November 3, 2016 | Frank Bonanno
If it’s cake vs. pie, I’m cake all the way. Cake is so great. Any cake in any iteration from any chef is fantastic–German chocolate, raspberry, funfetti, vanilla, lemon, cinnamon, apple, what have you–because a cake, made from scratch, loved and paddled, and loaded with heavy cream and butter and fresh ingredients, gently baked and risen and slathered with more heavy cream and butter and fresh ingredients is delicious in every way. In a restaurant, I would no more order a pie than I would a peanut butter sandwich. There’s the thing, right there–I think of pie as the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of desserts. It’s so basic. Simple and homey with its white flour and juicy filling. The execution couldn’t be easier–crusts call for butter, flour, salt and water (like pasta–simple, timeless). Load that crust up with whatever is ripe and at hand and top it with more crust, or a streusel, maybe, or just whipped egg whites and sugar. I can even get my sons in on the action of baking a pie, the zen of working flour into butter, rolling out a perfect disc on a gently dusted counter. Later, a single warm slice of pie is practically a meal in itself, topped with ice cream that’s just melting over the top and forming a milky puddle around the crust. Later, in the middle of the night, when the house is dark and the kitchen is cool and empty, peeling back the wrap over the pie and with a carton of milk in on hand holding a perfect little triangular parcel of delicious in the other and just indulging in giant bites, followed by giant gulps right out of the container, and maybe I’m a pie guy after all, at home anyway, because at home people cheat with cakes. They use mixes and boxes and powdered blends of who knows what. It sits on the counter and grows stale–but with pie, oh a pie hangs out on the counter for four days and it’s still good, soft, gooey. It beckons you to come on in, take just a bite, and it doesn’t tell on you because the fork doesn’t make a mark, really, and look, no one will know, no one can tell. A pie comes back to life, too. You can just pop it in a toaster oven on the “bagel” setting and it’s as if it was just pulled from the oven fresh and warm and flavorful.
See? I lied there in that first sentence and I didn’t even realize it. Turns out I’m a pie guy all the way. Also–the photo that accompanies this entry implies that I’m making pie crust there. It’s really a picture of me playing with pasta dough–but it looks really nice, doesn’t it?
Some basic recipes below, for other pie folks: a 3-2-1 Crust (the classic); a Shortbread Crust (I like it for fruit pies); Maple Bourbon Pie (because, Thanksgiving. And Autumn). Here’s the deal, though–I often offer up recipes, actual, fantastic recipes that work in homes and are at play in restaurants–so if you are kind enough to give one of the recipes a go in your own home, let me know how it went!
Thank you, Frank . . . .
3-2-1 Crust (The Classic)
3 cups flour
2 cups butter
1 cup ice water
½ teaspoon sea salt
A note: You’ll remember this recipe just by the name: 3 parts flour to 2 parts butter to 1 part ice water—“3-2-1” get it? Add 2 teaspoons of sugar if you’re making crust for something sweet.
Stand mixer; rolling pin; fork
Wednesday’s Pie Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie
A note: When I was testing out pie crusts, I tried lard, lard-butter, all butter, vegetable oil, and all types of flour combinations. I feel almond flour gives a lightness and nearly cookie-like flavor, and for me the most delicious results came from all butter crusts. Because this crust uses melted butter and egg (pâte brisée) it’s also somewhat easier to work with.
Another note: Apparently in our household, an entire pie serves two. Sometimes we had to hide the test results from our sons.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 almond flour
3 oz melted, unsalted butter
Stand mixer; rolling pin; fork, 9” pie pan; parchment paper cut to an 8” circle, pie weights;
Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Pie
Makes 1 10-inch pie
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 T rye or bourbon
½ pie pumpkin, roasted & pureed (about 1 can cooked pumpkin)
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
Whisk, rolling pin; medium bowl; 9 or 10 inch pie pan
When people cook with alcohol, they tend to use the cheap stuff. Why? Ingredients matter. Look at this recipe—it calls for an actual pumpkin rather than the canned stuff, fresh ginger, grated nutmeg . . . don’t skimp on the booze. For this recipe, I use Dickel because it’s not as sweet as say, Makers, which lets the rye flavor really come through.
Pressing the pumpkin through the tammy (strainer) twice gives this pie its velvety texture.
Cut pie into slice and serve on dessert plates. Top with whipped cream.