Sunday, July 7, 2013

Comfort food

I was reminded this morning (somehow -- I'm not sure what brought it to mind) of cheese and onion pie: a speciality from the North of England: my mother used to make it on a fairly regular basis, and so I'm thinking of trying it tonight.  I'm hoping that it will hit all the high comfort notes that it triggers in my memory.

I was tempted to purchase pre-bought pastry to make it easier --- tempted briefly, but I was put off by the pictures on the boxes of pie dough: their images were of dough that looked more solid than flaky, and I am sure I can do better than that.  I'm tempted perhaps to buy a box at some point just to try it out, but not on a night when I'm planning to try to cook something I care about.

I've pretty much switched to vodka pastry now when I make it from scratch: the vodka retards the formation of gluten in the dough, and bakes off at a lower temperature than water does, making for a crisper, flakier result that is more workable prior to cooking.   I got the recipe from America's Test Kitchen: it calls for vegetable shortening, but when I don't have that around, I use all butter instead: and when I'm making it for a savory dish, I leave out the sugar.

Here's the recipe for vodka pastry: I'm going to hash out the recipe for the cheese and onion pie in my head for a little more --- that recipe will be added at a later date.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined,
about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until
homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds
(dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).
Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor
blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed
around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses.
Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding
motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and
sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into
4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes
or up to 2 days.

Yours, in search of comfort,

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