Happy pie crusts start with firm fats. So park your butter and lard alike in the freezer for 15 minutes. Oh, and, uh grab a couple of ice cubes, while you're at it.
Oh, I should mention that you're only going to need 3 ounces, that's 6 tablespoons, of the butter, and 1 ounce, that's 2 tablespoons, of the lard, cut into cubes. As for the ice, just drop it in your favorite squirt bottle along with a quarter cup of water.
Since 1950 California has produced
than all of the European countries combined.
First into your food processor, 6 ounces of all-purpose flour, and yes, that is 6 ounces by weight, because, when it comes to flour, weight is more precise, okay? To that, one-half of a teaspoon of plain old table salt. Take that for a spin, just to combine. Give it a moment for the dust to settle. There we go. And then add the butter phase only. There we go. Now process this. 5 or 6 pulses will do, just until it starts looking mealy. Good.
|6 oz. AP Flour
1/2 tsp. Table Salt
3 oz. Butter
Now we add the lard. Why hold the lard 'til the end? Because we want it in nice, big pieces, because that will provide more flake. [pulses] 1, 2, 3. Good.
|1 oz. Lard|
Now, the water phase. The goal here is to use as little water as possible, but to evenly distribute it. That's why the spritzer. And cold is good, because cold will help keep the fat solid. So I'm just going to wet down the top of the mixture, and pulse about 5 times.
|Approximately 2 Tbs. Ice
Now what we're looking for is for the
mixture to stick to itself and not fall apart. [squeezes some of the mixture]
Eh, not quite. Give it a few more spritzes, and we'll say 4 more pulses. [tests
mixture again] Perfect!
Now, move this to a plastic zip-top bag, but do yourself a favor and take the blade out first. There we go. Now, just get your hand up in there [sic, squeezes from outside of bag] and squeeze this all this into one mass. There we go. And lay it out on the counter. I'll just squeeze the mixture into a flat round. Kind of like making a little brie. There. Seal it and move this to the refrigerator.
Thirty minutes in here [fridge] will give time for the flour in there to absorb a little bit of water, and that will make the dough more limber come rolling time.
According to Guinness, the largest
pecan pie ever made was
50 feet in diameter and weighted in at 41,586 pounds.
I cannot tell you how many of these devices [dough lump] I have destroyed during the rolling and panning process. But not anymore.
[voice over] Just take a paring knife and
slice down both sides of the bag. That's right, you're going to have to
sacrifice a zip-top bag, but believe me, it is well worth it. Now, just open up
the bag and flour your disc on both sides. There.
And re-close the plastic flap
and break out your favorite rolling pin. That's right, you're going to roll on
top of the plastic. Now just turn the bag a quarter to half a turn every few
seconds and keep rolling until you've produced a nice, big disc that goes just
beyond the edges of the bag. There. Now, carefully peel back the first layer of
plastic and re-flour. There you go.
Now, time to retrieve our 2 chilled pie pans. We're going to need 2 because we're basically going to make a pie crust sandwich here. Put the first pan right down in the middle of the dough. And then, flip the whole thing over. There you go. Peel off the plastic, and put the second pan on upside down. Push, and flip it again. Remove the first pan and you've got yourself a pie crust. Just tear off any excess to kind of patch where you might be short.
Since this is going to be topped with meringue we don't need any fancy, schmancy crimping here. Just an elevated edge that the meringue can grab a hold of. Once you've go a decent edge built up, grab a fork and poke holes, or dock, the bottom of the dough to release steam. This goes into the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. Is it beautiful? No, but its going to taste good. [Puts crust in fridge]
AB: [to crust] I'll be back.
Why the refrigerator? What are you, blind? [Venetian blinds drop in front of AB]
Now let's just say for a moment that this
is a microscopic cross-section of our pie crust in the oven. Now by the time the
layers of fat start to melt [slowly begins to open the blinds], the protein
structure formed by the flour and water need to be set. That way, when the fat
does melt, it will look like this [holds the individual blind pieces]. These are
the nice flakes in our flaky crust. If the fats melt
before the protein sets,
we'll have a real mess on our hands. Ten minutes in the refrigerator will keep
that from happening. Now, go ahead and set your oven to 425 degrees.
