Category Archives: Cooking

Proper care and maintenance of your pie

After thoroughly detailing what I define as pie, the next logical step is to talk about how to care for and handle a pie after its made.

I have some hard rules and then some general guidelines for dealing with pie in the time between when it comes out of the oven and when it gets to my pie hole.  Breaking the hard rules, I feel, always reduces the quality and enjoyment derived from eating pie, while disregarding the general guidelines may or may not reduced quality and enjoyment depending on the pie and situation.  Reduce does not mean negate here: I will still enjoy a pie even if all the rules and guidelines have been broken, but I try my hardest to follow the rules and guidelines to optimize quality and enjoyment.  These rules and guidelines apply to fruit and custard pies, though I’ll address how they relate to meat/savory pies.  And there really aren’t that many…

So first, The Rules

Eat pie when its fresh.  And by fresh, I mean between 4 or 6 to 24 hours from removal from the oven.  This is the optimum pie window.  4 to 6 hours is required cooling time, and 24 hours marks the point past which crust degradation usually becomes too great.  Once a pie (fruit or custard) comes out of the oven, it needs to cool enough that the filling sets.  When a pie comes out of the oven, the filling is very runny, but the thickener or custard should be completely cooked.  As the filling cools, if there is enough thickener or protein and it is completely cooked, the filling will solidify.  Depending on the ambient temperature, this usually takes around 4 to 6 hours, maybe 2 hours if its the middle of winter and you set your thermostat as low as we do.  Exceptions include meat/savory pies.  Meat pies should still be eaten fresh from the oven, but when I make savory pies, I usually partially or fully cook the filling and gravy such that when the pie comes out of the oven, it can be eaten after a much shorter amount of cooling time (doesn’t requires as much solidifying).  Maybe 20-30 minutes, instead of hours.  Just long enough for the filling to be cool enough to eat.  If you wait any longer than that and the filling cools below good eating temperature, then we eat the pie at room temperature because the next two rules start to confound things.  The 24 hour cut off depends more on ambient humidity than temperature, so this cut off might shrink in a humid summer, but it doesn’t get humid in Canberra ever so I haven’t had to deal with this in a few years.

Do not place in the refrigerator.  Just don’t do it!  Refrigeration will soften a crust.  I know some people swear by refrigeration to keep pie crust from getting too soft in very humid climates, and I agree that this will work, but as I mentioned, I haven’t had to worry about humidity related to baking in a few years.  I also acknowledge that it isn’t always feasible to time pie eating so precisely with baking, and if a meat and/or custard pie isn’t going to get eaten right away, not everyone is as happy as I am to gamble leaving meat and/or custard at optimum microbe breeding temperature for hours (I rarely cook meat anymore, so, in my experience I think that if the pie is consumed within 24 hours, pie going off shouldn’t be an issue; I don’t worry about it, but it is always a possibility).  So there are good reasons to refrigerate a pie, but a refrigerated pie crust will be less flaky that a freshly baked pie crust.  I go to extra lengths to manage the bake and consumption timing as well a proportions, so I can avoid refrigeration and not compromise the pie crust.

Do not microwave.  Microwaving is worse for pie crust texture than refrigeration.  The motivation behind microwaving a pie is usually to manage filling temperature, since a fruit filling that has a nice texture at room temperature can get too thick or gummy when too cold or not everyone likes room temperature savory filling.  But if a pie isn’t refrigerating and room temperature savory filling is tolerable, I don’t think microwaving, and the concomitant crust softening, is needed.

All of these Rules impact crust texture, and to me, crust texture is a pivotal part of good pie: the contrast between soft filling and flaky, crisp crust is such a beautiful part of pie!  Waiting too long before eating and refrigerating or microwaving pie will soften the crust.  A little soft, I can handle; too soft and the texture of the filling and crust become too close to each other and the contrast is lost.  The solution is to eat the pie, and eat all of it, as soon as the filling is set.

