Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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Inside Magnolia Bakery: An Interview with the Chief Baking Officer

(Source: static.dailycandy.com)
I've been on a Magnolia Bakery spree lately. First, my lovely interns brought me two Magnolia cupcakes to console me after my angelic kitty passed away. I particularly enjoyed the Red Velvet Cupcake, which you can find the recipe for here

More, please.
Then, on a trip to NYC last weekend, I swung by the West Village location of Magnolia, and indulged in the famous Blueberry Jamboree, a twist on blueberry pie, featuring a fluffy cream-cheese filling and outrageously thick, crispy crust. (Find the recipe here.)

Unfortunately, it was 10:30 p.m. when I made my purchase, so the lighting was poor. I was also too eager to dig into my dessert to bother with a photo shoot. So my photo is hid-e-ous.

My slice of Blueberry Jamboree

A shot from the pros (Source: delish.com)
I'm not really in the mood to bake, thanks to all of my recent gluttony. So instead, I give you an interview with Bobbie Lloyd, chief baking officer and president of Magnolia Bakery. I chatted with her back in November, when she gave me the bakery's AMAZING recipe for Apple Crumb, which I covered on Guy Gourmet for Men's Health.

Laura: I like the apple crumb because it's easier than pie. You don't have have to deal with the lattice or the top crust, which always gets a little tricky.  
Bobbie: Yeah, plus you can always go out and buy a pie shell. If anybody is scared of making pie dough, just go buy a frozen shell.

Laura: Which do you recommend?
Bobbie: The only ones I've ever bought for home are from Whole Foods. I don't remember the brand. I think Pilsbury makes a very decent one.

Laura: Do you have any tips for making pie or crumbs easier?
Bobbie: If you're going to make it beginning to end, meaning making the pie dough too, everyone seems to make the same mistake, which is not having cold enough ingredients. Our hands are warm, and in my house, my kitchen is very warm. So before I  make my pie dough, I actually put my stainless steel bowl and my flour in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Laura: What is the benefit of cold ingredients?
Bobbie: Your butter won't melt. If your butter melts, your pie won't be flaky. So your butter needs to be really cold. If you're making it by hand, which is the way I prefer to make pie dough, your hand temperature can warm up the butter too much. I always tell people, 'If your butter looks shiny, it's too warm.' As soon as it's shiny, throw it back in the refrigerator. That's the number one thing I teach people about making pie dough. The other thing with pie dough is to make it ahead of time. You can make it three of four days ahead of time and throw it in your refrigerator or your freezer.

Laura: Do you roll out in the pie pan first? Or do you just put the lump of dough in the fridge?
Bobbie: You have to chill it before you roll it out. Most recipes say for at least an hour. Really, you want to let it chill overnight. When you take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes. You don't want your dough to be warm, but you don't want it to be so cold that you can't roll it. My mom had the coolest rolling pin when I was a kid. It was glass, and you unscrewed the ends and filled it with ice. So it had two benefits: One, it was really cold, and two, it was heavy. Buy a heavy rolling pin. Don't buy one of those little things from a department store that weighs like a pound. Get a big heavy rolling pin. Let it do the work for you. It will roll your dough out beautifully and with less work. 

Laura: There's something especially impressive about making a pie for dessert. Would you agree?
Bobbie: Oh absolutely. A really good pie takes time and effort, because there are three parts to it. But the great thing about [our apple crumb] is those three parts can be made ahead of time. A fresh apple pie, you can't really make ahead of time. You need to make it now, throw it in the oven, bake it, and then let it cool for four hours. But the apple crumb pie, you can make the filling the day before, the crumb topping three or four days before, and the pie dough a few days before. Then the night before, you can assemble everything and bake it. I live in New York. The ovens aren't big. That's why an apple crumb pie is a great thing to make the day before [an event]. 

Laura: Should you reheat the apple crumb before serving it?
Bobbie:  The crumb pie should be served slightly warm, whereas an apple pie really has to be room temperature or the apples will ooze all over the place. So, a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. It will nicely warm up the crumb and crust it a little bit. I like to use a glass pie dish. It's way more impressive. It shows off your beautiful crust, and I think it bakes better. You can see the crust browning. If you really want to impress everyone with your hard work, put it in a glass pie dish.

Laura: The recipe calls for Golden Delicious apples. Why those?
Bobbie: Any apple that is not a crisp apple works. Something like a Granny Smith it too crisp, too tart. You want something that's not going to turn into applesauce, but will have some sweet flavor to it and will cook and soften. Granny Smiths are really not going to soften very well. There are manyBraeburns, Cortland, Honey Crispthat work beautifully for apple pies. Anything that you bite into and it's sweetthat's the apple you want. 

Laura: Do you have any tips for preparing the apple filling?
Bobbie: An apple wedger. It's the niftiest, handiest tool in the world. You get little wedges instantly. 

Laura: What are your secrets for making the crumb?
Bobbie: Room temperature butter. Make sure it's incorporated and there are no loose crumbs. When you're done mixing it, squeeze it into clumps1/2 inch to an inchin your hand as you put it onto the pie. You'll get those nice crunchy, crispy little blobs that everyone wants to pick off the top of the pie. 

Laura: Any finishing touches?
Bobbie: Fresh whipped cream is always a delightful addition to any pie. Don't buy it from a can. Buy heavy whipping cream. Make sure your mixing bowl is clean and cold; otherwise your whipping cream will not whip. 

Laura: How do you make it?
Bobbie: Just in a mixer. For sweet pie, I don't even add any sugar, just a touch of vanilla. If your pie is savory, like pumpkin, throw in a little bit of sugar, maybe a teaspoon per cup of heavy cream. Just whip it until it's the consistency of whipped cream. 

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Magnolia Bakery Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


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