If there is one thing I look forward to when I am going to any holiday dinner it is the pie.
The varieties, the smells, the textures, the crust — they are all different and at the same time all welcoming.
What do you look for in a pie? It it a flaky, buttery crust? Is it a velvety chocolate mousse filling? Is it a crispy pecan crunch leading into a sweet slightly salty cream filling? Yes, yes, and yeeesss. The options are incredibly abundant.
So, on top of these desires what is something else to think about when preparing a pie for an awe-inspiring holiday feast? Plausibility. With so many different moving parts, you have to be able to execute the task in the middle of kids running around, mothers bickering (sorry mom, I love you!) and 15 other things cooking. Let's look into some of these things and get this party started!
We all want to get to the good stuff, so let's talk about the not-so-fun stuff first — plausibility. Do you have the oven time or personal time to blind bake a crust you have made from scratch? To cool it down, fill it and finish the pie off? Sometimes this can be a stretch. There are a few ways you can play this out. Pre-made crust is not as delicious, but will always have a place here!
You also have to think about the quantity of people. It is much easier to make four pecan pies or Kentucky derby pies than four chocolate caramel mousse pies. Unless you have an industrial size mixer at home, this is quite a feat. Take into account cooking time and space. Are you going to make the pies a day ahead or try to push them into the middle of everything else or bake them during the meal for a hot cobbler with ice cream?
Now, let's talk about homemade crust. Is it going to be a shortcrust pastry like pate Sable (think almost like a sugar cookie, Pillsbury-esque type of crust). Do you want a buttery, flaky dough like pate Brisee, mostly for savory pies or tarts. Or a sweet and tart flaky pate Sucree perhaps (my personal favorite crust). There are also graham cracker or chocolate graham cracker crusts. So many options!
Now to really make the choice above you must decide on the biggest of all of these choices. What is the filling?
There are four major groupings of pies — cream, fruit, custard and savory. Some might be thinking “What the heck is a savory pie?" Think of quiches at a brunch or meat pies. You want a pate Brisee for those guys.
A custard is a tricky one sometimes. Key lime pie is probably my favorite of all time, and it goes well in a pate Sucree or graham cracker crust. Cream pies, like your Oreo cream pie want to be in a graham cracker crust.
Last, but certainly not least, is fruit. This is another one that crosses boundaries. Cobblers can be a pate Sable, pate Sucree or even no crust with a streusel on top. (Not to be mistaken with a strudel because that is a whole different kind of pie with flaky puff pastry.) Then you might even get really bold, and do a tart (pate Sucree) with pastry cream and glazed fruit on top!
I hope this can put a new thought process into the joy and subtleties that come with pie-making. The choices are endless. What will you choose this holiday season?
If you want to know about any certain pies or any type of holiday dishes please let me know and I would love to explore those ideas with you right here in The Auburn Villager, the paper of the plains. War Eagle!
After graduating from Auburn High School, Lee Eddins went to the Culinary Institute of New Orleans. He has worked for fine dining establishments in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Ukraine
Pate Sucree (Sugar Dough)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes in a food processor or cut by hand into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
If a food processor is available, pulse butter, flour, sugar and salt until the texture of coarse cornmeal. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Pour into processor and pulse until just combined. DO NOT OVER WORK. The dough will be very tough if over-worked. Roll out of processor and kneed 4 or 5 times, then split into two halves.
If no processor is available, place butter, flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and work together with hands to the consistency of coarse cornmeal. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Pour into a well in middle of flour mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the cream. Once a dough begins to form, get ready to dig in. Flour a counter top liberally and dump dough out. Kneed just to combine and form a consistent ball. DO NOT OVER WORK. Split ball into two even halves.
Roll dough balls into 1-inch thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one for at least 2 hours or overnight. The second can be used for a second pie or for lattice work. You can also freeze it for up to a month.
When working with fresh dough, refrigeration is key. Butter and sugar can turn to liquid and ruin a dough. Refrigerate, refrigerate, refrigerate! There are two times to do this. Once when you make the dough, and then after it is rolled out, before blind-baking or filling.
You will bring the dough out of the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before rolling so it will not crack. Roll to about ¼-inch thickness in the shape of your pan. Make sure to press the dough into the corners and ridges of you pan! I lightly flour my pans for nonstick but many use butter or sprays.
After packing the dough into the pan, use a knife to glide along the rim or the pan and trim or pinch for decoration. For par-baking or full blind-baking, I use a fork and poke small holes, but not all the way through. You can also use dry beans atop the pie crust and bake for desired time.
Par-baking takes about 7 minutes and a full blind-bake is about 15-18 or until the shell pulls away from the sides and gets a light golden brown color.
Key Lime Pie
1 cup freshly squeeze lime juice (about 18-20 limes)
1 heaping tablespoon lime zest, plus about a half teaspoon to garnish
4 large egg yolks
28 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream and egg yolks until thoroughly combined.
Add in your lime juice and zest. Pour into a prebaked graham cracker crust or pate Sucree crust. Bake in a preheated oven for 13 minutes. The pie should almost be almost set and jiggle like Jello (or Santa’s belly, if you prefer). Cool completely and enjoy!