And then, The Guidelines

Try not to over accessorize, especially with fruit pie.  Ice cream, caramel sauce, crumbly nut toppings; they’re too much.  Many fruits, plain custard, pumpkin, they are delicate flavors and are easily overwhelmed by the strong flavors of such embellishments.  I will occasionally break this Guideline by putting unsweetened, whipped cream on top of pecan or pumpkin pie, just a little to help cut the sweetness of the pie, but that’s it.  Otherwise, the delicacy of the filling, which should be the main flavor, could be compromised.  Liquid-y toppings can soften pie crust; and crunchy toppings can hide true crust texture (good or not).

Remember the coffee.  I love coffee, and there is something magical about the combination of coffee and baked goods.  Oh, those grain-based carbohydrates, how I love them with a cup of black coffee!  I break this Guideline a lot since I don’t sleep well if I drink coffee after 2 pm but I still consume a lot of pie after 2 pm.  In those cases, I prioritize sleep over maximum pie enjoyment.  But if breakfast still falls within the optimum pie window, I happily will finish a pie the next day with my morning coffee.  That’s why breakfast pie is the best!

And that’s it.  How to keep crust and filling at their best and maximize pie enjoyment (if you enjoy the things about pie that I enjoy, that is).  We’re right in the middle of the amazing summer fruit season here.  Mangoes from the northern parts of Australia, and locally, stone fruit.  Cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines.  Its very exciting, especially when considering pie.  I made my first ever peach pies in the last two years and my first ever cherry pie last year.  I’d never made either before because peaches and cherries are expensive in Minnesota and good peaches especially are really hard to find.  I was so, so amazed by the first peach I ate right from the tree!

My Great Grandma Katie was famous for making cherry pie, but I’d never made cherry pie before, fresh or otherwise, until last year.  Unfortunately, I only had the chance to make the one cherry pie, and the filling didn’t turn out as spectacularly was it could have (too runny, not enough cherry flavor).  So this year, its time to try again with more thickener and tarter cherries.  Pie on!

Jatz pecan pie, without Jatz or pecans, that is not actually pie

This story perfectly illustrates how I operate in the kitchen.  It starts with leftover egg whites.

The eggs whites were left over from the finger lime cheesecake I made last week.  Finger limes are a native Australian bush fruit with a very strong tart citrus-y flavor and hints of earthy muskiness.  I was given a bunch of finger limes at the end of summer by VIM2 and his parents, who grow them on their farm.  VIM2 has served finger limes in fruit punch and salads, but I thought a mild creamy dessert like cheesecake would go well with their strong flavor.  Pretty Boy removed all the fruit from the skins, and I squirreled them away in the freezer until I finally got the chance to make a lemon zest cheesecake topped with finger lime curd last week.  The cheese cake was a mix of these two Zoe Bakes recipes; the leftover egg whites coming from the finger lime curd.

We finished the cheesecake quickly (cheesecake is one of Pretty Boy’s favorites), but I was only able to get Pretty Boy to eat half the egg whites for breakfast so we still had some egg whites leftover.  We were also at the very end of a grocery cycle, meaning I’d been scrapping meals together from the last of all the ingredients we had in the cabinets until we went shopping again.  It also meant we were really low on ingredients, particularly the ingredients I could have used for baking desserts: out of eggs, out of all flours, and out of most cooking oils.  I was thinking about making a pavlova, which mercifully doesn’t need flour or oil, but we didn’t have any fruit to put on top of it.  Pavlova led me to thinking about meringues, which lead me to thinking about a dessert introduced to us by VIM2’s parents, which they called Jatz pecan pie.

Jatz pecan pie or 4-ingredient pecan meringue pie is a super simple meringue.  3 egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks.  1 cup of sugar is whipped in until glossy.  1 cup of chopped pecans and 22 crushed Jatz crackers are folded in and it’s baked at 180°C for 20-25 minutes.  That’s Jatz pecan pie.  Sometimes you can get fancy and add vanilla extract.  (Jatz crackers are similar to Ritz crackers but with a slightly crispier/crunchier texture as opposed to the biscuit-y/crumbly texture of Ritz.  They’re delicious, and we regularly eat a whole box in one sitting.)

