Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Pie Adventures 1

Finally! Thanksgiving pie day has arrived! I've been looking forward to this day for weeks now. And I'm sick.

Not very sick, but sick enough to impede my progress and take much of the enjoyment out of baking. Instead of delighting in the process, I spent most of my time wondering how much longer I had to stand up. I took several lying-down breaks, which helped. It is a let-down, though. I think it also took a toll on my final product. Success in baking has a lot to do with the love and care that goes into each recipe. I was not very strong in either of those categories this morning.

It didn't help that I was making these recipes for the first time. Or that I had to meddle a great deal with the first recipe. For a long time I have wanted to try my hand at a cranberry walnut tart. Trader Joe's sells an absolutely delicious one, and I felt that there was no reason why I couldn't make something equally delicious. The recipe I chose is from Food Network. I've done many of their recipes in the past and they're generally successful, so I didn't expect any complications (but then, who ever does?). Two days ago, after having purchased all my ingredients, I realized that the recipe makes a 7" tart. I have a 10" tart pan. I decided to persevere anyway, simply increasing the filling. Have you ever multiplied a recipe by 10/7? It does not result in convenient measurements. 5/7 tsp vanilla? 10/7 eggs?!?! How does one do such things?

In the end, I did a lot of guesswork and approximation with this recipe. The original tart dough recipe ended up being plenty for my 10" tart (enough that I decided to make a 5" pie as well, to use it up). 10/7 worth of the filling seemed a decent amount for the final tart. From that point, the difficulty lay in the cooking itself. 30 minutes at 350° was not sufficient. No part of the filling had set. I checked on it at five minute intervals. Finally, after over 25 more minutes, the middle seemed set. By this point, the edges had gone from golden-brown to just brown. I wouldn't call them burnt, but they are definitely overcooked. In retrospect, I might have increased the temperature to 375° or so to speed it along. Next time I think I'll try that.

Since I had leftover dough (and half an egg as well), I threw together a cute little 5" pie as well. For this, I halved the filling recipe. I ended up baking it for 25 minutes. The center wasn't quite set when I took it out, but I didn't want to overcook it like the other. It turns out that the center crust didn't completely cook through, so it did need a bit longer.

I suppose this should teach me not to try new recipes for special occasions. But they usually work! I tend to be more successful the first time I try a recipe than the second or third times. Maybe the lesson really is to not play around too much with a recipe I'm making for a holiday. Especially if that playing around involves math. I hate math.

I am providing the original recipe, since I had so much trouble with my adaptation. I'll continue this post tomorrow, when I've added the finishing touches to pie #2 . . .

Cranberry Walnut Tart
From Food Network.

Sweet Tart Dough:
1 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Cranberry Walnut Filling:
5 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp flour
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 c dark corn syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c whole, fresh cranberries
2/3 c walnut pieces

Prepare the dough:
Combine sugar, butter and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream the ingredients with a paddle attachment. Add flour and salt and mix until combined. Add egg and mix until just combined. Form a disc out of the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. Lay slightly chilled dough between sheets of plastic wrap and roll into a circle about 1/8" thick. (I found this dough really easy to work with, perhaps due to the plastic wrap. It rolled out very nicely, without tearing, into a shape that was actually round. It just took a few minutes to get it down to the appropriate thickness.) Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and flip the dough into an ungreased tart pan. Press dough gently into the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove plastic wrap and use a knife to slice off any excess dough. Set aside.

Prepare the filling:
Preheat oven to 350°. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add corn syrup, egg, vanilla and butter, whisking smoothly until well combined. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.

Put the tart together:
Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake approximately 30 minutes, until tart is light brown and filling is set. Cool and remove tart from pan. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate up to one week.

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