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Spring up Your Pie Game With CIA's Pies & Tarts

Strawberry balsamic pie with cookie-cutter lattice.
Strawberry balsamic pie with cookie-cutter lattice.
Photo by Ben Fink, courtesy HMH.

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book. Pies and Tarts By The Culinary Institute of America and Kristina Peterson Migoya, 336 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99

In today's cookbook culture, even the best, most serious chefs fall victim to over- personalizing and editorializing their books; each recipe comes with a story and a glossy, full-color photograph, and you end up learning more about the chef and his or her background than you do about cooking great food.

But leave it to the Culinary Institute of America, and to pastry chef Kristina Peterson Migoya, to put out a book that declines to frolic in the fields, instead bringing cooking back to the kitchen (and yes, there are still beautiful photos).

In one of our recent chats, Migoya said she tried hard to convince her publisher to sell the book as a package deal: Readers would buy the book along with a digital scale for weighing ingredients, which is how professionals cook.

The author understands that not everyone is, or wants to be, a professional, but she stresses that precision, organization, and care are absolutely essential to achieving one's desired result with baking.

The book is focused, unembellished, and clear; it's also a reasonable size for a cookbook, as in, it will fit on your counter alongside your ingredients, cutting board, and mixing bowls, unlike so many other modern cookbooks, which are better off on a coffee table, or cracked for reference, but not so much for day-to-day splashes and splatters.

On the next page, Migoya dishes on crimping and lattices, digital scales, and one very special mentor.

 

Butterscotch creme pie.
Butterscotch creme pie.

It's technically spring. What ingredients are you excited to begin working with again? Well, rhubarb is really the big one; once you start seeing that around, it's kind of like the harbinger of spring. And strawberries. And that's just such a classic combination, and it can be done so well, that's really one of my favorites combinations.

And something that's perhaps overlooked, or underrated, in the months to come? Well, you'll start to see apricots, and there's a really nice market fruit galette; there's this one master recipe and you can utilize different fruits with it, and different levels of thickeners, given the different fruits you're using. It's just this really easy free-form tart to make: essentially, you just roll out the dough, put the product in, and fold it up. So it's really easy. That works with different berries, stone fruits, apples, anything. It's great. It's just like one big master recipe to cover all of them.

With two-crust pies, what tips can you offer for crimping the crusts together? There are many variations in the book that kind of build on the basic pinch crimp technique, but there are so many other things you can do. You can press the crusts together with indentations; you can vary how you do it. That was actually one of the best parts of researching this book, was the different crimping methods, because I love double crust pies so that was really fun to go in and see. Traditionally what was done -- which hasn't been brought to the forefront, and there are so many variations -- was just simply [by pressing] with a fork's tines; that's a really great way to do it.

And for lattices? There are so many beautiful crusts in the book. For lattices, the cover recipe, that was actually done with large cookie cutter lattice, and it looks super hard, and it's just basically a cutout. So that's one thing that I think people really think, more complex is better, but really in this case, simple is just as elegant and beautiful. And those kinds of lattices are really easy to do different variations on. So if you're someone who's not comfortable doing a lattice for the first time, that's an easy way to do it. There are also more complex ones; you can vary the width of the lattice pieces, or there are different ways you can weave...You can really go to town with the lattice.

What is one of the more modern recipes in the book, maybe something that's new to you, or that you wouldn't have been making earlier in your career? One that was really interesting to develop was just this really simple butterscotch cream pie. Which actually, is really technically difficult to ensure that a home baker would be able to produce it in their kitchen, because some of the chemistry that goes on with the ingredients. That one was really fun and I really enjoyed it, but there were moments when I just wanted to be done with it. But I persevered with it...It's just such a simple pie, but for the most part these days, people producing cream pies are using mixes, they're not really focused on a recipe. So that one is pretty interesting, how you have to put the ingredients together, and that took a lot of research, and a lot of playing with it, until I got it to the right texture and consistency.

