19 March 2009

Pi(e) Day

Nerd alert! Last Saturday was 3.14.09 - 3.14 is, as I hope you all know, also known as Pi Day. Jacquie and I had some people over, made some pies and watched the movie Pi. I made an apple pie (Alton Brown's recipe), a mixed berries pie and a quiche with broccoli, chicken and fontina cheese. All three came out splendidly (the quiche went in two minutes, the apple pie was almost finished, then everyone was too full) and good times were to be had.

For the mixed berry pie and the quiche, I decided to just use a pre-made crust. For the apple pie, things got slightly more advanced.

Alton Brown's Apple Pie

For the crust:

6 oz unsalted butter
2 oz vegetable shortening
5 to 7 tbsp apple jack (or apple brandy)
12 oz all purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar

For the filling:

3 lb apples, a mix of Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Breaburn, Golden Delicious or whatever else you can find - try to mix them up (tart, sweet, different textures)
3 tbsp tapioca flour
2 tbsp apple jelly
1 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice (the juice of 1/2 lime, more or less)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground grains of paradise

Start with the dough for the crust. Bring out your favorite food processor and combine flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a few times. Add the butter and pulse 3-4 times, until combined. Add the shortening and pulse 3-4 times again, until the mix looks mealy and everything is incorporated. Now add 5 tablespoons of apple jack and pulse another 5 times. Add more apple jack if needed, until dough holds together when squeezed. Weigh the dough, remove half and shape into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Repeat with the other half of dough. You want to leave this at the very least for 1 hour, or up to overnight.

Next, let's do the filling. Peel and core the apples. Slice into 1/2 inch wedges - about 8-12 wedges per apple, depending on size. Toss with 1/4 cup sugar and place in a colander set over a bowl. Let drain for 1 1/2 hours. Once drained, move the liquid to a saucepan and place over medium heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Set aside to cool.

Toss the apples with the tapioca flour, the remaining sugar, the jelly, cider, lime juice, salt and grains of paradise. If you cannot get grains of paradise, fret not and use caraway seeds instead (ground).

Next, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove a disk of dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured piece of waxed paper. Sprinkle with some more flour on top of the dough and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Place into a 9-10 inch tart pan that is 2 inches deep, preferably with a removable bottom. Trim the edges. Set a pie bird in the center of the pan.

Place the apples in the unbaked shell in circles, starting around the edges, working towards the center and forming a slight mound in the middle of the pie, around the pie bird. Pour over any remaining liquid. Roll out the second piece of dough as you did with the first. Place the dough over the apples, pressing the pie bird through the dough. Press together the edges of the dough around the rim of the pie. Brush the top crust with the juice reduction, but be careful not to brush close to the rim of the pie, or it'll stick to the pan completely.

If you have a heating coil in the oven, place the pie on the bottom rack, preferably on a pizza stone. If your oven has a flat bottom, place the pie on a sheet pan on the floor of the oven. Leave here for 30 minutes, then transfer to the lower rack (or, if using a pizza stone, one rack higher but no longer on the stone) for another 20 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool for a minimum of 4 hours before carving.

If you were using a pan with a removable bottom, slide the pie out of the pan and carve around the pie bird.

Mixed Berry Pie

2 pieces of pie crust
15 oz blueberries (fresh if you've got them, frozen if you don't)
15 oz raspberries (same)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice (the juice of half a lime)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

This one is quick and simple, and absolutely delicious. Set your oven to 425 degrees F. Start by placing a piece of pie dough in a 9 inch pie form and trim any excess off the edges. Keep the excess dough if you want to decorate the final pie (more on that later). Next, combine the berries with the flour, sugar and lime juice in a large bowl. If you bought frozen berries, make sure they're at least somewhat thawed first. Stir the mixture around until the dry goods are soaked up by the berries and juices.

Add the berries to the pie crust, sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon and cut up the butter into small bits. Next, let's make some egg wash: beat the egg in a small bowl or glass. Add the milk and beat to combine. Roll out the second piece of pie crust and brush the edge (about 1 inch into the crust) with the egg wash. Flip around and cover the dough - the egg was will glue the top crust to the bottom crust a little better than just squeezing the two pieces together. Lightly brush the top of the dough with some egg was, making sure there are no "puddles" anywhere. If you wish to decorate the pie, roll out any excess dough into a thin sheet, and use cookie cutters or a knife to make a pattern. A heart works well, I should have done the π sign, but didn't :)

Cut three slits in the top crust, to let out steam. Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, then lower the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, or until the juices are bubbly and the crust is browned. Remove and let cool for at least an hour before carving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Chicken and Broccoli Quiche with Fontina Cheese

1 pie crust
1 large broccoli head
2 chicken filets, skinless & boneless
2 tbsp grated onion
1 cup whole milk
1.5 cup shredded fontina cheese
4 large eggs

Turn the oven to 350 degrees. Place the dough in a 9 inch pie form and trim off any excess (the excess can be discarded). Prick with a fork and, once the oven has reached the appropriate temperature, bake for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and let cool.

Cut the chicken into small pieces, about 1/4-1/2 inches. Fry in a non stick pan with a little amount of vegetable or olive oil, until cooked through. I usually increase the temperature when they're almost finished and get a nice, brown surface to the chicken bits. Makes for more flavor without drying the chicken out.

Wash the broccoli and cut off the florets. The size is up to you, I generally leave the smaller florets as they are and cut large ones into two or four pieces. Place in a microwave safe bowl with a 1/4 cup water and cook in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove, and discard the water. Place the chicken and broccoli in the pie shell.

Beat the four eggs in a medium bowl. Add the milk, shredded cheese, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and the grated onion. Stir to combine, and pour over the chicken and broccoli in the pie crust. Make sure you do not overfill the crust - if you have too much batter, leave about 1/4 inch at the top.

Bake in the oven for roughly 1 hour, or until nicely brown and a knife inserted in the middle of the quiche comes out clean and it feels like it's set nicely. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve with a green salad.

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