Sunday, August 25, 2013


 From my Petaluma Post column:

Is there any other single word that makes you as happy?  Having dinner with friends last night we discussed how much everyone loves pie.  To me it is one of the easiest of things to bake.  It is just one unit, not baking a dozen cookies and unlike a cake you bake it and you are done, no filling, no frosting.  So with July upon us it is time for pie season!

The first and most basic part is the crust.  To many people a very daunting task.  I have a very basic recipe that I really love.  I have edited it from one originally from Martha Stewart; she had a very good crust to start with, I think this could be eaten plain!

Amber’s Pie Crust
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
2¼ cup flour, I use all purpose
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
4 Tbsp ice water, but could be up to 6 Tbsp

You will also want a food processor with cutting blade or plastic blade.

Place the flour in first along with the salt and sugar, then top with butter.  Begin pulsing, about 4 to 5 quick shots, until it is a crumbly mix.  Open the machine and sprinkle 3 table spoons of ice water, then pulse a couple of times, if necessary add up to 3 more table spoons of water and pulse.  The dough should be soft and crumbly; do not let it come all the way to a ball.  Remove from the machine to a floured table top.

Here is where many people go wrong; your dough does not need to be smooth and perfect.  It is better if it is still a bit rough. Cut the dough in half since this is enough for 2 crusts (Really? You’re only making one pie?)  Form it into a rough ball and roll out gently. Place in pie pan and save the second piece for a second pie or a top crust.

Now to the fillings!  My favorite fruit is apricots, jam, pies, bars… to me you cannot go wrong.  I love an apricot pie with a streusel topping.

Apricot Filling

1 9” pie crust, raw
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3 cup fresh apricots
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice

Cut the apricots in ¼ pieces, and toss with lemon juice.  Toss flour with sugar then add to the apricot mix, pour into the pie shell.  Place bit of butter on top.  Top with streusel topping.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour; juices should be bubbly and clear.  You may have noticed that I choose to use flour over cornstarch.  In my opinion flour adds body and texture that you just don’t get with cornstarch.

Streusel Topping
2/3 cup flour
1/3  cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
6 Tbsp butter, cold

Place all ingredients in food processer and process till crumbly.

Another of my absolute favorites is Gravenstein apple pie.  A Sonoma county favorite.  The apples come into season late July to early August.  Making pies from these apples is a tradition.  I great note is that they freeze really well. It goes well with either a streusel or crust top.

Gravenstein Filling
1 9” pie shell
4 cup peeled, sliced apples
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter

Follow same directions as the apricot pie.

This piecrust is also great for refrigerator pies - that is a cold pie.  Prepare and roll out the same pie crust, and place in refrigerator to chill for approximately 30 minutes.  Then you need to “blind bake” your crust.  This means baking without filling.  Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, then line with foil or parchment paper, fill with pie weighs or raw beans.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden.

Now time for a filling.  I love a tuxedo pie; a chocolate pie with whipped cream topping.

Chocolate Marquis Filling
10 oz chocolate chips
4 oz butter
4 egg whites
2 Tbsp sugar

Melt the chocolate chips and butter over double boiler.  Whip the egg whites with sugar to medium peaks.  Then fold together and go directly into baked pie crust.

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup whipped cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whip to soft peaks, then spoon over chocolate and allow to chill for 2 to 3 hours.

I love pie, hope you enjoy!

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