Sunday, November 30, 2008

{TWD} Thanksgiving Twofer Pie goes Zero fer Two

Dorie Greenspan's Thanksgiving Twofer Pie went into Thursday's pie competition round against some proven champions and a new challenger, and despite turning in a solid performance, failed to score a win in either of the categories: Filling, or Crust.

This recipe combines the flavors of pumpkin pie with those of pecan pie, all in one rich, butter-crust-encased package. I've got to say right here that I love pumpkin pie, and I love it best when it's deep, dark, and heavily spiced. I'm not a fan of pumpkin chiffon pie or pumpkin cheesecake - I end up feeling cheated of that intense pumpkin jolt. On the pecan side of the aisle, I'm not as passionate, but I do have a pecan/maple pie that is really good, and feel no need to search out a better recipe (although the Chocolate Pecan Pie I made on Tuesday was also amazing). I was very interested in seeing how the Twofer pie would stack up against the Thanksgiving competition.

I was lucky to be joined in cooking by my oldest daughter, A.L.E., who flew in on Thanksgiving morning. We set right to work baking the Twofer.

A.L.E. eyed the new bottle of Myers Rum, purchased for the 2 tsp of dark rum in the recipe's ingredient list. "If we had any ginger ale, we could make Dark and Stormys."

"Hmm, I think there's some old flat ginger ale in the back of the downstairs fridge."

So, fortified with a delicious taste of the islands (1 shot of dark rum in a glass of ginger ale; technically this drink should be made with Gosling's Black Seal Rum and Jamaican Ginger Beer), we carried on with the recipe. Dorie's crust and both fillings came together pretty well. We made crusts at the same time for the two other pies that we were baking at the same time: Apple and spicy Pumpkin. We used the Cook's Illustrated recipe for these other crusts; scroll down to the end of this post for a comparison of the two pie crust recipes.

The dogs really do eat the crumbs when A.L.E. is cooking!
It got a little confusing following all the different recipes (while enjoying our cocktails), and A.L.E. spooned pumpkin out of the can and into the pecan filling (she was able to fish it out). This prompted her to dispense this piece of sage advice: "Don't cook wasted, man!" Which, I assure you, we were not doing. But it was a bit surreal to have the little girl who began cooking with me at age 2 standing on a stool at the counter, now mixing me a cocktail as she deftly whisked and processed ingredients for a complicated pie recipe.

Our biggest dilemma was which pan(s) to use for the pie. We finally settled on dividing the recipe into two small-ish pies, since the P&Q contained reports of trouble with overflowing pie crusts with 9" single pies.

We chose a 7" foil pie pan and a 7.5" tart pan with deep sides, and aimed for a 1/3 - 2/3 split of the ingredients. It turned out that neither pie shell was completely filled. I probably should have stopped to do some volume calculations before I filled the pans, but I was too lazy.

I was surprised at how little of the pecan filling there was. Also, I didn't split the nuts very well, so I had a higher percentage of them in the shallow pan.

Based on the experiences of those posting on the P&Q, we did not blind-bake the crust. I adjusted the temperatures a bit and baked the pies at 425 for around 10 min, and then 325 until done - fairly quick for the small shallow pie, and somewhat under 45 minutes for the deep tart.

There was just too much going on - apple pie, pumpkin pie, cocktail hour - for me to make specific notes of the exact baking times. I'm just lucky I didn't forget them in the oven and burn them to a crisp.

the verdict:

Thanksgiving day tasting --

- We ate the shallow pie on Thanksgiving. It was OK. Pretty good, but didn't knock either one of us over. The filling was kind of bland, we thought.

- The pecans were distressingly soft for some reason. I'm blaming the nuts not the pie recipe, however. They were very fresh, and I attribute the softness to that (?). I did toast them in the oven before starting the recipe, and they seemed nice and crunchy.

- It is just as much work as making the two separate pies, and personally, I prefer my favorite pumpkin recipe and my favorite pecan recipe to this recipe.

