Tag: pie

Vidalia Onion Pie

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Oh yes, the Vidalia onion. They are sweeter and milder than their yellow, brown and white relatives. They’re available pretty much everywhere in the south and prized for their mellow deliciousness.

The Vidalia Onion Committee makes sure these onions are grown in only 13 Georgia counties near the city of Vidalia, where they were born. Something about the soil in that region makes these onions more sweet and less spicy.

But enough about the onion’s history. Look at what I did with some Vidalias about a week ago. I made a pie!

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Slice the onions and cook them in lots of butter until they’re soft and translucent but not browned. Set aside.

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In a bowl, mix sour cream, eggs, milk and S&P until smooth. Add the buttery onions to the mix. Pour into an uncooked pie shell, top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake for about 45 minutes.frametastic

Slice, and enjoy it as a side dish or just by itself. As a Vidalia onion grower was quoted, these sweet onions “only make you cry when they’re gone.”

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Gala Apple Pie

Look at this apple pie. Isn’t it gorgeous? I baked it! Even though I made this pie weeks ago, I dedicate this post to the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend because so few things are as American as apple pie.

The inspiration came from the suddenly tall and prolific Gala apple tree that grows in my parents’ backyard in Orange County. I collected the ones that fell off and used them for this apple pie.

Mind you it’s not recommended to use Gala apples for pie because they are softer than other varieties and will become mushy after baking. But I didn’t care one bit. They still produced a wonderful appley filling that went well with the buttery crust.

Speaking of the crust, I don’t know what happened but it came out magically well this time. Lord knows I’ve made plenty of pie crusts before and labored to get it right but for some reason this one was particularly tender and flaky. My favorite pie dough recipe is a very simple one by chef Jacques Pepin. As mentioned in a previous post, you don’t have to resort to Crisco for a good crust. In butter, we trust! An exceptional tool for making easy fool-proof pie crust is a food processor. If you have one, I highly recommend using it to mix your dough.

Another factor in this recent pie dough success could be the egg wash. I mixed one egg yolk with about two tablespoons of heavy cream and brushed it on top of the raw crust. An egg wash creates a glossy golden glaze that instantly transforms a pasty-looking pie to an elegant dessert. I mean, just look at it!

Nothing beats a classic apple pie. Nothing beats the spicy, cidery aroma of apples baking with sugar and cinnamon in a pocket of buttery dough. The smell just permeates the entire house and drives you crazy. Then you end up cutting a slice too early before it cools and the filling spills out all over the place. This happened to me so folks, be patient when you take the pie out of the oven. Let the filling cool and set. I know it’s irresistible but try.

A cooling apple pie. Can you see the steam rising?

Lemon Meringue Pie Obsession

A few days ago, I indulged in once again, my bizarre obsession with baking pies — in this case, a lemon meringue pie.

To begin, I introduce you to a lemon tree that grows in the backyard of my childhood house. Lemons simply explode out of this tree during the warm sunny months:

Aren’t they nice? I used the juice from these lemons for my pie, which by the way, I took to a potluck this past weekend (HOLLA!). While it tasted fine, I have a few words to say about meringue. I’ve made four lemon meringue pies by now and I’d say only one out of those four were truly successful. Here’s a photo of the winner here:

Isn’t it a beauty? Most recently however, I baked this little guy:

Not sure if ugly florescent kitchen lighting is what’s making this pie look less appealing but I could definitely tell it’s not as chipper as Pie Number 1. The meringue seems off, it isn’t as airy as I’d hoped, nor is there enough of it — ideally, the meringue should be piled luxuriously sky-high. It really could have used that extra egg white that I skipped out on. Meringues rarely turn out the same as the last one…at least in my experience.

Also, this photo doesn’t show it but later on, the meringue underwent a serious case of “weepage,” in which the topping began to seep little dots of sugary syrup. It’s really very ugly but my friends who sampled the pie didn’t really seem to think so, or at least I hope not! I’ve researched cookbooks on how to avoid a weeping meringue but everyone seemed as baffled about it as I am. It may have something to do with how much cream of tartar you use while beating the egg whites. Or something or other.

Wow! I sure do have a lot to say about this subject! But I ain’t gonna lie, baking a lemon meringue pie out of scratch isn’t easy. I’m not going to even sugar-coat it for you — it’s arduous. Not only do you have to roll out a nice sturdy crust to avoid filling-leakage, you have to then whisk together the hot filling and soon after, beat egg whites for the meringue — all in a wild, multitasking frenzy. The whole affair is quite stressful, I assure you. This is why there are so few photos of the process. The rolled-out dough and the finished product. I was not going to stop my work flow and take photos of the 10-plus steps in-between.

In fact, the more I think about it, using whipped cream as a substitute for the meringue sounds like a fantastic idea. I’m not a huge fan of meringue anyway!

Despite it all, I do take joy out of laboring over a pie. I get an immense feeling of accomplishment upon taking the pie out of the oven…observing its level of success…SLICING it with a knife…taking a deep breath during this moment of truth…inspecting the insides…and finally, tasting (and approving) the pie. I’d say it’s worth it.

