[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] So much for appearances. This is the author of "The Complete Book of Pastry, Sweet and Savory" (Simon and Schuster, $17.95). Having told us all there is to know about bread in two masterworks -- "The Complete Book of Breads" and "Breads of France and How to Bake Them in Your Own Kitchen" -- he has done the same thing for the other great branch of flour cookery.
What's more, he's about to retire from the University of Indiana, where he has been a writer and editor for 15 years, to work full time with food and explain the how and why of it. His next book will be about soups to go with the bread -- and before the pie.
Like bread, pastry is easy to go wrong on. It can be tough, soggy, crumbly, flat, blistered and just plain inedible.
Furthermore, instructions on how to avoid such undesirabilities tend toward the ambiguously subjective. Such terms as "enough" and "too much" intimidate rather than enlighten. Nobody really defines the "light hand" that is supposed to make all the difference between a hopeless pastry maker and a triumphant one.
Clayton would be the first to admit that some of the subtleties can be learned only by doing. There is such a thing as the right feel of the dough, and it takes hands-on experience to recognize it. But insofar as words can convey the refinements of pastry technique, he's the person to go to.
Partly, the clarity of his instruction reflects a former newspaperman's skill at getting a message across. Partly, though, it's a tribute to the hours of experimentation behind every recipe.
For the pastry book, like the bread books, Clayton baked and rebaked and baked again. He had a steady stream of neighbors and friends programmed to turn up on the circular drive in front of his house to receive the test items he and his wife couldn't eat. While he was still in his bread phase he had worn out the family stove and accepted the idea that, for what he wanted to do, he needed a kitchen of his own.
The upshot was a new wing on his house in Bloomington, big enough to take care of not one extra stove, but six. There's one where he can bake on hot stones after shoveling the coals of a wood fire into the fireplace. There's also a big professional-size gas stove.
However, much of Clayton's baking is done on two home-style ranges -- one gas, one electric -- each with two ovens. Since he is writing for the home cook, he wants to make sure his recipes work with the kind of equipment in home kitchens.
Besides his array of stoves, his most valued pastry-making tool is the marble slab he keeps in his refrigerator. Marble is the favored surface for pastry dough because it has a smooth, non-stick surface and because it changes temperature slowly. Maintaining the chill in pastry dough is, he believes, one of the factors that matter.
Indeed, he argues that many a pastry problem can be solved by simply popping the dough back into the refrigerator to get a bit colder. The right degree of chill is what it takes to keep the fat granules in pastry separate, as they should be to expand into airy deliciousness when the oven heat reaches them.
The purveyor of all this expertise was not one of your born cooks, eager to have a hand on the mixing spoon as soon as he was old enough to get underfoot in the kitchen. His Indiana mother was a good, if predictable, cook. His Indiana wife is a good cook.
Clayton's interest in getting into the act began when he and his wife took a bicycle trip across Europe, eating bread all the way. After the delights of all those picnics and cafe lunches, coming home to American bread was a letdown.
It was trying to duplicate some of the eating satisfactions of the trip that started him poring over Julia Child and Erma Rombauer. The success of the two bread books that followed led him to a three-year digression into the rest of the baking tradition.
While bread and pastry have much in common, they do require different approaches. "I had to learn to be gentle again," says Clayton. The folds and turns and rollings of pastry are a far cry from the punching and kneading that goes into bread dough.
He mastered the transition, though, and a good deal more. A nearly blind Hungarian immigrant woman who had made strudel for her own wedding 60 years earlier taught him the secrets of stretching a small ball of dough into the gossamer wrappings Central European cooks put around poppy seeds and apples. And many Americans helped his understanding of that supremely American dessert, pie.
Of course, as Clayton points out, pie is not only the most favored American dessert, but also the worst made. "I think the crust should be as good as the filling," he says. For anybody who takes his advice, it will be.
For instance: PLANTATION CHICKEN PIE (6 servings) Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
1/2 tablespoon each baking powder and salt
1/2 cup lard or shortening, room temperature
1 tablespoon sherry
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
2 to 3 tablespoons water Filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup peas
1 cup whole green olives, cut in half
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 egg and 1 tablespoon milk beaten together, to brush
12-by-18-by-2-inch baking dish
To prepare the dough: In a large bowl stir together 4 cups flour, baking powder and salt. Form a well. Drop in the eggs, shortening, sherry, butter and water. Stir briskly to blend, pulling the flour in from the sides as you stir. Add 1 or 2 more cups flour, if necessary, to form a smooth, soft dough. Work together until the mass is well blended. Wrap the dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and relaxed, at least 1 hour.
Cook the chicken whole in salted boiling water until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Allow the chicken to cool before removing the meat from the bones. Dice into small pieces.
