Ellen Clifford
March 14, 2015 5:00 am

Pi day. Pie day! You know I never met a word/math/food joke I didn’t like. Also pie is my religion.

Today is March 14th, aka 3/14 aka 3.14. As in pi. Pronounced pie. It is 3/14/15 so it is an extra-pi day seeing as the beginning of the number is 3.1415. If you want to be really precise you will celebrate at 9:26, since those are the next three numbers. Let’s celebrate this blessed moment with Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible.

Dear Rose is the ultimate guru in the baking arts. She is the high priestess. Actually, perhaps the she is the goddess. Shall we pray?

Dear Rose: we pray that you accept our crusty offerings, and find them to be suitably flakey. Take mercy if they are not, for we mortal bakers are tender.

Incidentally, flakey and tender are the defining descriptives of great crust. By the will of Rose, I am going to show you how to get there. I will take you in hand.

Actually, I will just give you the recipe for a stellar hand pie. Because who does not want a whole pie all to one’s self? I do. These hand pies give you your own personal pie. They also fulfill a pie requirement of mine for LOTS of crust. I know there are crust people, and there are filling people, but I am a fan of both elements. I do not understand the person who can leave good crust on their plate. If I give you a slice of something I made and you leave the crust I WILL be insulted. It’s like the people that scrape off frosting off cake. I simply do not understand.

I also went with a hand pie today because I’ve made you a variety of other pies. There was a savory mac and cheese affair utilizing a potato crust, I’ve made dessert pie with a crust you didn’t have to roll out, heck I’ve even made you quiche. But never have I made such delightful pockets of blackberry-filled joy.

Granted this holy book of dough will teach you more than just pie technique. You can learn to make croissants, danish, and puff pastry too. Depending on how much you have sinned, the holy book will tell you to do more or less “turns” of your puff dough. You didn’t chill the butter properly? Twenty turns of the dough and a “Hail to the chef”! Just kidding. The good book doesn’t do that. That was a little pie/word/religious/political humor for you. That was probably pushing it.

I’ll stop trying to be funny now. I accept that there is a higher power. Its name is Pie. And it is good.

Blackberry Hand Pies adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible

  • 12 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups measured by dipping measuring cup into the flour then leveling the top (10 oz.)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 4.5 oz. cream cheese, chilled
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream, chilled (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Cut butter into 3/4 inch cubes. Wrap in plastic and freeze at least 30 minutes. Measure flour, salt and baking powder into a gallon size ziplock bag and put in freezer for 30 minutes.

After chilling, add the flour mixture to the food processor and process a few seconds to combine. Set the ziplock bag aside. Cut the cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add to the food processor then process until the mixture looks like coarse meal, around 20 seconds. Add the frozen butter  and pulse until the biggest pieces of butter are pea-sized. Add cream and vinegar. Pulse until most of the butter is all small-pea sized. As opposed to normal pea-sized. Spoon into plastic bag. Then you knead the dough a little in t he bag until it holds in one piece and feels mildly stretchy if pulled. Wrap that dough in plastic, flatten to a disk and refrigerate at least 45 minutes.

For filling:

  • 3 1/2 cups of blackberries
  • 7 Tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract

To finish:

  • beaten egg white
  • sugar

Whisk the sugar and salt. Add berries and lemon juice. Toss and allow to sit 30 minutes. Spray a 2-cup measuring cup with nonstick spray and put a strainer over it. Strain all the juices from the berries out. Use you microwave to reduce it by half. The book says this takes 5-6 minutes but it took me less time. Allow to cool then add almond extract. Add zest and cornstarch to the berries and toss to blend, then stir in cooled juices.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes with a baking stone of a large cookie sheet on the bottom rack. The book has rather ornate directions on how to roll out the dough but the truth? I divided it into ten chunks and rolled them out into 6 inch rounds directly on the foil I wanted to bake them on. Put 3-4 Tbsp. of filling on each. Wet the borders of the rounds with egg white and fold over. Use you fingers to pinch and seal the edges. Refridgerate one hour or freeze half an hour. Then take out and put a few slashes on the top. Brush with a little egg and sprinkle on some sugar. Put on a foil lined baking sheet and put that on the baking stone or sheet you have been heating in the oven. Bake 20-30 minutes until they are nice and golden brown. They are best warm, but beware: straight out of the oven they are hot hot hot! Holy moly. Pie is good.

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