Since we docked our dough, we no longer have to concern ourselves with steam building up underneath the crust. But what about inside the crust? If it builds up there, we could get some nasty blistering. The remedy? Weights.
Although you can actually purchase pie weights in the form of pea-shaped ceramic beads or pie chains made up of long strands of aluminum balls, as I've always said, I only allow one unitasker in my kitchen. [holds up a fire extinguisher] I've also heard of some bakers using nuts and bolts from the hardware store. And although, I can appreciate the heat conducting properties of metal, I don't really relish the thought of my pie crust being squashed by a pound of hardware. That's why I go with natural weights.
Now, just take a piece of parchment paper, and gently press down. Then pour in the beans. My grandmother liked Great Northerns, but I prefer black beans because they absorb heat so quickly. The other nice thing about beans is that you can use them thousands and thousands of times. Just don't try to cook them. They won't taste very good. Put this in the oven for fifteen minutes.
Blind baking is the common term for baking a pie crust without the filling.
With Phase 1 of construction well under
way, its time that we ponder Phase 2. Now here's a fact: this device [points to
pie] needs to be assembled while that base custard is piping hot. That means
we've got no choice, but to make phase 2 the meringue. And that's tricky
business because a meringue is really nothing but a foam. And what is a foam
after all, but a big collection of bubbles? And what's a bubble? Its basically a
very flimsy little lattice work of proteins, draped with water. Now in the case
of meringues we've got some advantages. We add sugar to the structure which
strengthens it. But things can, and do, go wrong.
[noticing balls of 'water' on top of the pie model] Mmm, hmm. Hmpf. Just as I suspected. Beading. This is what happens when sugar-saturated water oozes up to the surface of the meringue and sets in the open air. Probably means we've got trouble downstairs too.
[pulls back meringue layer to reveal 'water' between the custard and meringue] Oh, yes. Look at that layer of water. Well, let's just pretend its water. Its a model, okay? This is the same moisture as we had up there. Only since there was no air, it didn't set into beads. But this is even worse, because it means that the meringue layer and the custard layer will never stay bonded together. Luckily, this can be prevented.
[voice over] Since fats can deflate an egg foam, make sure your bowl is very clean before adding 4 carefully separated egg whites. And along with that we're going to add a pinch of cream of tartar. Its an acid. It'll help denature those proteins. Now, I like to start this by hand. I'm just going to take the whisk and whip these into a froth. Then you can put them onto your mixer on medium high.
4 oz (4 Large) Egg Whites
When you've got a nice light foam, start adding 2 tablespoons of sugar very slowly.
|2 Tbs. Sugar|
Although I've never heard of anyone getting a food-born illness from a homemade meringue, we are talking about an under-cooked egg product here. So if you're worried, do what I do and use pasteurized eggs. If they don't have these at your local mega mart, then look for the pasteurized egg whites that come in jars or bottles. They're usually in the dairy section. You'll need 4 ounces.
[voice over] In another 30 seconds to 1 minute you'll have stiff peaks. If you're not sure your peaks are stiff, just take out the whisk, stick it straight down, and turn it over. If they stand like this, you're good to go.
Since we've made them right, these will stand the test of time. Not forever, but long enough for us to make the filling. Just put a lid on and keep them in a cool place.
[voice over] Time to check in on our pie shell. It's mostly done, but not completely done. It still needs to brown. So remove the weights carefully, they are hot. And then re-insert into the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.
With Phases 1 and 2 completed, its time to face the filling. Now besides delivering 90 plus percent of the pie's flavor, this filling must be soft and pleasing to the palette. And yet it must remain firm enough to cut. Luckily, we've got that secret weapon.
[pulls a lemon from a tree and sniffs
deeply] Ahh! The clean, fresh smell of citris limonium. Yep. No wonder it
is as popular in cleaning products as it is in confectionary. You know, nobody
knows exactly where the lemon was born. But we know it was some place in
Southeast Asia. We know that it migrated from there across China to Persia, and
that the Arabs carried it from there across the Mediterranean to Spain. About
that time, a guy named Christopher Columbus was getting ready to sail across to
the new world, and he took these lemons with him to Hispaniola
[Spanish: Española]. Some missionaries
took seeds from the lemons that grew there and brought them here, to sweltering,
hot, mosquito-infested Southern Florida, where they grow today.