Make the sauce in a deep skillet or heavy pot by saute'ing the onion in the butter until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the peppers, garlic, vinegar, sherry, sugar, tomato sauce, salt, pepper and paprika and cook over medium heat 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chicken pieces and peas. The olives and eggs will be added later.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. The baking dish will be lined with dough rolled 1/8-inch thick. The dough may be placed in one piece, with the sides extending 1/2 inch above the dish. I find it easier to arrange wide strips of dough along the sides of the dish. These are moistened and the ends pressed together where they meet. A rectangular piece of dough is cut for the bottom and dropped into place. It does not matter that the bottom piece is not joined to the sides. If less dough is desired, do not add the bottom piece. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
If you are using a pie bird, place it in the middle of the baking dish. Pour or spoon the chicken and sauce around it. The filling should come to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dish. Arrange the olive pieces and egg slices over the top of the filling.
Cut a rectangle of dough for the top, allowing a margin of 1 inch. To assure a seal, moisten the margins before the top piece is positioned.
If you are using a pie bird, cut a small hole in the center of the top crust to allow its bill to come through. The crust will rest on its wings. Otherwise, cut a pattern in the top with a sharp knife or razor blade to allow the steam to escape.
Place the dish on the middle shelf of the hot oven. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until the pie is light brown and bubbling, about 45 minutes. BASIC PIE CRUST For 8- or 9-inch shell or approximately 4 tartlet shells:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, chilled (or 4 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening and 2 tablespoons butter, chilled)
1/4 cup ice water, approximately Optional:
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons egg (half of 1 slightly beaten egg) For 2-crust 8- or 9-inch pie:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) lard or vegetable shortening, chilled (or 1/2 cup -- 4 ounces -- lard or vegetable shortening and 4 tablespoons butter, chilled)
1/2 cup ice water, approximately Optional:
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar
If the blend of butter and lard or shortening is to be used, allow both to come to room temperature before mixing them together. The mixture must be chilled before it is cut into the flour, however. If the optional vinegar and egg are used, reduce water by half. The volume of one large egg is about 1/4 cup; hence, half is 2 tablespoons.
To mix by hand: Into a medium bowl measure flour and salt. With a knife cut the fat into several small pieces and drop into the flour. Toss and work the fat and flour together with a pastry blender, two knives or fingers working quickly, until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with irregular particles ranging in sizes from tiny grains of rice to small peas.
Add sugar, vinegar and egg, if desired. Pour each ingredient into the flour mixture and stir to blend before adding the next.
Sprinkle in the water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir with a fork held lightly. Gently toss the loose particles around the bowl to absorb moisture. Add water as needed to bring the particles together in a moist (not wet) mass that holds together with no dry or crumbly places apparent.
To mix with electric mixer: Measure flour and salt into mixer bowl. Cut fat into several small pieces and drop into the flour. Start mixer at slow speed and stir until flour-covered fat particles are the size of small peas, about 1 minute.
Add sugar, vinegar and egg, if desired. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mass is moist and forms a rough ball. Stop. Don't overmix.
To mix with a food processor: With the metal blade attached, add flour, salt and fat to the work bowl. Process with two or three short bursts, or until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Stop the machine.
Add sugar, vinegar and egg, if desired. (Operate the machine in short bursts so as not to overmix.) Pour ice water through the feed tube. Stop as soon as dough begins to form a rough, moist mass.
Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator to mature and chill, 4 hours or longer. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 1/2 hour before rolling or it will be difficult to work.
To roll the dough: Sprinkle the work surface lightly with flour before taking the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Place a cup of flour for dusting to one side. Flatten the dough by pressing it down firmly with the hands. Dust both sides with flour. Roll from the middle of the dough to the upper edge, away from you. Turn the dough 180 degrees and again roll from the middle to the upper edge. Turn the dough over; dust it and the work surface. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the third and fourth rollings are crosswise to the length of dough.
After each rolling loosen the dough by slipping a spatula or dough blade under the edges before turning. Continue the turning and rolling until the dough is the desired shape, whether circular or elongated. Refrigerate whenever fat particles in the dough begin to soften.
The dough is shaped and baked in several ways. It may be formed inside a pie pan to be chilled and filled, or baked partially or wholly to be filled later. The latter is called a blind crust. The baked-beforehand shell is for cream and chiffon fillings, and open pies to be filled, chilled and served.
The partially baked shell is taken from the oven before it begins to color, after about 15 minutes, and allowed to cool. It is filled and returned to complete the baking process. This is done to assure that the bottom crust will be crisp and flaky no matter how moist the filling it holds.
