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Prime Time With Flying Pies
I have never moderated anything. Not even moderation. So it was not without trepidation that I accepted the invitation from Ally Kirkpatrick, proprietor of Old Town Books, our newest indie bookstore, to launch the third cookbook from Cathy Barrow, When Pies Fly. The event took place in the Athenaeum, built in 1851 and restored to showcase art exhibitions, live performances, workshops and author introductions such as this one. You should get acquainted with Old Town Books. Ally and her staff create quite an array of book-related events, from writing workshops, to author signings, themed story times for children, and some truly unusual book clubs. Bad Romance is one that caught my attention! Their book-ordering service is exceptional, and I use it all the time. Ally Kirkpatrick and her Old Town Books staff created a delicious backdrop with several types of pies featured in Barrow’s new book, and the Wine Gallery 108 provided wines that made great pie friends. Cathy regaled her full-house audience, which included quite a few KD subscribers, with her stories and advice. She is touring the country at a number of venues, so if you are near any on her schedule, take advantage of the event and pick up a copy of the book. Have worries about your pastry ability? I can only paraphrase the Barrow mantra that pastry-making is not a talent but a skill and that you should embrace imperfection.
A Primer on Freehand Pies
Reading through her cookbooks, you can envision the landscape design skills Cathy brings to the counter, including Laying out pastry parameters with a ruler and painter tape and precisely calibrating the filling of different pie forms so that there is no gooey spillage. Not to mention the imaginative use of pastry cutouts. Long before this volume, Cathy used her cooking expertise to create not only a website but also classes in her home around the craft of preserving everything from peaches to pastrami. This led to publishing a most thorough tome on preserving, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, followed by writing instructive food columns for both The New York Times and The Washington Post. When Cathy felt that she had written all that she could about preserving, she was given the opportunity to develop recipes for something portable that could feed a crowd… slab pies. After the success of Pie Squared, Cathy’s inventive pastry mind envisioned how you could take a free-form pastry envelope to another level. Hence she produced this very precise and yet imaginative book on pastries without a baking form – galettes, empanadas, knishes, hand pies, and yes, strudel.
We’re not talking the faux strudel using filo sheets (that has its place but it ain’t the real thing). I had struggled with strudel for years and had a distracted hiatus during my daughters’ adolescence. There were some vague American baking books on strudel and some very humorless German cookbooks, and I did have a couple successful outcomes. But nothing like when I completed one following directions from When Pies Fly. The section on strudel is short, but the directions, recipes, and the thoughtful coaching from Cathy made this delicious, and for me, nostalgic treat actually almost easy. It is a project. Best to make the dough, which is a snap, the night before. The 100 slaps on the counter was great (view it as an extension of Orange Theory Fitness). Then, the next day prep your filling. Find a tablecloth (not vinyl) or very large kitchen towel (not terry) that may have seen better days, flour it as directed and then read through the instructions several times and look at her photos. It really does come together as written. I also looked at some Austrian videos and enjoyed the variations. Sometimes the stretched dough was painted with melted butter before laying in the filling. In a few, the filling is spread across the dough and then rolled. I was entranced with one baker, who had a dry filling of sliced apples, sugar and cinnamon, with a touch of rum sprinkled over, and then he took a siphon of Schlag (whipped cream to us) and ran a healthy dose down the center of the filling! Apparently the cream bakes into the apples and moistens them a bit. I am definitely going to try this next!
- 1 1/2 cups (150gr) all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 3 tbs sunflower or grapeseed oil
- 1/3 cup (80ml) cool water
- In a wide bowl, using a table fork, stir together the flour and salt
- Make a well in the center and pour in the oil.
- Gather the flour into the oil with the fork.
- Pour over the water slowly, using the fork to incorporate the two. Dough will appear somewhat shaggy and wet.
- Lightly flour your hands and working inside the bowl, gather the dough, lifting, turning, folding until the dough is silky and smooth - This process takes about five minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, slap the dough down and pull it up 100 times.
- Lightly coat the dough with oil (or oil inside a ziptop bag) and place it within, seal it and refrigerate overnight.
- Cathy advises that this dough cannot be frozen, but can be refrigerated for two days.
- The dough needs to be at room temperature before the next step.
- On the table or counter area, sprinkle and rub flour into the cloth of your choice with the heel of your hand.
- Lay the dough (which should make a final layer of around 20x24 inches) in the center and get some flour on each side- you can lift and turn the dough to give it a bit of a stretch.
- Gently roll the dough into a 10 inch square.
- Using the backs of your hands, lift the dough, and turning, allow it to stretch gradually into a rough rectangle.
- You will have to move around the table if you don't have a partner in strudel pulling.
- Once it gets close (Cathy says 16 inches square) you can stretch, placing one hand on the surface and working with your knuckles on the underside.
- You should be able to see through to the cloth when you reach a bit over 20x24 inches.
- Stretch the thickened edges around the perimeter.
- Trim the edges with scissors, place your filling along the short edge, leaving about 2 inches on each side.
- Fold the length edges over the filling and then using your cloth, roll the strudel gently but firmly.
- Tip the strudel log onto your baking sheet (I used Silpat, but parchment is fine), seam side down.
- Baste it with melted butter and pop it into a preheated 400F oven.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes. You are looking for a pale gold crust, not deep tan.
- 4 tbs (55gr) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (60gr) dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup (43gr) sliced almonds
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 lbs (660gr) firm apples - Granny Smith, Pink Lady or Pink Pearl are suggestions
- 3/4 cup (150gr) granulated sugar
- 3 tbs (45ml) spiced dark rum
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- For baking and garnish
- 3 tbs (42gr) unsalted butter
- Powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 400F, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat and add bread crumbs, turning them until they absorb the butter and are golden.
- Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and wipe out the pan.
- Toast the almonds in the same pan until golden and scented - you need to shake them regularly
- over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Stir the almonds into the bread crumbs.
- Peel,and halve the apples - removing the cores.
- Slice into half moon shapes no more than 1/8 inch thick..
- Juice the lemon into a large bowl and add the apples, mixing thoroughly as this will keep the apples from turning brown.
- Add 1/2 cup of the sugar, the rum, cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples, stirring gently together.
- You will spread the crumb mixture across the prepared strudel dough but leave a 2 inch border on all sides.
- Sprinkle the remaining sugar across the crumb mixture.
- Leave the liquid behind in the apple mixture and shape the filling into a log about 2 inches from the shorter edge.
- Using your cloth as the driver, start rolling and lifting the dough, starting with the 2 inch border.
- Fold in the long sides, and continue to roll the strudel using the cloth.
- At the end you should have a fairly tight, uniform roll - you can prod it into shape gently.
- Transfer to the baking sheet seam side down, brush with butter and bake 20-25 minutes.
- Once cooled, you can generously dredge the surface with powdered sugar.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.