There are two classes on our calendar that stir up a lot of emotion in students. Cake decorating is a delicious alternative to the Myers Briggs test, but pie classes take the cake. Out of 12 students, we’ll find that half the class comes in with no prior pie experience and a deep fear of failure. Another quarter of the class has tried and failed a thousand times and the last 3 or 4 have never stepped in a kitchen. Who do you think fares best? The ones who have logged exactly zero kitchen time.
Making pie dough is deceptively easy, but finding the balance between controlled chaos (flakiness) and uniformity without overworking the dough takes either naivety or letting go of all the garbage you’ve heard and in the pages and pages of cookbooks on the subject and blog posts as long as the Sunday Times. Evan, myself and the dozens of professional pie bakers in L.A. have one thing to share with you: LET IT GO. Pie doughs should be rough and not uniform, marbled as well as a good steak and as cold as you can keep it.
I’ll let Evan Kleiman, our city’s Pie Queen, leave you with her Top 5 Pie Tips.
1. Do not fear the dough. You are its master!2. When butter starts to break down take a break and refrigerate the dough, even for 10 minutes.3. If you need a bit more liquid, at the beginning of your journey add up to 2 oz of vodka.4. BAKE that pie. A pallid crust is an underbaked crust.5. Practice makes Delicious. Don’t strive for perfection, just keep baking.
Chocolate Meringue Tarts
Pate Sucree au Chocolat (Chocolate Sweet Tart Dough)
|3 Tbsps||16g||Cocoa powder|
- Cream the butter, sugar and salt with a paddle attachment in a stand or hand held mixer. Need a workout? Start with room temp butter and beat with a wooden spoon. Either way, mix until no chunks or bits of butter remain.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour and stir until your dough just comes together.
- Grab two sheets of parchment paper (about the size of a cookie sheet) and a rolling pin (or wine bottle). Roll the dough between the sheets until it covers the entire area. This is a good thickness for a tart crust. Slide this dough onto a cookie sheet and freeze for at least an hour. Or a week.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Grab an 8" or 9" tart pan or a couple of 4" ones. Peel off the top layer of parchment back and cut out circles about 2" larger than your pan. Once you can bend the dough without it cracking, lower it into your tart pan. Don't freak out if it does crack a little; you can patch this up.
- Tarts need to have thin crusts- no one wants to bite into a doughy corner. Be sure to thin out the crust, but not so much that you can see metal. If the dough is too warm, pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes.
- Grab a fork and dimple the dough all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 15 minutes for a larger tart and 12 for smaller ones. Set aside.
Chocolate Pudding (makes more than you need, because pudding is great for breakfast).
|1/4 cup||Potato or Corn starch|
|2 tsps||Kosher salt|
|7 ounces||Dark chocolate (or 10 oz milk)|
- Chop up the chocolate and set it aside.
- Place the sugar, starch and salt in a non-reactive pot (anything but aluminum, really). Slowly whisk in the milk, followed by the yolks.
- Turn the heat to medium and whisk continuously until it boils (a little over five minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until smooth. Set aside to cool a bit.
|1 tsp||Vanilla extract|
|1 tsp||Cocoa powder|
- Place a medium saucepot filled 1/3 of the way with water and bring to a simmer.
- Place the sugar, salt and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Holding the bowl over the saucepot, whisk the mixture until it feels warm to the touch.
- Place the bowl on the stand mixer (or begin beating with a hand held mixer) and beat with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and cocoa powder once the mixture is nice and stiff. Spoon or pipe over the pudding and torch!