Friday, May 8, 2009

delightful dough

delightful dough
Originally uploaded by norvegal

Can I tell you how much fun I've been having with Michael Ruhlman's new book, Ratio?

Well I HAVE.

This novel-sized, black-and-white book—nothing glossy or four-color about it—has transformed my relationship to pie crust. And it's only May!

Back story: Every New Year's Eve I sit down with my journal and write about the year that has passed, and I try to think about what I'd like to accomplish in the coming year. I usually like to keep things vague, like "Become a better person" or "Get more organized," but this year I added a special note to the list: "Master pie crust."

I've never been very fond of pie. It's the crust I don't like, so dense and greasy. As a kid I'd scrape out the guts and leave the crust behind, driving my mom nuts. Most of my feeble attempts to replicate pie dough as an adult have fallen apart before I could even get them into the pie plate.

But I live in Maine now, and Maine is the land of blueberry pie. Every summer, a steady stream of visitors passes through my house, asking for steamed lobster, rides in the sailboat, and endless helpings of blueberry pie. I want to be a skilled, confident cook who isn't afraid of that word, "pie." Which is why I put that on my list of things to accomplish this year.

Enter Michael Ruhlman and his book Ratio, which is based on the notion of using culinary ratios, or fixed proportions of ingredients in relation to one another, to prepare many common foods. These could include breads, stocks and sauces, custards, batters, and doughs, including—ding ding ding—pie dough!

The ratio for pie dough is super easy to remember, too: 3-2-1. Three parts flour, two parts fat, one part water, all parts figured by weight. That's it. My first attempt at the 3-2-1 pie dough was so wildly, astonishingly, life-transformingly successful that I had to try it again because I was convinced it was a fluke and all future attempts would be dreadful, therefore dashing my hopes for culinary excellence before they ever managed to get off the ground, leaving me a shattered, dense and greasy shell of my former self. But the results were just as good the second time around. Delicate, flavorful, flaky, buttery, delicious. Yes ma'am, there's a new sheriff in pie town.

The coolest part? You don't even need to use this dough for your standard gloppy sweet pie, either. No sirree. A few weeks ago I sauteed myself up some onions and mushrooms, blanched a pound of spinach, and mixed it all in a bowl of ricotta with an egg yolk and a dash of nutmeg. I scooped it into individual squares of dough, folded them over, pinched the edges, and put them in the freezer for a rainy day.

It's not raining today, but want to guess what's for dinner?


rho said...

oh to master pie dough - my clam pie would be fantastic then - instead of using roll out pie dough

Minh said...

I am adding that book to my wish list! (I liked "What Einstein told his cook" but I'm ready for something different)
Summer and dough means "Tarte a la moutarde" to me. Tomatoes, gruyere, grainy mustard, and herbes de provence. Miam!

Knitting Painter Woman said...

Sounds divine! Our new Kitchen Aid has made tons of difference when it comes to getting LOTS of flour and butter mixed together. (The cheese straws did NOT last long!!)

Annette said...

This is one of my goals for the year too! I'll have to check out this book. Your dinner sounds delicious. :)

Heidi said...

Just throwing another option into the mix, although I love Ruhlman and his wonderful Ratios. I have been using this pie crust recipe for about 7 years now. It is mostly foolproof and gets rave reviews. Mix 1 3/4 cups flour with 1 tsp salt. Mix with a fork while adding 1/2 cup vegetable oil, add 3-4 T ice water at the end and mix in with fork. Turn our onto two sheets of waxed paper, press into a disk, cover with another two sheets of waxed paper. Roll out and continue as you would with regular pie crust. Flaky and light. It changed my world. I love your writing and this blog. It has been my guilty pleasure at the end of particularly grueling days this spring to dip into a little Clara's Window. Thank you for this and everything you do.