Sunday, May 20, 2012

Not by Bread Alone: A Little History About Pie

Historically, around the early 1500s, it is thought the first pies on the European continent, were called "coffins" or "coffyns". They were savory meat pies with tall crusts which were sealed on the top and bottom. Open crust pies were called "traps". These pies held assorted meats and sauces and were baked like a modern casserole with no pan.

The origins of pie can actually be traced to the ancient Egyptians, who incorporated nuts, honey and fruits into bread dough. However, according to most food historians, pie pastry actually originated with the Greeks. At that time they were made of a flour and water paste which was wrapped around meat to seal in the juices. The Romans took home Greek recipes and developed their own pies, cakes and cake-like puddings. The pie craze then spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, every country adapting them to their own customs and foods. English women were baking pies long before the settlers came to America, but by the 1700s American pioneer women often served pies with every meal.

Samuel Clemens, who used the pseudonym Mark Twain, loved pie and often ate Huckleberry pie baked by his life-long housekeeper, Katy Leary. After a trip to Europe, where he developed a strong dislike for European food, he complained that " has been many months...since I have had a nourishing meal..." He ironically devised a recipe for "English Pie". His tongue-in-cheek recipe, hinting at the awfulness if these pies, follows:

"...Take a sufficiency of water and flour and construct a bullet-proof dough. Work this into the form of a disk, with edges turned up some three fourths of an inch. Toughen and kiln-dry for a couple days in a mild but unvarying temperature. Construct a cover for this "formidable creation", in the same way and of the same material. Filled with stewed dried apples. Aggravate with cloves, lemon peel and citron, and add two portions of New Orleans sugar. Then solder on the lid and sit in a safe place until it petrifies. Serve cold at breakfast and invite you enemies."  (Mark Twain)

Traditional Kentucky Pie

Many of the pies that became associated with Kentucky, came from the Shakers of the Amish in Indiana. Two very popular ones are the Sugar Cream Pie and the Shaker Lemon Pie. A  third is Vinegar Pie.

The Sugar Cream Pie was a simple, basic, "desperation" pie made with ingredients that were always nearby or on-hand at the farm. When making this pie "finger-stirring" in the unbaked crust was necessary, so as not to whip the cream before baking.

Only three ingredients go into Shaker Lemon Pie : lemon slices (peel and all), sugar, and eggs. The filling is more like marmalade. Where did the Shakers get the lemons? It is said that they traveled in boats to New Orleans to sell their wares and returned with cash and lemons.

This is a very tart lemon pie which uses whole lemons, rind and all, inside the pie. They are first sliced very thin, then macerated overnight, four lemons to two cups of sugar. The key to this pie is slicing the lemons very thin.

When lemons were not in season, pioneer women baked pies with vinegar, which substituted for lemon juice. They were custardy and still had a fruit-like flavor from the vinegar. Vinegar Pie remained popular in regency England, throughout the nineteenth century, even after English settlers brought it to America.

Sugar Cream Pie
Vinegar Pie
Shaker lemon Pie



Sugar Cream Pie
pastry for one 9-inch pie crust
3/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
whole nutmeg
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees and prepare the pie pastry. Place sugar and flour in the unbaked pie shell. Add whipping cream and mix well, using you fingers to slowly mix the liquid ingredients. Add vanilla and continue stirring. Grate nutmeg over the top. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking, approximately one hour. Do not over bake. Remove from oven. The pie will appear runny, but sets when it cools. If the pie doesn't set, get out some spoons and enjoy it anyhow

Vinegar Pie:
1 nine-inch pastry crust
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cider vinegar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or large mixing bowl, mix together eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Bake about 50 minutes until firm. Let cool. Top with whipped cream.

Shaker Lemon Pie (late 18th c.)
2 nine inch pastry crusts
2 medium sized lemons
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
Slice two lemons paper thin.Take out seeds and macerate the slices in two cups of sugar overnight. Stir the mixture now and then so that the sugar dissolves into a fragrant syrup. The next day, prepare pastry for a nine inch two crust pie. Beat four eggs well, then mix them with the syrup and lemon slices. Pour the mix into the bottom crust and cover with the top crust. Bake at 450 degrees for fifteen minutes, then reduce heat to 375. Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until knife inserted into pie comes out clean.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby 2012: How the Innkeeper sees far

      This year's Kentucky Derby festival started with a bang as always. Thunder Over Louisville started off the festivities a couple of weeks ago. If you like outdoor activities like marathons, balloon races, river boat races, and parades, you would be right in your element here in the "ville" as many locals refer to it, during this time.

