All The Pie.

I am a very bad blogger. We may as well face facts.

I’ve been baking up a storm, and have been continuing to make (and eat) a pie a week. But I don’t always feel moved to write about them. Or I find myself strapped for time. There are a million excuses. But also? Maybe I don’t want to tell every detail about every pie right here as it happens. Maybe I want to make some of them again, perfect the recipes, take note of measurements and weights. Maybe I don’t, but maybe I do. Maybe this would make a good cookbook. Maybe I want to play with this project a little, curate it a little better rather than just tossing it all onto the internet as soon as I’ve thrown some food together.

But the truth is, this was always meant to be a personal challenge of making one pie a week for one year. My grandmother never intended it to be a blogging project. She wouldn’t even have known what a blog was.

I only have eight more pies to make. Eight! That seems crazy to me, this year has flown by so quickly. I’m not sure how I will tell you about the last eight pies. But I don’t want to leave you hanging on the past 15 either, so I’m going to give you a little round-up here. This is the kind of thing that would probably be better suited to Tumblr, but oh well.

Apple Pie: a classic pie, beloved by many. I don’t like apple pie at all, I don’t get it, I don’t like it even a little bit, even when it’s made well.

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Pumpkin Pie Part Two (Canned Pumpkin): Because I can’t get enough of pumpkin pie, I made another one post-Thanksgiving, this time with canned pumpkin. In doing this I solidified my opinion that it’s never as good with canned pumpkin – it’s too smooth, no texture, too much like baby food.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Pie: Yet another pumpkin pie, but this time with melted dark chocolate swirled into the pumpkin filling. It was crazy – it tasted like a autumn spiced chocolate cheesecake. Too rich for my blood, but definitely delicious.

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Curry Pot Pie: I fell deep, so deeply, in love with this pie. I’ve made it again. Essentially just curry powder added to a standard veggie pot pie filling, and it was incredible. I’m waiting for a chance to make this with chicken – who wants to have me over? And yes, I spelled “pot pie” with pastry. What’s it to you?

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Potato Leek Galette: This pie was whatever. I took inspiration from potato leek soup and from what was in my fridge (i.e. potatoes and leeks) and added some shredded good gruyere. It was very tasty, but we ate it as a main course and I think it would really shine as a side dish at brunch next to some eggs. Also: rainbow potatoes!

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Blood Orange Pie: I started thinking about lemon meringue pie, and how I wondered if you could do a grapefruit meringue (why not?). Citrus season had just begun and I had been getting these really great blood oranges from the U.S. but then due to both laziness and curiosity I ended up making a different kind of citrus pie. One where you just cut off all the membranes from the oranges, arrange them on your pastry, sprinkle with a small amount of sugar, and bake. It was kind of like marmalade pie, in a great way. I loved it.

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Swiss Chard and Feta Galette: This was kind of like spanakopita, but made with swiss chard rather than spinach. I often find spinach/feta pastries too rich, but for some reason this wasn’t. It was really good, and definitely one of my absolute favourite pies that I’ve made.

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Egg Nog Pie: This pie was weird. Since custard pie is a thing, and egg nog is basically custard, I thought why not make a Christmas-y egg nog pie? Basically a custard pie but with some nutmeg, a little bit of bourbon or dark rum in the filling? It was okay, kind of weird. It took forever to bake, and I learned why you should be blind baking crusts when you have such a liquidy filling (they buckle and look ugly plus will be even more soggy bottomed than normal). I wasn’t really into it, but it was an experiment! Also, because the baking was frustrating, I forgot to take a photo of the finished pie.

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Mushroom, Eggplant, and Ricotta Galette: I made this pie for a lunch hangout with my girl Jocelyn (you should really click that, she takes beautiful photos). Roasted Eggplant, sautéed mushrooms, and a smear of ricotta. I’m really into eggplant. This pie was great.

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Kale and Sweet Potato Pie: This was kind of a “use up the stuff in the fridge before going away” pie. Also a “you’re supposed to eat one dark green and one orange vegetable a day” pie. It was sort of like a quiche, because I beefed up the filling with eggs. Mashed sweet potato with kale in an eggy filling that was mildly curry-spiced. It was weird, but not bad.

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Vegetarian Tourtière: Vegetarian tourtière?! That doesn’t even make sense! But it did, and it was great. The filling was roasted chestnuts and mushrooms, with all the other great seasonings of a traditional québecois meat pie. I had this on Christmas day (I know, I know, Christmas Eve is the true tradition) and it was awesome.