Simple, uses egg whites, few ingredients.  It sounded like the perfect recipe to make when I was low on ingredients and had egg whites to use up.  Except I didn’t have Jatz… or pecans.  So this is what I did.  I used 5 sheets of crushed graham crackers instead of the Jatz.  I used ¾ cup of almond meal instead of chopped pecans.  I added vanilla extract because I’m fancy.  And because I once made a really interesting dessert called Huguenot torte, I also added our last apple, chopped into tiny cubes.  Baked at 180°C for 25 minutes.

The dessert turned out alright.  It could have used a little flour like in the Huguenot torte because of the extra moisture that the apple brings, but with the ingredients I had, I couldn’t have done anything else.

This is the meal cycle we’re gotten into: we (mostly I) pick out a few meals/recipes to make.  Then, I write a grocery list based on that meal plan and we go shopping.  After the planned meals get made, there are always some leftover ingredients and produce.  And I start getting creative.  I use whatever protein and produce we have on hand and make up a few more meals.  A typically dish from this point in the cycle is some kind of vegetable lentil stew with rice or naan.  When the vegetables run out, then it’s just dhal and rice or naan.  And the cycle repeats.

I’m not sure why I’ve gotten so stuck on stretching the time between grocery store trips as long as possible.  Part of it is that I get anxious when there’s too much food in the fridge or pantry.  Too much food increases the changes of something going bad or being wasted, and it looks and feels cluttered to me.  I am also a really big fan of efficiency.  I’ve started calling it the ‘E’ word, as in ‘You [Pretty Boy] know I can’t resist the ‘E’ word!’  If planned right, grocery stopping in one big trip is more efficient in terms of time and money, than many small trips.  Mostly though, it’s just one of my ‘things.’  Pretty Boy always offers to run to the store when I get ideas for tasty things to cook but don’t have all the ingredients.  And we can walk to the store, buy something, and be home in 10 minutes.

But still, I usually just don’t want to do it and have learned to make do, often to the extreme, sometimes to a fault.  This is the pattern we’ve gotten into after over 2  years of feeding ourselves.  It works for us, and I still eat the faults!

We brought the Halloween to Australia

We threw an awesome Halloween party, and brought all the Halloween to this place that hasn’t quite embraced it yet.

Most of our October was occupied by preparations for the party.  Earlier this year, the plan was to again co-host a party at a friend’s house.  We did this last year at VIM2’s house, and the plan was to co-host a party this year at the house we used to live at in Dickson.  The party last year was great, though Pretty Boy and I didn’t get to do as much party planning and preparation as we wanted to (like the party didn’t have a theme beyond Halloween), because it wasn’t our house so we could only do and move so much there in the day or two before the party.  Plus life, life keeps us busy always.  Side note, last year we were a cos-play version of the Cheshire Cat (me) and a Mad Hatter from the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie (Pretty Boy):

me as the cheshire cat

pretty boy as the mad hatter

halloween 2014

When we found out not too long before Halloween that our friend had too much going on to co-host a Halloween party with us, we were stuck.  Our choices were: (1) no Halloween party or (2) put on our big-boy Halloween pants and host the party ourselves.  I was hesitant to commit to option 2 since I knew it would be a lot of work and clean up and I thought our place wasn’t the best party house, but option 1 was pretty much not an option in Pretty Boy’s mind, so we decided to throw our first ever, real-life adult party for Halloween 2015.

And throw a party we did!  I got right on the planning and organizing.  There were 4 Halloween party planing tasks, each of which had subtasks.  The main tasks were costumes, decorations, food, and entertainment.  Some of the inspiration and ideas are collected on a pinterest board here.  We decided on costumes (Zombie bride and groom) and food (Mexican) first which lead to our party theme: Day of the Dead Zombie Wedding.  We made an invitation using picmonkey.com and got to making our vision for the party happen.

party invitation

For costumes, Pretty Boy bought a button down and blazer from the second hand store and set to them with a metal grinder (not recommended), file (recommended), scissors, and a lighter to distress them enough to match his already-very-distressed work pants.  I combined a cream skirt and linen tank top I already owned with “sleeves” made from tights with the feet cut off, a homemade flower crown veil and bouquet, and some jewelry.  The flower crown veil was my favorite part.  I tied tulle and dollar store, fake flowers onto a headband with fishing line, and hot glued in a few black plastic spiders.  For the bouquet, I used black paint to painted the flowers from another dollar store flower bouquet, then hot glued some black painted gummy worms (called gummy snakes here) in among the flowers, and tied chicken bones around the base.  The last part of our costumes was makeup.  We did a makeup trial the week before Halloween, and Pretty Boy came up with pretty standard Zombie makeup with face wounds made from liquid latex and fake blood.  I did a combination of lady Zombie makeup tutorials from the internet and the signature, under-eye blush from one of my favorite Minnesota burlesque performers: Musette the Mistress of Mischief.

