Students at the Williamsburg Community Center learned how to make individual rustic-style pies, both savory and sweet. And just in time for the holidays! This was a challenging, but satisfying, exercise for the class. Our students learned how to successfully create an individual pie starting from a perfect crust, then adding in a delicious filling, and finishing with a ton of tasty successes. In addition to making a treat that can’t be turned down on any occasion, students learned about the chemical forces at play during the baking process.
Starting with the pie crust, students learned about common ingredients and what they can do. For example, when water is added to starchy flours, certain proteins hydrate and form gluten. Gluten gives the dough both body and elasticity that allows it to stretch. (In other types of doughs, like bread, it also allows doughs to rise when gasses are created from the action of baking powder or yeast.) Butter is added to the pie crust dough to shorten the formation of gluten which produces a softer result. (Think about the difference between pie crust and pizza dough.) Community Chef Sam also explained the importance of keeping the pie crust dough and butter cold during the process in order to create a truly flaky pie crust. The chilled dough and butter keeps the fat firm which also makes rolling the dough out much easier.
Students made a cinnamon-apple filling for their sweet pie and used broccoli-cheddar for the savory pie. The procedures and skills involved in the pie recipe, from using bear claw for thinly sliced apples to sautéing onions and broccoli, fully capture the level of skill the students have honed from the beginning of their fall session. Working without the use of a pie tin, once the fillings were placed in the center of their rolled out dough, each student carefully folded the sides to enclose the pie. Everyone eagerly waited for their pies to be ready, not only because they were making something delicious, but because they couldn’t wait to see the result of a recipe that required various techniques, different skills and a whole lot of patience.