Food & Drink

Pies are getting hot

Could the reign of the cupcake be waning at last? Suddenly, it's all about the pie. Pies of all sizes are popping up at wedding receptions, aboard food trucks and in pie-centric cafes from coast to coast.

"I think honestly, it's the tip of the iceberg," says Andrew Freeman, the San Francisco-based restaurant consultant who first dubbed 2011 "The Year of Pie."

Those who frequent classic pie-friendly places may laugh. They've been enjoying their apple and berry pies for years. But there's a new movement afoot, and it involves perfectly flaky crust and sweet and savory fillings.

These days you can get cupcake-size pies delivered by bicycle if you live in the right San Francisco neighborhood.

And if you're attending a casual outdoor wedding in the Bay Area these days, chances are good that the towering wedding cake has been supplanted by a pie buffet.

None of that surprises Shira Bocar, the co-author of Martha Stewart's new "Pies & Tarts" cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 352 pp., $24.99). Pies have always been a popular topic among readers of Martha Stewart Living, Bocar says, but something has changed.

"Pies are now turning up on menus of top restaurants," she says. "There is a boom in pie-centric shops. They are the dessert stars at more and more dinner parties."

In short, pie seems to have hit a tipping point similar to the one that propelled the lowly cupcake to pastry superstardom. Freeman was working with New York City's Magnolia Bakery, the patisserie generally credited with launching the cupcake trend, back when that craze took hold. He knows a trend, he says, when he sees it.

"What I was seeing was all of a sudden this resurgence of pie," Freeman says. "We started to hear a lot about it. My gosh, there's more pie on menus than I remember."

The evidence isn't just anecdotal. The numbers back up Freeman's trend theory. Pie devotees ate 722 million slices at restaurants last year, 12 million more than in 2009, according to NPD Group, a market research outfit.

Lattice-Top Blueberry Pie

Pate brisee:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4- 1/2 cup ice water

Blueberry filling:

7 cups (about 2 lbs.) fresh blueberries, picked over and rinsed

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Fine sanding sugar

Make the pate brisee by pulsing flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles corn meal, with some larger pieces. Drizzle 1/4 cup water over the mixture and pulse just until the mixture begins to hold together. If the mixture is too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse.

Divide dough in half and flatten into disks. Wrap well in plastic and chill until firm, 1 hour or up to 1 day. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a disk of dough to a 13-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large bowl, toss together the berries, 1/2cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon juice. Pour into pie plate, piling it in the center.

Roll out remaining disk of dough, as you did in step 1. Cut dough into inch-wide strips using a fluted pastry wheel. Brush pie edges lightly with water. Carefully arrange the dough strips on top, weaving to form a lattice. Trim dough to a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under and crimp with a fork.

Whisk the egg yolk and cream to form an egg wash. Brush over dough strips and pie edges. Generously sprinkle with sanding sugar. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the pie atop a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet until crust begins to brown, 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until crust is deep golden brown and juices bubble, about 55 minutes more. (If crust browns too quickly, tent it with foil.) Cool completely on a wire rack.

From "Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts"

--The Wichita Eagle—05/03/11

Very Lemon-Lime Souffle Pie

If you choose to use refrigerated pie dough for the crust you will need to roll it a bit to make it large enough to fit a 10-inch pie pan. Fit the crust into the pan, flute the edge and then line the bottom with heavy foil. Bake at 425 degrees until barely golden, 10-15 minutes. Cool before filling.

8 eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Zest from 1 lemon

1/8 teaspoon lemon extract

1 baked pie crust for 10-inch pie, cooled completely

2 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for berries, optional

1 bag (10-12 oz.) frozen mixed berries (no added sugar), thawed, optional

1 carton (8 oz.) whipping cream, whipped, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the egg yolks, 1/2cup of the granulated sugar and the lemon and lime juices in a medium-size metal bowl; set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (use a double boiler if you have it). Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon (180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), about 10 minutes. (Do not let mixture boil or the yolks will curdle.) Remove the bowl from the hot water; pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Stir in the lemon rind and extract; cool.

Beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Stir a spoonful of the beaten whites into the lemon-yolk mixture to lighten it. Then, spoon the lemon-yolk mixture back into the remaining whites; fold gently just to mix.

Spoon the mixture into the baked pie crust; sprinkle generously with confectioners' sugar. Bake the pie, rotating if necessary for even browning, until the top rises and browns nicely, 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack. The top will crack like a souffle and deflate somewhat.

Serve the pie at room temperature with an extra dusting of confectioners' sugar. Mix the berries with confectioners' sugar to taste (usually 1 to 2 tablespoons). Serve the pie with a spoonful of the berries and a dollop of the whipped cream.

--The Wichita Eagle—05/03/11

Sweet Cherry Pie

The cider vinegar in the pie crust is used to help "shorten" the crust, improving the texture. Though you might smell the vinegar as you roll out the crust, you should not taste or smell it in the finished pie.

Double crust:

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

6 to 8 tablespoons ice water, more if needed

1 egg or egg white, for an egg wash, as desired

Sugar, for sprinkling, if desired

Cherry filling:

3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over the pie

1/4 cup cornstarch

6 cups sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons orange liqueur, preferably Grand Marnier

To make the dough using a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated (the dough will look like moist sand). Add the butter and pulse just until the butter is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and pulse once or twice until incorporated. Remove the crumbly mixture to a large bowl and gently press the mixture together with a large spoon, rubber spatula or the palm of your hand just until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disc roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disc tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

To make the dough by hand, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the shortening and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will look like moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Gently press the crumbly mixture together with a large spoon, rubber spatula or the palm of your hand just until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disc roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disc tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Halve the dough, keeping the second half refrigerated as you work on the first half.

On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough out into a round roughly 13 to 14 inches in diameter. Place in a 9- to 10-inch baking dish, trimming any excess so the edge of the crust meets the edge of the pan.

Make filling and pie: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the three-fourths cup sugar with the cornstarch. Stir in the cherries, coating completely, then stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur until evenly combined.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg to form a wash.

Fill the pie with cherries and brush the edge of the crust with the egg wash or water, then refrigerate the pie as you roll out the second dough half.

Roll the second dough half as you did the first. Remove the pie from the refrigerator, and center the top half over the filling. Press the top crust along the egg-wash-brushed edge of the bottom crust to seal, then trim the excess top crust so that it extends from the edge of the pie plate by one-half inch. Fold this edge and tuck it under the bottom crust to seal the crust completely. Crimp the edges as desired. Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired. Slit the top crust to create vents for the filling as it bakes. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until the crust is a rich golden color and the filling is bubbly and thick, about 1 hour and 15 minutes; rotate the pie halfway through for even coloring, and tent if needed to prevent over-coloring. Cool before serving.

--The Wichita Eagle—05/03/11

Brie and Apple Custard Tart

This rich, savory tart should be served in slivers.

Pate brisee:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut in 6 wedges

6 ounces very ripe Brie, at room temperature

1 large whole egg, plus 2 large yolks

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/ 2cup milk

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme

Coarse salt, ground pepper

Make the pate brisee by pulsing flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles corn meal, with some larger pieces. Drizzle 2 tablespoons water over the mixture and pulse just until the mixture begins to hold together. If the mixture is too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse.

Divide dough in half and flatten into disk. Wrap well in plastic and chill until firm, 1 hour or up to 1 day. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to an 11-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Fit into a 9-inch springform pan, with dough extending slightly up the sides. Pierce the bottom all over with a fork. Chill until firm, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line tart shell with parchment, extending above side by about 1 inch. Fill with pie weights. Bake 20 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and weights. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly before filling. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add apples; cook until browned on all sides, 2-3 minutes total. In a food processor, process brie for 15 seconds. Add whole egg and yolks one at a time; process after each until well combined. Add cream and process until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in milk. Stir in thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange sauteed apples around bottom of crust. Pour custard over apples. Bake until custard is just set when gently touched with your finger, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

From "Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts"

--The Wichita Eagle—05/03/11

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