Good pastry is just as easy to make as poor pastry—provided you use proper methods
KATHERINE M. CALDWELL
SUMMER fruits may come and go; winter may bring its rich and satisfying puddings to vary the lighter ones of year-round service; but pie, if popular favor is consulted, goes on forever. It has a wise little way of using the special products of all seasons. When rosy rhubarb first appears on the spring market, we cannot resist putting it into a pie. When strawberries, raspberries, cherries and the other vivid summer fruits appear, they are good in themselves— but how good when coupled with a bit of delicious pastry! And if we tire a little of our canned fruits in winter they take on a new charm when used as a pie filling, to vary the apples, the raisins, the bananas we combine with a cream mixture, and the other familiar winter pie fillings.
Besides being so adaptable and taking such shrewd advantage of all that offers, the pie will meet you also on a basis of easy preparation. If you like a rather good crust, you can make quite a quantity of it at a time, with little more bother than a small amount requires; kept in the refrigerator or a cold place, it need only be rolled out as you want it. What could be easier?
The All-Important Paste
A PASTE that is rich enough for use in this way and will serve equally well for a delicious meat pie, for a fruit or a made-up filling or for any number of little fancy pastries, is a useful thing to have in one’s repertoire.
The following quantities are just sufficient for one medium-sized two-crust pie or for two shells; but, as I have said, this paste will keep very well; so, if you have use for it, make it up in larger quantities, wrap it in waxed paper and put in a covered container which may be kept near the ice or in a very cold place. You need only cut off and roll out what you want as the need arises.
\YÏ cupfuls flour Yu. teaspoonful salt Y¿ cupful shortening Cold water
If you are a beginner, you will find it helpful to add about a quarter teaspoonful baking powder to your other dry ingredients; it will help to make your paste light until you acquire the knack of the quick handling and light touch which achieve that result without the aid of a leavening agent.
The shortening for this paste may be any solid shortening which you can have hard and cold—if you are using a liquid shortening, your method will be somewhat different. Butter or lard or one of the excellent prepared shortenings—or a mixture of butter and one of these others —may be used. If you are using part or all butter, wash it to remove the salt and to make it waxy and pliable; this saves time in the end. When you have washed your butter, make a pat of it and fold it in a wet cloth; keep very cold.
Mix the dry ingredients well and sift them together. Put half of your shortening into thé bowl with them— use the lard or substitute and hold out the butter, if you are using half-and-half; cut the shortening into the flour with a knife, using a short, chopping motion; this will reduce it to small particles varying from the size of a pinhead to that of a pea.
Add enough very cold water, a little at a time, to make a Tollable dough; mix in the liquid lightly with your knife, remembering not to manipulate the paste a bit more than is necessary. When you have a stiff dough, turn it out on a lightly floured board and roll into an oblong sheet one-eighth inch thick.
You are now ready to use the second half of your shortening. Cut it into small pieces. Using half of it, place the bits of cold shortening over half the surface of your sheet of paste. Pick up the outer edge of the other half and fold it over, enclosing as much air as possible along with the shortening. The air you enclose at this point will expand when the heat of the oven gets at it. Press the edges of the paste together and roll out lightly. If time permits, fold the dough over two or three times and put it in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly. Roll out again, cover half the surface with the remaining portion of the shortening which is cut in small pieces, fold over the paste again, enclosing air, press edges and roll out.
It helps the paste to chill it well before putting into the oven. In fact, one of the secrets of good pastrymaking lies in chilling the dough during the process if the pastry becomes sticky or if the shortening has a tendency to break through when rolling. This is much better than adding more flour which reduces the richness of the paste and interferes with achieving just the texture you want.
This paste may be used immediately or it can be kept chilled for future use by the method I outlined.
If you do not want so rich a paste, you can reduce your shortening to about one-third cupful; or you can go in the other direction and increase the fat to practically three-quarters cupful for a very rich paste.
The method, as I have given it to you here, will produce a light, flaky pastry which lies in well-defined layers. If you prefer a close crumbly paste to a flaky one, you may blend your fat more thoroughly into your flour by rubbing it with the chilled finger tips; you should still avoid warming the fat in the process any more than you can help. Or if you are in haste and have no time to roll in the fat as described, you can chop it all into the flour, then add your liquid, mix lightly, chill, roll out and use.
A HOT oven is advocated as a general thing for pastry. An oven heated to 450-475 deg. Fahr., with a strong underheat at first to make the pastry rise, is usually advocated. After ten minutes or so, the pastry may be raised a little higher in the oven—browning begins at this period. During the last third of the baking time, the heat may be reduced somewhat, for at this time the pastry is really drying out.
