Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A different kind of pie crust

Okay, so I pretty much rock, so I'm sure My Man's family likes me, even without the baked goods. And one day when he does drop to one knee, I'm sure I'll be welcomed into the family with open arms. But that doesn't mean I can't guarantee my spot into their lives w/ sweets. Right?

This crust is a mixture of two crusts I found online and my own little improvising. So is the filling, I guess. When I first started making desserts, I have to say, I was hardcore about not changing anything. Followed the directions to the T. After I started culinary school, I kinda started playing around a bit. A lot of it had to do with the 9 steps of the baking process. After learning those, I knew how to substitute ingredients or how to double or halve recipes w/out just messing with the recipe too much.
I try to use my understanding of the baking process to help me figure out why a bread didn't rise as much, or why the cake seems drier than others, or even why my chocolate chip cookies flatten. I think I figured that one out! Check back soon for some of my experiments!
The 9 steps:
1. Gases form. Gases are introduced by air, steam or carbon dioxide, such as baking soda or powder. They expand w/ the heat in the oven, which helps your product rise.
2. Gases are trapped. The proteins in the product create small bubbles when beaten, which pull in air until they are full, which makes them grow. When the gases expand, they push on the cell walls forcing them to stretch, making the product increase in size and volume. Eggs are the best protein to use; typically egg substitutes will result in a drier product w/out the introduction of another ingredient to help the product retain moisture.
3. Starches gelatinize. When the dough or batter reaches 140 degree Fahrenheit, the flour will absorb the moisture and grow to ten times their own weight. This makes the dough expand and helps create structure for the product. There is usually more flour in a product than anything else since it provides the structure of the product.
4. Proteins coagulate, or solidifies. When the dough reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the proteins being it bong to each other and, at the same time, they stretch form the gases expanding. If proteins solidify before the gases can fully expand, the product won't rise at all. If the gases escape before the proteins coagulate, the product will puff up and rise, but then collapse.
5. Fats melting. This is important b/c when the fats melt, the droplets coat the starch and moistens them. As I noted in step three, it is important for the starch to moisten for the shape and volume. Fats tenderize the products. Using butter, which has a low temp melting point will tenderize products more so than a high temp melting point product like margarine or shortening. Which is why I never use shortening in pie crusts or cookie doughs. However, that is also why cookies spread more w/ butter than shortening. But butter tastes WAY better.
6. Water evaporates. Any liquid in the butter, eggs, extracts, fruits, etc will turn into steam and evaporate. When the steam escapes, the top of the product will form a nice crust. Like w/ brownies or cookies.
7. Sugars caramelize. When the product is heated above 320 degrees, the sugars will caramelize. This gives flavor and provides a nice color to the product. Granulated white sugar will do the trick, but a light or dark brown sugar provides even more color and provides a nice caramel flavor to the product.
8. Carryover baking. When you take a product out of the oven, it continues to bake. The heat from the baking pan or sheet continues to bake the products. Since you cannot typically remove a product form the container until it has cooled some, you have to let them stand in or on the baking container before transferring to a cooling rack or plate. It is important when there is a range of baking times on a recipe, to check the product at the lower temp first. You can always add more minutes, but once you over bake something, you can reverse the process.
9. Staling. Once a product has cooled completely, it beings a process called starch retrogradation. This is when a product looses moisture and dries out. Some products w/ more fat and sugar will stay moist, longer. This process works the fastest at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why products are better left at room temperature, except for things like cheesecakes. It is also best to store the product in an airtight container so as not to lose moisture.

These steps are important b/c changing one thing can change the outcome. I have memorized these steps (so bizarre) and use them every time I bake, or every time something comes out wrong. I always think, which step did I go wrong? It helps when I make something the next time around.

In this case, I wanted a less flaky crust, something more crusty and tender, but would hold up and keep the shape. This crust did exactly that. It was a good crust, but I have decided that I really do prefer flaky crusts better. This was delicious and had I had the exact ingredients as the two recipes, I may have gotten the flaky crust. But I set out for a more solid crust and I got just that!

I printed out this recipe from Cherry on a Cake and this recipe from Whitney in Chicago. I found Cherry on a Cake on tastespotting and I first saw Whitney when she was commenting on another one of my favorite blogs, Food Loves Writing. I have to say, I follow some pretty awesome bloggers out there.

