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Easy as Pie

August 6, 2009 By:
Louise Fiszer, Jewish Exponent Feature
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BEYOND CHICKEN SOUP

During a recent exchange between friends of an up-coming summer potluck barbecue, the talk turned to dessert. Some were offering all sorts of cakes, tarts and cookies. However, there seemed to be a glaring omission from this very American party dessert list -- pies.

Although pies may not have been created in America, they definitely have become an American specialty. I've come across many good cooks who are not intimidated by long and demanding recipes, yet are afraid to make a pie. Or perhaps pies just don't convey the glamour and glitz of French pastries. I find it hard to imagine a backyard affair complete without at least two different pies as a finale. A good plain American pie is a work of art.

A chef friend of mine taught me an infallible pastry that's insensitive to overhandling and turns out perfectly every time. The secret ingredient is cream, rather than water, in the pastry.

My fillings reflect the bounty of the season -- stone fruits, apples, nuts and berries.

Pie Pastry
You can make this either pareve or dairy; both work out well.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsps. unsalted butter (or margarine)
6 Tbsps. heavy cream (or pareve coffee whitener)

Combine the flour, sugar and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture until a coarse meal is formed.

Add the cream and mix until a smooth dough is formed. (May be used immediately, or wrapped and refrigerated up to 2 days).

Makes enough pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie.

Chocolate Pecan Pie
(Dairy)

1/2 recipe pie pastry
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup very strong brewed coffee
2 Tbsps. butter, room temperature
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup pecan halves
lightly sweetened whipped cream

Roll out the pastry to fit a 9-inch pie plate and line the pie plate with it. Trim the edges and flute them with fingers or fork. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Melt the chocolate with the coffee until smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in butter. Let mixture cool.

In medium bowl, beat eggs with sugar and corn syrup until light.

Stir in chocolate mixture and chopped pecans. Pour into pastry shell. Arrange pecan halves around the edge of the pie.

Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 10 minutes.

Reduce temperature to 375° and bake another 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Gingered Peach and Raspberry Pie
(Dairy/Pareve)

6 medium peaches, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
2 Tbsps. finely chopped candied ginger
1 pie pastry recipe
1 Tbsp. milk or egg white
sugar for sprinkling

Combine the peaches, blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice and ginger.

Divide the dough in half and roll out to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Fit into plate and fill with peach mixture.

Roll out remaining dough and cut it into about 15 leaf shapes with a 3-inch cookie-cutter (or other decorative shapes).

Place shapes over filling and brush with milk. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a preheated 400° oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce temperature to 375° and bake for another 40 minutes.

Plum and Walnut Pie With Streusel Topping
(Dairy/Pareve)

3 cups fresh purple plums (Italian prunes)
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsps. flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
pastry for 1-crust pie

Topping Ingredients:

3 Tbsps. flour
3 Tbsps. very cold butter or margarine
3 Tbsps. walnuts, chopped

To Make Streusel Topping: Mix all the ingredients together with your fingers.

Wash, halve or quarter, and pit the plums.

Combine the sugar, flour, almonds and spice and sprinkle over fruit. Stir gently. Place in a pastry-lined pie plate.

Sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter. Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake in a 425° preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at: loufiszer@aol.com.

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