The only equivalent comparison in life to this would be: In our last two years in New York when we were practically cast out of Manhattan by elitism (FINE, high rents) and moved to… Jersey City where there was a most pathetic looking, hicks-Ahoy karaoke bar right around the block. With more conviction than I withheld on my wedding day I said to Jason, “IF we EVER raised even the SLIGHTEST idea of walking into this place, it is THE moment that we’ve been “Jersified” and must pack up and move back in the city immediately!” We survived Jersey and never did walk into that karaoke bar. But instead THIS happened here. My cue that says I have been in YET another dump for far too long that – I – made – a – PIE!!!
But self-disbelief aside… what is this strange satisfaction? Unfamiliar, yet… magnetic. Is this what bakers feel like aaaaaaaall the time??! Is this what compels them to wake up in the wee hours of the day and slave away? A riveting sense of self-accomplishment… like I have just sent my kids to Harvard (OK more like my pups to Guide Dogs Academy). It’s unexpectedly addictive! Omg, what happened to that girl who felt so related when Miranda refused to make a pie? Fellow I-am-too-cool-for-kitchen ladies, RUN!! Save yourself!! This lost sheep has fallen too deep into the pie-making, cookie-cutting, batter-licking world and gone astray… I’m afraid I’ll be chasing this high for awhile. Mom, Pop I’m sorry. Instead of making buildings, I’m here in my kitchen rolling pies. I’ve let you down…
*Patients recovering from pastry-addiction should turn away from this point on. Relapse alert.*
So. Who’s to blame for this depraved behavior?
If anyone is ever interested in buying a cookbook, buy HIS: Thomas Keller. Let’s face it. Most of the time cookbooks just serves as visual pornography for foodies! While being graphically stimulating, mostly they just paint false expectations AND lacks any educational value… After lusting away aimlessly in my 30-plus-or-so foodporn collection, Thomas Keller’s cookbook was the first one that actually took me to school. His stuff simply works. His instructions are complete with NECESSARY details (the devil’s in the detail!), and conveys his
analness consistent rigor towards cooking that even a first-timer/pastry-retard like me can be saved and achieve THIS. Really, this pie dough is a testimony for his miracles.
With his books, you shall do his wonders. Hallelujah.
But this crème brûlée (took me 15 sec to type) pie thing isn’t in his cookbook. I basically just inserted what I like into his pie dough (… guys! I’m trying to keep this place PG-13, OK). We had a most amazing crème brûlée de Cafe in Paris and I couldn’t resist giving it a go. I’ve never done a crème brûlée before, but frankly this
is a second try came out better than I thought. I have my own observations in Paris to thank, which had me believed was a discovery to the secret of hard, cracking caramel. Coarse raw sugar. The cracking caramel we had in Paris had a MUCH grainier texture which was unlikely to be the result of normal, fine white sugar. Convenient for me that I happen to use raw sugar almost exclusively already in my kitchen because it has so much more aroma and flavor from the molasses. Don’t have it? They are free from Starbucks BUY IT!
Pie Dough: adapted from Thomas Keller
- 1.6 cup of flour
- 180 g of unsalted COLD COLD COLD COLD butter
- 3 1/2 tbsp of ice water
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1 1/2 tsp of sugar
* Pardon these WEIRD measurements! My pie is smaller than the pie in his book, 80% of it to be exact. So everything is 0.8 of the original recipe… Except for the sugar and salt because this is a dessert pie.
Crème Brûlée Custard:
- 1 1/2 cup of whole milk
- 1/4 cup of heavy cream
- 10 tbsp of sweeten condensed milk
- 1/8 tsp of salt
- 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 whole egg + 4 egg yolks
- raw sugar
Al’right. Consider this a warning.
See, this is another story under “Got Nothing But Time”. From start (making the shell) to finish (ready to eat), this is going to eat away a good 8~10 hours. WHAT!? Yes. I know it may look simple enough, but TO DO IT RIGHT, there’s a lot of back’n forth chilling – then rolling – then chilling again – then baking – then cooling – then baking again – then cooling again – then freak’n baking once again – then freak’n cooling once again! Pheeww… So. Not my average “I’m so fabulous I just whipped this up” kinda thing. Even if the dough is made the day before, the rest would still probably take 6 hours… So keep this in mind if this is made to impress anyone who’s keeping you a score, such as: in-laws/bosses/colleagues/girlfriends/boyfriends/gay friends/new friends/or neighbors.
So instead of doing this in paragraph form, I’ve decided it’s best to describe it in a timeline:
10:00 am – Start the dough. Measure the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. Measure the butter and cut it in cubes. Leave it in the freezer to chill for 30 min.
10:00 ~ 10:30 am – This is a good time to take a morning shower.
