nib·ble (nbl)
v. nib·bled, nib·bling, nib·bles
1. To bite at gently and repeatedly.
2. To eat with small, quick bites or in small morsels: nibble a cracker.
3. To wear away or diminish bit by bit: "If you start compromising too early . . . they nibble you to death" (People).

Monday, August 1, 2011

My New Pie Crust

A new crust made rich with good quality olive oil and butter

It was my brother in law's 35th birthday this weekend, so I baked him a pie on request. Pie and I have a history. A big one. There was even a time when I would not attend a party in highschool without bringing  a hot whiskey-apple pie in tow. After years of homemade pies, I got myself a job at a well known, and cherished, patisserie in Toronto; Clafouti. It was there that I learned to make tarts with the best of them, pumping out hundreds a day by hand. I honestly believe I've made enough pie in my day that I could make one in my sleep -- which shouldn't be too hard since I already walk and talk in my sleep! No, really, I do.

Making the same thing over and over has its advantages. You get a profound 'feel' for it. I can grasp dough and tell you exactly what it lacks to be perfect. I can also make a near perfect pie in half the time of a normal baker. It also has a major disadvantage -- you can grow incredibly tired of it. I almost never look forward to baking pie. Regardless of the filling, it always seems like the same old story. But this past weekend, inspiration struck -- why just change the filling? Why not change the crust? If anything truly defines pie, its the crust. There are so many variations and I've made nearly all of them countless times. But this time I thought -- if I know what types of dough yield certain results why not invent a dough? A super dough! And so I did. And it was quite possibly the greatest crust I've ever made, not to mention the most forgiving.

This dough is easily repaired, and makes the exact amount for one pie crust. It is rich like shortbread, and fragrant. It holds together through two rounds in the oven (blind baking and baking). It flakes on contact delicately, and it bakes into a beautiful golden brown. It pairs well in savory or sweet pies. It is unique but also comfortably familiar.

The pie is enhanced by good quality olive oil and organic butter. It is not a sweet dough (no sugar in the mix) so it can handle savory fillings. It benefits from pastry flour but could be made with alternative flours, and I intend to experiment with these as well (eg. spelt, rice, kamut flour etc). I hope you like it!

My New Pie Crust
the new forgiving dough, ready to be blind baked in the oven

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour and salt. Cut up the butter into small cubes. Toss into the flour. Using a fork, mash the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
  3. Drizzle in the oil, Incorporate into the flour mixture evenly. Slowly mix in the water. Scrape the contents of the bowl together to form a ball. It may feel slightly wet for a pie dough. I simply rolled it around in the bowl with a touch more flour.
  4. Lightly flour the pastry board/marble slab, counter top. ***I put a couple of sheets of clingfilm down on top of the board first***Roll the pie dough out with a lightly floured rolling pin. Roll out in all directions until the circle of dough is approximately two inches wider than the pie plate.
  5. Grease and lightly dust the pie plate with flour. If you used the cling film on your pastry board the best thing to do is roll your dough up around the rolling pin, clingfilm and all. Take the rolling pin to the edge of your pie plate and unravel over it, removing the clingfilm from the dough. I then pressed the dough into the pie plate and trimmed the edges. When i said this was a forgiving dough it was because the dough was easily ripped and mended back together with no averse effect. I attribute this to the wetness (but not too wet!) of the dough.
  6. I blind baked the dough after stabbing it all over with a fork. I baked it until the edges were golden, about 12 minutes. I then let it cool before baking it again with its filling

And here is the filling recipe for Tim's odd birthday pie. He requested "apple-blackberry". He's British, so I forgave his sacrilege.

So I made him a: whiskey-apple-pear-black raspberry-Marion blackberry-wild blueberry pie with an olive oil crust and a crumble top

the finished pie

Serves 6
  1. Peel core and chop the apples and the pears. Heat a skillet over medium high heat (not non-stick!!!!) Add the butter and let it melt and sizzle.
  2. Add the apples and pear pieces. Saute 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and zest. Add the sugar and let it bubble and reduce a little. Add the cinnamon, salt and pepper, vanilla and the whiskey. Saute another minute. Make a slurry out of the water and flour. Add to pan and stir in.
  3. Add contents of the pan to prepared pie crust. Top with the frozen berries, arranging evenly over the top. Top with crumble topping. Bake at 375 in a preheated oven until crumble top is brown and pie is fragrant (about 20-30 minutes depending on your oven. 
pie fixings

caramelizing the apples and pears

caramelized apples and pears hit the blind baked crust

...and get topped with frozen berries

My sister, Anna, who doesn't even like pie, had two helpings.

My Crumble Topping

Excellent on pie, can be even better on crumble/crisp. Does well with the addition of shredded coconut. I also like to top it with a couple dashes of cinnamon for punch at the end.

Serves 1 pie

Combine all ingredient in a mixing bowl to desired crumbly consistency. Top prepared pie crust and filling. Bake.

crumble topped and ready for the oven
 For my next pie I am going to use the new crust to make a savory dinner pie. Possibly a savory sweet potato or butternut squash pie topped with caramelized red onions. I may also make a greens pie with ricotta. The myriad possibilities are worth dreaming up!