INTRO & INFO: at Victoria’s Last Resort, pastry chef Victoria will give cooking lessons! In a hubristic fit, I tape recorded our entire session. In other words, I spaced the fact that we would be yakking over banging, clanging, whirring kitchen implements, and that said cacophony would be transcribed by moi – a woman with a bona fide hearing condition. The amount of pies that could have been baked while I slogged through the material are beyond counting. A typical recorded sentence rattling through my ears would sound like; “…get the butter down to little nieces that are about ass dig assa sugar boob, before you add hotter to it Antoine it into a ‘ho. ” Victoria has not only been invaluable in sharing with us her tips for bitchin’ pie, she could easily moonlight as a translator for the deaf. Victoria, you RULE!
(If your eyes are already burning )
I tried to cut the lesson down to the essentials, but Victoria shared so many hot tips, I had to include everything. If you want to skip my mindless mumbling, the only info you need are these salient points. All jewels here were gleaned from the Bliss Den aka the kitchen at V.L.R.
A) Keep everything COLD! Cold butter, cold ice cubes, preferably cold hands…
B) …and a cold heart will work feasibly, but it’s not recommended. Cold feet are N/A.
C) One basic pie dough will be hunky-dory for both sweet and savory ingredients.
D) Simple, fresh fruits are the bomb. Use minimal sugar to enhance the fruit flavor.
E) Keep some visible whirls of butter in the dough. If you don’t then it’s time to ditch that lame-ass diet.
F) Rest the dough before you roll it out, or things will get interesting.
G) Gluten is a wiley substance and its uses vary from pie dough, to tart dough, to bread dough. For pie you gotta lure the gluten out, and then let it rest until it’s zen enough to make trouble.
H) Victoria is afraid of nothing.
I) There is no limit to what you can put in a pie. No limit!
J) Roll the dough out starting from the middle. Or else you’ll be making a 3D topographical map of Mt. Tamalpais.
K) Madison can inhale more fresh-baked pie than a Hoover vacuum cleaner.
L) Make a vent at the top of a fold over pie, or suffer the consequences.
M) Use a preheated, HOT oven! 375 or 400F, unless you have a thing for MOOSH. Open-faced pies need more baking time than fold-overs. 20 + minutes to start, go from there…
” The main thing in making a pie dough is keeping everything really cold. I measure the flour, chop the butter and put it in the mixing bowl..along with the blade and let it all stay in the freezer for a good 30 minutes. Keeping the butter cold keeps the butter from blending into the flour which allows it to melt when baking, creating a pocket layer of butter which then becomes the flakiness we look for in a pie crust. “
” Pie dough should have visible marble sized bits of butter and then you add the water. You will see streaks of butter in the finished dough. Only mix long enough to form the dough.”
– Victoria, Pastry Poobah-
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VICTORIA’S LAST RESORT PIE MAKING TRANSCRIPTION
VICTORIA: So. We have to start with pie crust, because really, how do you start pie without pie crust? The main trick, that I have learned, for pie crust, is, everything has to be cold.
MADISON: [ muttered under breath with awe ] …Cooooooold…
VICTORIA: …Now I don’t know if you have a mixer like this, but that’s how I do it.
MADISON: I have nothing. [ mutter ]
VIC: Did you have a question? You can do it by hand.
MAD: Um. Just a bad joke.
VIC: Oh. [ laughs mysteriously ]
MAD: Can you make good pie with a cold heart?
VIC: As long as you have cold hands, I think that’s good. That was a problem that I’ve always had because my hands are so hot I’ve had to work really fast. But the idea is, I use four cups of butter, no wait, four cups of flour and a pound of butter, and I cut them into small pieces and everything’s frozen solid for this part…
[ clanking noises ]
…What you’re trying to do when you do a crust like this is get the butter down to little pieces that are about as big as sugar cubes, before you add water to it and turn it into a dough.
[ stuff thrown into blender, loud whirring noises, shouting above it, most of it unintelligible ]
MAD: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE KINDS OF PIE?!
