Butter. I need butter. A lot of butter. And a five-pound bag of flour, and another big bag of sugar. Yep, it's almost time for the fabulous Brooklyn Pie Social (Sat., 9/17, 12-4pm) and soupy heat wave or no, it will soon be necessary to brave my AC-less kitchen and get baking. That is, if the nice folks from Keyspan ever show up to reconnect the gas on my stove, which was cut off yesterday for reasons unbeknownst to me.
This weather, though. Are you a tad anxious about the fate of your pies? Showers are predicted for Saturday, which is a bummer, given how utterly autumn-y and gorgeous the day was last year. Granted, we're not having hurricanes, and there is a raindate--Sunday Sept. 18th, instead of Sat. But be that as it may, I'm still pressing the gingham and rolling the dough.
It being the moment for Italian prune plums--those narrow, oblong purple fruits with sticky yellow flesh, on the boring side to eat raw but deliciously tangy-sweet when baked--I'm planning a plum tart redux. I don't really have a recipe for this one; plums and sugar are really all you need, although I might get a little fancy and put down a thin sandy layer of pulverized pistachios, lemon rind, nutmeg and cinnamon--a strange but alluring blend that B. bequeathed to me in a large bag, after having invented it and eaten himself silly on it mixed with honey and spread over toasted pita breads. There's also the "fairy dust" mix from an old Chez Panisse apricot galette recipe, which mixed ground almonds, amaretti, flour and sugar--always a good thing. I usually swear by the pie-crust and tart-shell recipes in David Lebovitz's Room for Dessert, but after a trip to the library yesterday, I've got Maury Rubin's uber-chic Book of Tarts from City Bakery, with what the ever-dogmatic Jeffrey Steingarten insists is the perfect tart crust recipe. Rich, though--damn. 13 TB butter to a mere 1 1/2 cups flour, plus powdered sugar and an egg yolk. This sounds like a seriously short (and thus crumbly) dough, and may not work in a big tart (this may be the reason all Rubin's recipes are for making individual small-sized tarts). Hmmm.
Once I was in the pie section, of course, I had to come home with Tamasin Day-Lewis's sexy Art of the Tart, which pours a couple of eggs and a cup and a quarter of cream into almost every recipe. The way she writes, though, you can imagine all her tasty Irish-brogued friends (including, of course, her bro Daniel) coming up behind you and licking the crumbs--and the cream--right off your fingers as you whisk.
But what about the other pie? Well, much as I like to be all seasonal and local, I also love a challenge, and so when the Florida-born K. (who's still a little stunned at being hauled up above the Mason-Dixon line among all these strange Yankees) expressed a wistful fondness for her native key-lime pie, I started scouting around for real key limes. Half the size of the usual Persian lime golfballs, with thin, spotty yellowish-green skins and lots of seeds, these used to be readily available in SF, 12 for a dollar, at the Latino produce markets on Mission Street, where they were labeled Mexican limes. Out East though, it's trickier. I sent a pleading email to Steve of Steve's Key Lime Pies in Red Hook, asking for sources--no dice. Rather than head all the way uptown to the Dominician markets of Washington Heights, I hit Whole Foods (no), Citarella (no), and finally, the Garden of Eden in downtown Brooklyn (yes). I've now got two little one-pound net bags, imported from Mexico, sitting on my table, waiting to be zested, juiced, and whipped up with eggs and sweetened condensed milk, using the excellently easy recipe from Steve Raichlan's very entertaining Miami Spice cookbook, worth buying for the "mangozpacho" (mango gazpacho) recipe alone. And because I am also an insane person, I have grand plans to make my own graham crackers for the crust, using the Nancy Silverton recipe so kindly posted on 101 Cookbooks. I had restaurant-made grahams once, as part of do-it-yourself s'mores at SF's Luna Park (which has recently expanded, under the name Kitchen and Cocktails, to the East Village), and they were huge leaps above your average teddy graham. Weirdly enough, though, Silverton's recipe calls for white flour, not graham flour, which is the whole raison d'etre for these cookies, so I'm going to slip a little whole-wheat in, just for my own conscience.
Hope to see you at the Social--come find me and say hello! All the info (and a picture of me at last year's Social) at Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.