I did more baking this season than I ever have in past years. For some reason, no weekend felt complete or satisfying unless I had baked one or more pies or other type of pastry. This summer, I also experimented with a broader diversity of pies, with many I had never, ever tried. (It took some courage)
Other developments: for all the years I’ve been making pie crusts, I’ve always preferred butter. This summer, I decided to try substituting about a quarter of the butter with vegetable shortening. I’m now a convert. Butter makes for the best flavor, but adding some shortening makes the crust more tender and flaky (without any film), and any decorative features I add hold their shape better due to the shortening. (This is important to me because this year I’ve started to work on the aesthetics of pies much more than I have in the past). And to boot, I’ve also started routinely adding a tablespoonful of vinegar along with the ice water.
It wasn’t just the pie–oh no, Edward and I went a little further this summer, and we decided to make our own pizza at home. Through trial and error, and the acquisition of a few critical tools, we’ve achieved a pretty impressive pizza. The basics? Roll out the dough, prick with a fork, slide onto a pizza peel covered with corn meal, slide onto a pizza stone (also covered with corn meal) in a 475 degree oven for a 7 minute pre-bake. Remove, brush the dough with olive oil, decorate the pizza with our preferred topping, and then slide back into the oven for another 7 minutes.
The pizza peel helped a lot, as did the corn meal and a special pizza rolling cutter. I had a recipe which informed me that one can use the “no-rise” method, meaning just whip up the dough with no rising, therefore not so time-consuming. For most of this summer, that’s how we did it, but this past weekend, I decided to see if the “long rise” method would yield any better results. On Saturday, I mixed the dough at 10am and let it rise until 5:30pm. Then we followed the same process. I had high hopes, but–sitting over dinner, we decided neither the taste or consistency of the dough was that much better with the long rise. In a way, this was really good news–no need to plan ahead!
Here’s a slide show, with captions, of the pies I made this summer. There were a couple–namely this weekend’s Honey Acorn Squash Pie and a plain old Blackberry Pie back in July sometime, of which I took no photos. But here are the remainder, in all their glory.