Sunday, March 15, 2015


It's been way too long since I checked in but the new year started with a bang and I haven't had a second to call my own. However, Sundays are pie days so I've got a Fig Buttermilk Pie in the oven and am prepping the filling for Shoofly Pie, both of which I plan on sharing with my new co-workers tomorrow. 

Last week I baked Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie and Cranberry Pie, both recipes from my favorite baking duo, sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen, of Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, NY. I'll share those recipes another day. 

Buttermilk pie with its Southern roots isn't a pie most folks outside the region are familiar with but it's a custard pie made with eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk. In this variation I've added dried figs and Grand Marnier for a slightly fruiter and boozy flavor. 

Shoofly pie is a molasses and brown sugar pie traditional to the Pennsylvania Dutch. 

For each of the two pies I used a single 9-inch cornmeal crust. Adding cornmeal to a crust gives it a toothy body that pairs nicely with almost any fruit pie, and custards as well. You will need to par-bake the crust. 

Cornmeal Crust (Single-Crust Pie )
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice
  1. Stir the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain. 
  2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix with a spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water, one tablespoon at a time until dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining (approximately 6 tablespoons). 
  3. Squeeze and pinch with your fingers to bring all the dough together to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to give crust time to mellow.
If you're pie is only going to have a bottom crust, you can blind-bake the crust than moisture-proof it. Blind-baking is when you partially or fully-bake an unfilled pie shell. This is especially key for custard based fillings, or for fillings that are cooked separately or not at all. 

To blind-bake, follow these easy steps for a par-baked (partially baked) crust:
  1. Once you've placed your crust in a pie pan, dock the dough. Docking simply means to prick the dough all over with a fork to keep it from puffing. Make sure to not only get the bottom but the sides as well.
  2. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes or longer, before baking. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  4. Butter shiny side of aluminum foil, and butter side down, place the foil tightly against the crust. Since the crust is frozen there is no need to add pie weights. Bake on baking sheet on center rack for 20 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press down on it gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust another 10 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool crust to room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
  6. As an optional step, if you're worried about the filling leaking through the holes you can apply an egg white wash to the bottom and sides of the crust with a pastry brush (although, the holes usually close up during the blind-bake process.) Pop back into the oven for another 2 minutes until the egg glaze sets. Remove once again, and allow to cool before adding pie filling.
Note: Some bakers only use parchment paper and are adamantly against using aluminum foil because they feel the dough doesn't bake the same.

Fig Buttermilk Pie
9-inch Pie Cornmeal Crust
6-7 dried figs
1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted until browned
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. 
  2. To make filling, place dried figs into a small bowl, cover with 1/2 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier. Let sit for 5 minutes. Place the figs (water and Grand Marnier included) into food processor and process for 3 minutes until mostly smooth, lots of small bits will remain. Set aside.
  3. Add sugar and lemon zest to a medium bowl. Rub the two together with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs and whisk until thick and well combined. Add flour and salt and whisk to combine. Add butter and stir to incorporate. Last, add the buttermilk, lemon, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Fold in the fig mixture to the pie filling. 
  4. Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell.  Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pie is puffed up and center no longer jiggles in waves. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. 
  5. Serve room temperature. Store pie, well wrapped, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Shoofly Pie
9-inch single cornmeal crust
 1 egg white mixed with 2 teaspoon of water
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
a two-finger pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. To make the streusel, combine the flour, butter, salt, and brown sugar. Use your hands and rub the ingredients through the palms of your hands until everything is combined.
  3. In another bowl, combine the molasses and corn syrup with the boiling water. Add the baking soda and, while whisking, add half the streusel and the beaten egg. 
  4. Place the other half of the streusel into the bottom of the par-baked crust then pour molasses mixture over the top. 
  5. Slide the sheet tray with pie on it into the oven and bake it for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 300º F and bake for another 35 minutes. At the end of the baking time, give the sheet tray a gentle shake. Is the pie wavy or is it like Jell-O? If it's wavy, bake it another 5 minutes, otherwise remove it and cool completely on a rack. Serve with whipped cream.

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