Pies not just for pil­grims

Tricks of the trade for the per­fect Fa­ther’s Day pie

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - RESTAURANT + WINE -

For as long as there have been pil­grims there have been pies. In the days when there was no other way to pre­serve food, a tough, sturdy crust was a way to seal and bake food that could later be eaten while jour­ney­ing on the road.

The crusts of yesteryear were called coffins, tough­walled con­struc­tions made with flour and water, with­out any fat to ten­derise them. The peo­ple of most im­por­tance got to eat the fill­ing with­out hav­ing to en­dure any of the con­crete crust, and as you de­scended through the lines of hi­er­ar­chy there would be less and less fill­ing and more and more crust.

This doesn’t re­ally ex­plain the sym­bol­ism at­tached to pies. With a ca­chet that ex­tends well be­yond the plea­sures of ten­der crust and tasty fill­ing, pies speak to an idea of home and hearth, love and nur­tur­ing.

A good pie can win hearts. Af­ter tak­ing a bite of my fa­mous ba­con and egg pie, the man who was to be­come my hus­band proposed to me. True story.

Re­cently I was at a catered lunch event where a cold quiche fea­tured as part of the buf­fet. The wait­ress dropped a gi­ant clod on my plate. It de­scended with a thud. In the first — only — hor­ri­ble mouth­ful, I un­der­stood why crusts were called coffins, noth­ing could ever es­cape from that brick wall. And all I could taste was the vile flavour of mar­garine.

To avoid cre­at­ing a cof­fin crust you need to re­mem­ber two things. The first is not to use too much water in your pas­try. Water is the en­emy of flak­i­ness; the less water in your crust, the bet­ter. My recipe for sour cream pas­try uses sour cream in­stead of water, en­sur­ing the pas­try is both ten­der and flaky.

The next hazard is stretch­ing. Stretch the dough and it will shrink. Chilling pre­vents shrink­age, as it al­lows the gluten to re­lax, so it won’t shrink back when you roll it out. As the dough chills and rests the water is fully ab­sorbed, so your dough will feel softer and be eas­ier to man­age af­ter it has chilled. Chilling also al­lows the fat to harden, which gives cooked pas­try a won­der­ful flaky tex­ture.

Store­bought pas­try, as long as it is made with real but­ter, is use­ful to have on hand in the freezer but if you have a food pro­ces­sor you can pro­duce per­fect pas­try in a mat­ter of sec­onds.

This week I share recipes for some easy pies — sure to be pop­u­lar with the dad in your life this Fa­ther’s Day week­end.

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