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Unlocking the pie mystique

Lion House cookbook, DVD offer some tricks of the baking trade

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 16 2010 5:59 p.m. MST

As a teenager, Brenda Hopkin could make cookies, cakes and candies, "But pies were difficult for me. They always made a mess of your whole kitchen, and you didn't know if they were going to turn out and be successful."

But that was before she became a pastry chef at the Lion House, where more than 35,000 pies are made each year.

"Once I used the Lion House pie dough, things worked out," said Hopkin, who has been at the Lion House for 20 years, and head baker for 10 years.

Hopkin is sharing the recipe for that dough, as well as the many flavors and fillings, in a new book, "Lion House Pies."

The Lion House, named for the reclining stone lion perched above the porch, was once the home of Brigham Young. Owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ground level is now the Pantry, where hot lunches are served cafeteria-style to the public. The Lion House also supplies baked goods for other Temple Square Hospitality restaurants and catered events.

Although some of these recipes have been shared in previous popular cookbooks, such as "Lion House Classics" and "Lion House Bakery," Hopkin said some of the books have gone out of print. "So we decided to pull the recipes from our books that people can't get any more."

This book also comes in a smaller, spiral-bound format, so the opened book lies flat and is easier to use in the kitchen.

A highlight of the cookbook is the DVD of Hopkin showing all the tricks of the trade: mixing, rolling, fitting, filling and fluting. Because even with a good recipe, pie-making is all about technique. It's a lot easier to try when you can see how it's done.

"There's such a mystique about pies, and really, it's like anything you do, if you practice it a little bit, it gets easier," she said.

She's not sure who originated the Lion House dough recipe; it was already in use when she started working there 20 years ago. It calls for four kinds of fat — lard, butter, shortening and margarine.

"It takes the properties of all four to make a really good pie crust," Hopkin said.

"The lard is what makes it flaky and easy to work with. The dough is soft and pliable, and it's easy to work into a pan and easy to re-roll. It doesn't crack and fall apart."

It also calls for a little bit of baking powder, which gives the dough "a little lift and makes it more flaky," said Hopkin.

On the DVD, Hopkin answers questions that often plague pie-makers.

For instance, how do you get the rolled-out dough into the pan without any wrinkles or tears? (Gently fold it over your arm to transfer.)

How do you weave a lattice top without getting filling all over it? (Weave the strips on a sheet of parchment paper, and then transfer it on top of the pie.)

How do you get a top and bottom crust to seal together? (Brush milk or water on the edges before sealing.)

Although many people recommend using a pastry blender or an electric mixer to mix the fat into the flour, she prefers using her fingers, telling the DVD viewers, "There's something calming and soothing about it."

Although pie-making is still a messy business, Hopkin advises people to make four to eight pies at a time, bake, and then freeze them in gallon freezer bags

When pies are frozen, stack them on top of each other in the freezer. You'll only have one mess to clean up, and you'll have pies ready for future use. When you're in the mood for pie, set your pre-baked frozen pie in the oven at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, to let it thaw, heat the interior and crisp the crust.

LION HOUSE PIE DOUGH

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup lard

1/4 cup margarine

1/3 cup shortening

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk

1½ cups pastry flour

1½ cups bread flour

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixer, cream together butter, lard, margarine and shortening. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, baking powder, salt and dry milk powder; add to creamed butter mixture and mix briefly. Add pastry flour and beat until blended. Add bread flour and mix slightly. Pour in water and beat again just until water is blended.

Divide dough into two or three balls. Roll out each ball on a floured board. Line pie pan with dough and cut off excess dough. Flute edges.

For recipes that call for baked pie crusts, prick holes in bottom with fork. Bake empty pie shell at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Otherwise, fill unbaked pie shell and bake according to recipe. Makes two to three 9-inch pie shells.

Note: You may substitute 3 cups all-purpose flour for the pastry and bread flour called for in the recipe. Additionally, this dough may also be made by hand-cutting the fats into the dry ingredients.

— "Lion House Pies"

BUTTER MILK PIE CRUST

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

¼ cup margarine or butter

½ cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon oil

Place flour and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a fork. Add shortening and margarine, and cut together with a pastry blender, fingers,or two knives, until mixture resembles the size of small peas.

Add buttermilk and oil and blend together with a fork or your hands until all the flour is moist.

This will make three or four crusts, depending on how thick your like your crust. If the recipe calls for a baked pie shell, bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Note: This is a very tender dough. The scraps of dough left after making your first pie may be added back into the rest of the dough. This recipe can also be doubled with good success.

— "Lion House Pies"

CARAMEL APPLE PIE

Pastry for 9-inch double crust pie

Filling:

¾ cup granulated sugar, plus additional for dusting top crust

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus additional for dusting top crust

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cream

Caramel Sauce:

¼ cup butter

1 ½ cups brown sugar

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

For filling: In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, kosher salt and nutmeg.

Toss in apples and stir in vanilla. Set aside. Stir the apple mixture every 15-30 minutes while making the crust.

Once pastry dough is prepared, roll out pastry for bottom crust 3 inches larger than the pie pan. Ease pastry into pan and cut away so only ½ inch is overlapping the edge of the pie pan. Pour apple filling into prepared crust. Dot the butter over the apples. Brush cream around edges of pie crust.

Roll out pastry for top crust, fold in half and cut three ½-inch slits through both layers of crust. Unfold crust and place over the apples. Trim away extra crust, leaving 1 inch overlapping. Crimp edges of pie. Brush cream over top and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over top.

Cover the edges of the pie with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes, removing the foil from edges after 30 minutes and covering the whole pie with foil for the last 20 minutes. Pie should be light brown. Cool on a rack for 1 hour. Makes 1 pie. While pie is baking, make Caramel Sauce.

For caramel sauce: In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, melt butter on high heat. Add brown sugar, heavy cream and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to medium until sauce thickens slightly, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Drizzle over warm pie.

— "Lion House Pies"

PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE PIE

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for garnish

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground ginger

2 eggs

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup pecan halves, for garnish

Whipped cream, for garnish

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, salt and spices until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. During last 15 minutes of baking, place pecan halves around edges for garnish.

Cool on a wire rack and then chill in the refrigerator 3-4 hours. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. Makes 1 pie.

—"Lion House Pies"

CRANBERRY PECAN PIE

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons dark corn syrup

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted

1 ½ cups cranberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs, then add sugar and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add salt, corn syrup, vanilla and butter. Mix well.

Place cranberries in bottom of an unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Sprinkle pecans on top of cranberries. Slowly pour filling evenly on top of pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until filling is set. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Makes 1 pie.

Note: Be sure to bake in a 9-inch pie shell; an 8-inch shell will overflow.

—"Lion House Pies"

e-mail: vphillips@desnews.com

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