Practice Makes Perfect Pies
I am neither a chef nor baker, by any means. I’m really not even a good cook. I’m an AWESOME recipe finder and an even more impressive recipe follower. I don’t deviate, especially on the first go ’round. And because baking is (generally) a science, I’m scared to death to experiment, given my vast lack of scientific knowledge regarding such things.
Now, a little background…I offered to help in the kitchen a few years ago (out of town) on Thanksgiving Day and was tasked with the cherry pie, which was my nephew’s favorite dessert. I’d never made any pie from scratch other than key lime (which totally doesn’t count) so I grabbed the recipe my niece found online and went to work. Couldn’t be too hard, right?
It had about 3 steps:
1) Boil the cherries with cornstarch until they thicken.
2) Pour into pie crust.
3) Bake for 30 minutes (I think. Can’t remember the exact timeframe).
This didn’t scare me at first because I am competent enough to know when something has thickened. However, this took FOR-E-VER. So, I added a tad more cornstarch and cranked up the heat….while wondering what the heck I could have done wrong to make it take sooooo long… The cherries eventually reached thickened perfection and I slid the pie in the oven, feeling a tad guilty for only helping with such a menial task.
Well, folks. Lesson learned. Don’t offer to help in the kitchen when you are clueless. That pie was the nastiest piece of funk anyone unfortunate enough to try it had ever eaten. I was mortified that it had my name all over it (and that I disappointed my nephew and his wife who wanted it for him!) and vowed to redeem myself from this dreadfully, congealed cherry-jelly filled piecrust catastrophe.
Upon tasting it, my other nephew said it would be great with peanut butter. For realz.
In my quest for redemption, I decided to start with a recipe from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. I love tartness, and since her recipe was called Sour Cherry Pie and called for lemon and lemon zest, I was sold on this impending tart festival.
The first pie had me pitting cherries by hand (not recommended) and wait for it…I deviated thrice! I used regular cherries because I had no clue where to find sour cherries (and am still not convinced these exist), I used less sugar (to avoid that typical sickly oversweetness) AND I added extra lemon. Living on the edge. This yielded a tasty pie but it still wasn’t my ideal. Too much zest and not enough juice in the flavor (yes, there is a difference). I made another with half the zest and even more juice, added back in a smidge more sugar (per my husband’s suggestion) and invested in this cherry pitter. VOILA!
It is now my daughter’s favorite pie, which for me, is enough to erase that jelly pie fiasco. I’ve also made it for the same family I repulsed years ago and I’ve yet to see it not fly off the table. My father-in-law, who is a health nut, has eaten nearly an entire pie in a sitting! If you know any health nuts, you can appreciate how much this really means. And my husband loves that his health nut dad inhales this sugar filled carbfest! It gives him a little leeway when he wants to eat what he wants under the vigil eye.
I apologize for the lengthy lead up to this recipe but this is a blog, right? I insist you try it! I’d prefer you try it with my tweaks but I won’t hold it against you if you follow Martha’s recipe to a T! (And yes, those are hideous BLUE laminate counters underneath that pie…stay tuned for my kitchen makeover, still in progress…)
And check out my fancy leaves. I hand cut those bad boys. Impressive, huh? I should also mention I don’t make the pie crust…yet. I cheat and buy frozen crusts and then roll one out to do the lattice and decor. I’m proof that dummies in the kitchen can succeed! I’m insanely proud of this pie and invite you to try your hand at it for the upcoming holidays. Do you have any tips or tricks for making fancy and tasty pies?
P.S. You DON’T cook cherries before they go in the piecrust!!!