Monday, May 26, 2008

Perfect Pastry Cream Fruit Pie

From Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts and Tested in Alice’s Kitchen

If you want to make friends and influence people, this is the dessert to make them. Pastry cream topped in a flaky pie crust with fresh local fruit draped on top is just divine. The pastry cream can be made in advance. All of the ingredients, including local eggs, can be found at Lost River Market & Deli. Be sure to use the wonderful local fruits that are available at the store or at the Orange County HomeGrown Farmers Market.

Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk ¼ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour ¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream plus 2 Tablespoons sugar (optional, but recommended)

Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot, but not boiling. Combine the sugar, flour & salt in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the hot milk. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture until it is smooth and very thick.
While whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour about half of the milk mixture into the egg yolks. (This tempers the eggs so that they don’t scramble!) Pour the egg yolk/milk mixture back into the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring vigorously for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir a bit to cool, and then mix in the vanilla and the butter.
Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly over the pastry cream so that it won’t develop a “skin.” Refrigerate.
(This can be made up to two days ahead.)

Optional: Add 2 Tablespoons of sugar to heavy whipping cream and whip the cream. Gently fold the cream into the pastry cream to “lighten” the texture and make it even richer.

When the strawberries are ripe, try this:
Mix together 1 cup mashed strawberries, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup sugar,
3 Tablespoons of cornstarch into a saucepan. Heat until boiling, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Blend in 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Cool. Mix with 1 quart fresh strawberries and place in a baked pie shell or over a pastry cream filled pie.

Perfect Pie Dough
(From the kitchen of Martha Stewart and tested in Alice’s Kitchen)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled ½ cup ice-cold water

(The secret to making perfect pie dough is to make sure the ingredients and then the dough itself are very cold. Baking the chilled pie dough in a hot oven makes the butter melt so that it creates steam inside the baking dough. That makes the flaky crust we all want!)

Measure the flour and salt into a food processor with the blade. Cut the ice-cold butter into pat-sized piece and add to the flour mixture. Press the pulse button on the processor until you see pea-sized pieces of butter mixed in to the flour. Don’t over mix. Press the On button of the processor and slowly drizzle the ice-cold water into the feeding tube. When the dough becomes a ball, stop the machine.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. (The dough won’t be smooth. It’ll be sticky. That’s okay.) Place each piece of dough on plastic wrap and press into thick disks. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and chill for at least a half hour before rolling it out. (The dough can be frozen at this point. Thaw in the refrigerator before rolling out.)
Lightly flour the counter. Starting from the center of the disk, gently roll out the dough into a circle that is about 2 inches larger than the dish you plan to use. Lightly sprinkle with flour as you roll out the dough. Before placing it in the dish, brush the excess flour off with a pastry brush. (Too much flour on the dough makes it tough.) Fold the dough in half and place it in the dish. (Do not stretch the dough because that will make it really shrink.) Fold the extra dough under or over the edge and crimp. Prick the dough with a fork on the bottom and sides of the dough. Place the plastic wrap back over the dish to keep the dough from drying out. Put the dough in the refrigerator while the oven is preheating.
Preheat the oven to 450F degrees. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Place a piece of foil that is larger than the dough inside the dish and then pour about 2 cups of dried beans into the dish over the foil. Place the pie dough in the hot oven and set the timer for 12 minutes. (The weight of the beans keeps the dough from puffing up.)
When the timer beeps, carefully remove the foil and beans from the dish. (Keep the beans in a glass jar and reuse them as pie weights.)
Place the dough back into the oven and continue baking until it is golden brown all over. Since ovens vary, you will need to check every two minutes or so.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool on a baking rack.

When the pie dough is cooled, fill it with the pastry cream and top with your favorite fresh berries or fresh peaches.

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