Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photo-less Pie

I just realized that this pie has no photos, which is a shame. It's not because the pie was un-photogenic, or ugly in any way, quite the contrary- it was the best pie I have ever made. I almost decided that the lack of photographic evidence was reason enough not to share it with y'all, but that would be a travesty upon itself. There are many good things about this pie, and it must (must!) be shared.

My grandmother on my father's side passed away before I could learn how to make pies from her- apparantly they were good. So good, that my mother refused to make pie because she thought they could never measure up- so I never learned how to make pie from my mother either. It was fine that she didn't make pie- there were plenty of Australian desserts that made up for the absence of pie from my childhood (besides, I didn't know any better). However, pie, being one of those quintessential American things, came into my radar in high school when people would bring beautiful pies to summer barbeques. It may have been that that sparked what was (until now!) my quest for the perfect pie crust.

If you don't think about the amount of sugar that goes into a pie... any pie... and instead focus on the fact that it's a purist confection, giving seasonal fruit the attention it certainly deserves, especially in summer (berries) and fall (everything else).

But what about the spring pie? The answer to this can be found in the odd vegetable matter called rhubarb.

This isn't just any rhubarb pie, it is a rhubarb pie with orange zest. These days I am continually surprised at what the addition of citrus zest brings to the table... or party... preferably both. Since I can't let the photo speak for itself, imagine:

a two-thirds eaten pie in its dish, a fork lingers on the porcelin next to hap-hazard smears of rhubarb-pink stuck with flakes of crust.

Speaking of crust, this is the best crust I have ever made (I just had to say that again). It turns out that while ingredients are very important in the composition of a crust, so too are tempreature and technique. I used to make pie crust in a bowl, containing the crumbs of butter and flour- but no more. I now prefer to make the dough on a flat tabletop, things can get messy, but that's why I have an apron.

Fresh Rhubarb Pie with Orange Zest
Adapted from Orangette

Pie Crust (from Saveur):
3 c flour
2 tsp salt
14 tbs cold cubed unsalted butter

Pie Filling
1 1/3 c granulated sugar
6 tbs flour
pinch of salt
zest from 1.5 oranges (I just had to make this diffifult)
1 1/2 lbs fresh rhubarb
1 tbs unsalted butter

Umpqua vanilla ice cream, for serving.

Mix flour and salt together. Working quickly (cold butter is one of the keys to a Perfect Pie Crust), add butter and work butter into flour with hands. Once all butter is incorporated, create a well in the center of the mixture and add 1/2 cup ice water. Mix together with hands until dough forms a cohesive ball. Next, frisage dough.

Frisage is a fancy (fancy-named anyway) technique- where you take a small amount of dough (walnut-sized) and smear it along the table surface with the heel of your hand. For lack of better understanding of the technique, it flattens out sheets of butter to create more layers and therefore a flakier pie crust.

Reshape dough into a ball, divide in half, flatten into discs and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Cut rhubarb into 1/2 inch slices. Mix together sugar, flour, zest and salt. I know it seams like a lot of sugar, but that's okay. Really. Toss rhubarb with sugar mixture. Let sit while you roll out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough to 1/8" thickness. Line a pie dish. Dump rhubarb filling into dish. Spot with remaining 1 tbs of butter.

Roll out second pie dough. Wet the rim of the first pastry sheet and lay the second over the rhubarb (2 techniques that can be used for this sometimes awkward process of transporting dough to pie dish is to fold gently into fouths, and then unfold onto the pie. Also, roll sheet over rolling pin and roll onto pie). Trim excess, Crimp and fold edges to look pretty. Cut slits into dough to allow steam to relase.

Brush the top of the crust liberally with egg and sprinkle with sugar for an added dramatic effect.

Cover crust with aluminum foil to prevent premature browning.

Bake at 450 farenheit for 15 minutes. Lower tempreature to 350 and continue baking for 45-55 minutes, until the rhubarb begins to bubble through the slits in the top and the top of your pie is golden.

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