Friday, November 23, 2012

any time is a good time for pie

It's true.  Any time IS a good time for pie.  At least that's what I'm telling myself, as my post for this traditional Thanksgiving fare is a little late....  

Apple pie is, I think, my favorite.  Although I love cherries and blueberries on their own, their respective pies don't sit well with me.  I have no idea why, but cooked cherries and blueberries taste a little chloriney..  Peach pies, strawberry rhubarb pie, cobblers...  why, yes, I will have another piece, thank you.  Chocolate pies?  What?  You mean it's NOT acceptable to just stick my face in it?  Oops..  

And then there's pumpkin pie. 

Pumpkin pie is relatively new to me.  The first time I had it was almost 20 years ago, so "relatively new to me" simply means that it was introduced in my adulthood.  It's the same with grilled cheese.  I didn't have my first grilled cheese until I was in my 20s, if you can even imagine..

I will never forget the first time I had pumpkin pie.  Never quite being a squash person, I was a little hesitant.  But once I caught that lovely warm cinnamon infused aroma, I was instantly sold.  And that was before I even took one smooth, creamy bite.

Having a child with a dairy allergy, we are constantly making recipe alterations, and it was last year that I discovered the splendor that is coconut milk.  It is a marvelously effective and delicious baking tool.  It can substitute buttermilk directly, needing no acid like vinegar or lemon juice to procure that requisite tanginess.  I always keep a can of regular coconut milk in my fridge because when it cools, the solids move to the top, and once scooped out and mixed with some confectioners' sugar and a little vanilla, it makes a seriously excellent whipped cream.  It also makes for a great pumpkin pie, with it's creamy consistency.

The real test for my dairy free pumpkin pie came last year, when I made it for my husband's family.  His mother is an expert pumpkin pie baker, but she was so bogged down with family and the rest of the meal, that she didn't have time to make dessert.  I made this recipe, and no one in the entire family thought it was anything other than grandma's famous pumpkin pie.  She is a fabulous cook, my mother in law.  This was a HUGE compliment….

dairy free pumpkin pie

1/2 c. brown sugar (light and dark both work, but dark adds a little more depth to the flavor)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin
1 c. regular coconut milk (be sure to stir it very well before measuring, if using a can)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Combine the sugars, spices, and salt in a small bowl.  In a larger bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin and vanilla.  Add the sugar mixture, and stir until smooth.  Whisk in the coconut milk.

Roll out the crust, and place in a 9" pie dish.  I don't usually cut off the crust hang-over anyway, and this pie is a really good reason to use that extra crust.  Build up the sides of the crust by folding the overhang onto itself, creating a crusty lip.  I can't imagine that anyone in their right mind would want a crusty lip coming anywhere near their pie….. but in this case it keeps the pie filling where it should be- inside the pie.

Pour the pie filling into the pie shell and bake for 15 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350˚F and continue to bake for about 40-50 minutes, give or take, or until a toothpick comes out relatively clean.  The filling will firm up as it cools, so don't worry if the pie still looks a little wobbly.  

And here comes the difficult part.  Let the pie cool for at least an hour, preferably two.

pie dough for double crust pie

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 sticks Earth Balance dairy free butter, cubed and very cold (I will cube my butter first and put it in a bowl and into the freezer while I get my other ingredients together)
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt (the Earth Balance is salted, so I usually omit the salt here, or at most I'll add a pinch.  If you use unsalted butter however, add the salt)
8 tbs ice cold water, give or take

I have done this by hand for years, but just recently I started using the food processor.  I have found that since having kids, I am usually in a hurry.  Food processor pie dough is perfect.  But you have to be careful not to over process.  You want to be able to see chunks of butter throughout the pie dough because when the butter melts, it forms pockets of buttery steam which is what makes the dough light and flaky.  If you don't want to use a processor, than by all means, just mix it with your hands or a pastry blender until the butter is about the size of small peas.

Put flour, sugar, and salt into food processor.  Pulse a couple of times to blend dry ingredients together. Add butter all at once and give it about 5 pulses.  I don't like to pulse it too much here, because there is more pulsing to come and at the end, I want my butter in bigger chunks.  Add the water, a couple of tablespoons at a time.  Pulse 2 or 3 times after each addition, just to mix it in.  The pulses should be very quick.  The butter chunks should be the size of large breadcrumbs or small peas.  

Once the dough has come together, turn it out and gather it into a flat ball.  Cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  Wrap each patty in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for at least an hour to let the dough rest.  If you are only using a bottom crust, simply put the other patty in the freezer, where it will keep for 2-3 months.

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