Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TWD -- First a failure, then some tweaking

I confess. I didn't like this blueberry/nectarine pie in Baking with Julia. So, I made it twice, once following the recipe almost exactly, and then making adaptations which I felt improved it immensely.

My faults with the recipe were three: the crust recipe, the amount of thickener and the baking temperature. By following the recipe I was left with a non-flaky, very pale crust. I had to jack up the oven temperature to 450 degrees at the end, just to get the pie to brown. And, had I used only the 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour called for in the recipe, I would have been left with a runny mess. I hate pie fillings that run all over the plate, so on the first go-round I doubled the amount of flour. The pie (at left) looks pretty decent. But trust me, the crust was NOT flaky.

On the second time around, I used my favorite crust recipe (5 cups of pastry flour, 2 cups of Crisco or a combination of lard and Crisco, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp. salt, 1 egg, 1 tbls. of vinegar and approximately 2/3 cup of ice water. I worked the fat into flour mixture with my hands, leaving some pretty big chunks of Crisco. I portion the picture into 6 ounce discs and freeze what I don't need immediately. This is the same pastry recipe used in the bakery for which I volunteer and it is a very popular way of making pie crust in Ohio. Look in any community cookbook from this area and you will find this crust recipe. A variation has been published in two of Marcia Adams' cookbooks (a Midwest cook) and the 200th Anniversary King Arthur cookbook. In my mind, it can't be beat. The egg helps the crust brown -- I hate a pale pie crust.

I also switched thickeners the second time around, going from flour to Clear Jel. I used four tablespoons of Clear Jel -- my new go-to thickener for pies. I used to use tapioca, but Clear Jel is even better.

And, I upped the baking temperature to 400 degrees. This, too, helped the pie brown.

I'm not sure after making this pie twice that cooking part of the filling on top of the stove helps in the overall flavor. Since I make a lot of pies and taste a lot of pies at the bakery, I can't say that this method improves upon the end result. Plus, it's an added step that takes time and dirties a saucepan.

So, here is a picture of Pie No. 2 with the all-Crisco, pastry flour, vinegar and egg crust; Clear Jel; and a baking temperature of 400 degrees. As soon as I put a fork in the pie, I could tell a huge difference in the crust. The pastry all but melted in your mouth. Would I make this pie again -- yes, but with the adaptations mentioned above. And, I would substitute peaches for the nectarines -- I think they offer up more flavor.


  1. Glad you were happy with your second pie. I imagine it must be hard to try a new recipe when you know you have one that always works!

  2. I added some KAF thickener to the fillimg - it seemed a bit too runny for me.
    Pie crusts are funny things & when you have one that works for you, it's a beautiful thing.

  3. Happy ending....that's what count :-)

  4. I like your comparison. I didn't find the filling too runny, but the crust wasn't as flaky as my mother's - her recipe has a lot in common with your favourite pie dough.