the Pink Lady variety which adds a pink color to the pie. He doesn’t add a lot of sugar to the fresh fruit, instead choosing to let the fresh fruit shine in the recipe.

3. The pie crust was flaky and light, the apples were so fresh, without being heavy. He does NOT use Crisco. He has used lard on occasion but butter is best.

As Gabe was telling his story of how he started baking as a child I had memories of other pie makers and the stories behind them.Art of the Pie , a blog written by Kate McDermott is one. I met Kate this past summer at the BlogHer Food 2012 conference in Seattle when she personally shared her story about her kind neighbor. And of course there is the movie Waitress. The lead actress played by Keri Russell, baked and created unusual pies with titles reflective of her unhappy marriage, unexpected pregnancy and affair with her doctor.

The pie story continues on the next post as we made pizza pie dough and lotsa pizza.

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