10:30 ~ 10:50 am – Take out the butter and add to a stand mixer bowl. Add HALF of the flour mixture and start on low then gradually increase the speed, let the stand mixer incorporate the cold butter into the flour. Covering the mixer with a towel looks ridiculous but it prevents flour or butter from popping out. Prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes. Once the butter’s completely incorporated (no visible “pea size” or “lump size” or whatever pieces of butter). Add the rest of the HALF of flour and mix. Add the 3 1/2 tbsp of ice water 1 at a time. When a dough forms, stop the mixer. Take the dough out and pat loose flour bits into the dough to incorporate and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for AT LEAST 1 HOUR (or this can be done the day before).
11:00 am ~ 12:00 pm – Check emails. Read some reeeeally depressing news. Online window-shop a little to lift the spirit/help out the economy.
12:00 ~ 12:20 pm – Take the dough out of the fridge. Flour the working surface and the rolling pin. The dough would be almost “unrollable” in the beginning because the butter is so cold. Just keep at it. It should become easier in 10 min. Roll it out into a thin, round disk about 1/5″/5mm thick. Lightly oil the surface of the baking mold (I’m using my iron pan). Use the rolling pin to “roll up” the disk like a scroll, then transfer it to the baking mold. The dough is likely to SHRINK in the oven, so DON’T stretch it out. Instead, fold the dough up so it drops into the baking mold, then lightly use the finger tips to press the dough to fit the mold. Drape the excess dough over the edge of the mold (Again. Don’t stretch it out). Trim off any dough extending more than 1″/3cm over the the edge. Reserve the scraps. Return the mold, dough and scraps back into the fridge for 30 min. Preheat the oven on 375ºF/190ºC.
12:50 ~ 1:30 pm – Take the mold out. Use a sheet of foil or wax paper, lay it over the dough and add enough dry beans to fill it up all the way to the top. This is to prevent the dough from puffing too much. Put the mold into the oven and bake until the edge is SLIGHTLY brown, about 30 ~ 40 min. During this time, crack 1 whole egg and 4 egg yolks into a bowl. Reserve the egg white. Then… I don’t know. Pluck eyebrows or floss.
1:30 pm – Take the mold out. Carefully lift the foil/wax paper with the beans away from the dough. Patch up any cracks and holes with the leftover dough. Brush a thin film of egg white all over the surface. This is NOT in the cookbook instruction, but I think it adds a nice sheen plus a protection on the dough from the custard (so it doesn’t get soggy). Return the mold to the oven, and bake for another 20 min until the dough is browned all over.
1:30 ~ 1:50 pm – OK, lunch. Lunch… lunch… what am I gonna have for lunch… How about heating up a bowl of rou-zao rice?
1:50 ~ 2:50 pm – Take the mold out and let the dough which is now a pie shell, rest and cool down completely. Add the milk, heavy cream, sweeten condensed milk and salt in a sauce pot. Bring to a simmer on low heat. Meanwhile beat the egg and yolks together. Once the milk mixture has come to a simmer, remove from the heat. Add HALF of the hot milk, 1 ladle at a time, into the eggs while whisking at the same time. Then add/whisk the egg +milk mixture back into the milk sauce pot. This is of course “tempering”. To bring up the temperature of the egg slowly so it doesn’t curdle. Add the vanilla extract now, OR… The following isn’t necessary but it will shorten the custard baking time a little. I didn’t. It’s optional. *Return the sauce pot on the stove under really low heat, then heat up the milk + eggs mixture slightly while whisking like CRAZY (seriously, feeeeel the burn!). When the mixture become slightly thicken, remove from the heat immediately. Add the vanilla extract to combine now*
2:50 pm – Turn the oven temperature down to 310°F/150ºC. Pour the milk + eggs mixture into the pie shell through a fine sieve (This is ESPECIALLY important if the custard was pre-heated. There could be lumps of curdled egg). With VERY STEADY movement, move the pie into the oven. Bake until the custard is set, meaning a toothpick could insert and come out clean (see those big holes in mine? Chopstick… STUPID!). The baking time will take around 1:20 ~ 1:40 min.
2:50 ~ 4:20 pm – Put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Brush my dogs. Sweep the floor. Put on then take off an outfit… Put on then take off some make-up… Staaaaaaaaaaaaaarrre at the TV…
4:20 pm – Check the custard doneness. Should be set by now. Take the pie out of the oven and let it cool for 15 min.
4:35 pm – Take a sheet of foil and fold it in half, then half again. Do it enough times so I end up with a thin wedge. Point the tip at the center of the pie and snip off the tip at where it meets the pie shell. Unfold and it’ll be a sheet with a big hole in the middle. Wrap and cover the edge of the pie shell tightly with this. Spread a layer of raw sugar (a relatively thick layer) on top of the custard that’s exposed. Light the torch and start caramelizing the sugar. Try NOT to burn the edge of the custard like I DID. The custard needs to set and the caramel needs to harden so, LET THE ENTIRE PIE COOL DOWN COMPLETELY, at least 2 hours BEFORE cutting!!!!! (Did I? Oooh, haaaa… you funny…)
6:50 pm – Use a sharp, small knife, trim off the excess pie shell draping over the mold/pan. The pie could either be taken out of the mold/pan, or whatever who cares, just eat it like this. It goes without saying that this is another O.D. on eggs.