What chef you really admire? Mark Furstenberg has been my mentor for many years, and he is really remarka-- well, amazing. He's 77 years old, and he's starting his third business. His first was called Marvelous Bread, and he was one of the forerunners of the artisanal bread movement in Washington D.C....He was a staff reporter for the Washington Post, and he just decided he wanted to do something with his hands and create in a different way. He [then] had a very successful business called the Bread Line, it was a hybrid bakery/restaurant, and since then he's been trying to find the perfect spot for a neighborhood bakery. So, he is now opening a bakery called Bread Furst, so kind of a play on his name. What's so great about Mark is his understanding of how you have to leave a legacy, and what he's doing is figuring out ways to leave his bakery to ensure that it lasts beyond him, after he establishes this last bakery. That to me really shows what Mark's about; from the beginning, how he mentored me, kind of throwing me into the middle of things, and said, "Ask questions." And I thrived with that, and he thrived with that; we both sort of thrived in that relationship. So he's really a great, great man.

What's a simple lesson you, as a teacher instill in your baking students at CIA that also applies to home cooks? One of the first things we teach students at Culinary is the importance of being organized, and that doesn't just mean with your tools; it's also preparation beforehand, reading your recipe, ensuring that your ingredients are there, that they're prepared and ready to go. So if you need apples, the apples are peeled and diced to the proper size. Then the next step would be to put the product -- in this case, the pie or tart, together. So for me, mise en place is absolutely essential.

And to ensure that home bakers do it correctly, I also am a big proponent of buying a scale. For the longest time, I wanted to include the scale with this book, and [the publishers] thought I was crazy. If you look at the recipes, you can see that they're in volume, but they're also in weight, and that's because you're going to get a better result the more precise and methodical you are. It's also about how you think and look at recipes. So the more I can push home bakers toward using a scale, the happier they're going to be with their product, and the more they're going to be able to take things to the next level.

Click to the next page for a recipe.

 

Market fruit mini-galettes with apple.
Market fruit mini-galettes with apple.

MARKET FRUIT GALETTE Makes one 10-inch galette

Ingredients: All-butter pie dough for single crust, or cream cheese dough, chilled*

Stone fruit variation: 7-8 apricots, nectarines, peaches, or plums, pitted and sliced as desired ½ C granulated sugar, plus more as needed 3 T cornstarch 2 T unsalted butter

Apple or pear variation: 3-4 apples or pears, peeled, cored, and diced ⅓ C granulated sugar 3 T cornstarch 2 T unsalted butter

Egg wash, as needed Sanding sugar or granulated sugar, as needed

(Berry and cherry variation also included in book)

*Cream cheese dough:

Ingredients 1 ½ C all-purpose flour ½ t kosher salt ½ C cream cheese, cold, cut into ¾ inch cubes ½ C (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ¾ inch cubes 1 T water, ice cold 1 t fresh lemon juice

Preparation In the bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt.

Blend the dry ingredients on low speed until combined, about 15 seconds. With the mixer off, add the cream cheese pieces to the mixing bowl and combine on medium speed until the mixture resembles cornmeal, 2-3 minutes. Add the butter pieces and combine on medium speed until the mixture appears rough, with irregular pieces of butter no larger than small walnuts and no smaller than peas, 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle the ice-cold water and the lemon juice over the mixture and mix on low speed for 30-60 seconds, or until just combined. Continue to mix until the dough is rough but pliable. The dough should just hold together when pressed to the side of the bowl. It should not form a ball or mass of dough in the bowl.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough into a 5-6 inch disc and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight, until firm.

FOR THE GALETTE:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set hte rack in the lowest position.

On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the chilled dough to a ⅛" thick, 13" diameter disc. Transfer the dough on the parchment to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until pliable.

Combine the prepared fruit of your choice, the sugar, and cornstarch, as well as the spice or lemon juice, if called for. Toss to combine and immediately pile the filling evenly into the center of the dough disc, leaving a 2-3 inch border. Cut the butter into small pieces and and dot them over the top of the filling. Fold the dough border up and over the filling, pleating it every 2 inches and leaving the center area uncovered. Carefully lift each pleat and brush water under each fold to seal. Gently press the dough against the fruit. Brush the outside top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding or granulated sugar.

Bake until the filling is bubbly and thick and the edges of the crust are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Remove the galette from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Let cool for 1 hour. The filling will continue to thicken and set as the galette cools.

Individual fruit galettes: Follow the recipe above, but divide the chilled dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a disc 6-7 inches in diameter and ⅛" thick. Transfer the dough discs to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Proceed with steps 3 and 4, placing approximately ⅓ of a cup of fruit in the center of each disc. Continue with step 5, baking for 20-30 minutes.

Check out our Cookbook of the Week archives for more like this.

@findthathannah



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