I have this friend (let’s call her T) who went to some speed dating event a while back. After the eighth guy sat down and asked her what she does for a living, she lost her patience. “That’s boring,” she told him. “We have five minutes here. I need to know whether we’re really compatible. So the real question is: cake or pie?”
It turns out that everyone has a strong opinion on this issue. When T told some friends the story about the speed dating event, the group immediately burst into raucous debate. I found myself arguing loudly for cake–the frosting! The layers! The association with celebrations! But most of my girlfriends still sided with Team Pie. So when my curried cranberry cherry pie pops were chosen to compete in SF Food Wars PIE OR DIE Part Deux this past weekend, the girls took it as further evidence that pie is superior to cake. Hmph.
I’m still not convinced that pie is the Bestest Dessert Ever, but PIE OR DIE certainly did help raise pie’s profile for me. From the silky Shaker Lemon Pie that won top marks from the judges to the boozy Top Shelf Margarita Pie that took me straight back to Mexico, the competition was chock full of creative and drool-worthy entries–and it was an honor to have our pie pops included in this field.
To answer everyone’s question… NO, I won’t be making pie again anytime soon. Hand-rolling 15 pounds of puff pastry is a serious workout–and besides, there’s cake to bake! In the meantime, though, you can make your own glorious little pies on sticks to take to summer picnics and BBQs. If you come up with your own variation, please share it in the comments.
And one last bit of housekeeping: Now that our summer pie-atus is over, our regular Hearsay schedule of tasting events and dinners has resumed. We still have space at the cocoa tasting this week, as well as a couple of seats available for our July 16 dinner if you want to snag them.
CURRIED CRANBERRY CHERRY PIE POPS
Makes 20 pops
PUFF PASTRY (adapted from the Grand Central Baking Book)
3 cups (about 15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces, or 3 sticks) European-style unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup very cold water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 Tablespoons vodka
1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 12-ounce pack of frozen cranberries
3 cups fresh Bing cherries, pitted and quartered* (ours were from James Paoletti Farms)
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons gellan powder or 4 teaspoons agar powder**
* You can change up the fruit based on what’s in season. This recipe is also great with apples or pears in the fall, peaches and plums in the summer, and any kind of berry.
**Gellan powder and agar powder are taste-free thickeners that help keep the filling together inside the pie pops and prevent them from leaking liquid once the pops cool to room temperature. You don’t have to use them, but they definitely improve the consistency of the finished product and keep the pastry from getting soggy–always a good thing if you plan to take your pops to an outdoor event. Both are available at Chef Rubber. If you live in San Francisco, Rainbow Grocery has powdered agar.
Make the puff pastry
The two keys to making really great pastry are 1) keeping your ingredients and equipment SUPER cold, and 2) not handling the dough any more than you absolutely have to. What does this mean for you? Basically, your dough will spend a ton of time chilling in the fridge. So do yourself a favor and start making the puff pastry at least a day ahead of when you want to assemble and bake the pie pops.
Step 1: Chill everything. Measure out the flour and salt, then put it into your mixer bowl and put that (as well as the paddle attachment) into the freezer. Cut your butter into 1/2-inch chunks, then put them all in a pie pan and put that in the freezer too for about 30 minutes. Combine the water, lemon juice, and vodka and chill in the fridge.
Step 2: Mix. When everything is nice and cold (but the butter isn’t frozen completely solid), stir your butter chunks into the flour/salt mixture. Using the stand mixer with the chilled paddle attachment, cut the butter into the flour on low speed for about 90 seconds. Then, with the mixer still on the lowest speed, begin pouring the cold water/lemon juice/vodka mixture in slowly until it’s completely incorporated. The dough should be rough and shaggy at this point, but starting to come together.
Step 3: Shape. Put a long sheet of plastic wrap on your counter, then start piling handfuls of the rough dough on it. There will still be chunks of butter and loose flour at this point. Build a rectangle of dough about an inch tall. Pack down the dough with the flat part of your palm, not your fingertips. When your rectangle is roughly adhered, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Step 4: Roll. Take the dough out and roll it into a layer about 1/3 of an inch thick. It’s important to keep the rectangular shape and also to roll in only one direction (the idea is that you’re developing long, flat horizontal layers of butter that will melt and steam apart the pastry layers during baking). Work quickly and try not to touch the dough too much–you want it to stay cold. When you’re done rolling, fold the dough into thirds like you’re folding a letter to put inside an envelope. Re-wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge to chill. You can let it chill up to 24 hours before the next rolling step. HINT: This is a good time to go make the pie filling.
Step 5: Repeat step 4. But instead of folding the dough into thirds again, roll it out so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. The dough is now ready to use for pie pops!
Make the filling
Heat the cranberry juice concentrate and the sugar in a large saucepan over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and cherries and cook until the cranberries begin to burst. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool the mixture to room temperature before using it in the pie pops.
Assemble the pie pops
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a shallow baking tray with a Silpat.
A couple of key tools will make your life easier when assembling the pops:
- A rotary pizza cutter for cutting the puff pastry
- A pastry brush for brushing water or egg white onto the edge of the pastry, which will help it seal when you press the edges closed
- A fork for crimping the edges of the pops
- A flat spatula for moving the assembled pops from the work surface to the baking sheet
You’ll also need lollipop sticks. I buy mine on the Internets.
Cut your puff pastry into 4″ squares. In the center of each square, measure out 1-2 teaspoons of filling. Place a lollipop stick diagonally into the center of each square, with the stick coming out over one of the corners. Brush two of the pastry edges with water or beaten egg white, then fold the pastry over so it forms a triangle shape. Crimp the edges together with the fork. Transfer the pops to the prepared baking tray using a flat spatula. Bake for 31-33 minutes (depending on how browned you like your pastry), then cool on a wire rack.