This method answers for the baking of pastry alone—the empty shell for pie or tarts or most of the little fancy pastries. The same procedure, with an oven only slightly lower in temperature, may be used when there is a filling already in the paste which will not be adversely affected by the high temperature. With anything in the nature of a custard filling, a different plan must be adopted, because when eggs are an important part of the mixture, they demand slow cooking. I adopt a compromise in those cases—putting the pie into a hot oven and giving it ten minutes at the high heat to set the paste; this is not long enough to do more than heat the egg mixture. At this point cool the oven sharply and continue the cooking at a low temperature—about 325 deg. Fahr.
When the pie, otherwise completed, is covered with a meringue and put into the oven for the latter to set and brown, a really slow heat is necessary, 275 deg. Fahr. At this temperature it is possible to allow the meringue as long a time as is necessary to thoroughly set it—to make the delicate mass of egg white and sugar quite firm, so that when taken from the heat it will not flatten and toughen. As a rule about fifteen minutes is required.
To bake an empty shell successfully, invert your pie pan, place the sheet of paste over the bottom, trim it off, and prick it all over with a fork so that any air which has been imprisoned under the paste will have an opportunity to escape. The smallest air bubble will expand so much under the heat of the oven that a big blister will result—so, if you notice this happening while the pastry is cooking, prick it again promptly. The best results are obtained for many moist fillings of the cream variety, the lemon and orange pie, etc., when the filling is cooked separately and allowed to become quite cool before it is poured into a cool pastry shell. After that, it may be covered with meringue and browned on top or smothered with whipped cream or given any finishing treatment desired.
Fresh Berry Pies
THE natural sweetness of the fruit must regulate the amount of sugar used, which will usually vary from onèhalf to one cupful of sugar for a pie. Mix well three tablespoonfuls of flour with the sugar; sprinkle a layer of this mixture on the paste, then put in the fruit, sprinkling all with the sugar mixture; dot the top with some tiny pieces of butter. Roll out the pastry for the upper crust; moisten the edge of the lower crust with cold water, spread the top paste over the pan and trim it after pressing the edges together; do not cut any closer than is necessary, because your pastry will shrink somewhat when cooking. Bake in a hot oven, about 425 deg. Fahr. The pastry will usually be cooked in about thirty-five minutes, but if the fruit you have used is not tender in that time, reduce heat to 375 deg. Fahr., for another ten minutes or whatever may be necessary.
To prevent juice from boiling out into the oven, thrust two or three little white paper funnels through slits in the upper crust. It is also a good plan to bind edge of pie plate with a strip of cotton wrung out of cold water.
Lemon pie, to be really good, should have a delicate, jelly-like filling, barely thick enough to cut, with a real tang of lemon and a deep, delicate meringue.
A filling which to my mind measures up nicely to this standard, requires for two pies:
1Y cupfuls sugar
6 tablespoonfuls cornstarch
Y teaspoonful salt
2 cupfuls boiling water
Y cupful lemon juice Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoonfuls butter
Mix the three dry ingredients thoroughly, slowly stir in the boiling water and cook in the double boiler for twenty-five minutes, stirring the mixture constantly until it thickens, then cooking to remove all starchy taste. Beat the egg yolks and pour slowly into them some of the hot mixture, stirring constantly; then return this to the double boiler and cook another minute to thicken the egg. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and rind and the butter. Let the mixture cool, then pour into baked shell, cover with meringue and brown in a slow oven.
Meringue for Pies
TPHE whites of two eggs will make quite a good meringue for a rather small pie; for a large pie, it is better to drop it by spoonfuls here and there than to spread it; or to cover pretty well, use three egg whites.
For each egg white, allow two tablespoonfuls fruit sugar or granulated sugar. Beat the egg whites until fluffy, then add the sugar a little at a time and beat until very stiff. Add the flavoring—perhaps a few drops of vanilla or a little grated lemon rind or orange rind. Spread roughly over pie or drop by spoonfuls on surface. Sprinkle with a little granulated sugar and bake in a slow oven, 275 deg. Fahr., to set and to brown delicately. Sufficient time and a low temperature will give a tender, delicate meringue instead of one that is flat, watery and tough.
Yi cupful sugar
Yi cupful flour
Y cupful cornstarch Pinch of salt
3 cupfuls milk Grated rind of 1
1 tablespoonful orange
2 egg yolks
1 sliced orange Baked pastry shell Meringue
Stir the dry ingredients together and mix them to a smooth paste with a little of the cold milk; then slowly blend in the rest of the milk, add the grated orange rind and cook in the double boiler, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth and thick. Beat the egg yolks slightly, stir a little of the hot mixture into them, then stir this back into rest of mixture in double boiler; add fruit juice, cook for a couple of minutes, cool and turn into baked pastry shell. Arrange very thin slices of orange over the surface of the custard, dusting them with powdered sugar. On this drop a meringue made from three stiffly beaten egg whites and six tablespoonfuls sugar; flavor the meringue with a little grated orange rind and treat it as above. A little finely-shredded candied orange peel sprinkled over the top of the meringue is an improvement.q
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