Concurrently, we started working on decorations for our place.  Even though we got an awesome care package full of American Halloween stuff from Pretty Boy’s mom (called mum here), we decided we wanted a really creepy Halloween vibe and a lot of the care package stuff was just too cute.  I mean look at those socks and ghost lanterns!

Pumpkin socks

mini ghost lanterns

There wasn’t a great assortment of Halloween related stuff for sale in Australia, so we mostly made our own decorations.  They are still working on understanding Halloween, and the market is small, so Halloween stuff for sale is just different here.  This for example:

not so giant bag of candy

When has 20 pieces of candy ever been considered a “GIANT VALUE BAG” in the US?  Isn’t that just a normal bag?

Keeping with our creepy Zombie party vibe, we hung Christmas lights (called fairy lights here) inside and outside, decorated the windows with cut up and stretched garbage bag garlands inside and outside, and a black feather wreath for our front door.  We put white spider webbing on the window glass and sliding glass door and brown spider wedding on the walls.  Our normal wall art was covered with spooky skull art prints.  We covered the inside flat surfaces with black or cream pieces of fabric and placed on top beef bones and a variety of glass bottles and jars with tea candles and long taper candles.  Pretty Boy organized a fire pit and fire wood for our courtyard.  A lot of the decorating ideas this year were sourced from Martha Stewart.

decorating

This was mid-week, as we were slowly adding decorations. We hid all the plants in the garage for the actual party.

creepy candles

So creepy, right!?

For food, I decided on Mexican food because I miss Mexican food so much and its so festive.  This was the menu:

The tamale and guacamole recipes are my go to recipes for those dishes.  I made the tamales with rendered beef tallow instead of lard and served them with the garlic, creamed corn but not the swiss chard (called silverbeet here).  The recipes for red rice and black beans were new to me, but the Homesick Texan blog comes highly recommended from the Smitten Kitchen blog, so I thought I’d try them out, though I veganized both by using water instead of vegetable stock and vegetable oil instead of animal fat.  The coffee caramel tres leches cake was another new recipe from a trusted source.  The main reason for picking these dishes was to create a well rounded meal; the second reason was pre-cook-ability.  I outsourced the guacamole to a friend and bought chips and salsa, but made the other things over the course of a week.  I prepared and froze the tamales on Monday, cooked and froze the red rice on Tuesday, cooked the black beans Wednesday, and made the tres leches cake Thursday.  On Friday, the day of the party, I used bamboo steamer boxes to cook the tamales and reheat the rice, heated the beans and kept them warm in my slower cooker, and make the whipped cream for the cake.  Since I’d already placed the tamales and rice in steamer basket and the beans in the slower cooker pot, it mostly just took turning the stove and slower cooker on.  Sourcing Mexican cooking ingredients and beverages was not easy and required at least 4 or 5 stores, but I got everything I wanted, even the epazote in the black beans, which I’ve never used before.

The food turned out great!  The beans were much spicier than I anticipated , which some of our guest couldn’t quite handle but others were absolutely thrilled about.  I’ve made the black beans and red rice again since the party because we loved them so much.  The tres leches cake was good, but I like Martha Stewart’s plainer tres leches cake better.  And with another Martha Stewart reference, I will acknowledge that none, I repeat none, of the recipes are used are from Mexico.  Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia, but not Mexico.  I wanted to find Mexican sources for my recipes, but I don’t currently have any trusted Mexican sources for Mexican recipes and I didn’t have the means or time to test recipes before the party (you know I don’t trust random recipes off the internet!).  So here, when I say Mexican food, I’m talking about an Americanized take on Mexican food, though as I continue to cook Mexican food in the future, I want to find more sources from Mexico.  Though admittedly, Americanized Mexican food is the kind of Mexican food I have a taste for, the kind I’ve eat in Minnesota.  Its a struggle.  Even Epicurious named an American-written Mexican cookbook in their Epicurious Cookbook Canon (I still want it and the Southern cooking cookbook on that list), though I’m interested in this one now too.

Lastly, there was party entertainment.  This involved getting a DVD of the Rocky Horror Picture Show to play on the TV on repeat during the party, making a Spotify playlist of Halloween-ish/spooky/party songs we liked, and setting up pumpkin carving stations.  We had a lot of fun putting together a really crazy and diverse collection of songs for the playlist, but it worked out.  If you have Spotify, you can listen to our Halloween mix here, featuring everything from Michael Jackson to Modest Mouse, Nina Simone to Lady Gaga, and everything in between.  The pumpkin carving stations went completely unused.  Pretty Boy and I carved our pumpkins before the party, and no one brought pumpkin to the party to carve (even though I instructed them to), but that’s alright.  Big orange pumpkins here are rare and out of season October, so they’re very expensive.

pumpkins

mandala pumpkin

My carved pumpkin

jack skeleton

Pretty Boy’s carved pumpkin.  Love to oogie-boogie man in the moon!

We had so much fun with all the party preparations.  We put a lot into the party, but had so much fun doing it all that it never felt like work.  If anything ever did start to feel like work, I crossed it off the list and we just didn’t do it.  Here’s how the decorations turned out:

front of housefront door

living room

dining room

kitchen

kitchen banner

And then I think the party went great too.  People came in waves throughout the night, as people will do at a party.  I made way more food than was needed, and it was supplemented by tasty things brought by friends, like salad, homemade wheat tortillas, and hummus.  I couldn’t stop saying “farty paux pas” when I was trying to say “party faux pas” about someone messing with the music.  Many more people came in costume this year compared to last year, which was great, including some amazing homemade costumes and other creative get-ups.  Someone did come covered in glitter with a can of silly string; the silly string cleaned up alright… we’re still working on the glitter.  And here we are under the fairy lights in our courtyard with the party in full swing:

costumes

practice makeup

Closer view of my flower crown and practice makeup the week before

It was awesome.  We might make a tradition of it.  So until next year, Halloween Pretty Boy and Halloween Pretty Pie say, “RAAAARRR!”

favorite picture of our costumes

Thanksgiving in June

Christmas in July is a thing.  Especially, it seems, in some parts of Australia.  And it makes sense to me:  July is the Winter in the southern hemisphere and winter has always been so strongly tied to Christmas.

So we Americans thought, if its Christmas in July, then it should probably be Thanksgiving in June too!  Once Pretty Boy and I committed to Thanksgiving in June being a thing, we committed and decided to throw a Thanksgiving dinner.  We wanted to do a very traditional Northern Thanksgiving for 8, so this is the menu we came up with:

We started preparing Wednesday for dinner Saturday night.  I had the whole thing scheduled – empty fridge then most of the shopping Wednesday plus some early kitchen prep work like washing and chopping vegetables and roasting pumpkin, the rest of the prep work Thursday and Friday night so getting the turkey in the brine and making pie crust, oven and stove schedule for Saturday to make sure everything got in (oven: 8am pies, 10 am turkey, 2 pm casserole and stuffing, and rolls just before dinnertime; stove: 7:30 am bourbon pecan pie filling, 10 am cranberry conserve, 1 pm mashed potatoes, 2 pm gravy), and last minute shopping Saturday before dinner.  Pretty Boy ran out to get more cream, the bakery rolls, and cutlery.  He decided last minute that our plastic stuff wasn’t going to cut it.  Since we only have cutlery for 4, that meant buying another set of 4.

Fridge, pre-shopping

Fridge, pre-shopping.  Emptied and prepared for Thanksgiving madness.

Fridge, post-shopping

Fridge, post-shopping and after prep work had started.  I used all the bowls!

