Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blueberry Nectarine Pie

In my last post I said, "God is good, pie is great." I said it as a joke.

But I have since come to the startling realization that I think far more about pie than I do about God.

I don't know what this indicates.

I had my existential crisis at age 13. It's not an experience I hope to repeat any time soon. (The crisis part was mostly contemplating my existence and the lack of godly presence in my life while trying to fall asleep on a bed covered with stuffed animals.)

Thinking about God so much was decidedly uncomfortable and slowly drove me crazy: God is so twisty and fickle and unknowable and impossible to understand. The concept of God is too BIG.

Eventually I gave up trying to decide if there was some greater force in the universe.

So I focus on the particulars in life: the smell of wet earth after a summer rain, comfortable shoes, the color blue, flowers, and blueberry nectarine pie.

Blueberry pie is my favorite. It's even better with a few nectarines.

It's simple. Delicious. Wonderful.

It's good slightly warm.

It's even better chilled.

When you pair it with vanilla ice cream it's even better.

This blueberry pie is thick and berry juice-gooey. In a word: perfect.

Double-Crusted Blueberry Pie*
from Baking:From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 recipe Best Pie Crust (see previous post), chilled
2 1/2 pints fresh blueberries
3 nectarines
1 cup sugar, or a bit more to taste, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of slat
coarsely gated zest of 1/2 lemon
squirt of fresh lemon juice, or a little more to taste

1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
sugar for dusting

Butter a 9-inch pie plate. On a well floured surface
Working on a well-floured surface (or between wax paper or plastic wrap), roll out once piece of the dough to a thickeness of about 1/8 inch (Not to be precise or anything.)Fit the dough into the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a 1/2 inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8 inch circle and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Cover both circle and pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you preheat oven and prepare filling. **

Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 425 F.
Put berries in a large bowl and gently stir in the sugar, flour, salt, zest and juice. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Taste filling and add more sugar of lemon juice if need.
Remove pie shell and top crust from fridge. Give filling a final stir and turn into crust.

Using fingertips, moisten the rim of the bottom crust with a little cold water. Center the top crust over the filling and gently press the top crust against the bottom. Either fold the overhang fromt eh top crust under the bottom crust and crimp edges attractively or press the top crust against bottom crust and trim the overhang from both crusts even with the rim of the pie plate. If you've pressed and trimmed the crust, use the tines of a fork to press the two crusts together securely. Using a small sharp knife, cut 4 slits in teh top crust and circle out of the center.*** (If you have time, refrigerate the pie for about 30 minutes. The pie can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Glaze and sugar it before you put it in the oven and add least 15 mintues to the baking time.)****

Brush the top crust with the egg wash, then sprinkle the crust with the egg wash, then sprinkle with a little sugar, to give it sparkle.

Bake pie for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. And bake the pie for another 30 minutes or so, (total baking time is about 1 hour), or until the crust is a beautiful golden brown and filling is bubbling up through the slits. If the crust seems to be browning too quickly, make a loose foil tent for the pie.
Transfer pie to rack and let it cool-and settle- for at least 30 minutes before serving.

*I added about 3 nectarines to the blueberry mixture, to be extra special.
**Because I want pie NOW I skip this step, by putting the pie dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes before I roll it out.
*** You can also cut lots of decorative slits in the top crust if you are so inclined. Get decorative and creative.
****I also skip the extra refrigeration. I want pie NOW.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Best Pie Crust

God is good, but pie is great.
I made my first lattice crust ever.
Pie. Oh my.
It's all I've been able to think about. All I want to eat.
Last night I had pie for dinner, and this morning I had pie for breakfast. I crave pie. Pie. Pie. Pie.
It's my soul mate dessert.

Have you ever had a moment when you startled yourself? A moment when you sang a note you didn't think you could sing, or followed through with a goal you didn't think you would accomplish, or run three miles when the thought of even standing up makes you want to sit down? And then you just do it and you suprise yourself, and say, "I didn't know I could do that."

This pie crust will have that effect on you. Pie crust has a reputation for being difficult. Which is, if you ask me, unfair. Pie crust is very easy. Especially with this precious recipe. It's called Making Magic In the Food Processor. While many people probably consider using a food processor sacriledge, even Julia Child was a food processor adhererant. The goddess of simple baking, Dorie Greenspan loves the food processor. Basically the only fabulous bakers who don't use a food processor are the amish... and other people who wear suspenders.

I'll get back to you on what to do with this fabulous pie crust very, very soon.


Basic Pie Crust from BAKED

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

3 cups flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

In a food processor whirl together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the VERY COLD BUTTER into small pieces and blend until the mixture forms into pea-sized chunks. Dribble in water and whirl until dough just comes together.

Take dough out of processor and knead until dough comes together. Divide into two, wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for one hour before using.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who love breakfast.
And those who don't.

I was anti-breakfast for most of my childhood.

Unless it involved doughnuts.

You see, I was an egg-hater for a very, very long time. I just couldn't abide eggs. The way they smelled. Or the way they looked or the way they tasted or that weird silky smooth gross texture. For years, I would not, could not eat eggs.
And then one day, not too long ago I overcame my ovaphobia.
Everyday, for the past week, I have eaten an egg for lunch. (Protein!) So miracles really do happen.
Anyway, my egg loathing often made breakfast a contentious issue.

Once I was reduced to eating spaghetti at a brunch.

Not that my ten year old self minded.
But breakfast is an intensely personal meal.
It has to be just so.

That's why I resisted for so long. When going out for breakfast I was always dissatisfied, the pancakes were never as good as they were at home, the doughnuts never as delicious, the syrup fake, the orange juice from concentrate... I'll stop before you go jump off a very tall building. This is just getting worse and worse:
The troubles of living in a wealthy first-world country! When will the suffering end?
Anyway, the real point of the rambling is that I have Come Around To Breakfast If It Is Done Right.
As part of my, "It's for the blog," experimination tactic, I made my favorite cousin drive me to the grocery store at 10 p.m. the night before just so I could make it.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who like bread pudding and people who don't.

My family split squarly down the middle when it came to a rating for this Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast and Blueberry Syrup dish . Sure, they all ATE it, but that doesn't neccesaily mean they approved.

My little brother Michael, heartily approved. Michael loves bread pudding. He liked this a lot. He had a second helping. He gives it a **** 1/2 asterick approval rating.

My mom liked it, but ate only one portion, because it was very "filling". I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. She thought it was good, but found the blueberry syrup overwhelming, and preferred it simply with fresh blueberries and syrup. ****

My littler brother, Jacob, after completely finishing his portion, and practically licking his plate, decided that he didn't like it. I honestly don't even pretend to understand the way his mind works sometime **1/2?

My dad ate it, and, like Jacob, told me, after finishing, that he didn't particularily care for it. He told me he didn't like the texture very much. He doesn't like "breakfasty casserole things." He also doesn't like bread pudding. **


I had mixed feelings.

I liked it. And I didn't mind eating it. I really liked the pieces around the edge of the pan, which were crisper and more crackly, it was a party in my mouth. I found the blueberry syrup delicious, but thought that it overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the actual french toast. Like my dad, I thought that it was on the unappealing mushy side. And here's the killer. I didn't think the toast without syrup was very attractive. I like food to be pretty. And it just wasn't. *** 1/2

This is not a ringing endorsement of a recipe. But I'm being honest. It was good, but simply one of those things that you either love or despise, or are like me, simply lukewarm about. Give it a go, comment, reflect, tell me about your morning eating experiences, share, kiss, commend, recommend. I'd love to hear your adventures with French Toast.

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup
from Gourmet Today

1 (24-inch-long) baguette
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup pecans lightly toasted at 350 F for about 5 minutes or until deliciously fragrant

For Syrup
1 cup blueberries
1/2 pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the French Toast: Generously butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Cut twenty 1-inch-thick slices from baguette and arrange in one layer in baking dish.
Whisk toether eggs, milk, 3/4 cup brown sugar, nutmeg and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined and pour evenly over bread. Let bread soak for 10 minutes. Turn slices and cover surface with a large sheet of plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on each end of baking dish. If necessary place a smaller dish on top to keep bread submerged. Refrigerate mixture until all liquid is absorbed, at least 8 hours.
Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine butter, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, and cream in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in pecans.
Spoon pecan mixture evenly over bread. Bake until bread is puffed, edges are lightly browned and liquid is absorbed, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile make syrup: Combine blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat until berries burst, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.
Serve toast with syrup.

Consume. Form lengthy, wordy opinion. Post on internet. Realize that you really spend more time than is healthy thinking about breakfast issues. See therapist.