Recently I brought baked four apple slab pies with dried fall fruit to an event thrown by the Bakers Dozen, a San Francisco Bay Area baking group. I had joined the Bakers Dozen, on a bit of a whim about a year ago. I was talking to my therapist about the aimlessness of my life (typical therapist conversation right?) and he suggested that I join a baking group, as baking was clearly the center of my passion (this was way before I quit my job). Coincidentally I had impulsively joined the week before that session even happened (leading me to question whether or not I even needed to be in therapy, which of course, lead to many other therapy sessions… it’s bit of a vicious cycle isn’t it?).
I digress. Though I originally joined the Bakers Dozen because I had much respect Marion Cunningham and Amy Pressman along with founding member Flo Braker and all the other baker’s dozen members, because of my day job I never made it to any of the events that they hosted. Which is sadness as they had some pretty awesome events.
In truth, I was also a little intimidated being around super talented bakers (and SF has quite a number of them). But this past summer when I competed in the SF Food Wars Pie or Die contest, Allen Cohn, one of the board members of the SF Chapter came up to me (well all the competitors really) to tell them about the group. I told him that I was already a member and then quickly went back to slicing my pies for the competition (I was in it to win it!). But in the back of my head, I thought to myself, I really REALLY need to get more involved with that group!
Fast forward to about a month ago, I received an email from Dianne Boate, a member of the Baker’s Dozen, telling everyone in the group that there was an amazing film documentary showing at the Balboa Theater called Kings of Pastry, which follows a Chicago based French Chef named Jacquy Pfeiffer who goes to compete with 15 other pastry chefs for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF) which is the equivalent to the Olympics of pastry work. She had been talking with Leah Garchik of the SF Chronicle who had the brilliant idea that the Baker’s Dozen should create an event for a showing of the movie. A dozen or so bakers will make pastries to hand out in the lobby. They would all be wearing toques (chef hats) and will meet the masses with desserts and pastries that were bound to impress.
I emailed her back that I’d love to contribute and then immediately started to panic about what I was going to make. Being utterly practical, I knew it would be something with apples as I had bags of them in the fridge from the apple picking that AJ and I had done in October. Plus I had recently discovered the wonders of the apple peeler/corer that I had gotten a year ago (hello, why did it take me a whole year to start using that?). Silly me.
I finally settled on the apple slab pie with dried fall fruit, which is just as easy to make as a regular pie, but is perfect for serving to large masses of people. You can cut it into tiny little squares and stretch it out for many many people. Try doing that with a regular pie! I thought I had come up with the perfect dessert to serve to the crowds, but then I arrived at the theater and was astonished and impressed with everyone else’s amazing pastries!
The event was billed by the theater as “Meet the Bay Area’s Royalty of Pastry” which, of course, should have tipped me off to the caliber of amazing stuff that would be there. Dianne had also gotten Layer Cake Winery to provide us with some excellent wine which her husband Robert Meyer poured to the crowd! And while the crowd was waiting, Rob Kopf of Tcho chocolates was handing out samples as well!
Annie the Baker arrived with her signature Semisweet Chocolate Chip cookie and Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip cookies. I had actually tasted her cookies a couple of weeks earlier at the FoodBuzz Fest Tasting Pavilion event that I went to (and still haven’t written about – who knows when that will happen) where she was part of the Foodzie table. She developed the cookies for those who love the cookie dough more than the cookie and it’s true, her cookies definitely had that “I know I shouldn’t be eating it, but I am” cookie dough taste to them.
Delia Athey of Delia’s Desserts showed up with super awesome looking Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate cake with adorable royal icing double D’s on them, as well as Chocolate Espresso Cookies. Talk about chocolatey goodness!
It was Rebecca Boardman’s first Baker’s Dozen event as well and she had such a great time she’s looking forward to more group events. She brought awesome Chocolate, Caramel Sandwich cookies and Pecan Shortbread Caramel Sandwich cookies.
Dianne Boate, the Cake Lady, and the woman who organized this amazing event, made a super impressive cookie tree cone, with her signature Cornmeal Crunch Sugar Cookies, Oatmeal Cookie Tarts and pieces of Sour Cream Pound Cake with Tcho chocolate frosting. I loved watching people come up to it and marvel at its architecture as they removed cookies and treats from it.
Allen Cohn and Cristina Pejoro arrived with two types of fabulous mini-danishes, Orange Cranberry and chocolate chip and Kandi Kerchum made two types of turnovers, quince and apple both flaky goodness.
Eve Lynch made adorable tiny vanilla meringues from a Mark Bittman/NYT recipe while Cindy Mushet author of the Art & Soul of Baking (I love that book – I should have brought it have her autograph it!) had prepared Linzer Window Cookies as well as Blackberry Cherry Crumble Bars, both were gorgeous!
Susie Pope, pastry chef of the Cedar Gables Inn made some super fun mini pumpkin whoopee pies as well as provided chef hats (toques) for everyone to wear, Maralyn Tabatsky of Have your Cake brought chocolate petit fours with raspberry mousse filling covered in chocolate ganache which were just as great as they sound and Angeline Tan brought the cutest little mini chocolate cupcakes.
