I am a food photographer and stylist, recipe developer, and educator, providing professional services for brands and insightful education for hobbyists and aspiring food photographers alike.
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Pie is the MVP of the Thanksgiving dessert table. Debates are currently in progress in families across the country about the quintessential Thanksgiving filling – apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan and more. Whatever the filling, choosing the right pie crust is an essential part of the pie equation.
There are three basic pie crusts. Here is a guide to the properties of each crust and some thoughts on which fillings are appropriate for that crust.
The most basic crust – sometimes known as a shortcrust – produces a tender, flaky texture due to the absence of sugar. This is the traditional crust for apple pie. The ingredients are simple: flour, fat, salt, and liquid. (fat = cold butter or shortening, liquid = cold water or vodka). The key to this crust is in how the fat is incorporated. It should be very cold and ‘cut’ into the dry ingredients leaving bits of fat throughout the dough. During baking, those bits of fat give off the water that turns to steam making the crust puff up creating layers in the dough. This is what gives it the flakiness. Filling ideas include apple, pecan, pumpkin. It’s also the perfect crust for quiches and savory meat pies, like a post-Thanksgiving turkey pot pie.
A slightly less flaky but tender crust is called Pâte Sucrée (or sweet shortcrust). The ingredients in this crust are similar to traditional pie crust but with the addition of sugar. Sugar performs two actions in a crust, it breaks gluten formation and causes caramelization during baking resulting in a deep golden color. The decreased gluten (and slightly less moisture) produces a finer, more delicate crumb creating a tender but firm crust, making it perfect for cream pies. The process of making the crust requires thoroughly working the butter and flour together before adding liquid.
(NOTE: A stand mixer works well in creating this dough.) Filling ideas include: custard-based fruit tart, chocolate cream, strawberry shortbread pie
The third crust option has a crumbly texture typically pressed into the pie or tart pan rather than rolled out. The ingredients and mixing techniques for this crust are straightforward. The main ingredient in the crust depends on your filling and your imagination. Ingredients include gingersnaps, chocolate or vanilla wafers, nuts, and even pretzels. This is the dough of the classic Graham cracker crust. Filling ideas include: lemon bars, cheesecake.
In my apple pie filling, you’ll notice the use of fresh ginger to add a little surprise flavor. Ginger pairs really well with apples and traditional apple pie filling spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Typically, ground ginger is used in baking. Fresh ginger has a stronger, more pungent flavor that makes people ask “Wow, what’s that flavor I taste?”
Ginger is a wonderful, versatile ingredient used in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used in many different cuisines from Indian to Thai to Chinese and more. It comes in many forms from fresh (whole tuber, sliced, chopped or grated) to candied and ground. If you buy ginger as a fresh tuber, keep it in the freezer for long-lasting goodness.
Aside from being used to flavor food, ginger has many medicinal purposes. It is used to cure nausea and upset stomach – did your mom give you ginger ale when you were sick? – reduces inflammation, is a remedy for menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, diabetes, migraine headaches. It is a common ingredient for teas.
(Lynne on my team loves a good Moscow Mule in an ice-cold copper mug with strong Ginger Beer and candied ginger garnish. That’s a thought for another blogpost.)
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I am a food photographer, educator, and recipe developer, sharing my passion for bringing flavor to life through stunning visuals.
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