VIC: I LIKE REALLY SIMPLE, FRESH FRUIT, I DON’T LIKE TO USE A LOT OF SUGAR BECAUSE FOR ME WHEN I TASTE PIES THEY’RE USUALLY TOO SWEET, AND I THINK IT TAKES AWAY FROM THE FLAVOR OF WHAT YOU’RE PUTTING IN IT…
I USE ONE BASIC PIE DOUGH, SO YOU CAN USE IT FOR SAVORY THINGS TOO, AND IT HAS JUST A NICE TEXTURE. IF YOU WANT TO BE SWEETER YOU CAN ADD SUGAR – EITHER A 1/4 CUP AT MOST TO THE DOUGH ITSELF, OR ROLL THE SAVORY DOUGH OUT ON THE SUGAR INSTEAD OF THE FLOUR.
MAD: [ blonde moment ] SO YOU USE THE SAME DOUGH FOR SWEET AND SAVORY?
VIC: YEAH. I DO. THEN THE DOUGH ITSELF ISN’T INTERFERING WITH YOUR FILLER. PIE DOUGHS ARE A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN TART DOUGHS BECAUSE YOU WANT BIGGER CHUNKS OF BUTTER IN THEM [ in the pie dough ] …WHICH YOU CAN KIND OF SEE THERE –
[ continued whirring. MAD and VIC peer into the blender. ]
– THE MARBLING OF THE BUTTER.
MAD: [ enlightened! ] Aaaaaa! SO YOU WANT MORE AND MORE BUTTER IN PIE DOUGH.
VIC: YEAH, YOU WANT TO SEE MORE BUTTER IN THE PIE DOUGH. AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PIE DOUGH AND TART DOUGH IS, IN A PIE DOUGH, I’LL COMBINE THE BUTTER AND FLOUR AND THEN TAKE A CUP OF ICE WATER TO FINISH IT, TO BRING OUT THE GLUTEN IN THE FLOUR AND GIVE IT MORE OF AN ELASTICITY. AND FOR TART DOUGH, THE BITS OF THE BUTTER GET SMALLER TO PEA SIZE AND NO WATER IS ADDED, THE DOUGH IS FORMED WHEN YOU CAN SQUEEZE IT AN DIT HOLDS THE SHAPE. IT’S KIND OF AMAZING, ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH JUST THREE INGREDIENTS, REALLY.
[ a lot more unintelligible muttering ]
VIC: THEN, OF COURSE, FILLING! I THINK THAT THE CLOSER YOU ARE TO THE ORIGINAL PRODUCT – LIKE, IF YOU GET REALLY RIPE, REALLY GOOD FRUIT –
MAD: [ again feigning knowledge ] MMM HMM
VIC: – YOU DON’T WANT TO ADD A TON OF SUGAR, AND YOU DON’T WANT TO ADD A TON OF FLAVORING, BECAUSE THAT DETRACTS FROM YOUR PRODUCT – THAT’S MY THEORY ANYWAY…
MAD: [ based on whorfing Victoria’s pies and tarts already, hearty agreement ] YEAH! YEAH!
VIC: …AND REALLY YOU CAN PUT ANYTHING YOU WANT IN IT. THERE’S NO LIMIT TO THE FILLING PART OF IT.
MAD: [ sounds of glee ]
VIC: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART, WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE BEST?
MAD: [ excited speech! ] YOU SEE, THAT’S THE WHOLE PART OF THIS QUEST, IT’S TO TRY THEM ALL, AND THEN…AND..THEN…[ dissolves into excited mumbling ]
VIC: NOW THIS IS PROBABLY JUST ABOUT THERE…
[ the whirring stops! ]
VIC: And if you look, you can see that most of the butter is incorporated, but you can still find chunks of it in there. And they’re not huge, but you still want to have a presence of the chunks of the butter.
So then, the last thing you do- and again you’re ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS working with really COLD ingredients – …And I hardly ever measure…
MAD: Ah HA, you’re one of those ‘ non-measurers! ‘
VIC: I know! When I make a pizza dough I fill the quisinart with flour, and I use this one big glass for the water, and it’s just all eyeball…but I will measure this…
…so I use this chilled cup of water…and sometimes I put ice in it, but I had this one thing happen where the ice wasn’t fully melted and I had these little ice BLOBS in the crust.
MAD AND VIC: …Ha hahaha!
VIC: Ice blobs are NOT good!
So. Here’s the trick!
[ puts chilled water in the mixer. REALLY loud whirring, with completely unintelligible conversation interspersed. Whirring stops. ]
VIC: You just want to be able to poke it like that and have it hold together…
[ puts dough on table ]
MAD: Does the dish taste better, the bigger mess you make?