But the most astounding showing was Nora Tong from Nora’s Patisserie who not only provided tablecloths for the event, but who brought an amazing assortment of petit fours, tea cookies, and seasonal fruit tarts, as well as a few cream puff swans from her pastry shop! I had the good fortune to meet Nora back at the Meals on Wheels event in May where she was serving up some of the same drool worthy desserts and let me tell you, she is just the sweetest person.
And as an added bonus, Flo Braker made a special appearance all the way from the South Bay where she lives! It was a thrill to meet her in person, even if I didn’t have the chance to tell her that she was one of the reasons why I joined the Baker’s Dozen. Of course, had I known, I probably would have brought HER books along as well (The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, Baking for All Occasions) so I could get her to sign them! Of course, that would have been ridiculously fan boy of me, and I can just imagine the eye rolling that AJ would have given me as I schlepped three books with me to the event, so it’s probably just as well.
The event was awesome, with over 200 people packed wall to wall to get a sampling of the pastries. Gary Meyer of the Balboa Theater was just thrilled with the turnout (and the desserts)! You can read his recap of the event up on the Balboa Theater website! The crowd was totally amazing, everyone patiently (and slightly impatiently) trying to get to the table of baked goods, feasting on all the fantastic things that everyone brought.
I look back at the event and I have to admit, I felt like a bit of a fraud, what with everyone wearing their chef whites (I’m not a chef! And I definitely don’t own a chef’s jacket!) and when they placed a toque on my head I thought to myself, “oh man! I am SO not worthy to be wearing this! Total fraud!” but I went with it.
(Actually, I made sure to take the toque home, and every now and then I wear it in the kitchen when I cook. Just for fun. But shhhh….don’t tell anyone that I do that, I’d die of embarrassment.)
In the end, I was SO pleased I participated though. Several people (who I didn’t know!) came up to me to tell me that they loved my dessert (a few coming back for seconds and thirds even! Yeah you know who you are, swiping three pieces of my pie) I met some fantastic people, had a great time, and was able to watch a wonderful documentary that I can highly recommend to anyone who loves French pastries. It blows away Top Chef Just Desserts (Sorry Yigit. I love you but really, it just doesn’t compare). Really. The stuff they were doing was just phenomenal in the movie. Leaving the theater, I overheard Allen Cohn saying “They were making things I’ve never even tasted!” Yep that pretty much summed it up for me as well. Inspired by the movie Allen, in a recent visit to Chicago, decided to go on a tour of the French Pastry School of Chicago where he had a chance to meet Jacquy Pfeiffer. He was very impressed with the school facilities and dedication to their students and the level of craftsmanship that was taught in the classes.
And because of that Kings of Pastry movie, I believe it is now my new life goal to learn how to make a pulled sugar sculptural showpiece. Now I just need to figure out where to take that class.
Our event was such a great success that the filmmakers of the movie heard about it and emailed the Diane, the woman who organized the event to tell her thanks! “Thanks so much Diane for the wonderful apres’ film party you organized and made happen. Chris and I are really amazed at the pastry spectacle that ensued. Thanks again, D A Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus.”
After that Jacquy Pfeiffer the chef that the film followed emailed Diane as well to thank her for all her hard work. “Dear Chef Diane, I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the reception that you organized for the after K.O.P. documentary. By bringing the pastry community together, you are following the message that I am trying to spread in the documentary and I thank you for that. -Jacquy Pfeiffer, Founder / Dean of Student Affairs”
And finally Rose Levy Beranbaum, the amazing author of the classic books “The Cake Bible” and “The Pie and Pastry Bible” and, of course, her most recent “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” (if you don’t own these books, go get them now!) put us on her blog (yep that’s me, all blurry in the background with the black and white vest)! She loved the movie Kings of Pastry and totally confessed to crying several times during it (I don’t blame her, it’s actually quite moving). I can’t believe that’s me on her blog! Whoa!
All in all I can’t wait for the next Baker’s Dozen event! And what a fantastic first event for me to be a part of! Bring on the next one!
For more photos from the event, please visit AJ’s flickr album, the Baker’s Dozen Kings of Pastry Event.
Spiced Apple Slab Pie with Dried Fall Fruit
One of the advantages of making a slab pie versus a traditional pie is that it can serve many more people because of its shape. I was able to squeeze out about 32 sample pieces from one slab pie. Try doing that with a regular round pie! One thing to keep in mind as well is that the pie has a greater crust to filling ratio, so the pie crust has to be good! Try not to cheat and use a storebought crust, but if you have to do, don’t worry I won’t tell anyone.
Almond Scented Pie Crust
This is the same crust that I used for my award winning Blackberry Lemon Chess Pie. It’s a very versatile crust, and the addition of the almond meal adds a nice subtle hint of nuttiness as well as helps brown the crust.
