Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Worry About Pie

I do.

I worry about pie.

I worry that we're going to lose pie making.

I'm not worried about cakes. Yes, box mixes are a different animal than from-scratch cakes, but people are still making cakes. Pie making is dying. Honestly, when was the last time you actually made a pie from scratch, the whole thing? The pre-made graham cracker shells, boxed and canned fillings, frozen dough, and cool whip, people just don't make pies anymore. I even hear the heresy that there are people who don't like pie. Well of course they don't like pie, if all that pie means is frozen, boxed, packaged, and canned sludge.

It feels like pie makers are going to the grave with all their secrets. Across America, your aunt or grandmother, neighbor or church lady, have a lifetime of pie making that no one is bothering to learn. Because pies are regional, and the secrets to making them depend on local conditions and ingredients, these women are the repositories of baking magic. Pecan pie is made where they grow pecans. Apple pie strongholds in the north east and north west, wouldn't you know it, where they grow apples.

From the way I hear you tell it, the scariest thing in the world is pie dough. But don't let it scare you out of making pie. There's something so satisfying about the challenge of pie dough. Will you get the ratio right? Will it be too warm or too cold? Will it tear as you transfer it to the plate? I suspect it's those kind of questions that keep people from making their own pies, but that's the adventure! I've been making pies for almost 30 years and I still don't get it perfect, but I always try.

So what's the secret? Keeping it cold. When the recipe says chill the dough, really chill it. Chill the pie plate after it's filled with dough, too. Don't get it out of the icebox until you're really ready to fill and bake. Where I live the air is so dry that pie dough needs more water than the recipes call for. As for the filling, there's no right or wrong answer, but if I could nudge you, it would be to make pies that mark the season: strawberry pies in June, apricot in July, peaches in August, apple in the Fall. No more lovely way to mark the passing of a calendar than to make a pie.

My dad is the pie maker in the family. His pumpkin pie is legendary (shh, he uses the recipe on the back of the Libby's can.) Mincemeat and apple are his other specialties. He'll tell you that the best apple pies are made of Rome pples. My mother-in-law swears by McIntosh. Every region knows a different most delicious apple for pie. I've even heard of fights over a double crust apple vs. a crumb-topping apple.

My specialty is coconut cream. Oh, it's so, so good.

We can't lose pies; it's Un-American. That's what the House Un-American Committee should have been about: how to stop pie loss.

So ask your grandmother, your neighbor, the church lady to help you know the pie-making secrets in your corner of the country. What's your regional specialty? Shoo-fly? Banoffee? Mulberry? Sour cream lemon? Whatever it is, I want you to make a pie for real, from scratch. For extra credit, look around your neighborhood or farmer's stand and pick what's bursting in season this week. And for heaven's sake, whip some real cream.

Will you?

The first pie pictured is apricot. It's my personal favorite because it's not only easy, it's out of this world delicious. The recipe is a variation on Ruth Reichl's apricot pie:

Apricot Pie

Chilled pie dough in a 9 or 10" pie plate
2 lbs fresh apricots
1/4 cup flour

1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400ºF with rack in lower third.
Pull apricots (with skins) apart into halves, throw away pits. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then stir in sugar, flour, salt, and nutmeg, and remove from heat. Cool mixture until firm enough to crumble, 10 minutes. Toss the apricots with 1/4 c of flour, just to coat them, discard the extra flour. Put apricots in pie shell (I like to stand them up on their ends, overlapping them slightly,) crumble butter mixture on top. 

Bake the pie, with a foil-lined baking pan on rack below it (to catch drips), 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF and continue to bake until top is golden, 50 minutes to 60 minutes.
Cool pie to warm or room temperature on a rack, serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


La Yen said...

I make pie. Don't worry about me up in herrrrr.

But our regional produce right now is chili peppers. So, um, no.

Tyla said...

Oh, I love pie! My mom makes a great chocolate pie and japanese fruit pie. And I love chess and coconut cream and fudge and...well, I just love pie. :)

whitneyingram said...

This is such a long-over due call to arms. I am going to make a pie this weekend. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

My Grandma Sally made lemon meringue. My mom says she could make it without a recipe and in her stubborn Irish ways, when asked if she would share the recipe, she would says, "No, so when I die, you will miss me."

