Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée

Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée
Fast Forward: This. is. the. best. pie. I've. ever. made. in. my. life. 

Got it? Okay... now rewind. 

I have loved cooking since I was a kid. Granted, I wasn't always good at it, but I loved holiday meals and baking with friends, and I knew that if I kept working on it that I would eventually pick up the skill. However, through each year, there was one recipe that I could NOT make. I'm still not sure why or how or what was going on in the world, but I was sure of it that this simple pie would be the death of me. Ironically, my blog revolves around the idea of hand-making each component in a dish (almost to an obsessive manner) and also making classic comfort food recipes with a gourmet or playful twist. So, you would think that a pie with originally FIVE ingredients (yeah, just that little) would be something I could make in my sleep. Nope, definitely not. Every year at Thanksgiving or Christmas, my family's buttermilk pie was on the checklist of stuff to make. I just wasn't the person to make it because it was too important to be messed up. Yet, I could make 3 side dishes, 2 other pies, and help with the turkey. So, to say that this was on my bucket list to eventually conquer, is an understatement. Have y'all ever had a buttermilk pie? Well, if you haven't, you are truly missing out because it is just divine. It has the texture of a perfectly silky custard, but with the delightful tang from the buttermilk. Trust me on this, you need to make one. The other day, I got an itchin' for this classic Southern pie, so much so, that I decided it was time to own this recipe, once and for all. The task was daunting and the future was dark + gloomy, but I had faith. I started out by making my go to all-butter pie crust that is scented with vanilla beans. Then, all of a sudden, while knee deep in butter and covered in flour, a light bulb went off... I should make this pie into a Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie. Why had I never thought of this before? I mean, it has the same sultry texture as a Crème Brûlée and it would be perfect with a torched sugar topping. So, with this new idea, I went immediately to tweaking my mother's recipe. With the addition of vanilla bean to the filling, I happened to lose some of the tang from the buttermilk that is crucial in really calling this a buttermilk pie. As a solution, I sifted some buttermilk powder in with the flour to get back some of that tang without messing up the texture. Also, I felt like the pie needed just the slightest bit of salt to balance between the filling and soon-to-be sugar topping. Now, here is where I always messed up, incorrectly baking the pie. From year to year, it was split between being under baked and over baked. It is crucial that you watch the pie in the oven because it can go from jiggly to a curdled mess. And people, we do not want that. We want a creamy custard that is heavenly smooth, yet firm enough to be sliced easily. This depends heavily on your oven at home because my oven is a lot weaker in heat compared to the oven at home. For instance, my mom bakes this pie for about 30-45 minutes, where my pie required almost an hour of cook time. So, I suggest that you set oven timer to smaller baking intervals and check it regularly throughout the process. That way, you can ensure that it will not over bake. Buttermilk pie needs to be firm all around the edges and have the slightest, tiniest jiggle in the center. Once you get there, take it out of the oven, place it on a cooling rack, and cool completely to room temperature. Afterwards, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to make sure it is quite cold before you start torching the top. Now, the fun part. If y'all don't have a kitchen torch... get one. They are so much fun and well, they are a necessity to pull off this pie. You also have one last decision to make, you can either sprinkle sugar all over the pie and caramelize it, then cut into it. Or you can cut it into slices and do everything when serving it to people. We personally like the idea of doing each individual slice because the presentation is much prettier AND every person gets the euphoric joy of personally cracking that caramelized crust. That's honestly the reason why we all love Crème Brûlée to begin with, right? Okay, so y'all have all heard my spiel about this pie. Y'all know from the beginning, that this was the best pie I have ever made. No doubt about it. So, I hope that is enough to get some people to take a crack at this recipe because it is totally worth every bite!! Enjoy :)

I mean, how delish does this all look?

For the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée:
3 ¾C AP Flour (plus extra for rolling)
3 Sticks of butter, Cut into ½inch Cubes & Chilled
1 ½t Salt
1T + 1 ½t Sugar
12-18T Ice Water, Very Cold
3 Vanilla Beans, Sliced & Scraped for Beans

For the Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie:
2T AP Flour + 2T Buttermilk Powder, Sifted
1 ½C Sugar
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
3 Eggs
½C Buttermilk
¼t Salt (or to taste)
1-2 Vanilla Bean, Split & Scraped for Seeds (we used two vanilla beans)
Turbinado Sugar, For Caramelizing the Top of the Pie

1. To Make the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée: Start by cutting the sticks of butter into ½inch cubes and placing in the freezer bag, along with the flour, salt, and sugar. Place the bag of flour into the freezer and chill for at least 1-2 hours. In a food processor, pour the frozen flour bag in, as well as the scraped vanilla beans, and pulse 6-8 times until the mixture resembles a course meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1T at a time, pulsing until the mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch of some of the crumbly dough and it holds together then it’s ready. Remove the dough from the machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully split the dough into three equal pieces and shape into discs (save the other two rounds of pie dough in plastic wrap and freeze them for a rainy day). Do not over knead the dough. You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. Sprinkle the discs with a little flour on all sides and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. Remove one of the discs from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12inch circle (1/8inch thick). Place the rolled out disc on to a pie dish, lining up the fold with the center of the pan, trimming the excess and crimping the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. 
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the prepared pie dish onto a baking sheet.
3. For the Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sifted flour and buttermilk powder, sugar, and butter until combined. Add in one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly until each one is incorporated before adding the next. Next, whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla beans seeds, and a pinch of salt. I find that an immersion blender can help make this pie filling a smoother and creamier texture. I have also made this pie filling in a standing mixer by first beating together the butter and sugar, and then adding in the sifted flour and buttermilk powder, along with the vanilla bean seeds. The mixture was beat on high speed to break up any clumps and to distribute the vanilla bean evenly. I then reduced the speed to low and beat in one egg at a time, making sure that each one was fully incorporated before adding the next. After the eggs have been mixed in, I slowly poured the buttermilk in a steady stream until the batter was creamy and smooth. Season with a pinch or two of salt until it has reached your desired taste. Once it is thoroughly blended, pour the filling into the frozen piecrust.
4. Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and then reduce the oven to 325 degrees and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour or until just slightly firm in the middle, but still has the slightest jiggle (do not over bake the pie, but make sure it is cooked enough to firm up when it cools).
5. Once the pie is done baking, place the pie dish onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely to room temperature, and then place into the refrigerator until it’s completely chilled, roughly 4 hours.
6. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the buttermilk pie evenly with some sugar, and then using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar to form a crispy top (being careful not to burn it). Allow the Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. However, you could also slice the pieces of pie, sprinkle on the sugar, and torch each slice before serving (this is our favorite option because it is easier to cut and prettier in presentation).
7. Use your fork to crack up the sugar topping and enjoy!

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