Monday, September 7, 2009

Party Pies

I baked two pies to bring to a co-workers outdoor party: Roasted Grape and Apple.

The idea for the Roasted Grape pie came one day last week I decided to roast some grapes to go along with baked cod and discovered that they tasted a lot like cherries.

I started the pie by washing and roasting two sheets of green grapes at around 425F. I lightly buttered one sheet and forgot on the other, but it didn't seem to make a difference. Which the grapes so crowded on the sheets, they spent most of the roasting time simmering in their own juices (which were a bit sweet, quite tart, and really tasty) before the bottoms dried out and started caramelizing.

On the second batch of grapes, I had thought to reserve their liquid before it evaporated, which didn't negatively effect the flavor of the grapes and gave me a delicious starting place for a syrup, which I finished with balsamic vinegar and sugar and thickened with a bit of cornstarch. I combined this syrup with the grapes, and my filling was assembled and fully cooked, except for the cornstarch, which I could have cooked in a pot, but I wanted the filling cool when I started doing the lattice design for the top crust.

I pre-baked the bottom crust, then filled it and laid out all the strips going across the pie and a double layer around the circumference to hold everything together, then baked everything together. At some point I decided the top wasn't cooking fast enough, so I turned on my broiler. The broiler was a good idea, but walking away to do something else while the crust cooked wasn't, and I ended up with a charred mess. Luckily, it was easy enough to pick off the top crust and the burned grapes, and I successfully broiled the same design the next morning, and the whole design took only 5 minutes the second time around. The little white thing on top is the remains of my spun sugar cloud, which was really easy to make and fun to look at, but stuck to the rice I used to try to keep it dry. Oh well.

This apple pie was just apple slices, sugar, and lemon juice, but putting together this design with the apple slices took 30 minutes or more. The design had two or three layers of apple slices, and I should have sprinkled each layer with sugar and lemon juice, because the bottom layers came out fairly bland.

I didn't pre-bake this crust because I meant to do an overhang around the edge, but then I decided that the overhang would hide the best part of the design. The bottom crust was not as crispy and flavorful as I thought it should have been. Instead of the overhang, I folded the edge under itself and over the lip of the pan to try to keep it from shrinking, which failed in some spots. I definitely need to get better at how I deal with the edges of my crusts.

For a glaze, I simmered the apple peels and cores in a simple syrup and reduced the syrup until it was very thick, then brushed it on the baked pie. A great byproduct of making a glaze that way is the skins, which turn into a translucent and sticky-sweet candy. Two strips tangled up with each other made an easy garnish (and one that looks a bit better in real life than in photographs, apparently).

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