The sold-out evening on Aug. 14 drew 50 to 60 excited fans to the New School's spotless demo/dining room. We sipped champagne and chatted a bit, but then listened raptly as these two pie pros spilled secrets about making perfect crust in a lively back-and-forth that was punctuated by questions, comments, and then an echo chamber of "ooh," "ahh" and "mmmmmm" as we dug into helpings of Kleiman's Chicken Pot Pie with a Duck Fat Pie Crust, followed by Yard's Plum and Blackberry Pie with Toasted Almond Crumble and Quintessential Apple Pie (recipes to come in a future post). It was probably the most lively, delicious and informative evening of food I can remember.
Following are a few tips and observations I picked up on pie-making. So much of interest was said that my trusty Pilot pen nearly died. In future I may tote an audio recorder and post choice bits on the blog.
"Were you a pie hog as a child?" Evan Kleiman asked her co-host.
Yard worked worked with Wolfgang Puck at Spago for 19 years, wrote two cookbooks, collected a James Beard Award, and is planning to reopen Helms Bakery in Culver City with another celebrity chef, Sang Yoon (Father's Office, Lukshon). A tiny pink and white whirlwind at the front of the room, she seemed like she might be your chummy neighbor, if that neighbor also happened to be the most accomplished pastry chef on the planet.
Kleiman, taller, sporting chef's whites and spectacles, curly hair tied back in a ponytail, fell easily into her role as interviewer, which she does with such aplomb and skill on "Good Food."
"It's difficult to believe it's me and Sherry up here," she said as she began to demo making the crust for the chicken pot pie. "I'm a cook who loves to bake," she said. She didn't mention that she was the chef/proprietor of the well-loved Angeli Caffe for 28 years before it closed in 2012.
Tips & Comments
- As Kleiman measured flour on a scale, she reminded the audience that weighing your ingredients is the best way to ensure accuracy. Yard added that the best way to check the accuracy of your scale is to put a pound of butter on it.
- Kleiman made her dough with a mixture of chilled high-fat butter (Plugra or Kerrygold, she suggests) and rendered duck fat, also chilled, while Yard's "3-2-1 Flaky Pie Dough" used only butter. Neither thought much of using the old standby, Crisco, in crust. Duck fat is particularly flavorful, but chicken fat can also be used, Kleiman said. Both she and Yard love using leaf lard.
|Two apple pies: One with crimped crust, one without|
- Kleiman likes her dough to chill in the fridge overnight, while Yard removes it after only an hour, because "I like it wetter."
- Yard precooks her bottom crusts almost completely so that once filled with fruit they don't turn soggy. To make sure they hold their shape, she uses two industrial-sized paper coffee filters, coated with a little nonstick spray. She fits them inside the unbaked pie shell and fills them with uncooked beans or rice to weight them down. She bakes her pies in pyrex pans so that the bottoms can be checked for browning. Once the browning begins and the crusts have settled into their final shape, she takes them out of the oven, removes the first filter with the beans or rice, returns the pan with or without the second filter in order to cook the crust until almost done. Then she adds the filling, which she has partially cooked first. Got that?
- Yard never uses white sugar alone in her baked goods, always adding brown sugar or some other variant. Her almond crumble topping, for example, includes confectioner's sugar and light brown sugar (not to mention espresso powder, almond meal and fleur de del!). And she baked it first before putting it on her blackberry-plum crumble confection. That way, the filling doesn't make the topping soggy.
|Mini Chicken Pot Pie|
"I'm not big on measurements. I like to kind of go with the flow," added Yard. Take the idea of perfect and throw it out. Perfect is the enemy of the good."
Let Them Eat Pie
|Plums, Berries & Crumbles|
As for me, my diet went to hell--and I simply didn't care, as I was in pie heaven. It would have been a sin to leave a crumb (or crumble) on the plate at the end of the evening. And I didn't.