Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'll Have The Pie!

Good evening everyone! It's another cold and windy day here in the metro - but it's not snowing or spitting freezing rain and the forecast looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future - that means it's a beautiful day!

Tonight, we're continuing Thanksgiving week by tackling another staple of the holiday table - in fact, this dish may be just as popular (if not more so) than the feature dish. Tonight's recipe is pumpkin pie.

There are many challenges when it comes to making pumpkin pie. The first is to develop and soft and flaky crust that isn't overly dry or overly tough. On top of that challenge, you also have to make a light, fluffy and flavorful pie filling that won't dry out or cook unevenly. These challenges have led many to turn to store brand pies and 'instant mixes' to satisfy their pumpkin pie urge during the holiday season. Hopefully, with the help of my recipes tonight - the need to go to the store and buy a subpar pumpkin will be erased. My pumpkin pie recipe this evening so straightforward and easy to follow - and the best part is, you likely have not tasted a better pumpkin pie in your lifetime. (Okay, maybe you have, but this one is in the top 3 anyway!)

The Recipe (s): Fool Proof Pie Dough & Pumpkin Pie
Original Recipes Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2nd Edition: Every Recipe from the Hit TV Show With Product Ratings and a Look Behind the Scenes

Fool Proof Pie Dough
What You'll Need:

2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter - Cut into quarters
1/2 Cup Vegetable Shortening (Chilled)
1/4 Cup Vodka*
1/4 Cup Ice Water

* Now, I'm sure the first question that comes to your mind is, "why vodka?" The problem with many pie dough recipes is that they are low on water - this lack of water helps the crust stay softer after baking. However, the trade off is that the dough is very tough to roll out and manipulate. Adding more water to the dough allows the dough to be easily manipulated and rolled, however, as you can imagine the trade off is that the crust becomes very tough and dry. The good folks at America's Test Kitchen discovered that vodka is the perfect solution to this problem. How? Well, I'll quote directly from their explanation:

"While gluten (the protein that makes crust tough) forms readily in water, it doesn't form in ethanol, and vodka is 60 percent water and 40 percent ethanol. So adding 1/4 cup of vodka and 1/4 water produces a moist, easy-to-roll dough that stays tender because the alcohol vaporizes in the oven, leaving the final crust with only about 6 tablespoons of water. This dough bakes into a crust that is tender, flavorful, and that rolls out easily every time." 

For this recipe, the vodka is essential to the tender texture and adds no flavor to the final dough. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE WATER for the vodka. You absolutely must use vodka in this recipe for the dough to turn out. This recipe makes a double batch of the pie dough - however, the excess dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or stored in the freezer until you need to make another pie. Simply allow the dough to thaw completely before using out of the freezer.

Begin making the dough by processing 1 1/2 cups of the flour, with sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Next, add the butter and shortening (you may have to add both in sections - not all at once - depending on the size of your food processor). Process until everything is incorporated and the mixture is forming thick clumps.

Scrape the dough down the sides of the processing bowl and back on top of the blades. Add the other 1 cup of flour to the dough and pules until everything is evenly incorporated (roughly 5 to 7 pulses). Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and add the vodka and ice water (straining out the ice first!) Stir and press the dough with a rubber spatula until the dough begins to stick together. (The easy way to tell you are done stirring is when the dough looks like traditional dough - up until this point, the dough has been very mealy and separated - once it joins, it is ready.)

Divide the dough into two even pieces. Place each piece of dough on a section of wax or parchment paper and work the dough into a 4 inch disk. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Before rolling the dough out - let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes to soften. After this time, roll the dough into a larger circle - just slightly larger than the circumference of the pie plate you are using. Drape the dough over the plate and work it in - making sure there are no pockets or air bubbles. Form the top of the crust with your fingers or with a fork - whatever your preference may be - and turn your attention to making the actual pie.

Pumpkin Pie
What You'll Need:

1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Cup Whole Milk
3 Large Eggs, Plus 2 Large Egg Yolks
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Can (15 Ounces) Pumpkin Puree
1 Cup Candied Yams (Drained)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Begin by adjusting your oven rack to the lowest position. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Next, using two layers of aluminum foil, cover your pie completely. Add pie weights to the center of the aluminum foil (this keeps the dough from rising during the early cooking stages) and cook on the heated baking sheet (in the now 400 degree oven) for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and the pie weights and return the pie to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and golden brown. Transfer the pie crust to a wire rack until the filling is ready. (Be sure to keep the filing and the pie crust cooking times close together - the pie works best when both the crust and the filing are till warm when added together.)

While the pie crust is cooking you can turn your attention to making the filling. In a large bowl, whisk the cream, milk, vanilla, eggs and egg yolks together. Set aside. Next, bring the pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to a simmer in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly (making sure to mash the yams while stirring) until the mixture becomes thick and slightly shiny. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes (which is great - because that's how long the pie crust takes!)

Off of the heat, whisk in the cream mixture and stir until everything is combined. Using a large strainer, pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Use a spoon or ladle to push all of the liquid through the strainer. This helps keep the strings from the yams and other larger impurities from making their way into the pie. Whisk the newly strained mixture and then pour it into the still warm pie crust.

Return the pie to the oven, on the same baking sheet as before and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and cook for another 20 to 35 minutes. (These first 10 minutes of high heat prevent the cream mixture from curdling inside the pie filling.) After 20 to 35 minutes, the outer edges of the pie should be set and the center should still have a little 'play'. If the pie still seems a little 'jiggly' return it to the oven for another 5 minutes. Once the sides are set and the center registers 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer - transfer the pie to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool at air temperature for  2 to 3 hours before serving. Serve with whipped topping (optional...or not, depending on how seriously you take your Cool Whip!)

But that's not all we have for you this evening- since we have so many recipes to share, we will be posting two per day. The second dish tonight is a not so traditional take on a traditional Thanksgiving dish - mashed sweet potatoes.

The Recipe: Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2nd Edition: Every Recipe from the Hit TV Show With Product Ratings and a Look Behind the Scenes

What You'll Need:

4 Tablespoons (1/2 Stick) Unsalted Butter, Cut In 4 Pieces
2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Pounds Sweet Potatoes (2 to 3 medium) Peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch tick slices

Begin by melting the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in the cream, sugar and salt. Next add the sweet potatoes and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.

Once soft, remove the pan from heat and mash the sweet potatoes with a masher or transfer them to a food processor and pulse until fully mashed. Serve immediately with a dash of salt and pepper to taste. (I think this may be the easiest side dish recipe we've ever shared!)

The Results:

First, the pumpkin pie - We try not to make claims that we can't back up. When I said earlier that this may very well be the best pumpkin pie you have ever had, I meant it. Top to bottom, this recipe produces the one of the best pumpkin pies I have ever tasted (Top 3 I would wager, I've had one or two professionally made pumpkin pies that I would not but behind this one.) The crust is soft, flaky and perfect and not too dry - not too moist. The filling bursts with amazing pumpkin flavor - a beautiful combination of spice and sweetness. The filling is also fluffy and light - rather than thick and messy.

The mashed sweet potatoes may be my favorite sweet potato recipe. This recipe allows the natural flavors of the sweet potatoes to run this dish - sweet, creamy yet just a little bit 'nutty'. The potatoes themselves are light and fluffy - and with a dash of butter on top are simply the greatest turkey day side dish you can make. The best part is that the recipe is so undeniably simple! 35 minutes of cook time and ta-da!

That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie takes a crack at a Thanksgiving recipe tomorrow evening, so be sure to stop back tomorrow night to see what dish she's cooking. Until then,


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