If the crust is to be baked beforehand (and the filling has not been decided upon), there are several ways to keep the bottom and sides from bubbling and ballooning out of shape or unduly shrinking. The most satisfactory way is to press a piece of aluminum foil down into the crust-lined pan. Do this when the dough has been chilled so that it can't be pushed out of shape. Fit it around the sides and fill to the brim with weights -- dried beans, rice or aluminum pellets especially packaged for that purpose. After the crust has been in the oven about 15 minutes, remove, lift out the foil and weights and return the crust to the oven for a few minutes to bake out the moisture that may still be evident in the bottom, or for the full baking period (20 minutes) if the crust is not to be returned to the oven for further baking.
Save the weights to use again. I have a big glass jar filled with dried beans, now discolored, which have been baked numerous times. I also save the aluminum pieces just as they are when I lift them out of the pans so that next time they can be slipped into the same pie tins with no fuss.
The crust also may be pricked beforehand to allow the steam to escape during baking, but sometimes the tiny holes get clogged and the crust bubbles up anyway. If it does, prick the crust again and press it to the bottom of the pan with the flat of the fork.
A third way is to butter the bottom of an identical pan and fit it into the dough-lined pan to hold the dough in place while it is baking, but I find this less than satisfactory.
To prepare a single crust pie:
Doughs for single-crust pies should be rolled to the thickness of 1/8 inch. Place an inverted pie tin over the dough to determine its diameter. Allow an additional 1/2- or 1-inch margin for the border. Trim with scissors, knife or rolling pizza cutter.
Fold the dough into quarters or drape carefully over a rolling pin and lift to the pan. Smaller pieces can be lifted directly from the work surface and placed in pans. Gently press into the sides of the pan without stretching or pulling the dough. A small wad of scrap dough dipped in flour is useful to pat the dough into the deep recesses of the pan, especially a fluted one.
Leave a margin of dough around the rim for the edging. Fold the overhanging dough under to provide a high rim to contain more filling than otherwise possible.
If the shell is to be formed over an inverted pan, grease the pan lightly. Gently press the dough to fit the shape of the pan. Trim. Prick with the tines of a fork over the entire surface of the crust. Place the inverted pan (and crust) on a baking sheet for ease in moving to the oven. A second and identical form may be placed over the inverted pan to hold the dough in place during the first 15 minutes of the baking period so that the dough does not balloon or pull away from the edges; first butter the inside surface of the pan that will fit over the dough. Or a heavy pan or baking sheet, buttered on the bottom, can be laid on top of the dough.
When the dough has been shaped in or on the pan, place in the refrigerator to chill and relax for at least 20 minutes.
The baked shells may be used immediately or held in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or tucked into a plastic bag, for another day. If a shell is to be frozen, place it in a pan or pie box to protect it from being jostled. Wrap the container with freezer paper.
To prepare a double crust pie: Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger for the bottom crust. Reserve the dough for the top crust in the refrigerator.
When the bottom crust has been rolled out and fitted into the pan it may be filled immediately or kept wrapped in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen for a longer period.
It also may be convenient to roll out the top crust at this point rather than to store the dough in a ball. If so, cover the rolled-out dough with a sheet of waxed paper. Lift half the circle of dough and lay it back on the paper so that the waxed paper is between the two halves. Fold in quarters and separate with waxed paper. Lay the folded dough on top and lower crust in the pan, wrap both together and store. The prepared crusts may be frozen for three months.
When a single-crust recipe calls for 1/2-inch edge of dough to extend beyond the pan, it is done to provide extra dough to be folded under to build up the rim. For a covered pie, the edge of the top crust is folded under the bottom crust (rather than over, for neatness) to seal the two together -- and again, provide a thickness of dough that can be fluted and decorated in several ways.
The simplest decorative pattern is made with the tines of a fork. First trim the dough and, if wanted, turn the edge under. Press around the edge with the fork to decorate (and to seal, if using a double crust or lattice strips).
A series of delicate V's around the rim may be made by placing the right index finger on the inside of the rim, left thumb and index finger on the outside of the pastry. Push dough into a V shape. Pinch gently to sharpen the points.
The effect of a tiny rope laid around the rim can be achieved by pinching dough between the index finger and thumb. Do a second time to sharpen the lines.
For a ruffle, place the left thumb and index finger 1/2-inch apart on the pastry rim. With the right index finger pull the pastry between the fingers and toward the outer edge of the pie.
All of these edges can be done either on a single crust or after a top crust has been placed over the filling. One-crust pies also can be decorated with pieces of scrap dough cut with small cutters into hearts, stars, circles and leaves. Brush the rim with water before placing cutouts, which should slightly overlap each other. Press firmly into place.