- A.L.E. observed: "It wasn't worth the heartache."

second day tasting --

- We cut into the deeper tart. We thought the flavors were better the second day, and we preferred the deep pie to the shallow one.

- A.L.E.'s comment: "Now I understand the pie."

- I still prefer my pumpkin pie's spicy deliciousness, but I can see how Dorie's pie could be appealing to those less obsessed with pumpkin. So, while this was a good recipe, I preferred the fillings of the other three pies I baked for Thanksgiving, and the crust from the Cook's Illustrated recipe (comparison below, and see my Chocolate Pecan Pie post).

crust comparisons --

I grew up eating pie with an all-shortening crust, and I'm used to its sturdy flakiness. At this point, however, shortening gives me the willies. Actually, I have issues with using any large blocks of fat in cooking. But working with butter is (slightly) more appealing to me than shortening.

Here's where I admit that I've been using the Pillsbury All Ready pie crusts for years. It is easy. I haven't owned a food processor until this summer, and making pie crust has always seemed like a big hassle to me. And I don't mind the taste of the ready-made, especially given that my main interest in eating pie is what's inside the crust. In fact, most of the time I'd be perfectly happy with ramekins of cooked pie filling. And yes, when I pull the magic dough out of the box I'm not forced to confront the crazy amount of fat that pie crust entails.

Owning a food processor has made a huge difference for me, especially in the pie crust department. My first homemade crust in a long time was for the Summer Fruit Gallette - my first official TWD week, back in July. I loved that crust in that recipe. I made minis and froze some of them unbaked. We just finished the last one about a month ago, and it was delicious.

I knew that I wanted to make the Twofer Pie with Dorie's crust recipe, but I also was intrigued by the premise of the vodka-added Cook's Illustrated crust. Thanksgiving provided a perfect set up for a side by side comparison!

- Both recipes employ mostly butter + some shortening. Dorie's has a higher percentage of butter and just 1/3 c of shortening for 2 crusts, and Cook's Illustrated has 1/2 c. shortening for a double crust.

- Cook's Illustrated uses an extra bowl for hand stirring the ice water and vodka into the dough.

- When it came time for rolling, the Cook's Illustrated handled like a dream; it makes a silky smooth dough.

- Neither recipe holds an edge like an all-shortening pie crust - or the Pillsbury pie crust.

- Dorie's is softer, more delicate. A.L.E.'s reaction: "too buttery." It's amazing to see how much difference an additional few tablespoons of butter and a few fewer of shortening can make. We thought the buttery flavor distracted from the pie filling.

- The Cook's Illustrated crust was flakier, crisper, and more neutral in flavor. It didn't compete with the filling, but played its supporting role beautifully.

- Because of superior handling, and perfect blend of taste and flakiness, the Cook's Illustrated crust will become my new standard crust. I think that from now on I'll continue making pie crust from scratch (but there is a box of Pillsbury's in the freezer for crust emergencies!)

Vibi of La Casserole Carrée selected this week's recipe, and you can see her stunning Twofer Tart pictured on her post, and find the recipe - in French and English, no less - there too. Or you can pick up your very own copy of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours, where this recipe is on page 321. For further baking fun, check out the Tuesdays With Dorie blogroll and click on the blogs of 359 other bakers to see how they fared with the pie.

{Note: I'm celebrating my first 100 blog posts with a cookbook giveaway - to enter, go here and leave a comment before December 3}


natalia said...

Ciao Nancy ! So i'll have to try the other crust ! The problem is that in italy we don't have the shortening (I could get it in the specialty store from where Andrea got the pecans but is it an healty food or do you thing it reallly makes a difference ?)

Steph said...

Nancy, it looks like you had a lot of fun with your daughter! Thanks for the comparison. Now if only I can convince my family to like pumpkin... seriously.. who doesn't?!?

Engineer Baker said...

