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A Caramelly Twist on Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin, as the kids like to say, is my jam. There’s no sweet I’d rather eat than pumpkin pie, or better still, pumpkin caramel bars. But bars don’t work as well on a Thanksgiving table it seems to me, so young Jo Pastry and I decided to combine the two concepts this year, into what we’ve come to call Burnt Caramel Pumpkin Pie. What can I say, it works.

The variation is at the bottom of the tutorial.

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How to Make a Flaky Pie Crust

Some very interesting reactions to the below post on making cherry pie. Several comments on the sour cherries, but also quite a few questions about the crust. How do you get it so flaky? The answer is fairly straightforward: leave some large-ish pieces of fat in the dough. The logical follow-up question is: what good does that do? For that we need to back up a little.

The American pie crust is a schizophrenic creation. As Alton Brown once observed on his groundbreaking food science show Good Eats, Americans demand that their pie crusts be both tender AND flaky, which is something of a contradiction in terms. Flakiness partly a product of dryness, but also of a heterogenous dough mixture, with large, unevenly distributed fat pockets of varying sizes that roll out into layers as the crust is shaped. When the crust bakes up, the fat melts, leaving hundreds of tiny strata that cause the finished crust to break into flakes when it’s cut (or chewed). Laminated doughs, like croissant or Danish dough, are created specifically to exaggerate this fat-layer-induced flaking effect.

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Making Cherry Pie

It goes without saying that this is a sour cherry pie, because there’s no other kind of cherry pie. Not in the J. Pastry universe. Sour cherries, being more acidic, are much more interesting from a flavor standpoint. They also have thinner skins and more tender flesh, which means they bake down more readily. The result is a pie of a complexity and texture that sweet cherries can simply never deliver. Enough said.

So where were we? Right, pie. Every great pie starts with a home-made crust, and no they’re not hard to make. Roll yours in the same way I did here for peach pie. While the crust is resting, make your filling. Begin by assembling your ingredients. You’ll need a quart or more of sour cherries.

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Cherry Pie Recipe

My father loved sour cherry pie so much he planted a cherry tree in our suburban back yard. His plan for Infinite Pie pretty much worked. The little tree produced the first year as I recall and ultimately grew to something like 20 feet. I can still remember how he draped it with nets in a vain attempt to avoid sharing his bounty with birds and squirrels. What can I say, he’s a greedy man. Oh the hours my twin sister and I spent pitting all those things…the stains on our hands — and our Catholic school uniforms! But mom’s pie was worth it. Here’s how it goes:

1 recipe standard pie crust
4 cups pitted sour cherries
3 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
generous pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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Making Chicken Pot Pie

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Casserole under a crust is what pot pie is, really. I take back what I said about stew. The ingredients are mostly cooked when they go into the pot/pan then stuck together with a binder. So technically the filling is more closely related to a pudding than a pie. But why split hairs? Pot pie is awesome, let’s leave it at that. Make yours by collecting your ingredients and preheating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Pot Pie Recipe

Several readers have writing in asking: how big should a pot pie be? The answer: what’s your total volume of leftovers? That will determine your form as much as anything. I’ll say right now that his will probably be the most informal recipe I’ve ever written. It will be nothing more than a proportional formula, one you can tailor as needed, in the tradition of the world’s finest grannies. Since a classic pot pie is made with chicken, I’ll use a béchamel sauce for my binder. Others are certainly acceptable, but béchamel has the virtue of being extremely easy to prepare.

Let’s start off with the assumption you’ve got about 2 cups shredded chicken. To that you’ll add about 3-4 cups of chopped, cooked vegetables: a mixture of peas, carrots, potatoes, celery, pearl onions, mushrooms, what have you, diced to whatever size you like. Cooked leftovers are great if you have them. If you don’t you’ll want to soften them in a little butter over medium heat. Onions take the longest so start those first and after they’ve cooked 2-3 minutes add the potatoes, carrots or celery. Cook those until softened, 5-12 minutes depending on the size of your dice. Mushrooms only need a couple of minutes, so if you’re using them, add them last. Frozen peas don’t need to be cooked.

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Making Blueberry Pie

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I made this for the 4th of July (hence the stars) and brought it to a pot luck. Two small slivers disappeared in the first half hour, but a few minutes later I noticed guests with pieces that were fully 1/4 of the pie. I took it as a compliment. Start by assembling your ingredients and preparing the crust according to directions. When the crust has rested, combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl like so:

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Blueberry Pie Recipe

This is a classic I couldn’t resist making, even on my summer off. It definitely belonged in the catalog. You’ll need:

One pie crust recipe for a double crust pie
Six cups fresh or frozen blueberries
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 ounces (4 tablespoons) tapioca flour (instant tapioca)
egg wash

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Making Murcian Meat Pies

It’s been three years since I happened upon pictures of these pies online, and it’s taken me that long to work up the courage to make them. Now that they’re here I wish I hadn’t waited so long, as it turns out they’re one of the few savory pies my young daughters will eat! I can understand the appeal. They’re rich and crispy on the outside, satisfyingly meaty on the inside, and on top of it all are just plain fun to have on your plate. As you’ve no doubt surmised, it’s the laminated tops that are the tricky bit. Everything below that pretty much follows standard meat pie rules. Here’s how they go:

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Murcian Meat Pie Recipe

Like virtually all meat pies, these can contain just about any mixture of meat scraps or leftovers you have handy: ground or shredded meat, organ meats, sausages, ham, whatever’s around. The crust is a two-part affair. The top is made from roll-laminated dough, the bottom from short crust, puff pastry or puff pastry scraps. Short crust is the most common bottom crust, or so I understand, but do as you wish. Obsessing about ingredients is against the spirit of savory pies, which are all about making do with whatever’s available. Note that if you’re using pre-cooked shredded meat you’ll probably want some sort of a binder to hold the filling together, like a beaten egg.

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