MAD: It always does for me.
VIC: I got really bad because I worked in a restaurant and they had a big ol’ cleaning crew who would come in after me so I never really thought about it. And my poor boyfriend has to clean up after me and he says, ” Do you HAVE to be so messy?!”
MAD: heh heh heh ha ha…
VIC: I don’t MEAN to be, it just HAPPENS!
The other thing about pie dough is, once you get it made, flour does this really weird thing when you work with it. It creates a gluten. And if you don’t let the dough rest, in between – like, if I tried to roll this out right now, because I’ve just been beating on it, it is so impossibly STIFF. We’ll even try it, I’ll show you what I’m talking about. It’s kind of wild, it’s like you can’t get it to MOVE, it won’t spread out. And when the dough’s rested, the gluten bonds break, and then it’ll give, and you can actually do something with it.
MAD: [ brilliant observation ] You kind of moosh them…
VIC: Yeah. Moosh. What I do is I form it into little balls, and set it aside so it can rest. You just kind of smooth it together and get all these cracks out of it, so basically you have one smooth PAD of dough like that…
[ sound of exertion ]
VIC: There you go…
You can see, as long as it’s got some marbling in it, then it’s good. And then I’ll just take it, and plastic wrap it, and I usually just check it over and get the air out of it when it’s wrapped like that.
[ industrious wrapping noises ]
VIC: Make sure all the edges are covered so there’s no air in it…
MAD: [ giggles ]
VIC: Now those will go in the fridge to chilllll…Now about 20 minutes, 30 minutes…to give it just enough time…now in the DOUGH you don’t want a lot of gluten, but in a BREAD you do.
MAD: [ singing ] La lalala la la LAAA…
VIC: And then…we can make PIES.
MAD: Heh heh heh heh!
VIC: Now for the fun part of our afternoon.
MAD: I love dough.
VIC: Dough freezes really well, that’s the beauty of it. If I make a pretty big batch of it, and in the process there’s some leftover, then I’ll have extra dough if I need a pie…because you just never know…
And now we have a hundred options we can do! If you want something sweeter for a filling there’s a caramel sauce I made last night…
VIC: You name it and we can make a pie out of it! We can do…uhhh…[ rooting around the refrigerator ] … Chocolate…there’s also some pastry cream that I made…which is just really basic. It starts with a couple cups of milk, mixed up with flour and sugar to thicken it, and then it gets egg yolk. And you can bake that in there – this is usually a tart filling, like a fruit tart where you put it on the bottom – and that’s an option too.
MAD: My gooooooosh. [ blissful pondering ] And there’s blueberries, and strawberries, and blackberries, and…why don’t we go with a fruit…a fruit something.
VIC: HEH HEH HEH HEH! You can add a little caramel sauce to it, if you like it a little sweeter – you can always sweeten up the filling, you’re not limited to –
MAD: – Let’s just do the berries.
VIC: So thennn we will wash them and slice them up! When I’ve finished with the prep for berries I sprinkle just a TINY bit of sprinkled sugar on them…
[ berries being prepped ]
MAD: So, what are you most afraid of your students doing? Breaking stuff? Setting things on fire?
VIC: [ stalwart ] I’m not afraid of anything,. I would always get cooking students when I was doing this for a living. [ more berry wrangling ]
[ washing and prep noises ]
MAD: I’m going to make you famous.
VIC: GUFFAW! I’m already infamous, I might as well be famous.
MAD: You can be both…Hey these are the same counter tops that we had growing up in our house.
VIC: You did? I wanted those and they talked me out of it! They said, ” Oh, no no we don’t DO stainless counter tops”, because they were afraid people would complain when they got all scratchy…and I love it…
MAD: These things could withstand nuclear attack!
VIC: I KNOW! It’s so stupid…nothing absorbs into it! There’s a reason they use it for surgical tables.
[ pulling out dough ]
VIC: Okay, this might be unfrozen enough to work with…So, I usually just do a little pop of flour on the bottom, a little pop on the top, so you’re not sticking to the rolling pin – which is a complete pain in the behind. [ bashing around noises ] I just edited myself from saying, ” Ass”.
