Friday, June 12, 2009

Sourpuss: (Adventures in) Vinegar Pie

At the suggestion of Ivy and Kim, I'll periodically try out recipes that seem to appeal to some tastes rather than others, most often due to familiarity or lack thereof with the ingredients/flavors. That is to say, I'll make things that I think sound gross, just to get over my food-borne prejudice. We'll call these experiments "Sourpuss" honor of what tops the list: vinegar pie

But first, the crust.

But before that, a meditation on butter. Oh, how I love thee! I've loved butter since early childhood in Wisco. Perhaps it is due to an ingrained desire to support local farmers. Or, perhaps because it is tasty and its texture so smooth. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same: Butter has made me who I am today. While other kids were doing cool-kid things after school (like playing sports and interacting with each other), I was probably eating butter by the tablespoon while reading... or talking to myself... or daydreaming (about butter). I love(d) the creamy, salty, sweetness of good butter. My fingers would slicken as it melted in them on the way to my mouth. I couldn't imagine a better afterschool snack, especially when chased with a cold glass of milk. And while I now hesitate before eating a tablespoon straight from the stick, I do enjoy baking with it.

Making pie crust, and incorporating the butter and flour with my fingertips, always reminds me of those halcyon days. Especially when the recipe is as involved as this one. Because I get to touch butter at least 3 times while making it, it may become my new favorite.

Flaky Pie Crust
2 cups all-purp flour
1 teas salt
14 Tables butter (1 3/4 sticks), 11 Tables in 1/2" cubes
5-6 Tables ice water

Blend together flour, salt, and half of the cubed butter with your fingertips (or pastry blender) till it resembles coarse meal. Blend in remaining butter til pea-sized lumps form. Drizzle 5 Tables ice cold water and incorporate. (If a small handful doesn't hold together, add remaining Tablespoon, 1/2 Tables at a time)

Form dough into a ball, flatten into a 5" square. Wrap in plastic, chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface with (floured) rolling pin, so that it's 12" x 9" (1/3" thick). Cut remaining 3 Tables of butter into thin slices and arrange over dough-rectangle. Fold in thirds, like a letter (each section 4" x 9").

Roll out, again, to a 12" x 9" rectangle. Fold like a letter (in thirds, each 4" x 9"). Wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours. Let dough soften at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it out to line pie pan. Trim and fancy the edges, poke holes in the base using a fork, and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (with foil and pie weights or rice in the bottom). Remove foil and rice, bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling.

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Cinnamon for dusting
Nota Bene: the recipe calls for a 9" or 9 1/2" tart pan, with 1" sides. I substituted a glass pie pan and wound up with an empty-looking pie.
Coulda/Shoulda/Woulda doubled the filling.

In bowl of medium size, whisk eggs and 1/4 cup sugar until frothy. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk flour and remaining sugar. Then add water and vinegar. Whisk constantly, until sugar melts and mixture boils, over medium-high heat. Pour into egg mixture, whisk constantly.

To make it magically custardy, pour contents from bowl into saucepan. Heat over medium flame, stirring with wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of it, or it registers 175 degrees. Should take 12-15 minutes. While it simmers, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

If you've timed it correctly, the crust will be ready at the same time as the filling. Pour filling into crust and bake another 15-20 minutes (at 350).

At this point in the baking process, I grabbed the pan with my bare hands: awesome!

Having just pulled it out of the oven--even with a dusting of cinnamon--I'm dubious. This could be the least appetizing thing I've ever put in my mouth. We'll find out tomorrow.

30 MINUTES LATER: Penny loves it. I still think it's weird. Having used cider vinegar (along with the dusting of cinnamon), the custard tastes vaguely of apple pie, sans apples, or variations in texture. The vinegar gives it bite, but there's nothing to bite into (eek!). However, the crust IS best ever.

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