|King Arthur Flour|
Last weekend I spent a wonderful day attending a baking class at the King Arthur Flour Education Center with my mom and sister – thanks Mom! The first of hopefully many cooking endeavors that the three of us will do together. The Education Center is part of their recently renovated campus that also houses their cafe and glorious baking store.
If you are even remotely close by or passing through you simply must stop in! It is located in Norwich, VT – not the same town as Norwich University. My poor mother and sister made this mistake. Apparently their GPS tried in vain to send them the right way and eventually grew exasperated with them because they would not listen. I wonder how often it happens that a carload of baking enthusiasts hoping to buy a Brie and Apple sandwich on fresh-baked artisan bread and a bag of Perfect Pastry Blend Flour instead find themselves wandering confused around the campus of Norwich University in sleepy Northfield! Or, maybe it’s just my mother and sister (ha ha, sorry guys!)
Our class was “Savory Supper Pies” with staff instructor Melanie Wanders. The classroom was large and bright with long tables splitting the students into pairs.
Melanie took us quickly but effectively through the difference between a tender crust and a flaky crust, and showed us how to make a crust that was right in the middle! Flender? Taky? Her crusts are made with all butter which I’ve been reluctant in the past to try, relying instead on a mix of shortening and butter. The cookbooks and websites I had referenced for all-butter crusts talked at length about the importance of keeping all the ingredients cold, very cold through the whole process – and rightly so as butter has such a low melting point. But when I would run into complications (dough tearing, sticking, too stiff) I would feel the anxiety building as I struggled to make the dough work and imagined the butter inside it melting, taunting me. I understood why people fear homemade pie crust!
It was so refreshing to watch this experienced baker put together the dough calmly, smoothly and to see how really very easy pie crust can be. After her demonstrations she sent us back to our tables to give it a go. Our butter was cold and the water icy, but no chilled bowl or utensils, no chilled flour. We used our hands and a pastry cutter to combine the flour and butter, and after adding water to gently knead the dough – just a few times before placing it in the cooler to chill and rest. Melanie’s technique showed me that my pie crust failings in the past were most likely due to overworking the dough and, in a panicky response to sticky dough adding too much flour. We made one crust with just all-purpose flour and another with all-purpose and whole-wheat pastry flour.
The pies we made were a Tourtiere: a French-Canadian meat pie which had a double crust made with all-purpose flour only, and a Roasted Winter Vegetable Pie made with a single crust using part whole-wheat pastry flour. The Tourtiere filling included ground beef and pork, onions, potato, garlic and a spice blend that included nutmeg, allspice and clove. Ah, to be in a room with eight pans of simmering meat, softening onions, minced garlic hitting the hot fat and then the spice blend stirred through the cooked mixture. Heavenly. My sister got to dazzle us with her NECI knife skills and my mom made both of us jealous with her perfectly shaped crust with a heart cutout at the top!
Here is my finished Tourtiere:
For the Roasted Winter Vegetable Pie our veggies were provided to us already roasted, and included carrots, beets, onions and squash which we combined with mashed potatoes, eggs and chives. The mixture had a pretty, pink tint from the beets. Once the dough and filling were in the pan we topped it with a blend of panko bread crumbs, melted butter and Herbes de Provence. Into the oven the pies went, and when they emerged forty-five minutes later, the tops were golden-brown and rugged, with speckles of Herbes glinting between panko crumbs. The panko has a nice crunch and the vegetable filling a soft sweetness. This crust is a bit heartier but still flaky.
Here is my veggie pie!
We each took home our two warm-from-the-oven pies, but only after spending an hour shopping in the Bakery Store. My finds included the rooster towel in the pictures above, a big sheet of bittersweet Callebout chocolate, some Maldon sea salt flakes and a cute retro apron with ruffles, a bright floral print and matching oven mitt. (My sister wanted some marinated tofu from their refrigerated case, but didn’t want me to make fun of her for liking tofu. So Mom bought it for her secretly. And then she tricked my nephew into eating some!)
I made the two hour drive home going crazy with hunger from the scent of these pies filling my car! My mom, sister and I agreed even before leaving the classroom that we would be back there soon to check out another class.
And this time everyone will listen to their GPS!