Pies I make: Chocolate truffle, apple.

whitneyingram said...

Oh, and


soybeanlover said...

I've been thinking about pie, you are a sign that I need to make it. I will obey as soon as morning arrives.

Tyla - what is Japanese Fruit pie? I'm in Japan and would like to use local fruits. Gracias.

Kalli said...

Whitney, I hope you're making that for steak and cake on Sunday.

I make pie.

Once I figured out crust transfer it's not so hard.

And that apricot pie was melt in your mouth delish. You still have apricots? Are they rotten?

Gretchen Alice said...

I think I'm the only one of my friends that actually knows how to properly make pie. (Thanks, Mom!) And for the record, I made cherry pie over the Independence Day weekend. (But then, I'm also a pretty big pie fanatic.) I'll strive to carry on the tradition

Marianne & Clayton said...

I've had your coconut cream pie, and so help me, if you die and I don't get the recipe I will plant some horrible weed on your grave. Or something more threatening.

Brinestone said...

My mom's crust recipe comes from a Scandinavian woman on a bus, and it's almost foolproof, plus it doesn't require refrigeration. I tried normal crust once so I could use my husband's famous apple pie recipe start to finish, and I was just about swearing by the end. I'll stick with my crust and his filling, thanks.

Here's the recipe for anyone interested:

5 cups flour
2 cups shortening
1 tsp. baking powder
1 2/3 cups 7-Up*
1 tsp. salt

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder. Blend in shortening until it forms coarse crumbs (I use a potato masher for this and it works beautifully; a pastry blender would be fine too). Pour 7-Up all over everything and fork it through. Seriously, use a fork and kind of comb the dough. DON'T try to form a ball; just get most of it kinda wet so you don't have to deal with dry crumbs at the bottom.

Scoop about a quarter of the dough out onto a floured surface, sprinkle a bit more flour on top, and roll out. If it sticks, sprinkle a bit more flour on. (I find that this crust rolls out so easily that I often roll it too thin and wish later, when eating it, that I'd left it thicker. YMMV.) Fold crust in half and gently transfer to pan, then unfold. Fill as desired then repeat with top crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 and bake 35 minutes more. You may want to cover the edges of the crust with foil for part of the cooking time to prevent overbrowning because this crust recipe does contain some sugar in the 7-Up.

*Apparently ginger ale and tonic water work too. Brand does not matter on the lemon-lime soda.

Jamie @ It's a Morris Thing said...

YUMMY!! I love pie, my MIL gave me her MIL's pie crust recipe and it is so easy and always tastes good. I haven't made it in Utah yet but I am thinking it is time to give it a try and fill it with the apricot filling. Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

Jillybean said...

Strangely enough, yesterday I asked my kids if they wanted to learn how to make pie crust. (They do!)

sara said...

I make pies! Unfortunately only once or twice a year. But they're full-on from scratch, baby.

Thanks for the recipe; that looks so good.

Debra Fotheringham said...

Cooking from scratch is a dying art. Fortunately, I have a mom raised by Depression era parents. She makes everything from scratch and taught her 9 girls the art. Thanksgiving at our house is a pie smorgasbord: pecan, pumpkin, apple, strawberry/rhubarb, blueberry, cherry, coconut cream, avocado cream, buttermilk, chocolate, on and on. Always with freshly whipped cream. I'm salivating. Thanks for the inspiration. I think I need to go make a pie right now.

Leslie said...

I admit I can't get the crust right most of the time but I have fond memories of my Mom making pies with me during the holidays. She made it all from scratch and we loved her strudel with the left over pie crusts. You've inspired me to get a hang of the crust as I have cheated in the past with store bought pie crusts! Every year we still make homemade pies though and there are always left overs. People claim to not like apple or cherry pie as much as cake and other sweets. I'd rather have pie than cake any day! I've been known to make that request on my birthday even. And apricot pie reminds me of my childhood in Utah. YUM! Maybe I will make some soon.

Matt said...

I blame Sandra Lee. Of course, she truly is the cause of most of life's evils.

I am the only male I know who makes pies. I have been making pies since I was about 10 years old (I'm 33 now), and I usually make about 10-15 pies a year. I am CONSTANTLY hearing from people, "I don't really like pie, but yours is really good." Well, my pies are nothing special, they're just not from a can or pre-made, pre-baked pie shells.

