Pie has always been that thing that I wanted to learn how to make but just couldn’t muster up the courage to try. Is that weird? A lot of people make pies. A lot of people make really good pies. I just wasn’t sure I could be one of them.
I think it’s because my mom makes really great pies, but even she’s made a few that haven’t turned out well. I’ve seen her frustrated with crusts that fall apart or fillings that don’t quite set. And I think, if it’s so hard for her — with her years of knowledge and experience — why should I even bother? I can make a lot of other great desserts, and maybe pie should just be that one food I can only get when I go home.
But here’s the thing: I don’t get to go home very often anymore. And when I do, my mom isn’t exactly rushing into the kitchen to whip up a pie in my honor. The only time she really makes pie, at least when I’m home, is at Thanksgiving. And I can’t live with just one pie a year! Besides, I think it’s important not to let our family traditions die out because we’re too intimidated to try doing something that someone else does better. Tragically, this happened in my grandfather’s family, with his mother’s famous sky-high icebox dinner rolls. I’ve finally gotten my hands on the recipe, but I wish Great-Grammy was still around to answer all of my questions about kneading and shaping. How the dough should look and feel in your hands. How they smell when they’re just perfectly done. None of the instructions in my Great-Aunt Katherine’s handwriting are very clear, except for the last one: “Don’t eat too many!”
So Thursday, when Flavio surprised me with a little pie bird for my half-birthday, I knew it was time to finally roll up my sleeves and make a pie.
Let me tell you, I was so scared making this thing. And I had a meltdown once I got the top crust on because it came out so wonky and off-center. Regardless of what the recipe suggests, I will never again cut the shapes out of the top crust until after it’s on the pie! But I knew going into this that pie-making has a learning curve, so I don’t know why I was so disappointed at my perceived failures. Bottom line: it tastes really stinking good.
A note about the recipe: This is from the “Cooking Class: How to Make a Pie” article in the April/May 2012 issue of Cook’s Country. The crust, which uses vodka to inhibit gluten formation, was buttery, crisp, and flaky. It will be my go-to double-crust pastry recipe. But the blueberry filling? Meh. It tastes ok, it set up great (not gummy, but not weepy either), but I’ve got two main gripes. 1) I hate the addition of grated Granny Smith apple. The texture of it is really off-putting to me. 2) The flavor is a bit one note. I miss a warm spice, like cinnamon. I ended up making some cinnamon whipped cream to go with the pie, but it’s not quite the same as having it in the pie.
And the pie bird? Adorable. Worked like a charm! No sagging crust and no bubble-overs! Sort of want one in every color. And I can’t wait to use it again. I’m thinking there might be a strawberry-rhubarb pie in my near future…