Thursday, May 9, 2013

Batching to perfect your pie recipes

With summer coming up, it's time to perfect that peach, apple or other favorite pie recipe. But how can you possibly try out all the variations you want to—and most importantly, get rid of all of those pies without gaining too much weight?

The answer is two-fold: mini-pies and batching. We’ve already talked about adapting a pie recipe to a miniature pie pan. You can go as small as muffin tins for your mini pies. I’m told a 9″ pie recipe will fill 12 regular muffin cups (but I think the sample size might be a bit too small to tell what tastes best to you). I used my 5″ mini pie plates to batch the chess, buttermilk chesstransparent and vinegar pies.

In this case, batching your pies means starting with a set base of the individual recipes’ common ingredients—such as your basic apple mixture—dividing that base into several dishes and mixing in the different ingredients.

I went about it an analytic way: I set up a spreadsheet and listed the ingredients and amounts for the four recipes I wanted to try out. Then I highlighted the ingredient amounts that were the same or nearly so. I took that amount and multiplied it by 3/4 to get the amount for four 5″ mini pies. That became my base (highlighted in yellow below).



After that, I added the extra columns between the recipes to multiply the non-common ingredients by 3/16, the adjustment for one individual pan.

In this case, the base was 1 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar, 2.25 eggs (or 2 eggs + 1 Tbsp beaten egg), and 3/4 tsp vanilla. Since eggs are roughly 1/4 cup in volume, I figured the total volume of my base was 1 1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp = 27 Tbsp. Dividing that up for four pies yields a little less than 7 Tbsp (8 Tbsp = 1/2 c).

Since this base isn’t complete, we don’t want to pour the plain base right into our prebaked pie crust! No, first we pour the individual mini pie amount of base into a bowl. Then for each pie we mix in the non-common ingredients. Then pour the pie into the crust and bake.

As you’re mixing, pouring, baking and tasting, it’s vital to keep your pies straight. For me, a dry erase marker was invaluable. I used my cooktop as an operations base and labeled each burner with a letter for the pie as I was mixing. Then I labeled the oven door and put the pies in the oven matching their labels. When they were done, they went back on their still-labeled burners.

I even photographed the pies with the letters visible so I could identify them later: I took a picture of the pie on the burner with the letter in the background, then sliced the pie (photo), took out a piece (photo) and sampled it (photo). If you’re good, you’ll take notes (I learned this eventually). And soon you’ll be able to narrow down your favorites and taste them head to head.

Batching pies is a little bit of work—and sometimes more than a little bit of math!—but to find the perfect pie, it’s a step you won’t want to skip!

Don’t forget to check out my mini-pie article for more tips!

Have you ever used batching to perfect a recipe?

1 comment :

Juliet said...

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Juliet
www.apurplesky.blogspot.com

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