    At the Inn, we have had a flurry of activities: guests coming and going from all over the country, new recipes being tried out, and the  redressing of some of our rooms. It's been a while since I had some of my antique pieces recovered. But I went ahead and redid two wing-back chairs and a lounge chair and ottoman, in our second floor suite.

     In august, we booked three rooms for the Derby. I decided that was enough because, after 17 Kentucky Derby celebrations, I knew how work intensive it would be. But, honestly, this year seemed easier and more relaxed than in the past. John, my regular assistant was there to help me and Chandra who has worked for me on and off for the past three years came in to give some extra assistance.

     We have changed our activities at our Inn over the years. Originally, we put on a Bar-B-Q for my guests on Thursday evening when they arrived. (I always have between six and ten guests.) But after years of dodging the rain on Thursdays, we switched to an indoor Cocktail Party. We also do a Champagne brunch on Derby morning, with Mimosas and a beautiful buffet.

     We really go all out at the both events, but the Cocktail Party is special. We serve: Brie wrapped in Puff Pastry or Filo. We used Filo this year and it was delicious. In fact, I still have a little in the frig that I secretly stowed away to eat tomorrow. I love it! We also served Curried Meatballs in an awesome sauce, Artichoke Dip, fresh Marinated Mozzarella, Boursin cheese dip with Tuscan Toast and crudites, fresh shrimp, and Derby Pie. Yum.Everything was made from scratch, except the Derby pie and shrimp. And, of course, we serve Mint Juleps. The guests loved everything. And so did the help (me, John, and Chandra.

 Brie Wrapped in Phyllo with Brown Sugar and Pecans

Phyllo wrapped Brie

1 round of Brie (6 or 8 inch)
Brown sugar
Whole pecans
I package Phyllo dough sheets (most super markets carry this)

Take top off of chilled brie cheese. Sprinkle evenly with nuts and brown sugar. Place in 350 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes, until sugar is melted and Phyllo is brown. Serve with small chunks of French bread, toasted bread, or crackers. Garnish with red and green grapes.

Phyllo-Wrapped Brie with Caramelized Onions

1 tablespoon margarine or butter
4 medium onions, cut into thin wedges (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (filberts) or walnuts
8 sheets (17x12 inches) frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
2 4 1/2 ounces rounds Brie or camembert cheese
1/4 cup apricot spreadable fruit
Baguette-style French bread slices, pear and/or apple wedges, or assorted crackers

1. Melt the 1 tablespoon margarine or butter in a large saucepan. Add onion. Cover and cook over medium-low heat about 15 minutes or until onion is tender and golden, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle sugar over onion. Cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes more or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in hazelnuts or walnuts. Cool.
2. Work with one sheet of phyllo at a time, keeping remaining sheets covered with plastic wrap until needed. Lightly brush one sheet of phyllo dough with some of the 1/4 cup melted margarine or butter. Place another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first sheet, and brush with margarine or butter. Repeat with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing with margarine or butter. Cut a 12-inch circle from the stack; discard trimmings.
3. Slice one round of Brie or camembert in half horizontally. Place bottom half in center of phyllo stack. Spread with 1 tablespoon of the apricot spreadable fruit; top with one-fourth of the caramelized onion-hazelnut mixture. Top with other half of Brie, 1 tablespoon spreadable fruit, and another one-fourth of onion-hazelnut mixture. Wrap phyllo up and over filling, pleating phyllo as needed to cover and slightly twisting phyllo on top. Brush phyllo with margarine or butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo, margarine, Brie, spreadable fruit, and onion-hazelnut mixture.
4. Place one wrapped Brie round in an 8x8x2-inch baking pan or two rounds in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Cover and chill up to 24 hours. Bake in a 400 degree F oven about 20 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with bread, fruit wedges, or crackers. Makes 12 servings.


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