Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pie Sunday

In the interest of ever getting my pie recipes sorted out and getting my ass into a farmer's market booth, I have dedicated Sunday as Pie Day. Every Sunday shall be devoted to the creation of new pie recipes and the perfection of old ones. The goal, of course, is to make pies so delicious an delectable that friends and strangers alike will line up and pay me cold, hard cash for the opportunity to stuff their faces with my baked goods. This is a town of people who love to eat, care greatly about what they eat and where it comes from, and most dauntingly, know the difference between good food and outstanding food. My mission is to make outstanding pies, mostly savory, some sweet. 
This post is from my first Pie Sunday, January 11th. I made the following pies, and yes, feedback is more than appreciated...

Egg and Bacon Breakfast Pie (i.e. Hangover Pie):

Partial whole-wheat crust, maple cured bacon, Yukon Gold potatoes and organic eggs with cheddar cheese and that's pretty much it. The taste test consensus at the house was that it needs less potato and sausage instead of bacon. But ho doesn't love bacon? Nevertheless, sausage just has a bit more juiciness, which this pie definitely needed. Plus, to cure a hangover one really does need a bit more fat and meat. 

Verdict: valiant attempt, perfect with some tweaking.

Smoked Salmon Pot Pie:


Yum Yum Yum Yum. Me and my husband's favorite, although my parents were not down for some reason. Was it the fennel? The toasted dill seed crust? Too much lemon zest, not enough cream? I don't know, but the real truth is that smoked salmon is expensive and I'd really like to keep my pies at about $7 apiece. Seeing as I'm not married to a salmon fisherman, I'm not sure how feasible that will be. On a happier note, I give you:

Coconut Curry Chicken Pot Pie:

This was, hands down, the most successful experiment of the day. Delicious, moist, full of peas and carrots and those Yukon Golds again, as well as organic chicken. A bit messy for market eating, perhaps, but perfect to take home and reheat. This pie renewed my faith in my harebrained plan of pie-making-for-dollars. It made me think I might be able to do this. I might actually have a good, workable idea. 

Not-so-fancy French Pear Tart:

First off, I was a bit apprehensive about making another tart, seeing as how the last one was such drama. Thankfully, this one fared better AND I learned my lesson about the importance of sheet pans as carrying vessels. 
Loved loved the crust. Like regular pie crust except rolled in sugar instead of flour. Such a small thing that makes a big impact. The crust took on this super crunchy sugar shell, somewhat like a real Belgian waffle. Mmmm, shout out to the waffle window off Hawthorne! 
It was ridiculously easy to make (how un-French!) but it is not pear season. This is a tart that needs, no begs, to be made when pears are at their best, ripe-sweet, subtle and floral height. That one little detail, using fruit at its peak, really makes all the difference in the world (and what I believe really sets French pastries apart. Oh, and all the butter). The great thing about this tart though, was that it made perfect midnight snacks from the fridge. I began keeping a knife on top of it so I had easier sliver cutting access.  I will surely make this tart again. Just not until Fall.

Now to plan this Sunday...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Near Disaster Tart

You know how sometimes you'll be in the middle of something that seems to be going terribly wrong and wonder what on earth you did to deserve such karmic punishment, to only later find out that it was really a secret lesson, a blessing in disguise? This was my karmic tart. 

Behold, the Near Disaster Peanut Butter Honey Caramel Tart:

I saw this recipe in the newest edition of Bon Appetit magazine in an article about food trends for 2009. Apparently, peanut butter desserts are the next big thing. In the interest of research I took it upon myself to test this trend out.  Things began to fall apart almost immediately. After blind baking the tart crust without any filling, I went to remove it from the oven and my hand slipped, causing the bottom of the tart pan to separate from the sides and a portion of the side crust to break. Total disaster was avoided, most of the crust was intact but there was no way it was going to be a perfect tart now.  The next pitfall was a complete oversight, as (oh did I mention this was New Year's Eve and I had 2 hours after work to make a three course meal) I poured in the delicious honey-peanut-caramel filling into the shell without a thought of the broken crust. Thank Jebus that I had put the tart on a sheet pan because 10 minutes later there was my delicious filling oozing out the sides and bottom of the tart pan. My helpful husband built a hasty tin foil tart coozie and I scraped up the caramel ooze. Back in the oven it went, but duh! it was now cooking the caramel after a good 5 minute cool down and the filling, while tasty, was more old Snickers bar than gooey tart filling. I finished the next two layers of peanut butter whipped with icing sugar and dark chocolate ganache well enough, and everyone ate their piece, but it was far from what I'd imagined it to be when looking at the photo. 

Like any good religion-free soul searcher I wondered what lesson there was for me in this tart fiasco.  First off, I prefer pie to tart, that must now go without saying. Unless it's one of those amazing mini strawberry tarts that one gets in France. Second, like all luscious and enjoyable things in life baking cannot and will not be rushed, hurried, or otherwise sped up. This is not a speedy activity and never should be. One cannot rush perfect pie. Of course, this leads to the third Lesson of the Tart, perfection is an illusion. To seek perfection is an exercise in terminal frustration. It's true, there's a lot of Zen in pie-making...