Adapted from More Best Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated
2 1/2 cups of unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup of almond meal or almond flour
1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoon of sugar
12 tablespoon (1 1/2 sticks) of cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup of leaf lard (see note) or trans-free shortening
1/3 cup ice cold vodka
1/3 cup ice cold water
1. Put 1 1/2 cups of AP flour and 1/2 cup of the almond meal into a food processor with the salt, sugar. Pulse a couple of times to blend and then add the butter (sliced into 1/4″ pieces) and the lard or shortening cut into 4 pieces. Process the mixture until dough/paste lump starts to form – about 15 seconds or so.
2. Add the rest of the 1 cup of AP flour to the mixture and pulse a few times to break up the dough. If the dough is still clumped up, open up the processor and break it up a little bit with your fingers or a fork and then pulse a few more times. You want the mixture to look sorta like cottage cheese lumps.
3. Pour the mixture into a bowl and sprinkle the vodka and the water over the dough. Using a large spatula fold the liquid into the dough. The dough should be a little sticky, but don’t worry about that. You’ll be adding more flour when you roll it out to compensate.
4. Divide the dough in half, flatten into a disc and wrap each half with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.
Note: Leaf lard is different from the lard you find at the grocery store. It’s refined (but NOT hydrogenated like the grocery store stuff). It’s also a much higher grade way better for you. Don’t use the grocery store stuff. Stick with a trans-free shortening if you can’t find leaf lard, but if you can, it’s worth tracking down. You’ll make amazing flaky crust with it because it melts at a higher temperature (allowing for more air pockets in the dough. Air pockets = flakiness). Check with a local butcher and see if they can order it for you. Or split an order with a fellow baker and mail order a batch.
2 lbs of apples (about 6 medium apples) of different varietals (I used Arkansas Black, Pink Ladies, Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths)
3 tablespoon All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dried berries or golden raisins (I used a mix of golden raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries and dried blueberries)
1 tablespoon diced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoon of melted butter
1 tablespoon of boiled cider (see note) mixed with 1 Tbsp of water
2 tablespoon of honey (try to use a good local raw honey)
1 egg yolk combined with 1 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoon of Turbinado sugar (sometimes sold as Sugar in the Raw) or plain granulated sugar
1. Peel and slice the apples into 1/4” – 1/2” slices.
2. Toss the apples with the flour, sugar, dried fruit, crystallized ginger, cinnamon and ground ginger until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the vanilla, melted butter and boiled cider and thoroughly mix as well.
To assemble the pie
1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
2. Lightly and evenly spray a 13” x 9” x 2” metal pan with a cooking oil.
3. Tear off a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit into the metal pan with a good 3” hanging over the edge of the pan on either side of the long edge. Fit the parchment paper into the metal pan, folding the corners so that it fits snugly into the pan. The cooking oil should help anchor the paper to the pan.
4. Roll out one disc of the pie crust to a rectangle that is 15” by 11” in length with a generous amount of flour (if the dough is too sticky just add more flour to the rolling surface. Because of the vodka in the dough, you can add as much flour as you want, so don’t be stingy). Carefully transfer it to the metal pan (I liberally dust the crust, and then loosely roll it onto my rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pan. But I know people who prefer rolling the dough between parchment/wax paper and transferring that way. Do what you’re comfortable with). The sides of the crust should evenly go up all sides of the pan by an inch or so.
5. Carefully spoon in the pie filling into the middle of the pan, spreading the filling all the way around, and lifting the sides of the crust if they have fallen down, so that the filling is “inside” the crust. Once you added all the filling and evenly distributed around the pan, it should hold the sides of the pie crust up.
6. Evenly drizzle the honey on top of the filling.
7. Roll out the second disc of pie crust to a 15” by 11” rectangle. Transfer the top crust to the pan, and tuck the edges of the dough into the side of the pan, on top of the bottom crust. Pinch the top edge of the pie all the way around to seal the pie crust, and then cut the top of the pie with a knife decoratively to give some steam vents.
8. Take the egg and water and beat them together with a fork until it starts to froth. Brush the top of the pie crust with the egg wash and then sprinkle the turbinado sugar (or plain white sugar) on top.
9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature of the oven to 350˚F and bake for another 55 minutes or until the top crust starts to look golden brown and the inside filling is bubbling through the steam vents.
10. Let the pie cool completely in the pan. To remove, lift the pie by the parchment paper overhang directly up and then place onto a serving platter. Gently slide a wide spatula underneath the pie all the way around loosening it from the parchment paper. Then use the spatula to keep the pie from not moving and slide the parchment paper out from under the pie. Serve to as many people as you can in a fast manner in a large crowded movie theater hallway along with 12 of your new best friend bakers. Then wait for the accolades from everyone to start pouring in.
Note 1. Boiled cider is apple cider that has been boiled down to 1/7th it’s initial volume (it’s 7x as sweet and 7x as intensely appleish than regular cider). You can get it mail order or make your own. I went ahead and boiled down a cup of apple cider to 1/4 cup and just used two tablespoons of it (you can try to do that with 1/2 cup boiled down to 2 tablespoons but watch the pot carefully, as it boils down really fast!). If you don’t feel like using the boiled cider, you can skip it, but it does add a really great deep apple flavor to the pie filling.