Shopping started with the turkey because turkey is usually only widely available around Christmas time, and a frozen turkey would take some time to defrost, and Thanksgiving dinner hinges on the turkey.  Luckily, I found a turkey on my first stop at our local butcher’s.  It was the one and only turkey they had lurking in their freezer chest.  I was hoping for a 4-6 kg turkey… but instead, the one and only turkey in the butcher’s freezer was 8 kg.  That’s about 15 lbs.  It was HUGE!  We cooked a 15 lbs turkey!  It was almost as long as our oven is wide.  I followed AB’s recipe pretty closely.  Modifications include omitting stock, allspice, and ginger from the brine, doubling the apple and onion inside the turkey, and roasting in a fan forced oven at 180C for 3.5 hrs.

The turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the green bean casserole recipes were all new to me, but I have great trust in AB.  I followed the mashed potato and green bean casserole recipes almost exactly, though half my tray of onions for the casserole burnt and the other half never browned.  I blame the fan-forced oven.  I used homemade beef stock in the gravy instead of chicken broth and choose rosemary for herbs.  I’d made the wild rice and mushroom stuffing, cranberry conserve (though I didn’t know it was Ina Garten’s recipe until this time around), pumpkin pie, and pecan pie before.  Having good recipes from sources I trust is always key to successful dinner parties.  I didn’t alter the proportions of any of the recipes much, and I think they were all meant to serve around 10-12, so we knew we’d have leftovers.  And I have a bad habit of putting more veggies into everything.  Recipe says half an onion, but I like onion, why not the whole thing, half the ingredients later and I’ve effectively double the yield of the recipe.

Mid-cooking

Mid-cooking, as dishes started making their way to the table.

Table set

Table set, we had leftover red party ware from our Chinese New Year party.  It fit our Thanksgiving great as well.  We had to pull my craft table out of the craft room to have enough seats.

Of course, the food was set up buffet style.  I have pretty strong feelings about appropriately picking buffet versus table set depending on the number of people. 4 or less is a pretty perfect dinner group size if I’m going out OR eating in and then if I’m hosting, I can manage table set food.  If there are 6 people, that’s about the maximum size I would be comfortable with going out or serving table set food at home.  For dinner parties of more than 6, I’ll always serve buffet style.

The buffet

The buffet and a good view of our little kitchen.  From right to left, plates, turkey, mashed potatoes in the crockpot, gravy, rolls, stuffing, and green bean casserole.  The pies are hiding up on the ledge, and the cranberry conserve and drinks were on the table.

Pretty Boy's plate

Pretty Boy’s plate

It was a great dinner.  We invited Pretty Boy’s three moto friends and their girlfriends/partners, because we’d been wanting to have them over and because they are the most Aussie people we know!  It was really fun watching and listening to them eat food and dishes they’d never had before and marvel at me whipping the cream by hand right in front of them.  One guy was pretty sure he’d never had turkey before that night, and the green bean casserole and pecan pie were big hits among the Aussies.  Pretty Boy couldn’t get over the gravy and all of it!

Pretty Boy’s friends definitely aren’t cookers, so I think a lot of what we did was lost on them, but they definitely appreciated the end result anyway.  It was a lot of work, but Pretty Boy and I had a good time with it all.  With careful kitchen management and planning, everything went smoothly and was done on time!  I think our biggest advantage was being able to host Thanksgiving dinner on a Saturday instead of Thursday, without any worries about traveling family members, store closures, crowds, weather, traffic, or any of the rest of the stuff that comes along with Thanksgiving in the USA.  I don’t know if I’m ready to volunteer to host any big family Thanksgiving dinners back home anytime soon, but if I ever had to, after this experience, I’m pretty sure I could.

Australian Pie Crust

The holiday season and onset of Southern hemisphere summer snuck up on us really quickly (and it’s so hard for us to feel in the holiday spirit when it’s hot and sunny every day).  Then we moved to a new place, and Pretty Boy and I were both super busy at work.  I will get back to posting about Japan, Cairns, our Halloween party, and our move eventually.  But in this post, I want to get back to my roots, to what I started this blog to talk about: pie!