VIC: Now the trick with pie dough is, you want to roll it out as even as you can…[ sounds of dough pounding ] you’ll have to do it a little hard core swishing it around for a minute, to get it to relax…let’s take a look at another batch to see what it does when it’s NOT ready…
MAD: Does it kind of flake off, or something?
VIC: No, it usually just doesn’t ROLL. You can hit it all the time –
[ sounds of MAD struggling with dough rolling ]
VIC: Try the trick – you don’t want to go back and forth, you want to push from the center, and push it like you’re going out from the center –
MAD: Mm hm…
VIC: And you’re always trying to keep maintaining some sort of evenness…Exactly. And move it around…mm hm…and come out this side…there you go…you just go, JUST keep going in a circle…and you’ll see it, it’ll sorta start –
MAD: [ unintelligible confused muttering ]
VIC: Just go and get it rolled out and you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you don’t stay with trying to keep it at the same thickness, then you end up with super thin bits, and…plus some muscle in that, Madison!
MAD: [ cracks up ] I’m annngrryyyy
[ sounds of pounding ]
VIC: There you go! Pretend you’re rolling out someone’s face…
More more more…it’s still too thick…And then, if you stop for a second, can sort of fell, it’s a little high on this side –
MAD: – Right here –
VIC: Yeah…You can almost feel it in the pin, too. You want the rolling pin to go even, like, if you put too much pressure on THIS side, then this side is going to be super thin and that’s not going to do it.
VIC: It’s not being totally cooperative, it is kind of shrinking back.
MAD: Yeah, look at that – BOING!
VIC: Yeah, that’s the thing it does when it’s not fully, fully rested. When it’s REALLY not rested, you try to push it, and push it, and push it, and it’s like, “NO!” It is VERY uncooperative.
[ industrious sounds]
MAD: Eventually do you develop a PIE CRUST SENSITIVITY?
VIC: Yes you do.
I’m gonna put..just a…[ clanging pans and muttering]…just a LITTLE bit of some sugar in the filling…it makes the natural sugars in the fruit start juicing up…
[ more clanging industrious sounds ]
…Of course you can do this into a pie shell as well. But that’s not nearly as fun.
Let’s preheat the oven. I usually start it at about 375 or 400, because you want it to be a nice, hot oven, so that everything doesn’t go MUSH.
You want to do a big fold-over pie like that, or do you want it in an open, a regular pie dish pieee…
MAD: Let’s do fold-over! Are the cooking times the same, whether it’s a thin or fold-over crust?
VIC: No, it takes a little longer in a big open pie because you have to wait for the juices to get to a certain point and the crust needs to cook.
Alllriiiight. So. The main trick is, when you’re folding the thing over and you’re doing a pie filling like this, you can pack the pie filling nice and full, but on the edges here we’re going to put a little tiny drip of water, so when we fold it over it will almost glue the crust together, so it’ll seal. Otherwise we’ll have a giant OOZING mess.
MAD: [ clanging pan sound, random exclamation ]
VIC: Another trick, if you’re doing a really wet filling, you can run some egg white – you break it up, and use a paint brush, and that creates a little barrier.
MAD: [ muttering with concentration ] Water…to the…
[ VIC and MAD drip water on 1/2 of pie dough edges, fold it over and press the seams together. Then they press a fork into the seams. ]
VIC: There you go! So. Nooooooo, sometimes I put a little bit of butter and then sugar on top, but I do think the crust needs a tiny bit of sweetness, when you use it in this way. And then, anytime you’re doing this kind of a pie, we’re going to have to do a vent on the top, so that the heat and the steam has a place to go, aside from peeling open your seams.
I usually just put a tiiiny little bit of butter…and then, a tiny bit of sugar…And then we can carve a vent…so we can, make an ‘M’…
MAD: Aww. Or it could be two ‘V’s.
VIC: This is always the tricky part. [ amazingly loud, mysterious noises ] Getting the pie off the table…
MAD: [ whispers ] This is taking all of my concentration…
VIC: THAT’S IT! We made pies!
VIC: And nooow…
The oven doesn’t work.
Okay. Off we go. I’m going to put it on ‘convention bake’ and timer it four…let’s do 23, and see what happens there.
VIC: That’s that! Not bad.
EPILOGUE: Delicious fold-over pies were devoured by a very happy Madison, Victoria, and Justin.
( Return to Victoria’s Last Resort on P of the W )