Or more specifically, pie crusts.
You know, souffle’s more difficult cousin.
What you consider when Hollandaise sauces are down pat.
Or, if you consider most of the cookbooks (even the good ones), something so delicate and tricky that you will either turn it to leather, or possibly detonate your oven. Maybe both.
I can make a Thanksgiving style meal (Turkey, home made gravy, home made stuffing, home made cranberry sauce, one or more potato sides, and something green to pretend there are non-starchy vegetables) on pretty much no notice. Half a day, no muss, no fuss, no worries.
I can turn out credible bread, although I still need to work more on my technique.
But if I have to make dessert for Thanksgiving, that gets a whole day all on its own, while I hope that someone else will provide.
So, I took a vacation day, and signed up for Kate McDermott’s class on Piemaking at Art of the Pie.
And now? Make a peach pie to celebrate National Pie Day? No worries, there were peaches in the freezer. Nice sale on those little brie wheels at the grocery store? Just whip up a crust, add some home made peach chutney from the pantry, and it’s time for a brunch of Brie en Croute. Home made scallop and mushroom pot pies? Easy as well, you get the idea.
There are two secrets here, only one of which may be news.
The one that isn’t news is that if you have pie crust issues, take the class. Because pie turns out to be somewhere between pure baking (measure, measure, this is science) and pure savory cooking (some of this, some of that, peppers aren’t as hot this go, add more). Just measuring only works on a pie crust if Murphy has decided to reimburse you for past issues.
How it looks, and how it feels, and how it acts, and how to react to that, those are important. And there is no substitute for a hands-on class with an expert to learn those.
The one that may be news is that those cookbooks are lying to you. They keep talking about overworking the dough to the point that it sounds like touching the dough with more than one finger may ruin it forever. What they should be talking about is overheating the dough. Yes, working the dough generates gluten, but those chunks of fat intermixed are going to give you a flaky crust. If they melt so that they are evenly mixed into the flour, that’s when you are making leather.
But seriously, if it were that hard to make, it wouldn’t have been a home-cooking staple.
Update: The irony is of course that we are now eating on the paleo-diet plan, so pie is not really common. I still intend to make Kate’s gluten-free pie crust (which is a major cheat, but not leaving the diet) for Thanksgiving.