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Sunday, July 15, 2018

New-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie

Okay so it's not real buttermilk, but you can use this recipe (if you so choose) to do so, but I used entirely dairy-free options. As always, Blue Diamond's Almond Milk is my dairy of choice in my home for drinking, and I cannot praise the virtues of Earth Balance's vegan butter enough. But why make a buttermilk pie without buttermilk? Because I wanted it, Karen. Geez.

Let me start off by saying that when it comes to cooking and baking, you won't go to prison for trying something new and experimenting for yourself. A buttermilk pie is a wonderful thing, and there's something just so summery about it. It's a American Southern Classic and oughtn't be forgotten. There are tons of pieces of American Southern culture that are just awesome - not the racism and the slavery, of course, but things like fried chicken, cornbread, and buttermilk pie? Oh yes.

I first learned how to make the classic buttermilk pie when I was working at an assisted living facility while I started up my bakery, which allowed me a lot of freedom to make what I liked, so long as the folks living there had enough to eat. Working with the elderly has some drawbacks, but a lot of rewards - some of them were alive during some crazy times, and I even had one lady that told me stories of her travels all throughout Budapest, Prague, Italy. I had many that had come 'up north' from the deep south and grew up during the Jim Crow segregation era. One of the women specifically requested a buttermilk pie, so I made the classic version. It was delicious, of course, but I can't have that in my house with the amount of dairy that's in it. So? What's a gal to do? Make up her own version of course!
"Yaaaaaaaay pie!"

This recipe is adapted from a blog I love called Spicy Southern Kitchen. Try hers for the old-fashioned version!

Oh, and if you want to master pies for yourself on your own accord with a little more instruction, one of my favorite reference books is Pies and Tarts, written by the Culinary Institute of America - or CIA, if you like. You can pick it up here! It's an excellent reference book and has many different recipes inside, both sweet and savory, and has plenty of info on the hows and the whats and the whys. I've adapted their all-butter crust to suit my needs in this particular application. I find that it's just excellent, especially for decorative motifs on pies that you must pull together in a pinch. Honestly, it's the fastest pie dough I've ever made, and I recommend it - especially if you don't have a food processor or an entire afternoon to devote to this project.

New-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie
yields 1 9" pie, serves 8

Whole wheat crust
  • 14 oz locally ground whole wheat flour
  • 10 - 12 small mint leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 oz cold vegan butter substitute, cubed rather small
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Ice water as needed
Buttermilk Custard
  • 3 large eggs
  • 10.5 oz (1 1/2 cups) fair trade cane sugar (you can also use brown sugar or honey, if you like!)
  • 4 oz (1 stick) vegan butter substitute
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 Tbsp flour or 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream substitute (I like tofutti)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
To make the crust simply bring together in either a food processor with pulses, or use your fingers to pinch and push in the fat to the flour. Once the fat is small enough and incorporated enough that it looks to be about the size of a pea, you're ready to add your liquids. Add first the vinegar, then the water, a few drops at a time, until everything just barely comes together. Turn out the dough onto a cold marbled surface. Starting from the edge, use the meat of your thumb and palm to smear a bit of the dough out. Continue to smear and push until everything is homogeneous. This is a technique I like most called 'frasier.' Watch this video below to see for yourself! 

Once that's all together nicely, divide in two and wrap one of them in clingfilm for later use. You're going to place the other half between two sheets of clingfilm and roll it out that way. Simply gather together in a disc, sandwich between the film and roll out gently, turning and rotating as needed, to roll out to at least a quarter-inch thickness. Pop this in your pie pan by simply peeling off the top layer, putting the pie pan over it upside-down, and then carefully flipping everything over! Gently peel away the now-top layer of plastic and ever-so-gently lift up the edges so that the dough can sink into the crevices of the pie dish. Let it sit in there for about five minutes, in the fridge, so that the dough can relax and therefore won't shrink on you. 

Once rested, trim the edges and save the dough to make decorations. I love making leaf shapes using cookie cutters, but you can crimp the edges, scallop or prick with a fork...the sky's the limit! This is your pie, so you can decorate it how you please to do so. 

Prick the bottom of the pan and pop this in the freezer while your oven heats to 350. Move your oven rack to the bottom of the oven, as low as it'll go. Once it's come up to temp, par-bake your pie crust for 10 minutes at the bottom of the oven, sitting on another sheet tray that's been lined with aluminum foil. I suggest blind-baking using aluminum foil or parchment paper filled up with beans, pie beads, rice, lentils...whatever you have lying around. You'll only want to bake this for 10 minutes because it's going to hang out in the oven for another 50 after this. You just want to ensure that you don't have a soggy bottom.

Now, to make the custard! Scrape the insides of the vanilla bean into the butter and melt gently over medium heat. Make sure you either put your scraped vanilla bean in either the sugar container or into a bottle of cheap vodka or bourbon with other scraped vanilla beans to make either vanilla sugar or your own homemade vanilla extract! (Yes, you CAN do that.)

While that's melting, combine the vinegar, sour cream, and almond milk. You can use coconut, hemp, or oat milk as well if you have a nut allergy. Let this sit near the stove to take the chill off of it, and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Your butter should melt within that time. Once it's melted, set it aside while you whisk together your flour/cornstarch with the sugar of your choice. Add in your eggs and whisk quite well. Add in the vanilla butter and whisk to incorporate quite well. Add the nutmeg, 'buttermilk' mixture and whisk quite well, ensuring that every single last bit of everything is incorporated quite well. If I were you, I'd take my time to pop this mixture into a large pitcher (the one on your blender works just fine) before continuing with this next step.

Carefully open your oven door and - using oven mitts - remove the blind baking instruments you've used, if any, be they beans, rice, or baking beads. Set them aside to cool. Pull our the oven rack that holds your pie dish out just enough to safely pour your custard in without burning your hands. Pour your custard mixture in very slowly indeed, and then very gently indeed push the rack back into the oven, trying to not jostle the custard so it won't spill. Shut the oven door, lower the temperature, to 325 and bake for 50 minutes, or until the custard wobbles just barely in the middle. The pie will have quite a dome on it, which is fine, because it'll collapse once it cools. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least two hours in the fridge - one hour on the counter, one in the fridge.

Slice and serve with some sweet tea and sit on the veranda to enjoy maximum flavor. Please let me know if you do try this, of course! It's one of my favorite custard pies, and I think the whole wheat crust adds to it by balancing out some of the sweetness. I've also made this recipe with half parts AP flour and rye flour with great success. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Happy cooking and happy eating! 

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