The Mystery of Baking: Summer Savory… Pie!

Continuing the trials and triumphs of my recent jump into the deep end of baking, and next up is a pie I found over at Clockwork Lemon – it’s a fantastic pie that was just screams summer, filled with corn, tomatoes, chives and lemony goodness.

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It’s been a while since i’ve eaten anything with corn, and I have to say, i’m smitten all over again. Even after being baked, the corn fresh from the cob holds a burst of flavor in each kernel, and the tomatoes soak in the lemon-mayo blend intensifing for days after the pie was originally baked (translation: GREAT leftovers).

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Before I go any further, I have to share with you that before two weeks ago, I’d never made a pie… Ever. (and once you see the pics of what happened along the way, you’ll believe me 😉 So i tried this pie, as it looked so lovely, and, being savory, I figured I could use it for leftover lunches at work… It tasted delicious, but had a VERY obvious problem when we tried to scoop it out…the crust hadn’t hardly baked at all! The bottom was largely wet dough, and the top was a little better, but still soft.

Here’s a pic of the first attempt, doesn’t it look pretty? pale, but pretty?

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I couldn’t bear to take a pic after we cut in, the crust was so awful…

Nevertheless, it was still very tasty despite its failings. So last night, I tried the first repeat dinner I’ve made since getting married (granted, I only got married 4 months ago, every meal I make is used as leftover lunches at work, and with my crazy gobs of new free time after a job change, I’ve have been pouring every spare minute into exploring new things to make). In the absence of making a new meal, I decided to try out a different crust, opting for the butter bliss that is Pam’s Pie Crust in The Pioneer Woman’s new cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier. With an extra 15-20 minutes baking time (this pie really takes closer to an hour to bake in the oven, not the 30 minutes recommended in Clockwork Lemon’s recipe), the crust cooked all the way through, and by putting the pie pan on a baking stone on the very bottom rack of the stove the bottom was nice and cooked-through as well. Sadly, however Pam’s pie crust was incredibly difficult to roll out and not tear, as opposed to the Clockwork Lemon’s workable crust (no clue what happened – maybe not enough liquid, maybe the room was too hot as the ac was struggling to keep our apartment under 80 degrees that afternoon), resulting in too-small rounds of crust and a poor seal that leaked juice all around the rim of the pie. All told, it looked very pitiful and less than picturesque. After a few futile sighs and petulant stomps while seeing this all go so wrong and being powerless to fix it, we dug in and found the crust so buttery and flaky the ugly wrong-ness began to appear endearing instead of frustrating. Not sure which crust to use the next time… Maybe I should try a more traditional pie filling, like cherry or strawberry so I can focus on perfecting the crust.

Here’s the second round before going in the oven (I opted for a ton more tomatoes and corn the second time around, as the pie seemed to be only half-filled the first time around):

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Here’s a peek inside the second attempt after it was baked (please do head over to Clockwork Lemon to check out her beautifully styled photos, as mine can’t do justice to the tastiness of this dish):

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Pie baking is a bit like trying to teach yourself to play the piano. You can make up some things that seem to work, but really you need to learn a master and keep trying the same piece over and over until you get it right and understand what’s going on. In the absence of a baking family heritage, I found some fantastic youtube videos of Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie and Pastry Bible (among a gazillion other useful books), demonstrating how to mix and handle a pie crust….

Still working on developing the perseverance to keep trying despite small failures or hurdles in order to learn how to bake well. Any tips you could share on making a beautiful (as well as tasty pie) would be a great help!

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2 responses to “The Mystery of Baking: Summer Savory… Pie!

  1. Hi Mandi, I wondered if pre-baking the pie without filling would have helped to get it well baked through? Basically you roll out the pastry and put blind baking beans (or rice or other dry pulses) and you bake just the pastry for 8-10 minutes. Then you put the filling and cover it up with the top layer of pastry? That’s what I do for cakes that have a wet filling (like shortbread pastry with cream etc.).
    And great that you are trying it and experimenting with recipes!

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