In any case, as one of the lone male readers of your blog, let me say a big "AMEN." The world is better with pie.

cabesh said...

I love pie. I make pie. Blackberry is my specialty because blackberries grow wild, like weeds in southwestern Oregon....I miss that pie. I can't get good blackberries in New England.

Craig decided last year that his goal is to make the best apple pie. He's conquered the filling and this fall I am helping him move from pre-made crust to from scratch. I'm pretty excited about that!

Erin said...

I make pie.
Probably more often then I should.
My crusts include vodka and my favorite filling is blackberry peach.
I'm also a card carrying member of the Pie of the Month club.
I care very deeply about pie.

Thanks for the recipe!

Anonymous said...

It's okay. Maybe it's become a cult classic, but not dying at all

kami @ said...

My mom just showed up to my house last week with Rhubarb Pie. It was so good!

I like pie, I don't worry about it. I like pie and I like you for worrying about pie...I guess someone needs to.

Miggy said...

With all this talk about our national debt, I was worried that the real issues were falling through the cracks. But I can see you're on it!

We are pie people. The house specialty is Banana Cream. It is BY FAR the recipe I get asked for the most, which always puts me in an uncomfortable position because it is the ONLY recipe I have been forbidden to share by it's creator, one of my BFF's who one day intends to open a bakery. It is exquisite. And of course it's made with real crust and real cream. There is no pudding mix (shudder) in this baby. And it's probably a good think I can't give the recipe, because you can't just "give" it you have to demonstrate it. It's the only way to learn.

Also my husband makes a mean Apple pie...traditionally we have done this in the fall after apple picking but now that we're Texan transplants I'm not sure what we'll do. Also, we solved the whole crumb or crust dilemma...we do both. :)

Miggy said...

I meant "a good thing"...but you probably figured that out.

the emily said...

oh how I love a good pie. I prefer cream pies to fruit pies, but I won't say no to any kind of pie. Mmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I make pie, several times a year. My kids don't really like cake, so they often choose pie for their birthday dessert. I have to say though, the BEST pie I've ever made was at Father's Day. Apple pie. It was to die for.

Rebecca said...

My mother in law is the best pie maker. She doesn't ever even use recipes. It's all from her head. One day I'll learn the art, but that day is not today! Or tomorrow! =)

Annette Lyon said...

A couple of weeks ago I made rhubarb pie from scratch, using the plant from the backyard my dad gave me. I'm not an expert, but I CAN make pie, and I love it.

dalene said...

I know your coconut cream pie is true. And, for the record, I teach crust making and pie baking every chance I get.

And I always whip my own cream.

Carrot Jello said...

Oh, I love you.
I love pie too, but am afraid to make it.
But I shall try again.
Maybe I will become a pie making warrior.
And if I ever get a pie making award, I shall give you all the credit.

Mrs JP Chaos said...

Are there people who don't worry about pie? I don't think I can be friends with people who don't worry about pie.

Greenwoods said...

I've always made the filling; never the crust. Considering how much I LOVE pie (I have pie instead of cake on my birthday) and that the crust is generally my favorite part - I will be sure to conquer that fear.

Would you be willing to share your coconut cream pie recipe? That was my grandmother's favorite and has grown to be mine. I don't remember her ever making it from scratch either....

Azúcar said...

I'm so happy that there are so many pie bakers out there!

Matt--Thanks for reading! Like I said, my dad is the famous pie maker around these parts. I hope my boys grow up with major pie skillz.

Erin- I LOVE that vodka crust and use it all the time; it's really foolproof + delicious, isn't it?

Laura: The Sushi Snob said...

Several years ago, my family was up in Utah for Thanksgiving and my mom was shopping for pie cherries (NOT THE CANNED FILLING!!!) for her legendary cherry pie. We had to scour several grocery stores for canned cherries because it seemed like all they carried were canned FILLING, not the plain old cherries. My mom was baffled, because this is UTAH where every woman has to cook from scratch!

We eventually did get the pie cherries, but sheesh!

My mom has been teaching me the art of pie making. Crusts made from scratch are to die for.

kelli case anderson said...

pie. i love it. i love pie.

