Saturday, August 11, 2012

There's Something About Pie

Fresh baked pies (cherry/cranberry and peach) waiting to head over to the pie and ice cream social at work today
"What is it about pies," Andy asked the other night. "Why do people go so nuts over them?"

Where he works, they're in the habit of providing their week-long stays with a pie. In the years that Andy's worked at the business, they've gone through a series of pie-bakers. (I suppose if we didn't live in the woods, we might go so far as to call them "pastry chefs.") One baker made pies that were too sweet and goop-y (instant pudding has no place in a pie shell, I say), another had trouble achieving an affordable wholesale price, the last had a severe gluten allergy that made assembling pie crusts rather tricky. In the end, the business opted to go the frozen, pre-made pie route, buying the pies directly from a wholesale restaurant supplier. But homemade or "home-baked," the guests don't care. They just want their pie.

What is it about pies?

I'm hard-pressed to think of another common dessert that strikes more fear in many of even the most experienced bakers' hearts. You're either a pie baker or you're not, although these days, with the advent of frozen and pre-made pie crusts, many non-pie bakers can limp along admirably. But despite the fact that many bakers would rather serve cake, cobbler, cookies, anything but pie for dessert, pie remains the ultimate in all-American desserts. (Keeping in mind, of course, that apple pie isn't really American - it's English, don't you know.)
    
A pie's complexity lies in its simplicity. More often than not, it's just two layers of pastry with some sort of fruit filling in between it. But a beautiful pie can quickly turn to disappointment if the crust doesn't flake when cut in or the pie filling spills out in a puddle when served.

I didn't really come from a pie eating family. My grandmother was well known for her fresh berry pies, which involved fresh fruit placed in a vegetable oil pie crust and covered with a Jell-O glaze. The fresh strawberry pie (which my brother still requests for his birthday) was delicious . . . the fresh blueberry pie with lemon Jell-O glaze remains a memorable flop. My mother's fear of pie crust meant most pies I ate as a little girl had a crumb topping, so she could avoid the hassle of a top crust. It wasn't until I discovered pie baking at age 13 that pies started be served with some regularity at home.

If you asked me if pie was my favorite dessert, I'd probably tell you "no." Ice cream and cheesecake rank above pie in my book. But when it comes to birthday treats - both those I request and those I bake for others - I find I gravitate towards pie. Key lime for me, please, molasses bourbon pecan for Andy, pumpkin or cherry for Dad.

You can't make a good pie without confidence and a bit of love for the craft. I once told an apprehensive pie baker that the secret to good pie crust was "telling the pie crust how good it was going to be the whole time you're making it." Oh and time. It doesn't take that long to roll out a homemade pie, but you just wouldn't want to rush a good pie.

So what is about pies?

I think a good pie conjures up a warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia and love. A good pie speaks of a slower pace of life, when there was time to futz about in the kitchen, when people worked hard enough to have their pie and eat it each evening, when ingredients were fresh and locally sourced, when our chief worry about what was going in our mouths was how it tasted.

 

8 comments:

  1. Your pies look fabulous! My mother and grandmother were amazing pie-bakers. I think I make a pie almost every month.

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  2. Those are beautiful! I started making rhubarb-blueberry pies a couple years ago, I call them BluBarb pie... this year I added strawberries to the mix and named them Strubarbs. Then I added a diced apples, blackberries and raspberries (just to get rid of the last couple handfuls and named those Rhupleberry pie. I would dub your pies: Cheechery Pie.
    I have a killer pecan pie recipe that I got from my mom's 80-year-old hair dresser, 30 years ago. Nobody doesn't like it.

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  3. You pies look amazing! I loved this post, how fun! I don't make pie that often and I have no idea why. The crust really isn't THAT hard to make and mine always turns out great so it's not that. I'm not sure... maybe because it's not my favorite dessert? My aunt makes all the pies for holidays so I don't want to step on any toes there... :-) My son loves pumpkin pie so I make good old Libby's version often, even in the summer. LOL! Would love your Bourbon Pecan Pie recipe!

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  4. I LOVE a good pie---- Lukus and I have found a balance: he actually makes a mean pie crust and I am pretty good at fillings, so we split the responsibility. Makes pies much more manageable!

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  5. I had the BEST blueberry pie ever at a recent church potluck. I was told everyone knew who made that pie, which is the reason it disappeared before any of the other pies on the table.

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  6. I've always been lukewarm on pies, thus I've never been compelled to try making one. If I did, I'm sure the crust would not be from scratch haha! I do like eating cake and cookies, but I don't really bake anything.

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  7. It's everything about pies! They're yummy, they remind me of my grandma, they remind me of holidays, and they make me happy :)

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  8. You are so right. Baking a pie takes a real confidence! And the reward can be amazing. :)

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