It's that time of year when the bushes in the back yard are pumping out raspberries as quickly as we can keep up with them. I am so appreciative of the fruit they produce. Not only is it FREE, the quality of the berries is remarkably different (better!) than those stiff grocery store fruits. (If you've ever eaten a wild strawberry and compared it to a grocery store strawberry, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't eaten a wild strawberry, well, I feel quite sorry for you.)
We're eating a ton of berries fresh out of hand, being strong believers in the pick-two-eat-one philosophy. We've also learned how to effectively freeze berries. Rather than just dumping them into a bag and freezing that, we've started spreading them out in one layer on a sheet pan and freezing them first. Once they're solid, you can put them into a freezer bag and pull out individual berries easily. (Like I did here, and here)
Holidays always beg for baking in my opinion, and Evan's pie-a-day quest inspired me: simple wild raspberry pie.
Before I share the simple filling, I wanted to give an in-depth (easy! promise!) walkthrough of how to make a good basic pie crust. I've learned that Alton's works best for me, and I think it's because of three things
1) the salt, which I think is an often neglected essential of baked goods
2) the mix of butter and shortening, which yield a flaky AND tender crust
3) the method of mixing, which always comes together for me without too much messing around to toughen the dough.
One thing I've learned from baking pastry doughs (as opposed to bread doughs) is that the less you mess with it the better. Kneading bread is essential because it helps develop gluten. When you're making pastry doughs, you want to be very gentle and knead only as much as you must, because you want a tender crumb.
Before you get going, make sure your fats are chilled (also different than most baking I do, where you want the fats at room temperature) and that you have a spray bottle with ice cold water ready to go.
Alton Brown's Pie Crust
makes 1 pie crust (I did this twice to achieve the end result)
in a food processor, pulse to combine
1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, chilled
drop those into the flour mix
pulse just until the mixture looks sandy. Your goal is to preserve little pockets of fat that will melt during cooking give your crust that tenderness. If you mix everything up a lot and let the fats melt before you cook, you'll just end up with dry, flavorless tough dough. (cue AB's voice, "and that is NOT good eats')
It should look like this.
do the same with
2 tbsp. shortening, chilled, pulsing only 3-4 times
Pulse just until it comes together.
Then, get out your spray bottle and spritz the surface of the dough with ice cold water. Pulse 5-7 times, then spray again, and pulse again. Once your mixture starts sticking to itself, like this
pull out a little piece and press it together. If it sticks together, like this,
Dump the mixture onto some plastic wrap you've laid out. (AB uses a plastic bag, but I avoid those whenever possible.)
I know this doesn't look like it's wet enough, but trust.
Use the plastic wrap to press the dough onto itself into a disc the size of a small plate.
Let this rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will allow the fats to resolidify and the flour to absorb the liquid. Once you pull it out, it should be easy enough to knead. If you must, add a little liquid or a little flour to achieve the right texture for your dough.
now for the filling!
I have to share with you the haul we got yesterday. (yes, this is all from ONE day)
that doesn't look so huge right there, so here it is in perspective. the sweaty berry pickers and the lazy doggie.
I'd say we got a good 12-15 cups of berries. :D
For the filling, prepare
5-6 cups of berries (my regular 9 in pie pan could have taken up to 7 I think)
1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour (less or more, depending on how juicy your fruit is. these berries are quite juicy and this was enough)
1/2-2/3 c. sugar (I used 1/2 c. unrefined here because I wanted to keep the filling tart. add the sugar to taste and according to the sweetness of your fruit. strawberries, for example, need very little sweetening, but still need some sugar to draw out the juices)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Now, I'm going to show you something that really solidifies me as a total fatty.
I'm not content with butter in the crust. In my humble opinion, a pie is not complete until the surface is dotted with butter. Lots of it. Because really, this is pie. I'm not messing around.
(These pieces are a little big. You should dot yours more tastefully and sparingly, I guess.)
Often I like to do a crumble topping for my fruit pies because to me there isn't much that gets along better than oats and fruit, but I wanted to do a really pretty pie this time, so that means lattice. There are lots of nice tutorials on the web that can teach you how to put together a lattice top without going crazy, but I didn't look at a one and figured it out just fine.
I also dusted the top with that unrefined sugar. The pieces are much bigger than regular sugar, and they hold their shape but melt just enough to make a nice crunchy crust on top of the pie crust. It looks awfully pretty, too.
Oh yeah, you can see my can of Baker's Joy in this photo. I love this stuff! It combines the two steps of greasing and flouring pans into one spray! Having worked in a deli that produced cakes, I really appreciate the convenience of this stuff. I got this HUGE can (food service size! woot!) at my local restaurant supply store for really cheap ($4.50!). I highly recommend checking your yellow pages for one of these stores. The deals on prepware and stuff like this can't be beat.
You best eat that with a cup of coffee if you know what's good for you.
Ok kids, get out there and enjoy the holiday, and bake a pie!