Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sour Cream Date Pie with Spelt Crust

I travel a lot. When I am home for an extended period of time I welcome the opportunity to dive into my substantial library of cookbooks. Although my collection got seriously culled when I moved to Germany years ago (I only took about 20% with me), they are numerous and I love to visit them when I have the time.

One of the cookbooks that has been hanging out on my shelf for ages is an updated version of Helen Brown's West Coast Cook Book. Ironically, this transplanted East Coaster was considered the "culinary authority of the West coast". More than that, Helen Evans Brown was a pioneer of West Coast cuisine. She was close friends with James Beard. He once called her "One of my favorite great ladies of the American Kitchen."

A food writer, then cookbook author, she wrote the books and her husband Philip edited them. Philip released this updated version years after her death in 1964. 

Helen & Philip Brown

I love the recipes in the book and the book is geared mostly toward entertaining. Today West Coast Cuisine is perceived as healthful, even spa like. The original book was written before the concept of "heart healthy" and the recipes reflect it. Bring on the cream, butter and sugar!

I have been wanting to try this pie recipe for years. For this first attempt, I added a spelt crust to balance out the very sweet rich filling. This worked perfectly. Depending on whether you choose to make your own crust, this recipe is super easy. All the filling ingredients are mixed together at once and poured into the crust. That's it. It's as easy as, well, pie!

Sour Cream Date Pie With Spelt Crust

For the Crust:
(Adapted from Heartland: the Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens 
by Marcia Adams, Clarkson Potter 1991)

  • 2 cups whole wheat spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup cold butter cut into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • In the bowl of your mixer whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  • Place the bowl in place on the mixer, turn on  medium and add butter until the mixture is crumbly.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then add the vinegar and water.
  • Add to the flour/butter mixture and beat until combined.
  • Divide the dough into two portions, form each into a ball, wrap in plastic cling film and refrigerate overnight.
  • Note: I used a heart shaped 9 inch diameter pan and had enough leftover crust to make another pie.

For the Filling:
(Adapted from Helen Brown's West Coast Cook Book, Forward and Annotation by Philip Brown, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1991)

  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

  • Put all ingredients into a mixer and beat until smooth.

Assemble the pie:
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Grease a 9 inch pice shell or bigger (see note above)
  • Remove one ball of dough from refrigerator, lightly flour a workspace and roll out the dough about 1/8 inch thick.
  • Use your pan as a size guide, making sure you have a few inches of overlap.
  • Cut the pan shape out of the dough.
  • Transfer the dough to the pan. One method is to roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it into the pan. I just lifted mine up and transfered it to the pan.
  • Press the dough into the pan, making sure there are no air pockets.
  • Pinch around the edges to form a decorative crust and trim off the excess.
  • Pour the sour cream date mixture into the pie crust and set aside.
  • At this point I chose to make a decorative top instead of the traditional one. If you want to make a traditional top, remove the second dough ball from the fridge and roll it out. You can eyeball the size or place the pan on top again and  cut out the shape of the pan and cover the pie. 
  • Crimp the edges and cut off the excess then slit the top to release the steam during baking.
  • If you want to make your pie a little more fancy, haul out your favorite cookie cutters. I first used the cutters to play with the shapes a bit before actually cutting the dough. 
  • I used these ruffled teardrop cutters to form a flower. Then used some "petals" to fill in the spaces. 
  • Once you have a pattern you like cut the shapes out of the dough and place on top of the filling.
  • Bake at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes and then turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees F. Remove from oven when the crust is brown and the filling solidifies.

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