PIEfection Slides Up

I put the slides for my ManhattanJS talk, "PIEfection" up on GitHub the other day (sans images, but there are links in the source for all of those).

I completely neglected to talk about the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for food tasting good, and specifically for browning pie crusts. tl;dr: Amino acid (protein) + sugar + ~300°F (~150°C) = delicious. There are innumerable and poorly understood combinations of amino acids and sugars, but this class of reaction is responsible for everything from searing steaks to browning crusts to toasting marshmallows.

Above ~330°F, you get caramelization, which is also a delicious part of the pie and crust, but you don't want to overdo it. Starting around ~400°F, you get pyrolysis (burning, charring, carbonization) and below 285°F the reaction won't occur (at least not quickly) so you won't get the delicious compounds.

(All of these are, of course, temperatures measured in the material, not in the air of the oven.)

So, instead of an egg wash on your top crust, try whole milk, which has more sugar to react with the gluten in the crust.

I also didn't get a chance to mention a rolling technique I use, that I learned from a cousin of mine, in whose baking shadow I happily live.

When rolling out a crust after it's been in the fridge, first roll it out in a long stretch, then fold it in thirds; do it again; then start rolling it out into a round. Not only do you add more layer structure (mmm, flaky, delicious layers) but it'll fill in the cracks that often form if you try to roll it out directly, resulting in a stronger crust.

Those pepper flake shakers, filled with flour, are a great way to keep adding flour to the workspace without worrying about your buttery hands.

For transferring the crust to the pie plate, try rolling it up onto your rolling pin and unrolling it on the plate. Tapered (or "French") rolling pins (or wine bottles) are particularly good at this since they don't have moving parts.

Finally, thanks again to Jenn for helping me get pies from one island to another. It would not have been possible without her!