Wow, what an awesomely detailed comparison of the two pie crusts! I agree that Dorie's is a bit too buttery - sometimes I don't want to taste the butter in my dessert! Your tarts look wonderful, even if they were a bit underwhelming. And now I want to try that drink too... Yum!

Audrey said...

Oh, this must have been fun...even if you didn't discover a new favorite. Pies and tarts are still something I need (and want) to tackle. The pies look wonderful, anyway!

Di said...

Great post, Nancy! I've been wanting to try the vodka crust from CI; it's nice to hear a good review of it. The crust I used is from CI as well. Glad to see that you had a great time baking with your daughter. =)

Cathy said...

You two look like you'd be lots of fun to bake with! Great job keeping up with multiple pies, multiple fillings, multiple crusts and your Dark & Stormys all at the same time -- that is some expert multitasking right there. Your side-by-side pie crust comparison is most helpful -- I'm definitely going to be trying the CI recipe for my next pie (if I don't turn to my reliable old friend Mr. Pillsbury instead). Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Jaime said...

your crust is so beautiful! i have to admit i still love the ready made pillsbury crusts ;)

vibi said...

Thank you very much NOE and ALE, for participating with me this week!
I'm sorry the pie didn't make it for you ...although, the deep dish one, did save a bit of the reviews!
Still... BRAVO on both, as they looks pretty darn good!

Pamela said...

I love Dorie's crust and have had no problem with it in the past. But this time around, it was a bit difficult to work with. And honestly, I almost cracked open the 1 box of Pillsbury crust I have hiding in the freezer! :o) The CI crust sounds great and I think I will definitely give it a try!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

I love every inch of this post, especially cooking with your daughter. Yeah, this twofer was a zero for our household - sounds like it was a little better on day 2 for you.

Katrina said...

Wow, that's quite the pie testing/tasting critique. I like it! I loved Dorie's crust, but maybe it's because I've been using a recipe that uses all shortening in the past and don't want to keep doing that. I have the same issues with the large amounts of fat in baking.
Great job! Yep, I'd rather just have a little pumpkin pie and a bite of pecan and call it good. Like your chocolate pecan, gotta try that one someday.

Debbie said...

Your blog is amazing.... I love your descriptions. You are a great writer.

Thanks for sharing.

Fit Chick said...

I prefer my mon's pumpkin pie but I like your small pies! I have adjusted Dorie's pie crust to suit my own preferences and it turns out well. Great comparison of the pie crusts, well done!

Jacque said...

You know, I think I prefer regular pumpkin pie to this pie also.

Great writeup, I almost felt like I was there baking along side you two. (And I coulda used an adult beverage myself this week, LOL.)

Debbie said...

Besides having a beautiful blog and beautiful daughters... you have TREES! Trees!!
I live in the desert. I'm so envious. Of the trees and aslo your ability to write so well and detailed about your recipes/cooking.
Good job! (trees....right outside your door.... sigh)

NKP said...

So sorry it wasn't worth all the hard work! It does look beautiful though, so nice to bake with your daughter.

Peggy said...

Maybe it was those cocktails that were throwing you off on the taste of the pies! HA. Sorry it wasn't your favorite. I really enjoyed my plain ole pumpkin pie for T'giving. by the way, you look lovely in that picture with the greenery behind you! On another pie note, your crust looks fabulous.

Jessica said...

I loved reading about how much fun you and your daughter were having making all of the pies. I think that all of the kitchen camaraderie is one of the best parts of the holidays. Sorry that the twofer was a bummer. That strawberry apron is super cute!

Liz said...

This was a great post! I loved the pics with your daughter, and the comparisons at the bottom were really useful and interesting. Glad you had good family and good food at your Thanksgiving!

chocolatechic said...

I didn't like it either.


natalia said...

Ciao Nancy ! I made the cheese cake on saturday for a friend, so I didn't try it (nor cook it because my oven was broken until monday!) but makining it was a breeze with my Kitchen aidand it smelled wonderful I think I'll make it again and try one of the variations !On my blog there is a nice "pay it forward" initiative (?)