On Monday evening, I met up with a friend for a pie-baking class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods, and what a delicious evening we had. Chef Justin Miller, a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, made an apple pie and a fruit tart, and he shared lots of great tips along the way.
Miller started the class with his recipe for vodka pie dough. (As the vodka evaporates during baking, it helps create those scrumptious flaky layers.) He wowed the crowd with a great shortcut: a pie top that looks like a tedious lattice but requires just a few quick knife slices. He also demonstrated a sweet tart dough, a more mealy and cookie-like dough for wetter fillings.
Into the tart crust Miller put a rich pastry cream topped with fresh fruit, which we were in charge of peeling and coring. Into the pie crust went a cinnamony apple mixture, which tasted fantastic with a small dash of orange juice.
My friend and I juiced a seemingly endless pile of lemons, but Miller ran out of time before demonstrating the promised lemon curd. He also had to skip the chocolate cream pie. Fortunately, we quickly got over our disappointment -- as soon as we bit into that heavenly apple pie.
These classes always have a friendly, chatty atmosphere, but one student was a complete mess. Her boyfriend's parents had given her the class as a gift, but she had to "repay" them by baking them a pie. She was frantic about doing a good job, and I could have done without her constant murmurs of alarm. It stressed me out, too! At the end of the class, we all promised to send happy baking thoughts her way: Stressed-out baking girl, wherever you are, I hope your pie was fabulous.