Gosh, I keep going off on tangents here!!!

Anyways, here is the recipe for the pie dough... Btw, this was to make enough dough for 2 pies, top and bottom crusts, as seen in the pictures.

The Crust

8 oz cream cheese
2 sticks of butter
4 cups of flour
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup really cold water (I stuck ice cubes in it to ensure max coldness)

Cut the cream cheese into cubes and stick in the freezer.
Cut the butter into even smaller cubes and stick in the freezer.

In a LARGE bowl, put in the flour, sugars and salt; whisk together. Cut in the cream cheese until the mixture becomes a course meal.
Place the mixture into a Ziploc bag with the cut butter sprinkled in. Make sure there is no air in the bag before sealing, then flatten the butter w/ a rolling pin (Wanna laugh? I did this at my cousin's house and couldn't find her rolling pin, so I used a huge can of Pam). Once the butter is spread out into thin flakes w/ the dough, place in the freezer to firm up for about 10 mins. Once it has firmed up, put the mix back into the large bowl and add about half of the water. Mix together. I used my hands here. So much easier. Add more water if necessary, but remember the dough should not be runny, nor should it be crumbly. After you've done this, shape the dough into 4 even discs and wrap w/ saran wrap or toss in individual Ziploc bags w/ all the air expelled out. Flatten the discs some and place them in the fridge. You can leave them there for a minimum of 2 hours, but in this case, I made the dough on a Thursday night so I would have them ready for the next afternoon.

When I was ready to use the dough, I rolled out the four discs, places two in the Pam sprayed pie pans and left the other two sitting on the plastic wrap on the counter, each covered w/ a damp (not soaking wet) kitchen towel.
Btw, remember how I couldn't find the rolling pin? Well, since my cousin was in the Caribbean, I couldn't exactly call her, so I used the Pam can to roll the crusts out too :) I'm so handy. Although, I have to say, I thing they would have been a bit thinner if I had the rolling pin.

My filling.
This was adapted from my head. I really didn't use ANY measurements here. And when I say I really didn't use them, I mean, REALLY, I didn't use them. So bear with me :)

I peeled, cored, halved and sliced thin 7 Jonathan apples that My Man brought me back from an orchard in Michigan. As I was doing this, I tossed the first half of the cut apples w/ the juice from half a lemon. As I tossed in more sliced apples, I sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on top. Until it looked coated. As I tossed more sliced apples in, I would toss the freshly cut apples w/ the cinnamon sugar coated apples. I would add more cinnamon and sugar if necessary. Which is always was....
W/ the flour, I actually did measure this out. Partially b/c I had a tablespoon right next to me, so I tossed two tablespoons into the apple mix.
I neatly arranged the apple slices so they were all flat on top of the bottom crust layer. I repeated this for the second pie.
Before placing the top crust on, I sprinkled some vanilla sugar on top of the apples and dotted it with butter.
I brushed some milk on the edges of the bottom crust and then placed the top crust over. I pressed the edges together, after trimming some of the excess dough (I'm not one for pretty scalloped edges, as you can plainly see).
I used the excess dough to roll out and cut out a couple of flowers and hearts. I brushed milk under the cut-outs and pressed them onto the top of the crust. I sprinked some white sparkly sugar on top, cut four slits in cross pattern and popped into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45-55 mins.
I also place foil around the edges for the first 30 mins so they didn't brown too quickly.

I kept this one
And this one went to the future in-laws
Nice inside shots, notice how thick the crust is? Yep, Pam can only do so much...
All in all, it was a good pie. My Man was meh about it, but his mom and sister LOVED it. And the Sis could even tell there was cream cheese in it. That was kinda cool. Good taste buds there.
Probably a crust I'll use again for them. Maybe not for a pie for my family though. They definitely prefer the flaky crust like I do.


Maria said...

I am definitely a sucker for pie and definitely for a flaky crust, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't gobble up a crust of any other nature!

Thanks so much for those 9 steps -- I've been wanting so badly to go to culinary school but it's just not in my near future. So these tips are seriously great to know as I'm always blindly experimenting.

Shannalee said...

I love how reading your posts feels like sitting down with a good friend telling me a story. These pies look beyond awesome.

Side note: I just realized through your recent comment at my blog that you went to culinary school!? That is awesome. And PS when you start a bakery, I will be one of your first customers!