"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Friday, July 30, 2010

Baking Adventure 15: Spiced Double Cherry-Vanilla Pie

Have you ever gone a few days or more with a childhood nursery rhyme or folk song stuck in your head?

Well, I have.

The song was "Billy Boy". It just popped up out of nowhere and made itself a sturdy guest vacationing in my head like my mind was a well-needed motel, spotted by a weary traveler, off the side of a dust-ridden, barren road.

No doubt the earworm was inspired because of the business of baking a cherry pie. I couldn't get the song out of my head if someone paid me a million dollars. That's how insistent it became...and a bit amusing.

Anyway, I indeed baked a cherry pie a few days ago, completely from scratch. The only thing I didn't do was grow the cherries myself, make the butter from cream via ownership of a cow, and so forth. Ha!

The idea originally started with a entry I read on the blog, Chez Pim: The One Pie Dough to Rule Them All

Now, I've made pies in the past, but I always purchased my pie crusts and started from there. I hadn't made a pie crust from scratch until I decided to try the simple recipe listed in that entry. However, as usual, I did put my own spin on the recipe.

How so? Well...

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know how I've gone completely mad for the smell, use and taste of brown butter. As a result, I figured I'd employ the use of brown butter in this pie dough recipe. It's commonly said that in order to get a very flaky pie crust, cold butter must be used and kneaded into flour. We know that butter that is browned is heated, so in order to execute my idea of using brown butter, I browned the butter, infused it with a split vanilla bean and its seeds, to give it a very warm, nutty, vanilla aroma and taste, and I chilled the beurre noisette (French term for brown butter meaning "hazelnut butter") in the refrigerator. I left the vanilla bean in the butter, too, so that it could continue to work it's fragrant-setting magic. I made sure that the butter was chilled to become very cold and solid, the way butter is right out of store-bought packaging, otherwise.

When brown butter is chilled, it still keeps that wonderful nutty smell it's known for. I also kept the dark milk solids that separate out in the melted butter, for deeper flavor.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the process and my result (click images for larger view):

^Chunks of cold vanilla bean-infused brown butter (you can see the aromatic dark milk solids mixed in)

^Further mixing in the cold brown butter so that it's evenly dispersed throughout the flour

^Added water and worked the dough further into a large dough clump, which was wrapped and chilled for half an hour, to keep the dough cool to work with

^Dough taken out of the fridge, rolled out and folded onto itself stacked layers. Process repeated several times. This creates "layers" of solid butter pieces within the dough so that the crust comes out very flaky

^Dough was separated into two balls. One for top crust and the other for bottom crust. The second photo shows the bottom crust fitted into the glass pie baking pan. I coated it with eggwash.

The inside of the pie was filled with a spiced cherry filling, which contained two kinds of cherries: Rainier cherries and Bing cherries. The filling also contained sugar, freshly squeezed lemon juice, cornstarch (as a thickener), nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger.
The top crust was placed over the pie and radial-patterned slits were cut into the pie. It was also eggwashed. I sprinkled a generous amount of cane sugar over the top. The granules were coarse, beige, and raw. Just the kind of sugar needed for the top crust. The slits cut into the pie certainly result in oozing of the filling during the baking stage. I had to clean the oven out later because some of the filling dripped onto oven floor. I tell you, that's not very easy to clean out. But, I was so happy with my results that I didn't care. I accepted it as part of the process. Kind of like a rite of passage, if you will. LOL

Finished result. The smell (and taste) of the crust strongly resembled those classic Royal Dansk Butter Cookies in a tin container, especially the pretzel ones that are heavily crusted with sugar. The brown butter idea is a winner for pie crust. It really makes the crust something quite special.

The recipe for the pie filling is also from Chez Pim: Spiced Cherry Pie.  

Again, I strayed by using two kinds of cherries. I was fascianted by the light coloring of the rainier cherries, as well as their sweet and creamy texture and taste, and figured they'd look and be very lovely mixed in with the dark, red hues of the Bing cherries.

I must mention that this pie was gone the next day. It did not last long at all and there were many comments on how outrageously tasty the crust was. I decided to make the pie again, just a day later, and add dark rum in the cherry pie filling. Again, another one of my own takes. I knew that by the taste and smell of the cherry filling, dark rum would be a perfect addition to the flavor profile.

Indeed it was!

The second pie also didn't last long.  The day I baked the cherry pie again and added rum, I also baked a second pie because I had many fresh blueberries (and red currants just purchased from Pavilions) in my fridge and I doubled up the pie crust recipe (again using my take on it with brown butter and vanilla). I baked a blueberry pie (my own version) and will be posting my results in a baking adventure update soon.

^A slice of the spiced double cherry-vanilla pie, but with rum.

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