Ask April- Observational Wisdom- Pies!!!

Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting.  While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice,  that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.

This is Observational Wisdom.

Dear Readers,

It takes quite a bit of time and resources to bake a pie.

From scratch, I mean. If you buy the crust or filling already made, that is ten times easier.

Making JUST the crust takes time. You create it, then let it chill in the fridge until set. Then, you take it out, roll it out, and fit it in the pan. Some recipes call for pre baking the crust before adding the filling, which adds time. Some recipes call for a top crust as well, and sometimes, the top crust is done in strips, which is more work than just laying the crust atop.

Let’s discuss prepping the filling. Making a cream or custard pie is the most work…unless you grow your own fruit, that is! That takes an entire growing season! Let’s assume you do as I often do, and just nab store bought frozen berries. You still thaw them, and combine them with the sugar and spices called for. If you are using fruit you slice, you just might have to peel, core, or pit the fruits. I don’t even want to think of pitting fresh cherries for cherry pie!

Then, once in the oven, it is about 30 minutes to an hour before the pie bakes.

After that, it has to cool.

THAT is the worst part for me. Once that orgasmic smelling pie comes out of the oven, it is absolute TORTURE waiting for it to cool in order to eat!

Unless it’s a meat pie, of course. Those are fabulous, because you stuff them right into your face the second you pull them out of the oven! Merengue or cream pies take a step beyond all of this.

Cakes, cookies, and candies are much more festive than the “humble pie”, but they are not usually as much work. At least not at my house.

Suffice to say that if somebody bakes a pie for you, they absolutely love you. Never take such a  person for granted.

Having said that- My husbands berry pie is in the oven. It will be done and out of the oven cooling in about 45 minutes.

THEN I can go to sleep! I started the crust around 2:30 A.M.

It will be nearly 5 A.M. when this is done.

Writing all of this makes me realize how many pies I bake.

My first pie was done over fifteen years ago for the first Thanksgiving I hosted. I was very excited about a Martha Stewart recipe for a bourbon pecan pie.

My then Mother-In-Law, who I became quite fond of, was eternally impossible to please. This is the woman who refused to accept any gifts for birthdays or holidays, but did accept being taken out to eat at her favorite restaurants. I very much wanted to impress her. She ate a slice of my pie without a word of criticism. I should have left it at that and assumed she liked it. I made the mistake of asking her what she thought of the pie, and in a very sarcastic tone said, “Well, it’s RICH!”

Yes it was, and damned good , too! Woe to those who cannot stomach a rich pecan pie! What sad, flavorless lives they must live!

I really did not have fun baking that pie, even though it was beyond delicious however. For the next decade, I absolutely knocked myself out learning to make cakes. I was, am, and always WILL be a cake girl!

My current husband and my priest both prefer pies. So, I learned to bake for them.

My Priest always gets a berry pie with organic berries only. We had an epic debate about organics this fall. I won’t buy them. I think organic stores are a scam, and unless I am buying direct from whoever grows the produce, I don’t trust the goods to be chemical, and cruelty free. That included treating staff well who grows and harvests, of course. He feels organic is mandatory, and won’t eat fruit that isn’t. So I buy organic fruit for his, and ONLY his pies.

I surprised him when I told him I use frozen berries. He’d assumed everybody uses only fresh.

My issue with using frozen berries is that they taste and smell so good, I want to eat them all while they are thawing! I content myself with just a few berries, and by sticking my nose in the bag the berries were in and inhaling until I am about to pass out. True bliss!

My husband isn’t so picky. We buy most of our groceries at Aldi because it saves money. Their frozen berries are not listed as organic, but they taste amazing. We love the prices. My husband is an everything pie man, and loves nearly any kind of pie. For him, I have baked key lime, banana cream, lemon merengue, coconut cream, apple, berry, peach, molasses, pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, blueberry ice cream, and sugar cream pies. Those and chicken, and pork pies.

I want to learn a peanut butter pie and chocolate pie as well. I am curious about the vintage tomato pies, and would like to bake rhubarb pies. I’m looking at fish pie recipes.

Plum pie was shit. Oh my gods, I fucking hated it.

The molasses pie was disappointing, and the sugar cream pie bored me to death.

Everything else was fantastic.

One thing I learned I hate to bake is pumpkin , sweet potato, or squash pie. I do not like prepping those. They take forever. I have used canned pumpkin and it tastes no different than the pie made from fresh pumpkin. When my husband wants pumpkin pie, I buy him one. I swear. He never complains.

My biggest gripe with other people’s pies is the desire to use crisco. I hate the stuff. My crust recipe calls for half lard or crisco and half butter. I use all butter. I like my crust to be more like a shortbread cookie. I don’t like my crust flaking all over the place. I wear all black most of the time, and the crumbs from pie crust getting on my clothes pisses me off.

In about 20 minutes, I’ll take the pie out, cover it with foil atop the stove, and let it cool until morning. Well, it IS morning, technically. I’ll let it cool until this afternoon, when we have a slice after lunch. Ted will wake up before I do, and might have a slice before I wake up! The foil will keep the cat hairs off the crust, and in my opinion, looks very old fashioned sitting like that on the stovetop.

There are a lot of things I could have learned to be. Better at computers, a speaker of fluent sign language, and maybe if I had stuck with long term care, I might have moved out of middle management into upper management until it drove me insane.

But I’m pretty pleased one thing I became was a baker of pies. There is nothing like a home where a pie baker lives. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Whatever it is you’re good at, embrace it. Even if it’s something as small as baking good pies. Whatever somebody who loves you does for you, embrace that as well. Not everybody can do all the same things.

Update: It is now 2 P.M., and I am awake, dressed, and my husband just told me he hoped I had not saved that pie for somebody, because he ate a slice. He stated it’s the best pie he’s ever had. I don’t know if it is, but I had a few bites, and my pies keep improving.

Life is good.

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