Pumpkin Pie Fest part I: the pastry

When you’re baking a whole bunch of something, it pays to arrange things assembly-line style, so that you’re not constantly moving ingredients from cabinet to work area and back, and so that the tools, measures, and bowls that are needed will be close at hand. Since I’m making six different pumpkin pies this weekend, that means preparing the pumpkin purée all at once (did that on Thursday), cubing and freezing the butter (Friday), then making all of the pastry (what this post is about), and finally making the custard fillings and baking each pie (Sunday). Once all the pies have fully cooled, I can pre-slice them, wrap them up tightly, and on Monday I’ll drive in to the office and put them all in the refrigerator.

Most of the pastry recipes are fairly similar, as you might expect. Except in the two recipes that specify otherwise, I used an equal combination by weight of pastry flour and all-purpose flour, as suggested by one of the King Arthur baking books; for recipes that did not give the mass of flour I assumed five ounces per cup. All of the cutting-in of butter was done in the food processor, regardless of the procedure specified in the recipe, except for Joanne Chang’s recipe which calls for a stand mixer; the liquid ingredients were mixed in by hand, except for Moosewood’s and Joanne Chang’s recipes, which were done in the food processor and the stand mixer, respectively. Some of the recipes did not call for resting the dough, but on general principle (and also to make the assembly-line principle work for a single baker) I decided that all of them would be rested for about twenty-four hours.

Notes on the individual crusts:

  • The Moosewood Collective, “Best All-Purpose Pie Crust”, Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts: I used the full amount of (optional) sugar specified in the recipe. For the pie recipe, the crust is not blind-baked, but it is double-baked — first with the pecan filling and then again with the pumpkin custard.
  • Richard Sax, “Nick Malgieri’s Flaky Butter Pie Dough”, Classic Home Desserts: This unusual pie dough calls for cake flour and baking powder in addition to the usual flour, butter, salt, and water. I probably didn’t use quite enough water, but the long rest should help the flour to fully hydrate anyway. This recipe makes a double crust, so I’ll use half for the Richard Sax pie (“Best-Ever Pumpkin Pie”) and half for the David Page and Barbara Shinn Pie (“Honey Pumpkin Pie”, Recipes from Home). Sax’s pie recipe includes blind baking, but the Page/Shinn recipe uses an uncooked crust.
  • Emily and Melissa Elsen, “All-Butter Crust”, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: I’ve made this one before; the distinctive ingredient is cider vinegar, which helps to prevent gluten development. I made a double recipe, and will freeze half to use with another one of their recipes later in the fall. Their pie recipe calls for “partial” blind baking, for which they have a standard procedure shared by all similar pies.
  • “Golden Pumpkin Pie”, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: as you might expect, the pastry for this pie is rather different from all of the preceding. It contains two whole grains — ground oats and red whole wheat — and is sweetened with brown sugar rather than granulated or not at all. In addition, the crust includes a large amount of cinnamon (¾ tsp) and uses milk for the liquid rather than ice water as all the previous recipes do.
  • Joanne Chang, “Pâte Brisée II”, Flour: Chang’s recipe is the most unusual, as it is enriched with egg and milk, and as mentioned above, is made in a stand mixer. Her pie recipe calls for fully blind-baking the shell, unlike the other recipes which are only partially blind-baked.

More to follow tomorrow!

UPDATE (2014-10-12): I ran out of eggs for pie #6, so the post with all of the finished pies will have to wait until Monday evening after I’ve had a chance to go to the store. (I also ran out of homemade pumpkin puree, so I had to supplement pie #5 with canned pumpkin — actually canned Dickinson squash — and pie #6 will be entirely made with canned.)

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