Finally, here it is! I got myself to bake in my cast iron skillet, instead of just removing it from the oven drawer, gazing at it lovingly and feeling its weight in my hands. Its not that I haven’t done any cooking in it at all, I seared chicken once to very satisfying results. But mostly in the 6 months or so of having owned it, it has mostly lived packed up in cartons while we were moving around or in my oven drawer. So why did I name my blog the The Baking ‘Skillet’? Because it was an ideal. Every time I saw the amazing pictures of gorgeous dessert in cast iron skillets I went ‘awwww’. But having never used and never known anyone who used it, there was quite a bit of apprehension around it. Then there are so many articles on the internet on the correct usage and what to do, what not to do. Seemed so daunting, like dating a high-maintenance gorgeous model.
I know that in the western world, there is often sentimentality attached to these pans because maybe your grandmother or ‘that aunt who cooked so well’ used it. Maybe you inherited it. Maybe you are one of those who was one of the pioneers of the shun-non-stick-and-teflon-embrace-natural-materials movement. I may not have that heirloom sentimentality attached to it, but now that I own one of these sturdy kitchen beasts, I do hope I can pass it on one day as part of my cooking legacy.
After reading several articles and recipes, over the period of last few months, I have prepared myself to bring it out and bake something simple and nice in it. I will be sharing a bunch of recipes soon. Some good reads – this article from First we Feast and Fine Cooking
Firstly I will share a tip – if you want to bake something for which you need a delicious crust, a cast-iron skillet would be the perfect choice. Think Cookie cake, double crusted pies or cookies!
I will also share a learning – once you have whipped up something awesome in your cast-iron, serve it immediately while it is hot. DO NOT ever store anything in your cast iron after it has cooled down because all the iron will react with your cold food and will give it a metallic taste. Especially if the food is acidic for instance this pear and berry pie.
Caramelized Pear and Mixed Berry Skillet Pie
My go-to Pie Dough – Makes enough for two 6inch double crust pies
375gms pastry flour
15gms brown sugar
250gms butter – cut into cubes
125ml ice cold water
Mix flour, salt and sugar.
On a cold surface or in a large metal bowl, rub butter into flour mixture till reduced to irregular large pea sized crumbs.
Add all the water and mix just enough to incorporate and it comes together in a shaggy dough. Do not over mix.
With a dough scraper, cut the dough into two or four portions as needed. Wrap each portion with cling wrap and let chill in the refrigerator overnight or atleast for one hour. (overnight is highly recommended). At this stage, you can freeze the dough for upto 2-3 months. Simply transfer from freezer to refrigerator the night before you plan to use it.
For this skillet pie, you will need just one portion, depending on the amount of latticework you plan to do.
For the topping
1 egg – lightly beaten
For the Pie Filling
1 heaping cup of blackberries / raspberries
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups of water
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 cups of peeled, cored and chopped pears
2 tbsp cream
In a large bowl, toss the blackberries with the salt, lemon juice and brown sugar and cornstarch. Let sit.
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water and 1/3 cup sugar to boil. Add the cranberries, reduce heat medium and let simmer for a few minutes till the cranberries have popped. Drain completely and toss them with the blackberries.
In an 8inch cast iron skillet, heat 2tbsp of butter, add the 1/3 cup brown sugar and let dissolver completely. Add the pears and cook till soft and caramelizing on edges. Add the cream and stir. Take off the heat and let cool.
Heat oven to 400F
While the pears are cooling, roll out your pie dough on a cool, floured surface to about 1/8” thickness. Cut into thick strips (or desired pattern)
Add the berries and cranberry mixture to the caramelized pear. Top with strips of dough and crimp the ends a bit against the skillet edges. Brush the top with egg. Sprinkle sugar. Put the skillet on a baking sheet (I always do this, just I case there are drippings and overflows) and bake for 15 mins in the centre of the oven. Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for 40 mins till the crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling.