Create: A Bigger Piece of the Pie
Torta di Ricotta with Chocolate Pieces
Photography by Janet Warlick
The holidays are coming — time for indulgences, and pies fit right into that category. This month, we offer some riffs on the classics. Everyone needs a classic apple pie in his or her repertoire, and this adds some cheddar to the crust. Once you have made this apple pie you will not go back to frozen. If your family loves pumpkin pie, try adding brown sugar to smooth out the flavor. Or, for something different, try the Torta di Ricotta with Chocolate Pieces. There is a delightful contrast between the ricotta and the chocolate — the result is both creamy and chocolaty.
Basic Rollout Piecrust
This dough can be put together in a food processor, as long as you use a light hand and don’t over process. My tips are: one, have both the ingredients and room temperature very cold; and two, when all else fails, use two sheets of plastic wrap to roll out the dough. While rolling out a piecrust from scratch isn’t easy, if you are patient, if you practice, don’t panic and pay attention to fundamentals, you will succeed in creating delectable pies.
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• Approximately ¼ to ½ cup ice water
Put the flour, butter and salt into a food processor — ideally, all ingredients should be cold. Pulse two or three times just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water a few drops at a time through the feed tube with the machine running; process just until the dough holds together, no more than 30 seconds. You may not need all the water — the dough should not be wet or sticky. If the dough is crumbly, add a bit more water.
Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Pull together the plastic wrap, and form the dough into a flat disk. Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in a piece of plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour. Chill again after it has been rolled out and put into the pie tin. Makes enough for two 8- to 10-inch piecrusts.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts
Torta di Ricotta with Chocolate Pieces
You will need a 9-inch false bottom tart pan for this recipe. Don’t be tempted to substitute sweetened for the unsweetened chocolate. There is sufficient sugar in both filling and crust to balance the unsweetened chocolate. Do chop the chocolate by hand — it will make a difference in the torta’s texture and appearance.
• 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• A pinch of salt
• 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and diced
• 16 ounces ricotta cheese
• ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
• Grated rind of 1 orange, optional
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 large egg plus 1 yolk
• 3 ½ ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely-chopped by hand
• ½ cup slivered almonds, for sprinkling
To make the pastry dough, put the flour, cocoa, salt and 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar into a food processor and process briefly just to mix. Add the pieces of butter. Process until the mixture resembles fine sand, then pulse briefly until the dough comes together. Turn out into plastic wrap, form into a disk and chill for 20 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface, or between two pieces of plastic wrap, to a circle at least 11 inches across, and line the tart pan with it. The pastry is quite hard to work with, so mend any holes with the excess trimmings; press the dough together if necessary. Trim any excess dough by rolling the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan. Chill the shell while preparing the filling. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the filling, put the ricotta into a bowl and using a wooden spoon, beat until creamy. Beat in the ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, followed by the orange rind and vanilla. When completely mixed, beat in the egg, then stir in the chocolate. Spoon the mixture into the chilled shell, and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until firm. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the tart from the pan and serve at room temperature.
Adapted from Linda Collister’s Book of Baking
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Pie
Use a 9-inch pie plate for this recipe. Martha Stewart trims the rim of the piecrusts with leaf shapes, cut from the excess pastry scraps. If you are so inclined, cut leaf shapes, make vein markings and attach the pastry leaves to the edge of the piecrust with a little water so the leaves fall over the edge of the pie plate before you pour in the filling. Keep the crust well chilled until you’re ready to use.
• 1 10-inch circle of basic roll-out pie crust, chilled
• 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• ½ cup heavy cream
• ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
• ½ teaspoon allspice
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• ¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry that has been rolled out to 1/8 inch, and trim it even with the edge of the pie plate. Avoid a soggy bottom by rolling out the crust thinly enough so that it will bake through. Trim with leaf shapes, if desired. Chill until ready to fill.
Combine the pumpkin puree with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir until well blended. Pour into the prepared pastry and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the custard set. Let cool before serving. Makes one 9-inch pie.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pies &Tarts
Apple Pie in a Cheddar Crust
• 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
• Heaping ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
• Approximately 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
• 5 medium Granny Smith apples (about 6 cups sliced)
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
• ½ cup brown sugar
Crust: In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers, cut and mix the cheese and butter into the flour mixture until the fat and flour form a crumbly mixture. Add the lemon juice or vinegar, then sprinkle on just enough water so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive ball.
Divide the dough in half, and flatten each half into a 1-inch thick round. Wrap one of the rounds in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and refrigerate it while you work with the other. Transfer the remaining dough to a well-floured work surface. Roll it into a 12-inch circle, using as few strokes of the rolling pin as possible; the fewer times you touch the crust at this point, the more tender it will be when it is baked. Transfer the circle of dough to a 9-inch pie plate and gently fit it to the pan’s contours. Note: if you push and stretch the dough too much during this stage, it will shrink when you put it in the oven.
Filling: Peel, core and slice the apples. In a large, shallow frying pan, cook the apples with the salt, cinnamon, cider or juice, and sugar for 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the liquid is syrupy.
Spoon the apples into the crust. You may drizzle a spoonful or so of the liquid over the apples, but too much liquid will result in a soggy bottom crust. Roll out the remaining crust, and center it over the filling. Press the edges of the top and bottom crust together, fold them under (onto the top of the pan’s rim), and crimp.
Bake the pie in a preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees; bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is very brown. Remove the pie from the oven, and serve it warm or at room temperature. Yield: 10 servings.
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc.
While testing this month’s recipes I was reminded how much fundamentals apply in baking, especially pie baking. Making pies is “advanced baking,” but if you stick with the time-honored fundamentals, and practice, you can and will succeed in creating fabulous indulgences.
Pie Baking Fundamentals
Chill … chill … chill your ingredients, equipment and dough as advised in the recipe.
Don’t overwork the pastry. Try to touch it lightly and as little as possible.
Add water sparingly; you can always add a little more — you can’t take any out.
Work quickly, especially if your kitchen is warm.
Do repair with scraps — piecrust is generally forgiving and if it tears or cracks, you can patch it.
The color of your pie tin — glass or dark metal or light metal — will affect the baking time and color of the finished pie. Be prepared to adjust your timing.
Questions? Want to submit a recipe? Want help “lightening up” a recipe? Contact Faith at firstname.lastname@example.org.