Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Great Pumpkin Pie & Flaky Pie Dough

From The Art & Soul of Baking

Great Pumpkin Pie

Makes 1 (10-inch) regular pie or 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie, serving 10 to 12 Thanksgiving just may be everyone’s favorite holiday. After all, what’s better than a day completely devoted to a delicious feast shared by family and friends, all giving thanks for their blessings? This recipe takes an American classic to celebration status with a careful blend of spices and heavy cream, outshining the stale spice mix and evaporated milk of less enchanting recipes. Ever notice how spices clump up and don’t blend well when added to a custard? The trick is to blend them first with the eggs, whose fat helps the clumps disperse evenly, before adding any liquid to the custard mixture.

1 recipe Flaky Pie or Tart Dough (page 177 - recipe below), prepared through Step 8
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (about 20 grates on a whole nutmeg)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¹⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) heavy whipping cream
½ cup (4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup (1 ¾ ounces) granulated sugar
2 cups (16 ounces) canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
Softly Whipped Cream (page 416 - recipe below), for serving

10-inch Regular or 9-inch Deep Dish Pie Pan, Pie Weights, Cooling Rack, Whisk, Large Bowl, Fine-Mesh Strainer, Medium Saucepan, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, Thin and Sharp Knife

1 Bake the shell: Preheat the oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in the bottom third. Line the chilled pie shell with heavy-duty foil, pressing the foil firmly and smoothly into the crevices of the pan. Fill the pan with pie weights (page 175). Make sure the weights reach up the sides to the rim of the pan (the center does not need to be filled quite as full). Bake the shell for 20 to 22 minutes, until the foil comes away from the dough easily (if it doesn’t, then bake another 5 to 6 minutes and check again). Remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and lift out the foil and weights from the shell; set them aside to cool. Return the pan to the oven to continue baking the shell for about 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and check to see if any cracks have formed. If you see a crack, very gently smear a tiny bit of reserved dough over the crack to patch it (page 171)—you need only enough to seal the opening. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the crust is a nice golden brown all over. Transfer to a rack and cool slightly. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.
2 While the pie crust is baking, make the filling: Whisk the eggs in the large bowl to break them up. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and salt and whisk well to blend evenly. Whisk in the cream, brown sugar, and granulated sugar and blend well. Strain the mixture through the strainer into the medium saucepan, pressing on the strainer with the spatula to push through any lumps of brown sugar. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk until the custard mixture is thoroughly blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with the spatula and scraping all over the bottom of the pan to prevent the eggs from scrambling, for 7 to 9 minutes, until the mixture feels lightly thickened and registers 150°F on an instant-read thermometer. Do not let the mixture scramble or you’ll have to begin again. Remove from the heat.
3 If the pie crust has cooled, reheat it in the oven for 5 minutes. Scrape the hot custard into the hot pie shell and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the custard is set. Test by tapping the side of the pie pan—the center of the pie should look firm and move as one piece (professionals call this the Jell-O jiggle). Transfer the pie to a rack and cool completely, about 2 hours.
4 To serve, slice the pie with a thin and sharp knife and use a pie server to transfer each slice to a plate. Serve with whipped cream. Storing Store at room temperature for up to 8 hours. For longer storage, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Remove the pie from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Pumpkin pie is best the first or second day, as the crust begins to soften over time. It will keep, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

What the Pros Know
There’s a trick to making pumpkin pie that keeps the prebaked crust crisp against the liquid custard filling, and it defies logic. You’ve probably always heard that a prebaked pie crust should be cooled before being filled with custard and sent back to the oven. Not here. The crust should be hot from the oven (or reheated until hot) and then filled with hot custard. It’s crazy, but it works beautifully. The bonus is that hot crust plus hot custard equals a shorter baking time. While pumpkin pies usually take an hour or more to bake, this one is finished in about 30 minutes. Now that’s a reason to be thankful.

Getting Ahead
The pie crust can be rolled, fitted into the pie pan, and trimmed up to 2 days before baking the pie and refrigerated, or it may be frozen for up to 1 month. The crust can be baked up to 3 days in advance and stored, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature. The ingredients for the custard can be combined 1 day in advance and kept, airtight, in the refrigerator. Do not warm the custard on the stovetop until just before you bake it.