Andrea Hardman said...

Oh my gosh. I didn't realize how strongly I feel about pies until reading your post. You are right. Long live pie! I just picked blueberries down here in AL and come hell or high water, I'm making a pie for tomorrows dinner!

Jenny said...

Now I need to go watch the waitress for more pie ideas. I made a strawberry mango lattice topped pie with the Americas test kitchen crust today and the crust was good but took way too much time. My pie tasted like a tropical sunset.

Naomi said...

I have been called a "food snob" because I refuse to eat frozen or store-bought baked goods. I am glad to know I am not alone.

Hailey said...

Some day, I want you to teach me how to make pie crust. In fact, you should have a baking show and I would totally watch it.

wendysue said...

I know you probably already know this site (it's Topher's cousin Ryan's wife)

and now I will Totally make a pie. After all, my husband just bought 11 pounds of cherries. . ."they were on SALE!"

ellen said...

I made a fresh peach pie for our Stake Activity (welcoming the youth back from their Trek) and I didn't win a prize but it was delicious. I love making pie and eating pie.

Unknown said...

This confession might end our internet friendship, but I don't love pie. Not to worry, though. My sister, who currently lives with me, is a pie-making machine, so I'm subsidizing the continuation of pie, despite my lack of appreciation.

Michemily said...

So I'm the sister of the unknown commenter--I do love pie. I learned how to make it when I was about 12 from my grandma, and I think the better question would be, "When was the last time you bought a pie crust?" Never!

I don't know why people think making a pie is a ton of work. It really isn't too hard and it doesn't take that long.

When I make pie for my German friends, they always seem to have the same comment: "It's soooo sugary." True. We Americans like our sweets.

jeri said...

Jenny's pie DID taste like tropical sunset!

I use the Tyler Florence pie crust recipe because you make it in the food processor and it's really, really fast. It makes a crust that is very flaky.

I was hesitant to try this recipe because I have never loved apricots for anything but jam but I was totally wrong. WRONG I tell you! This was so delicious. My husband loved it too. If only I had more apricots.

vanessa said...

You are right! And I remember with my Grandparents their favorite dessert was pie. My Mom still makes pies...oh she makes this killer Pear Cranberry Pie. I will make a pie this week in honor of saving pies!!

Geo said...

Chess pie. Southern chess pie. Oh, oh.

Mojo said...

I wouldn't worry. There's a pie shop by my house that's doing wonderfully. They serve all flavors of pies, quiches, and savory pies. They do very well and whenever I go there's at least four chefs in the back making pies. They sell them at all the farmers markets and small venues. Check them out. This is in the city and trends usually start in the cities. Plus, I have plenty of friends still making pies from scratch. I hope this helps puts your mind at rest.

Azúcar said...

The irony of you, Mojo, calming ME down, makes me giggle.

Chi-townRawlins said...

Amen! Down with pie loss! Up with weight gain!
Once I learned how make a proper (if unpretty) pie crust I was hooked. So easy and so delicious. Mamma likey.

Rynell said...

We're having an old-fashioned church activity this month of the county fair variety. I'm planning to win the Pie Contest.

Jan S said...

Another reason why I love you, Carina!! I am a HUGE pie fan. My mom made fabulous pies. But I have to be honest, I have had a terrible time finding a good pie crust recipe that is simple and easy. I've been making a ton of berry pies lately and I've resorted to Trader Joe's pie crusts (in freezer section) which I think are terrific for store bought. Still, I need to just bite the bullet and practice my crusts. I think I will start with your Apricot Pie recipe. I LOVE apricots! Great post!!
P.S. I read in a food article recently that some are saying the next "food craze" will be pies. Goodbye, cupcakes, hello pies. I'm ready!

Nemesis said...

Jan S, I hope you are right about that, because I am kind of over cupcakes. Some are great, but others are nasty and dry and people think that if you dump a ton of frosting on something it automatically makes it good and worth $4. When it's just not.

Pies for everyone!

Jen said...

I've stumbled on your blog a time or two now and am finally going to comment! I love making pies. Don't do a lot of pie making except for holidays, but it really isn't that hard. I think pie dough is like yeast breads...everyone thinks they are super tricky, but if you just do it they aren't. My specialty is apple pie with a crumb topping.