Of course, I’ve been making pie here in Australia.  Australia has its own pie culture, passed down from the British, but its predominately savory pie.  The most common pie shapes I’ve seen are single-serving, cupcake size pies from a commercial bakery or casseroles with a single layer of crust on the top at home.  Pretty far from American fruit or custard pie.  And the crust is different.  Sometimes it’s like puff pastry, sometimes it’s biscuit or short crust.  So both American-style pastry crust and American-style fruit and custard pies are rather a novelty here.  I’ve been in Australia for over 10 months now, and I’ve finally worked out how to make my American-style pastry crust with Australian ingredients and ovens.

It’s been a challenge.  The butter here is different.  The measuring cups are different.  The measuring spoons are different.  The ovens are different.  It’s no wonder my crust was different when I first started to make it here!  I swear by crust made in a food processor, and I’m fortunate to have my trusty, work-horse of a Cuisinart 7-cup food processor with me to make crust.  So the process and methodology are the same, but getting the recipe right has taken some experimentation.

The most recent attempt—pumpkin pie for Halloween—produced very strange results.  Before I added the pumpkin custard, as the crust was pre-baking, I observed puddles of melted butter sitting on top of the crust.  And then when we were eating the pie, the crust really stuck to the pie pan.  I’ve never seen either of those things happen before in all my pie baking and eating experience.  The crust also took exceptionally long to brown, so I left it in the oven much longer than I normally would have, hoping for browning and dissipation of the butter puddles.  I achieved browning but the puddles remained.  They did eventually get sucked back into the crust after it was removed from the oven and allowed to cool, but the final result was really crunchy almost hard (from the prolonged baking), very flakey (from the excess butter), but not tender.

So I’ve been adjusting.  First the butter.  Butter puddles were an obvious sign that there was too much fat.  The water content of the butter here is lower, and unsalted butter is hard to find and more expensive.  It’s also measured in grams.  So I needed to adjust for that.  I’ve heard Irish butter, which is available in the US, also has low moisture content.  To adjust for the lower moisture content, which really means higher fat content, I’ve added more flour and water to get the right fat-flour-water ratio.  But measuring cups and spoons are different here so I’ve tried to adjust for that too.

Australian cups are slightly bigger than US cups—250 mL compared to 236 mL or 8.5 fluid oz compared to 8 fluid oz.  Australian tablespoons are also sometimes bigger—15 or 20 mL here compared to 14.8 (0.5 fluid oz) or 15 mL (both seem available in the US).  They call all-purpose flour plain flour here, but the internet has assured me they are the same thing.  Because the butter’s already salted, I tried to reduce the amount of added salt, but it’s hard to tell if I actually did since this recipe yields a little more dough than my previous recipe and there’s more salt from the butter.  But I have a suspicion that the salt here tastes less salty when added to food and salt is good in pie crust, so I often err on the side of a little more salt.  1 teaspoon seems to work out pretty tasty.  Fan-forced ovens cooking and dry things out faster.  Not the best for baking, but I usually start covered pie or plain crust at 210°C fan-forced and finish covered pie at 180°C.

I made pie crust this way last week and put it on top of a pot pie casserole as well as a fruit casserole.  Pretty Boy took one bite and got super excited, saying, “This tastes like your pie crust!”  I’m calling it a success.  The summer fruit season here is in full swing, and I’m continually overwhelmed by the amount and quality of fresh, seasonal produce available (Christmas mangos are a thing here.  And OMG, the mangos!).  While some fruit is destined for pies, most needs no alterations and just gets eaten on its own.  Also, it gets terribly hot some days, just too hot to turn the oven on.  But anyway, here it is, my pie crust recipe in Australia:

Australian Pie Crust
yields enough for one double crusted pie or two single crusts

  • 2 ½ cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 215 g butter, cut into small cubes and well chilled
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Method for making the pie crust is the same as my previous recipe:

  • Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.  Pulse until combined (about three quick pulses).
  • Add butter and pulse until its cut to the size of peas (also about three quick pulses).
  • Combine water and vinegar together.  I used to use a pastry blender to mix in the water into the flour, but I don’t have a pastry blender here so I use the food processor for that step too.  Pour water mixture into the processor, and pulse to barely combine (about three quick pulses).
  • Dump the dough into a large bowl.  There will be a lot of dry flour still.  Kneed a few times (as few as possible), until dough is mostly together.
  • Divide dough in two, press into balls, form balls into disks, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm.

Yay, pie!