Like a zombie chef, I’ve got pie on the brain.
I made not one, not two, but four pies this week, with at least three more to follow. When holidays come around, I go crazy with the need to distribute my baking bounty. My victims this Thanksgiving: my sister, roommate, coworkers, neighbors, friends and my half-marathon training schedule.
Round 1: This week on Cooking By The Book, I had a special guest star: my little sister, Gail.
We made an early Thanksgiving side dish feast on Monday night while she was visiting Portland, complete with tomato-olive stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, Alton Brown’s homemade green bean casserole
, cranberry-orange-apple relish.
And of course, for dessert, we had this week’s challenge: buttermilk brown-sugar pie with homemade whipped cream with Amaretto. The pie was delicious, and I have a sneaking suspicion it was the butter. Butter in the crust, browned butter in the filling. I’m obsessed.
During the baking fest, we stayed true to an annual Simon family tradition (of which there are surprisingly few; we’re a unabashedly unsentimental family) and watched the 1949 black & white version of Miracle on 34th Street, as well as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
Gail was in charge of the wet ingredients for the filling (she’s not as fond of crusts as I am).
I’ve always been tempted to try powdered buttermilk (you know, the package with the guy with the moustache), so I bought some just for this. It worked great, and now I can keep it in my fridge and use it whenever I need for banana bread, etc.
I finally learned how to crimp a crust
properly (no more of that fork on the edge crap). Thanks, Internet! How would I have ever learned to bake without you? A sad observation, but very true.
The pie crust I usually make (to go with the pumpkin pie) has vinegar and calls for vegetable shortening, but I always use butter. For the buttermilk pie, I tried out the food processor variety with butter and water, and it was fine. I think I’ll stick with the vinegar variety, though.
Something about that one tiny tablespoon keeps it a nice rollable consistency and creating a flaky pastry with an interesting flavor dimension. Also, one of my coworkers told me about this awesome pie crust recipe (secret ingredient: vodka), which I know I’m going to have to try.
Round 2: Then on Thanksgiving Eve, I made it again to take to work, and the second time was definitely better than the first. (You can tell this one has a much better crimped crust because I did it correctly.) Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Pie (with a secret ingredient in the filling; can you guess what it is?) and Karo label pecan pie followed.
Round 3 (To be continued): For Thanksgiving Day, I’m planning pecan chocolate chip and pumpkin pies (to take to dinner), plus a sweet potato pie (for my neighbors).