Pie is My Favorite

I love pie.  I love fruit pies, cream pies, savory pies.  Basically serve anything in a light, flaky crust – whether for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner or dessert – and I’m done for.  I think Rose Levy Beranbaum said it best in her cookbook, “The Pie and Pastry Bible”:

There are two kinds of people: cake people and pie people.  I love cake, but I am really partial to pie.  I even love the word.  Pie sounds so substantial and friendly – full of possibility.  I particularly love the way Southerners pronounce it: Paaah, sort of like a sigh.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I try to make at least one pie a month.  Sometimes it’s a dinner pie, like Chicken Pot Pie, but mostly I make pies for dessert.  I take my ingredient cues from the season, naturally, so I’ve made everything from lemon meringue to peach to cherry to strawberry rhubarb to pumpkin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

My first Lemon Meringue Pie.

Whenever I mention that I like to make pies, the first response I get is usually, “isn’t making a crust hard?”  Not really, (although to be fair, I’ve been making crusts since I was Madison’s age.)  The trick is all in the blending and amount of water added to the dough.  I inherited my pie crust recipe from my mom who got it from one of her best friends over 40 years ago.  The ingredients are simple – flour, shortening, salt and water.  Mix them together, roll it out and you’ve got yourself a crust.

Of course, the first pie I ever made was an apple pie.  I mean really, could it get any more clichéd?  What’s more iconic that an apple pie?  (or baseball?  Or Chevrolet?)  Whenever my friends had big potlucks I was always told to bring the pie.  (I’m pretty sure it’s because I was one of two people under the age of 40 who knew how to make a pie, but once, just once I would have liked to bring the potatoes.) Everyone always wanted apple, but as much as I love Granny Smith apples, I got really tired of apple pie.  (I went to a lot of potlucks in those days.)

One fall, I decided to make a pear pie instead of the usual apple.  I followed the same process as I would for the apple pie (peel and slice the fruit, then toss it together with lots of cubed butter and season it with sugar and spices.) To make it a bit easier on myself, I found a pear that approximated an apple – a Bosc pear.  Boscs are crispy and don’t get all mushy when they’re cooked.  And this time I used ginger instead of cinnamon to spice it up.

The result was a juicy, delicious surprise.  I didn’t tell anyone that it was pear and because it looked like apple everyone thought they were getting my “famous apple pie.”  But once they bit into it they discovered that it tasted so much better than plain ‘ol apple.  In fact, it was so successful that I began experimenting with different fruit/spice combinations, using the same formula to mix and bake my pies.  I tried peach and cardamom, strawberry and allspice and nectarine and clove – all with great success.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I also love experimenting with toppings.  Sometimes I’ll do a lattice top (for cherry or rhubarb – not as hard as it looks.  If you can weave construction paper you can make a lattice-topped pie), crumble top (for apple or pear – mix butter, sugar, a little flour and spice of choice and sprinkle it on top) or covered and vented (berry or chicken pot pie – very old fashioned-looking, but also very cool looking when it bakes right.)  I also like to dig out the cookie cutters and decorate the tops and edges.  I’ve got this great set of miniature catering cutters in the shape of hearts, spades, teardrops, stars and flowers.  Last Fourth of July I made a peach pie and covered the top with flowers – except Joel pointed out that they looked more like fireworks so that’s what I ran with.

But as much as I love making pies, I’ve also found that they can be pretty temperamental.  If I’m not in the mood, forget it.  I can’t force it and nothing I do will make the pie pretty.  In fact, I’ve been known to dish slices of unsuccessful pies into a bowl, cover them with fresh whipped cream and call it cobbler.  Luckily, no matter what I call it, the result usually tastes so good no one cares.

To see more of my pies, visit my Facebook page.

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4 comments on “Pie is My Favorite

  1. Rufus' Food and Spirit Guide
    April 7, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    I think I just teared up a bit.:) That’s normal for a guy right. Seriously, great post and I think I’m making a pie tonight.

    • Heather
      April 7, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Wow! I didn’t think that talking about pie could make anyone cry, thanks! I hope your dinner pie turns out great. Thanks for visiting my site!

  2. Christa
    April 7, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Ever tried the America’s Test Kitchen method of using Vodka in your pie crust? Apparently adding the Vodka in addition to water makes the dough easier to roll out and handle, but since it evaporates when cooked, leaves the dough tender and flaky.

    • Heather
      April 7, 2011 at 10:09 am #

      I wonder if Absolute Citron would work? It’s the only vodka I have on hand…lol.

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