Friday, June 2, 2006

Why Pie?

A perfect pie
Thank God It’s Friday. Really. I’ve been waiting all week to launch this blog and say hello and welcome, Reader. What can you expect to find at Pie Day Friday? Well, pie of course -- and perhaps recipes, stories, and a little chit-chat, too. I won’t promise anything else, but that’s plenty, don’t you think? So pull up a fork and come visit with The Queen of Tarts.

Or…Why Not Pie?

Many people tell me they would never dream of making a pie. Too daunting, they say, although when it comes to other scary endeavors – visiting their accountants, sleeping in tents, raising children -- they rarely lack for nerve. Just mention pie crust, though, and you’ll see them start to tremble. And don’t bring up that mysterious implement known as the rolling pin (they won’t have one), or suggest that pie-making is just a matter of taking the time to practice (they don’t have that, either). Pie-making, to them – and perhaps to you, too? – ain’t gonna happen.

Well, in my new role as The Queen, I feel compelled to quell these concerns. First, no self-respecting person should ever feel intimidated by a lump of dough. Second, an empty wine bottle has been the salvation of many pie bakers lacking proper tools. Third, you made time for the season finale of Lost, didn’t you?

Or perhaps you simply need to be convinced that pie-making is a worthwhile endeavor. If so, allow me this: When you make a pie, many good things will happen: Ordinarily-sullen fifteen-year-olds will lick crumbs off their plates and plant a kiss on your cheek. Women in size 4 dresses will abandon their diets and beg for seconds. Compliments will be tossed at you with more gusto than Frisbees at a college coed. I’ve even had a musician promise to write a song in tribute to my pies. (BTW, Steve, I’m still waiting.) Take a pie to a party and you will leave with many new friends.

Matt eats pie

That, you see, is the power of pie.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie is my family’s favorite. Everyone seems to like the combination of sweet and tart fruits; it’s gobbled up even by people who claim they don’t like pie. (Alert: Be wary of those kinds of people! Why would anyone want to reject an entire category of cuisine?)

Spring is the best time of year to find rhubarb, although I’ve spotted it at the grocery well into the summer. You might want to carpe diem: buy a bunch, chop it up, and freeze it for later use. And try to use locally-grown strawberries, if possible. These little ugly ones are usually much tastier than the large trophy-wife berries encased in their plastic prisons.

Strawberries and rhubarb awaiting preparation

I recently toted three of these pies to a party hosted by our friends John and Follin. Besides hanging out with some of our very favorite people, we had the pleasure of meeting John’s big extended family – enthusiastic pie-eaters, all. When it came time to serve dessert though, I discovered that the pies were very juicy. Very, very juicy. (Less-charitable people might even say “soupy,” but they wouldn’t dare try that around me.) And while this…um….liquidity factor…didn’t affect the taste, it did hinder the presentation.

So the next day, I made yet another strawberry-rhubarb pie, thickening it this time with quick-cooking tapioca instead of the flour I’d always used before. The resulting filling had significantly more body, although it was still not overly jelled. So that’s what I recommend in this recipe. If you, however, are a fan of juicy pies, omit the tapioca pearls and substitute flour as noted.

An unbaked strawberry-rhubarb pie

If you don’t know much about making crust, just do the best you can (or buy a refrigerated crust). I’ll talk more about making pie crusts on future posts.

Finally, when it comes to baking pies, you might want to consider the philosophy of Kurt Vonnegut: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

So abolish that Fear of Flying, Reader – and prepare to soar. . .

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Pastry for a 9-inch two-crust pie
4 cups rhubarb (about 4 large stalks), cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
2 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup instant tapioca (or 1/3 cup flour)
pinch salt
2 T. butter
2 T. milk
1 t. sugar

Preheat oven to 450.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with half of pastry dough. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca (or flour), and salt in large bowl, making sure all fruit is coated. Let sit 10 minutes. Pour fruit mixture into pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces and lay on fruit. Roll out remaining dough and place on top, crimping edges to seal. Using a pastry brush -- or your finger -- paint entire crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Make several cuts in top of crust to allow steam to escape. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake 35 minutes more.

Three pies all in a row


At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those pies look positively scrumptious! I do, however, suffer from doughphobia, so I'm destined to forever purchase pies.

Mark (Whoops. There goes my anonymity.)

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait until you start discussing crust issues. I have always heard that one should use ice-cold water to mix the dough, but it doesn't seem to matter... it's always a PITB.

I'd also be keenly interested in a discussion of non-dessert pies. I'd love to see a recipe for a curry pie -- sorta like a really big samosa that would feed eight.


At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I've never tasted rhubarb. Does it taste like celery? That's what it resembles, but I doubt anyone would put celery in a pie.


At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve--Get on the ball and write that pie-tribute song. And "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" has been done.


At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am drooling. fyi, I remember reading that strawberries are among the top ten fruits/veg in terms of pesticide use/residue so it's one thing I always try to buy organic if I can. Can't remember all the others. Green beans were another.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

Mark, Let's try to cure you of your doughphobia. Repeat after me: Pie crust is nothing to be afraid of. Pie crust is nothing to be afraid of. Pie crust. . .

Currydude, I love the idea of the giant samosa! Maybe with a dollop of chutney on the side? Hmmm...I'll get to work on that.

Cindysphinx, While rhubarb resembles celery in appearance and texture, I've never heard of it being used in a pie. Sounds like a challenge to me!

Anonymous, That's good to know about the pesticide residue. (I think.) Anyway, you're making a fine case for buying organic. . .

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Tartness, when I was just a wee lad, I had a frightening encounter with a pie. Let's just say it involved cherry pie, brandy, and the fire department. *That's* why I have doughphobia.

BTW, my sources have informed me that this week's pie selection is definitely a keeper.


At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I'm lookin' at the second to the last picture of today's addition... the one with the chocolate shavings, and the thing in your right hand doesn't look like a vegetable peeler... at least not the sort with which I grew up.

So, to a guy, any pursuit, project, crisis, interest, or occasion is an excuse to buy TOOLS.

So, I'm wondering, what tools, gadgets, implements, or to use the kitchenary term, "utensils" should a piemaker have? What's essential? What makes the task easier?


At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Steve Chambers said...

ok Mrs Linder, I will write a song about your pies. That'll be easy-do you know how many words rhyme with pies? did you want a cute little ditty or grammy winning effort? those take a little longer.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger cindysphinx said...

I kind of want to ask a question, but I'm a little new to the blog world, so I am probably going to mess this up. Here goes anyway:

I love chicken pot pie, but I've never tried to make one. I hear it is a load of hard work. But those Swanson pies I grew up on lack a certain homemade touch.

Do you have a good recipe for chicken pot pie for a beginner?


At 10:36 AM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

Cindy, Most of us are still finding our way through the blogosphere; I'm glad you've decided to make the journey,too. (You might, however, want to post new comments in the most recent PieDay Friday post to make sure they get read.) Anyway, I'm also a fan of a good chicken pot pie, and have always relied on a recipe from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook. (Their beef pot pie is also pretty great.) I don't think of the recipe as particulary difficult, but there are a lot of steps involved. You might want to give it a try someday when you have a free afternoon. (I've found that you can make it a day ahead of time and keep it in the fridge before baking.) And since The Queen is always receptive to suggestions, look for a pot pie on the blog in an upcoming post. . .

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Rod said...

On behalf of The T.G.I.P. [Thank Goodness It's Pieday] Club in Austin, Texas, keep up the good work!

At 2:26 PM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

Rod, Welcome, Austin TGIP-ers! I'm glad to see the kingdom is expanding its realm. . .


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