Day 6: Pie Therapy.
I remember the first time I ever made a lattice-topped pie. It was during – of all things – a job interview.
I wish I could say I grew up making pies with my grandmother (isn't that what every cookbook author says?!) as we laughed at each other with flour-covered faces. Well, that's not quite how it happened. My grandmother barely allowed me in the kitchen - it was her domain, and she ruled alone. So even though she turned out beautiful pies, I never had the chance to learn her secrets. My mom, fortunately, did let me in the kitchen, and I spent lots of time cooking with her. But with the exception of my dad's favorite Vermont Apple Pie (which she made every five years or so), she preferred to buy her crusts frozen and pre-made. Despite a good bit of culinary training, I somehow still made it into adulthood as a pie novice.
Until last year. I interviewed for a test kitchen editor position at a food magazine, and (as is standard procedure), they asked me to come in and prepare several dishes in their test kitchen. In these sort of interviews, you never know what you're going to make until you arrive. One of the recipes happened to be a lattice-top raspberry pie. You know that feeling when you're standing at the top of the high-diving board, and you look down? Your stomach drops, and you realize that your options are to either jump, or to face the shame of turning around and crawling back down the ladder. In this case, I had to jump.
I made the pie, praying my way through the process of making, rolling, shaping, and baking the pastry. Even though I had a recipe to follow, so much of pastry is in the feel. Pie crust can be so finnicky (too dry, too dense, too brittle) and I lacked the confidence to know if I was handling it properly. But I plunged ahead and did my best, channeling the grandmother baking tricks I never learned. Several hours later, the pie came out of the oven. The lattice and the crimping definitely weren't the prettiest, but it with immense relief that I presented my pie to the editors, realizing that it wasn't a total disaster: at least it tasted good. (Note: I did NOT get the job!)
These days (now that the pressure's off), I actually love making pies. I don't do it often, given the time commitment, but there is something amazingly therapeutic about whacking a piece of dough with a rolling pin, rolling it out, shaping it into a pan, or cutting out strips to make a lattice. (You can see just how much fun it is in the little video Brandon made!) This past weekend, I made an apple pie with salted caramel sauce for a friend's BBQ using a recipe from the brand new Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. The book, written by Emily and Melissa Elsen (sisters who run the popular Brooklyn-based Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Shop) is full of seasonal pie recipes, with gorgeous photos and step-by-step pastry tutorials. Perfect for a wanna-be pie-maker like me!
I'm running out the door to a meeting (exciting news that I'll be able to share with you soon!), so I'm going to have to wrap this post up. But I want to leave you with a few thoughts: a) Buy the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. It's amazing. b) Try making this pie (recipe below): it's divine. You'll thank me, and your husband/roommate/kids/neighbors will thank me. The combo of homemade pastry, baked apples, and salted caramel is just incredible. Serve with vanilla ice cream. c) Don't be intimated by the length of the recipe. Take your time, have fun. It doesn't have to be perfect (in fact, I prefer funky-looking pies!). d) I bake much better when listening to jazz and sipping a glass of wine. You should try it sometime! :)
Photos by Brandon Carl[recipe:best-old-fashioned-apple-pie-caramel-sauce-recipe]