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Classic Tourtière: Oh, don’t worry. We made a meat tourtière too. From my French-Canadian Uncle Phil’s faded, tattered, hand-written recipe. It was awesome too.

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Veggie and Meat Tourtière together at last.

Veggie and Meat Tourtière together at last.

Curry Pot Pie: Again, for a good friend’s birthday dinner. I’ll spare you the photos.

Gluten-Free Kale, Roasted Red Pepper, and Feta Pie: I tried to make a gluten-free pie! A friend who is GF was coming over and I was all like “challenge: accepted!”. I was feeling a little hot-shotty, actually. Gluten free pie is hard! Gluten is really stretchy, and GF pastry has like, zero elasticity. It came together and rolled out fine, but then I couldn’t get it off the counter. I ended up packing it back up into a ball, and then rolling it out on the parchment that I baked it on. This was a galette, so it worked, but I’m not sure how it would work for a regular pie. I’m enough of a perfectionist that I’ll try my hand at this again. Apparently I’m a fool who forgot to take photos of this pie. D’oh!

Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche: A Classic. For Sunday brunch, and I added in some parmesan as well, and the whole thing was great.

Broccoli Quiche, in process.

Broccoli Quiche, in process.

Well friends, that’s it. Those are the pies I’ve been making and eating for the past several months. Like I said, I have only eight more pies to make until I’m done this whole pie-a-week-for-a-year thing. Thanks for reading!

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Peach Pie.

Usually if someone asks me what my favourite pie is, I say that I have two favourites – peach and pumpkin. No vanilla ice cream, no whipped cream, just unadulterated peach pie and pumpkin pie. And while a good cherry pie may be inching its way into being a favourite also, I still think these two are holding strong. I love autumn a lot, and pumpkin pie seems like the most quintessential autumn thing, but still, there’s something I’ve always found to be extra special about peach pie.

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It’s probably no coincidence that the only pies I remember my grandmother Marnie (the pie guru whose pie-a-week advice I am undertaking here) making and serving us were peach and pumpkin. I don’t ever remember her making an apple pie, a strawberry rhubarb, or anything else for that matter. I’m sure that when she was younger and routinely made pies for dessert at Sunday night dinner that she made a much wider variety of pies than these two. But by the time she was in her late 70s and 80s, they are the only pies I remember her serving me. So surely I love these two pies the most because of emotional attachments and nostalgia and everything, though I also think they are truly the best pies. I think peach pie has always seemed extra special to me because for the many years in between when Marnie stopped baking pies and when I started, I never got to have peach pie. It’s not that common! I’m sure that in some places – like in Georgia or in Beverly Hills – peach pie may be more common. But I never saw a straight-up peach pie anywhere during all those years of longing for one. I actually think this is the reason I decided to learn how to make pie 4 years ago – I was tired of dreaming about a peach pie, I wanted one to be in my belly.

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Last year I think I made the best peach pie I’ve ever made. It’s the pie that is pictured in this blog’s header photo. Peach pie can be tricky because it gets REALLY soupy, because the peaches give off a lot of liquid, and if you’re not careful it will be peach soup with some pastry for garnish.

This pie turned into peach soup with some pastry for garnish.

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I am absolutely one of those people who gets very sad and frustrated by cooking and baking that doesn’t turn out how I want it. With most things like that, the answer is usually “it’s still going to taste good!”. I cut into this pie before it had cooled completely (I don’t think it would have made that much of a difference, it was still soupy later on) and was incredibly dismayed. This time, the whole “it will still taste good!” didn’t work for me – I knew it to be true, and it was true, and I was glad for that of course. But when you’re making a pie a week for an entire year, you want them to be better than that. And when most of your pies have been turning out pretty great, and then your favourite pie ever turns out kind of disastrous? I was very sad. I used a recipe that I don’t think I’ve used before, and I don’t think it called for quite enough thickener. And I may have rolled my crusts too thinly for such a wet pie, because they almost disintegrated. I wanted a do-over.

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peach pie, round one. that beautiful exterior is hiding a soupy mess.

So, I made another one. Yes, this is the story of when I made two peach pies in one week. I didn’t make another peach pie right away, though. First, I internally sulked for 3 days, and then I wrote most of this blog post and realized that I would only feel better if I tried again, and hopefully succeeded. Now, it can be alarming how much my own feelings of self-worth sometimes seem to hinge on little things like the successful baking of a pie, but this was about more than that – this was about wanting to have my favourite pie before peach season ends. This is a project inspired by Marnie, so how could I let peach season slip by with only a sad soupy pie to show for it? This was emotional, nostalgic, important to me. I wrote most of this blog post, and then immediately decided to make a pie that day. I went out, bought 7 peaches and came home and started over.

cooling pie.

cooling pie.

Of course, first I needed to figure out – what did I do wrong the first time? I had a sneaking suspicion that I needed to include more thickener in the pie, so I did that. I tried to roll my crusts a little less thin, and I made sure they weren’t too sticky and that they were properly chilled. I’m sure it helped that I made the second version of this pie on a much cooler day. But when I found the peach pie recipe that I used the first time I ever made peach pie on my own – the America’s Test Kitchen, allegedly foolproof recipe – I found something that I think made a world of difference. LATTICE TOP. Now, I’ve made very good, non-soupy peach pies with a full top crust at least 2 or 3 times before, so I know it can be done. But, in addition to obviously being very pretty, the lattice top allows for maximum liquid evaporation while the pie bakes in the oven. There’s just wayyy more room for steam to escape, therefore allowing the liquidy centre to reduce and thicken as it cooks. Lattice top was the way to go, because I didn’t want to have a second failure in one week.

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And people, round two turned out GREAT. Really great. Paul claimed it had the perfect balance of tart and sweet. It wasn’t remotely soupy. The crust was crispy and flaky and beautifully browned. I’m eating a piece with my morning coffee as we speak, and I couldn’t be happier. 

peach pie, round two.

peach pie, round two.

Peach Pie – adapted from America’s Test Kitchen and Smitten Kitchen

  • one double crust pastry
  • 6-8 medium to large peaches (enough to make 7 cups sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. instant tapioca
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash

While your pastry is chilling, peel, pit, and slice your peaches. You can keep them in a bowl with water and lemon juice to keep them from browning while you work. Roll out your bottom crust, leaving an inch of overhang crust and then chill. Drain peaches, and combine them with the lemon juice, tapioca, both sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Roll out top crust, cut into lattice strips. Put peach filling into bottom crust, and then assemble your lattice top crust. Trim lattice strip edges to the diameter of the pie, and then fold over bottom crust edge, pinching lattice strips with it. Crimp pie edge. Brush lattice top with egg wash, if using. Cover crust edge with tinfoil. Bake pie at 425 for 15-20 minutes, and then turn the temperature down to 375 for another 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting. ENJOY.

Adventures in Failure: Tex Mex Galette.

Look, when you set out to make 52 pies, not all of them are going to be declared to be the best pie you’ve ever made. Some of them will be completely inedible. And I won’t be surprised if more fall into the category that this one did: not terrible enough to throw out, but really, really not very good.

Salsa, refried beans, sweet potato. Why did I do this?!

Salsa, refried beans, sweet potato. Why did I do this?!

Truthfully? I wasn’t surprised. This was very much a “shit-I-have-to-make-a-pie-before-we-go-away-maybe-i’ll-try-this-weird-idea-that-means-i-won’t-have-to-get-groceries” pie.  I mean, Tex Mex Galette? That really could go either way. On the one hand, I love burritos and tacos and all things with refried beans, and if they go in tortillas then why not a pie crust? One the other hand, there’s got to be a really good reason that people everywhere aren’t eating tex mex pies. HEY LET’S TRY IT!

It really looks like it should be delicious.

It really looks like it should be delicious.

Hey, let’s not make this again.

I’m not even going to share the recipe, it’s not worth it, and also you can pretty much imagine it for yourselves. I basically put refried beans, sweet potato, and all your other standard burrito fixings inside of a galette, and then ate it with sour cream and avocado on top. There was cheddar cheese in it, which melted into an insane puddle of grease on not one, but two baking sheets (I panicked and put it on a new cookie sheet halfway through baking, worried that it would drown in oil). The end result had this kind of acidic aftertaste that got you at the back of the throat. But really? It was just wrong. It just wasn’t meant to be. Which is really just fine, because I love tortillas and other fine flatbreads.

Why aren't you a taco?

Why aren’t you a taco?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Now, I don’t want to leave you totally sad about not getting another pie recipe to make for yourselves. To cheer you up, let me share this lovely drawing that my partner made ages ago, and that I’ve been meaning to share with you for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Pie Guy.

Pie Guy.