Tarte Tatin

So it’s about time I update this baby. I’m partly motivated to write more because my friend Ryan tweeted about me! I am honored, Ryan. To those few faithful followers, I’m sorry I have not posted sooner. I actually had this pre-cooked post waiting to be finished, but I’ve been traveling for work in Maine and had not had the time until now! Look out for my next post about the food in Maine. Preview: Probably something about lobsters.

But I digress. Around late July, I committed myself to baking a tarte tatin, a French-style apple tart that really is, for better words, an upside-down apple pie. I saw them everywhere in Paris and I love myself a nice apple pastry when I see one. But even before I embarked on my tarte tatin adventure, I had attempted a chocolate eclair adventure, in which I failed horribly. Let’s just say I could not make a proper pastry cream. I blame the “Joy of Cooking” recipe that calls for the use of cornstarch, an ingredient that I am discovering is one of the worst things to use in cooking.

In order to avoid another pastry failure, I consulted my dad’s trusty¬† “Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques.” Pepin is one of my favorite chefs and a renown master of French cooking. He even cooked for Charles de Gaulle. I was bound to succeed using Pepin’s recipe if I follow his instructions.¬† Another source of inspiration was the abundance of Gala apples that kept falling off the trees in my backyard. They were such nice fruit and I thought it would be good to use them for a dessert. Aren’t they gorgeous? Check out that beautiful blush.

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The recipe seemed easy enough. I rejoiced at the recipe for the crust, which contains no shortening. See, my man Jacques Pepin knows you don’t need hydrogenated oils to create a flaky crust. The trick is to work the dough as least as possible and keep it cold. To do this, I used a food processor.

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What using a food processor allows you to do is to essentially “cut” the butter into the flour, or incorporate the flour and the butter together without kneading it and handling it too much, which could lead to a tough crust. After a few pulses, the butter and flour turn into what look like a bunch of crumbs and after adding a few tablespoons of ice water between pulses, the crumbs pack together and transform into a beautiful ball of buttery dough. What I like to do is take the ball of dough, wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge to keep it cold. Keeping it cold prevents the butter layers within the dough from melting, thus ensuring a flaky crust.

[A note about pastry dough: Ever since I was in high school when I made my first apple pie out of scratch, I have been obsessed with making a proper dough. I think this comes from an LA Times Food article I read when I was young, which discussed the insanity of baking pies during summertime when it may be more difficult to make a cold dough. But if one has summer peaches, peach pie will surely beckon. The entire article seemed to drill the reader into thinking that making your own pie crust is a very crazy but rewarding endeavor. I had to try it and once I got the crust perfect, it stays with you.]

The next step is actually one of the most exciting parts of the recipe but I was so busy paying attention to it, I didn’t take any pictures — sorry. It would have made a spectacular photo. This elusive step was making the caramel coating. Boil sugar and water together and stir with a wooden spoon until it turns brown. For caramel novices out there (formerly me), keep stirring the sugar and remain patient. I thought it would never brown but once it started to darken — first straw-colored, then golden, then the coveted brown — it turns very quickly. Take it out of the heat immediately before it burns. Pour the caramel onto the pie pan and swirl it around to evenly coat the bottom.

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Then, peel and slice your apples and cook ’em up in butter, grated lemon peel and sugar. Toss the cooked apples on the pie dish like so. By now the caramel should have hardened like candy. You are now ready to assemble the crust!

Roll out the dough and with a rolling pin, slowly put the blanket of dough over the crust and press over the rim. With a knife, carve the excess dough that hangs over the edge of the pie pan. Poke with a fork to let the crust vent out while it bakes. If you want, you can brush the top with a beaten egg for a glazed look.

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Bake in the oven for about an hour. The aroma that permeates the kitchen is really something else. It is also an encouraging sign that you have not failed (so far) in making this dessert. What is also amazing, is the hard caramel shell eventually melts with the apples as everything bakes, and colors the apples into a russet-brown.

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But it does not end here. As I mentioned, tarte tatin is meant to be flipped over so that the apples will be on top, and the crust will be on the bottom. The flip moment is the moment of truth, if you will. You don’t know if it’s going to work or not. Failure is imminent but you’re also at the point of no return. Flip you must. Luckily, when I made the big flip (place a large plate over the crust then flip the pan over), none of the apples fell out, thank goodness…nor did the crust break off.

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The result: A not-so-pretty tarte tatin, but one that was thoroughly tasty and wonderful! As a caveat, Gala apples are not ideal for this dessert because they are softer, spongier apples. It is recommended to use Granny Smith, which are sturdier and will hold better after a baking. What I also should have done was slice the apples into bigger pieces and arrange them uniformly so that the apple slices look better and more tightly packed. The last step that I skipped was the glaze. Melt some apricot jam with water and brush the top of the apples with the syrup for a shiny gloss. It is great served with fresh whipped cream and it also makes a nice breakfast food with tea.

With these tips I hope you too embark on a tarte tatin adventure. It will be work, but it’s as fun to make as it is delicious to eat.