Reading about the ins and outs of baking the perfect, flaky pie crust is a little like reading about how to achieve the perfect golf swing: the proof is in the doing. And it often takes a remarkably intuitive reader to understand exactly what the author is getting at. Not so the work of Rose Levy Beranbaum, the author who gave us The Cake Bible. If ever there was a cookbook author who could place her hands on top of yours, putting you through the proper motions, helping you arrive at just the right touch, Beranbaum is the one.
The Pie and Pastry Bible begins with the crust. The author confesses right up front that 21 years ago, when she first began her quest for the perfect crust, "it was a complete mystery to me." She wasn't looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but something she could consistently turn out at a moment's notice. The ideal pie crust, she writes, "has light, flaky layers, but also ... is tender, and nicely browned, with a flavor good enough to eat by itself."
In a book that stretches to about 700 pages long, her favorite pie crust is the first recipe: Perfect Flaky and Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust. Typically, Beranbaum lists the ingredients by measure and weight for three separate sizes of pies, then gives instructions for the food processor or by hand.
After 70 pages of pie crusts, tart crusts, and crumb pie crusts of every imaginable make and combination, Beranbaum starts with fruit pies. Her first (of many) detailed charts shows exactly what her ratios are of fruit to sugar to cornstarch. Then each recipe (start with The Best All American Apple Pie) includes pointers for success as well as several variations on the theme. Under the headline "Understanding," Beranbaum goes that extra mile by taking the trouble to explain just why something works the way it does.
If you are only going to own one cookbook for pie and pastry recipes of every imaginable stripe and combination, you can't go wrong with this one. It's the Bible, after all. --Schuyler Ingle [via]