A Pie Class with Joy the Baker: Pics, Tips, and Memories

28 Oct

I started Figs in My Belly in June, 2009. At that point in my life, I was living in California, getting a degree in Nutritional Science, staging (interning) in the kitchen at a small handful of restaurants, working at a cooking camp for kids, and making dinners for my housemates at the co-op where I lived. Oh, and I was totally obsessed with Joy the Baker and her blog.

That August, I heard about a rooftop picnic in downtown Los Angeles that Joy was hosting and jumped on the opportunity. I brought my mom along and we spent the afternoon enjoying Joy’s biscuits, fried chicken, coleslaw, and cupcakes while mingling with other Joy the Baker fans.

Cut to more than five years later, and I now live in New York City with a short (four-year-long) pastry cook career currently on pause while I finish up a graduate degree in Nutrition Education and a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian. And, as you might have guessed, I am still totally obsessed with Joy the Baker and her blog.

Joy is currently on tour for her latest cookbook, Homemade Decadence. I attended her book signing at The Brooklyn Kitchen, and the following weekend, my friend Michelle and I drove up to King Arthur Flour in Vermont, where Joy was teaching a hands-on pie making class. Joy taught two four-hour pie classes on the same day. She is a warrior.

I’ve made my share of pies in the past, but pie still intimidates me, and I wanted to gain some pro tips to boost my pie confidence. Plus, my friend Michelle never made her own pie before, so this was the perfect opportunity to learn. We road tripped for pie!

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On the agenda was Joy’s famous apple pie and her pumpkin pie with pecan praline from Homemade Decadence.

Joy first demonstrated her pie crust technique and then, after watching (aren’t those television screens amazing?!), everyone in the class made their own crust.

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Lesson #1 was how to properly measure flour with a measuring cup. Michelle did a stellar job sprinkling her flour into the measuring cup to prevent over-packing the flour.

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Joy’s signature crust uses butter for the fat and buttermilk (instead of water) as a liquid binder. The buttermilk adds a real tangy flavor to the crust.

To bring a shaggy pie crust together, Joy recommended using the outer sides of the hands rather than the palm of the hand. Doing this gives a gentler touch to the kneading process, because we want pie crust to have flaky layers instead of a heavy, bread-like density.

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While the crusts chilled in the fridge, Joy demonstrated how to roll out the crusts and how to prepare the pie fillings.

The key trick to rolling out pie crust is to keep rotating the crust to maintain a nice even roll and prevent the crust from sticking to the surface. Joy showed us an easy way to flute the edges of the pie crust. It involved using two index fingers and a thumb. She said to place two index fingers about one finger-size apart, bring the thumb into that space and push the dough inward, and go around the entire pie like this. It definitely helped that she demonstrated this technique and then walked around the room to show us one-on-one.

To make the pumpkin filling, we heated the pumpkin puree over the stove with sugar and spices, just until the spices started to release their fragrant oils (this is called blooming). Then we whisked in the good stuff–heavy cream, vanilla, and eggs.

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This is how my pie looked after baking in the oven! What a beauty.

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Joy showed us how to prepare a pecan praline topping to pour over the already baked pumpkin pie. I enjoyed the heating and stirring the hot butterscotch sauce.

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An action shot: whisking the nuts into the rich butterscotch sauce.

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The final product. I poured the hot pecan praline over the pumpkin pie. The praline eventually set once it cooled down.

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Next up, apple pie. I piled apples into the bottom crust. Apples really shrink down when baking, so cramming as many apples as possible into the pie is always a good idea. A little egg wash around the edges sealed the bottom and top crusts together.

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The trick to get the top crust over the apples? Fold it in quarters, pick it up, and then unfold over the apples.

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I cut a few slits for vent holes, fluted the edges, egg-washed the top, sprinkled a few dashes of cinnamon sugar, and popped this pie on a sheet tray to go into the oven!

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I never tasted a pie crust this good. I wish I took a picture of the layers of flaky butter in the crust; it tasted almost like puff pastry. Homemade decadence, indeed.

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Michelle and I walked out of that four-hour class with four pies. Two of our pies became thank you gifts for our friends nearby whose farm we stayed at for the night (stay tuned for a post about the farm). There is nothing better than walking into someone’s house with fresh, homemade pie.

Thank you, Joy. You are a real inspiration.

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6 Responses to “A Pie Class with Joy the Baker: Pics, Tips, and Memories”

  1. rose916 October 28, 2014 at 3:06 am #

    So fun! I would totally road trip for pie too! LOVE your pics.

  2. Karla @ Foodologie October 28, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    How fun! I’m so jealous. Definitely going to try buttermilk in my pies next time. I usually use bourbon or vodka instead of water 😀

    • figsinmybelly October 29, 2014 at 2:55 am #

      It was so much fun! Yes, the buttermilk really made a difference in the crust. I was thinking how a few shakes of bourbon in the pecan praline topping might be a nice idea 😉

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hooker Mountain Farm, VT | Figsinmybelly - October 30, 2014

    […] did all the driving while I snapped photos of fall leaves through the window) to Vermont to take a pie-making class with Joy the Baker. But, oh no, the fun did not stop […]

  2. A Season of Pies–Fall Edition | Figsinmybelly - December 19, 2015

    […] Thanksgiving, I made a traditional pumpkin pie using the tips and techniques I learned from Joy the Baker’s pie workshop last year. With a dab of homemade hand-whisked whipped […]

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