Last weekend’s baking experiment involved a couple of new things: a cream cheese crust and a roasted grape fruit filling. Neither of these things had ever been attempted in our kitchen. We were excited – and a little apprehensive.
Luckily, we had the Pie and Pastry Bible to consult for the cream cheese pie crust. Rose Levy Beranbaum is our hero. She writes in her book that this recipe is her go-to pie crust, and after trying it for ourselves we can see why. It’s marvelously easy to work with and yields a tender, flaky and flavorful crust that exudes the most wonderful smells from your oven (it made our kitchen smell like a bakery). If you’ve never made a pie crust before, this is the recipe to try. Everyone will think you’ve been making pie for years.
See? In Rose Levy Beranbaum we trust.
As for the roasted green grape filling (we were inspired by this recipe), it took a little more effort to figure out (we had never even cooked grapes before). But when it came together, we wondered why it isn’t done more often. They yield a very fruity filling, and one that is similar to a cherry or blueberry pie in texture. There’s no peeling or pitting involved. Precooking is easy but particularly important in this case, as it is one of the juiciest fillings you’ll ever work with. You won’t have to worry about shrinking and you can control how much of the juice you will add back to the fruit. We have to make sure there are no soggy bottoms, after all.
We consider this pie experiment a success and would be more than happy to make it again in the future.
For the cream cheese crust:
6oz/170g unsalted butter
4.5oz/128g cream cheese
10oz/284g/2 cups + 3 tablespoons 2 cups
2 tbsp ice water
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
For the fruit filling:
6-7 cups seedless green grapes
1 1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground anise seed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Make your crust. Place a medium mixing bowl in the freezer to chill. Cut the butter into small cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
Place flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cream cheese and rub the mixture between your fingers to blend the cream cheese into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Spoon the mixture, together with the cold butter, into a resealable gallon-size freezer bag. Expel any air from the bag and close it. Use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into thin flakes. Place the bag in the freezer for at least 10 minutes or until the butter is firm again.
Transfer the mixture to the chilled bowl. Scrape sides of the bag. Set aside. Sprinkle the mixture with the water and vinegar, tossing lightly with a rubber spatula. Divide mixture in half. Spoon it into two separate plastic bags.
Hold both ends of the bag opening with your fingers. Knead mixture. Press alternately from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
Wrap the dough with plastic wrap. Flatten into discs and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
Make your roasted grape filling. Preheat oven to 400ºF/204ºC. Combine grapes, olive oil, sugar, flour and spices in a roasting pan. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture has become syrupy and the grapes have softened. Chill for at least an hour.
Assemble your pie. Preheat oven to 482ºF/250ºC. Roll out the dough for the bottom crust and place in a well-greased and floured 10-inch pie pan. Fill with fruit filling. Roll out the dough for top crust and place over your filling. Press down and all around to seal. Trim and crimp. Brush egg wash and sprinkle a little sugar on top and on side crusts. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 400ºF/204ºC and bake for another 45-50 minutes. Cool.
Have a slice. Enjoy every fruit-filled bite.