Flaky Pie or Tart Dough

Makes 1 (9- or 10-inch) pie shell Many bakers are so intimidated by the idea of making flaky pie crust that they either settle for the prepared dough from the grocery store or don’t make pie at all. But, like all baking, pie crust is quite straightforward once you know how the ingredients work together. If you’re new to pie dough, be sure to read the primer (page 168); then take a deep breath and follow the steps below for a beautifully crisp, golden brown, flaky pie crust. This recipe doesn’t call for shortening, as the flavor, aroma, and color of an all-butter crust can’t be beat. The drawback to butter is that it can soften quickly at room temperature, which is why it’s best to use the food processor to ensure great results every time. Weigh your dry ingredients if you can, but if you don’t have a scale, you can measure by the dip-and-sweep method (page 4).

1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
1 ¼ cups (6 ¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar (omit for a savory crust)
¼ teaspoon salt

Small Measuring Cup, Food Processor Fitted with a Metal Blade, Large Bowl, Rolling Pin, Pastry Brush, 9- or 10-inch Pie or Tart Pan, Kitchen Scissors

1 Place the butter pieces in a bowl or on a plate and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Refrigerate the water in a small measuring cup until needed.
2 Mix the dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Process for 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6 to 10 times (in 1-second bursts), until the butter and flour mixture looks like crushed crackers and peas.
3 Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture to the large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and “fluff” it in, then add another, and another, until 3 tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 or 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough. Before bringing the dough together, you need to test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl then add more water, one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately stirring or mixing it in. Test again before adding any more water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step. (Note: Adding the liquid may also be done on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment—add three-fourths of the liquid, test for moistness, then add the remaining liquid if needed.)
4 Knead and chill the dough: Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead gently 3 to 6 times. If it won’t come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add another teaspoon or two of water (one at a time), mixing in as above, and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6- or 7-inch disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows time for the dough to hydrate fully and for the butter to firm up again.
5 Roll the dough: If the dough has been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, it may be very firm and hard and will crack if you try to roll it. Let it sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes until it is malleable but still cold. Dust your work surface generously with flour and set the disk on the flour. Dust the top with flour. Roll, turning the dough and following the directions on page 171, until you’ve got a 14- to 15-inch circle about ¹⁄8 inch thick. If at any point the dough becomes warm and sticky, gently fold it into quarters, unfold it onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the butter is firm again.
6 If a crack or hole forms while rolling, brush any flour away and patch the area according to the instructions on page 171.
7 Transfer the dough: Fold the dough circle into quarters, brushing off any excess flour as you fold. Put the point of the folded dough in the center of the pie pan, tart pan, or baking sheet and unfold the dough, lifting it slightly as necessary to ease it into the crevices of the pan. Do not stretch or pull the dough, which can cause thin spots, holes, and/or shrinkage during baking.
8 Trim the dough: Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough so it overhangs the edge of the pan by 1 inch. Fold the overhanging dough under itself around the pan edge, then crimp or form a decorative border (page 174). Chill for 30 minutes before baking.

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or double-wrapped in plastic, slipped into a freezer bag, and frozen for up to 1 month.

Softly Whipped Cream

Makes 2 cups The quintessential partner to nearly any dessert, whipped cream—which should be thick yet soft and smooth—can be flavored in a multitude of ways, though vanilla is the classic. Chill your bowl and whisk in the freezer for 10 minutes before you begin. Look for pasteurized cream (instead of ultrapasteurized) or, if you can find it, use manufacturing cream, which contains a higher percentage of milk fat and whips up to be thicker, more luscious, and more stable than any other type. For more on types of cream, see page 33.

1 cup (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Stand Mixer Fitted with a Whisk Attachment or a Hand Mixer and a Medium Bowl

Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of the mixer (or in a medium bowl, if using a hand mixer) and whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Cream whipped on medium speed is more stable than one whipped on high speed. When used as an accompaniment, the cream should look smooth and satiny, and barely hold its shape. To use as a filling or frosting, whip for another 10 to 15 seconds, until firmer. Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.

Whipped cream is at its best when used within 2 hours of preparation. However, it can be whipped up to 8 hours ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If the cream seems too soft when you’re ready to use it, beat it lightly with a hand whisk to firm it up.

Watch a Demo of How to Make Pumpkin Pie and Flaky Pie Dough

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