Most people think that a lemon is a lemon. But there are actually dozens of different varieties, from Eurekas to Lisbons to Meyers to these Bearss lemons which are being grown specifically for their juice. How do you know? Because any lemon that's being grown for the produce bin is picked completely green. Why? Well, lets put it this way, these lemons in their ripe form are very susceptible. Susceptible to bruising. Susceptible to funguses. Lots of bad things can happen. By picking them green and allowing them to ripen, or cure, in a controlled environment, you protect your investment.
Now when it comes to your investment, look to purchase only nice, smooth, round lemons. You do not want to see blemishes. You do not want to see any green whatsoever. This is a nice specimen. This will keep in your refrigerator in an air tight container for about a week. If you need to harvest off some zest, just take off what you need, and put it back into the container.
Oh, and if you need juice, but you don't need the whole thing, don't go cutting open the lemon and wasting the whole thing. Just take a toothpick, roll the lemon between your hands thusly, or on a counter, to loosen up the pulp, and just insert your toothpick here, [inserts tooth pick halfway between middle of the lemon and 1 end of the lemon] nice and deep. Then you can just kind of squeeze out whatever you want, and then put the toothpick back in. That way your lemon stays fresher longer. Nice, huh?
The Meyer lemon is not a true lemon
at all, but a
hybrid between a lemon and a Mandarin orange.
[voice over] Our pie's lemony filling begins with 4 egg yolks. Beat very thoroughly, well at least until they start to lighten up a bit. Then set those aside.
|4 Large Egg Yolks|
In a saucier or a medium sauce pan, mix together 1 third of a cup of cornstarch with 1 and a half cups of water. Put that over medium heat. Ok? Then whisk in 1 and a third cup of sugar. There you go. And a quarter teaspoon of regular, old table salt. Now stirring often, bring this to a boil.
|1/3 Cup Cornstarch
1 1/2 Cups Water
1 1/3 Cups Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
Now by the time this mixture comes to a boil,
all the starch granules will have soaked up so much liquid that eventually
they'll swell to the point that they explode, sending starch everywhere thus,
thickening the sauce. Now to make sure that each and every one of those granules
has given up its goods, let this simmer for another 60 seconds.
Now remove the mixture from the heat, and very, very slowly add about half of it into the beaten eggs, just a whisk full at a time. Now this curious little dance is called tempering, and when done correctly will prevent the eggs from curdling from heat exposure. Now I'd say that's about half in, so the egg mixture now goes back into the original pot. There. And we go back to the heat.
Egg yolks contain an enzyme that gobbles up starches like a molecular PacMan, and if left unchecked, these will convert the inside of your pie into soup overnight. Luckily, these chemical terminators can be disabled permanently, with 1 minute of simmering. No less.
[voice over] After a minute goes by, turn off the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of butter. When that's melted, add a tablespoon of fresh lemon zest and a half a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. And yes, fresh matters. Now its going to take a minute to stir this in because there's a lot of fat trying to mix up with a lot of water. They don't get along very well. Now just pour the whole thing directly into your baked and cooled pie crust.
|3 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Finely Grated Lemon
1/2 Cup Freshly Squeezed
While your custard is still piping hot go wake up your meringue with a quick 30 second beating.
THING: [hands AB bowl of meringue]
AB: [to Thing] Thank you, thing.
Excellent. Oh, you set your oven to 375, right? Good.
[voice over] Now just dump the meringue on top of the pie and don't try to get pretty. Just make sure you take it to the edges and seal it against the crust.
I'm switching now to a metal spatula to finish. Now some people like their meringues all wavy on top. I like mine as smooth as Kojak's noggin.
[voice over] There. Again, I just want to make sure it's sealed up against the crust. If you like a taller meringue, you can make a double batch. Me, I don't want too much meringue. Now, into the oven for another 10-12 minutes. Remember, we're just cooking the meringue here.
Mmm, now that is real pie. Sure it took a little time and effort, but it was worth it in a hundred thousand different ways. Heck, even if you don't like lemon meringue pie with a crispy crust, a mighty meringue, and some cunning custard skills in your pocket, just think of all the places you can go in this galaxy that we call Good Eats. See you next time.
Transcription by Elctrowolfe & Ed Lee
Last Edited on 08/27/2010