When things don’t turn out as perfect as pie.

Last week, I was so inspired by the Thai cooking class with my fellow foodies at ICCA , that I baked a ‘Thai chicken pot pie’: a lemongrass and kaffir lime-infused chicken and vegetable broth, ladled into a homebaked pie crust, topped with a layer of toasted chilly and coconut, and then sealed with a second pie crust to let the chicken bake in its own juices. Sound good? Sure, it was…but getting the pie crust right was a royal pain.

I’m not sure what inspired me to try my hand at pâte brisée, or pie crust, for the first time. Maybe I was intrigued by the fancy sounding French name. Yep, that was probably it…who wouldn’t love to strut around saying that they’d baked zee purkfet pâte brisée.

The result – a total smack in my face from all those high-flying pie aspirations and arrogant attempts at flounting my French vocab. Despite being spoonfed through the step-by-step process of making an impeccable pie crust, courtesy Kevin on his absolutely drool-worthy blog, Closet Cooking, my pâte brisée took on the form of a pastry chef’s worst nightmare. The crust was overly buttery and wet and impossible to roll out, leaving me to resort to all sorts of desperate tactics like sandwiching the dough between grease sheets so that I could roll it out, or leaving one of the grease sheets plastered to the underside of the pie as the dough would refuse to peel off the sheet in any form but sticky mush.

I finally managed to assemble everything to a point where it could be slid into the oven whole without crumbling into a heap at the touch of my oven mitt. The thought of having to wait for the pot pie to bake up worked me into a such a frenzy that I actively had to distract myself away from the oven, forcing myself to stop flicking the oven light on and off repeatedly to check the browning of the pie crust. Fifteen minutes later, just as I started doing my victory dance routine upto the oven door, armed with my mitts and mentally dribbling over the thought of hot bubbling pot pie, I was horrified to find my pie crust singed an ugly black all around the edges. (Mom took one look at it and cautioned me to twist foil around the pie edges while baking, so that they don’t overcook and char the way mine just had. Love those after-the-fact snippets of advice that moms are so skilled at doling out, just when you’re suffering through the agony of finding that your conscientiously rolled pie crust looks like the unfortunate victim of a fireplace disaster.)

That said, despite all my dough making, rolling and baking mishaps, there’s only so wrong you can go anything that calls for as much as a cupful of glorious butter (mind you, pâte brisée calls for half a cup of butter in a 9 inch crust, and I used two such crusts for the top and bottom layers of my pot pie). Everyone on the lunch table quickly forgot the cruel burn marks on my pot pie creation as soon as they each forked up a piece – warm and crumbly crust on the outside, with steaming hot, spicy and wonderfully aromatic Thai chicken broth on the inside.

Even though the pie did turn out spectacularly edible by the end of my pie-making ordeal, I’m still not satisfied. Consider this attempt at learning how to make pâte brisée as far from over – there will be many more charred, cracked and imploded pies to come, and here’s wishing me all the luck, and butter, I need to succeed.

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

5 thoughts on “When things don’t turn out as perfect as pie.

  1. Saleem says:

    Pie was not that bad – chicken filling was tasty – could live with the crust to eat the chicken.

    1. iliveinafryingpan says:

      aw thanks for the vote of confidence dad! :)

  2. Karishma Sundaram says:

    The filling sounds divine, and I totally sympathise with the pie crust troubles. What works for me, is refridgerating the dough (wrapped in cling-film) for at least an hour. Then I just roll the dough out between two sheets of cling-film and voila! no problems.

    Bonne chance with your next pate brisee! :-)

  3. Sally says:

    I agree that pastry is a disheartening challenge – especially in Dubai as even with the A/c at Artic levels it can be too warm in the kitchen when you’ve got the oven warming up too. I make sure that everything is super cold first. Flour and even mixing bowl goes in the fridge. Add only enough water so it just comes together. Pate brisee due to the high butter content is really difficult to roll out. I find I usually end up putting a few pieces together (no-one sees the joins). When you bake it blind make sure the paper goes over the edges and fill generously with rice, beans, chickpeas, pasta or whatever else you use. Make enough pastry for your size of tin as well – the edges with burn more easily if they are thin. The foil thing from Mum is a good idea but really fiddly. Let me know what works for you next time. I feel I am on a life long lesson to make decent pastry!!

    1. iliveinafryingpan says:

      Oh wow, thanks for all the great info Sally, this is super helpful!! Hadn’t ever thought to put the flour and mixing bowl in the fridge, so will totally do that along with all the other tips you’ve shared.

      Keeping the insights coming my way, I sure need them! Thanks a ton!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *