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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Apple Galette.

Let’s skip past the part where you tell me I’m 9 weeks behind in my blogging. I stopped blogging right at the same time as I started working 6 days a week, so let’s just let that all slide, mmkay? I’ve still been baking though, always. Comfort yourself with the fact that there are tons of pies for you to catch up on very soon. There is one glitch though – I made this pie before Thanksgiving, and then I made a full-on apple pie for Thanksgiving festivities.  The problem with that is that now I don’t know how to write about this pie without mentioning apple pie in general, but I’ve since made a regular apple pie as well and so feel I should save some of these apple pie thoughts for that pie post, you know?
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This is all rather confusing, so I will just say this for now: I don’t *get* apple pie.
As in, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, I don’t know why people like it so much, don’t know how it somehow got to be like, the quintessential pie. I am not an apple pie person.
I made this galette because it was the end of the week and I hadn’t made a pie, and I’d gotten several apples in my CSA and figured I could make a small apple galette without having to pick up any groceries. I knew that I’d be making a full apple pie at Thanksgiving (for my family members who like it) and so I figured this was like a mini practice round. I’d never made an apple pie before, because it’s not my bag. I was sort of hoping that maybe I just didn’t like other people’s apple pies, or store-bought apple pies, and that when I made one I would find it delicious.
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This was not the case. I made a small apple galette, I ate a tiny piece, and then I accidentally left it out on the counter for several days and it got moldy. This is not the first time during this project that some pie has gone bad, but usually its like, one rogue piece leftover in the back of the fridge that I’ve forgotten about, not A WHOLE PIE. I hate wasting food, and I also know many people who would probably have enjoyed eating that pie, but I can’t change the past!
Apple Galette – recipe by me
  • one single crust pastry
  • 4-6 apples, depending on size
  • 5-6 tablespoons of sugar
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger – warm spices of your choice
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • egg for egg wash (optional)
  • coarse sugar to sprinkle on crust (optional)

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Peel and slice your apples. Toss with spices and sugar and lemon juice. Roll out your pastry and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Pile your apple mixture into the middle of the dough and then fold up sides to close up edges. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 for approximately 45 minutes.  Enjoy with coffee, if you’re into this whole apple pie thing.

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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.

Raspberry Nectarine Galette.

As previously mentioned, I went to Portland at the beginning of August. We stayed in NE Portland, and the very first morning we were there we decided that it was appropriate to have pie for breakfast. So we headed to the neighbourhood pie joint, which was really very good.

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I had quiche, and Paul had a curried leek pot pie, and then we split a sweet pie. Raspberry Nectarine pie, to be precise.

Portland Pie.

Portland Pie.

That pie made me realize how few mixed-fruit pies I’ve made during this project – really, none. Yet, way back in the day when my only urban source for pie was a certain Montréal chain, my go-to pie of choice was the peach-raspberry crumb pie. Granted, I chose that one because they didn’t have a straight-up peach pie, and as a general rule I much prefer top crusts to crumb toppings (crumb toppings are so sweet!) but clearly, I’ve been forgetting a whole delicious realm of mixed fruit pies that I once loved so dearly.

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So I decided to make my own raspberry nectarine pie when we returned to Smog Town. I made my double crust pastry and chilled it. And then…the nectarines chose to spite me. I don’t know if they just were a bit underripe, or whether nectarines always want to cling to their pits much more than peaches do (or at least, much more than freestone peaches want to). Basically, when I tried to cut them in half in order to pit them, instead of coming apart the entire peel would come off in my hand and then I’d be left with a slippery nectarine in my hand that STILL didn’t want to come apart or relinquish its pit. It was a messy affair, and I lost a lot of fruit. So I realized I didn’t have nearly enough filling for a full on pie, and instead made this into a galette. 

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Soupy Sales over here.

Next problem: this filling was so soupy. Another problem? I rolled this crust a bit thin, and as such it had some weak spots. The end result? THIS:

serious pie leakage.

serious pie leakage.

I was pretty worried about it, and kept saying things like “I don’t think this is going to be any good”, but of course, it was fine. The problem I actually had with it had nothing to do with the soupy-ness – it was too sweet. For lots of people, it was probably perfect. In general I find that the pies that are out there in the world are way too sweet for my liking, so I almost always dial back the sugar in a recipe. The sweetness of this pie probably had mass appeal, but it didn’t have mass appeal in this house. And the worst part of all? I don’t remember how much sugar I actually put in. I’d been looking at recipes for full pies, and then adjusted for a galette, so I think I just made a split decision on the spot. I know I’d looked at this recipe, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I just halved the sugar and put in 1/2 cup, thinking it would be fine because both raspberries and nectarines tend to be pretty tart. But I don’t know for sure, so I’m really wasting your time. I’d probably go with 1/4 cup or maybe 1/3 of a cup of sugar in the future…but it would be a gamble, I’m sure. Therefore, the recipe below is mostly guesswork, for which I sincerely apologize. I will try and be better about writing things down as I make them. It’s not in my nature.

Raspberry Nectarine Galette.

  • one single crust pastry dough
  • one pint of raspberries
  • about 6 nectarines, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like things
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. instant tapioca
  • one egg, for egg wash (optional)
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Combine the sliced nectarines, raspberries, lemon juice, sugar, and tapioca. Roll out your crust, being careful not to roll it too thin. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread your filling on top of the pastry. Fold up the edges of the crust to form a rough circle, making sure to seal it up well so that the filling won’t leak out the sides. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, or as long as it takes to make it bubbly and golden. Let cool completely before eating.

Peach Almond Galette.

At the beginning of August, Paul and I went on our first real vacation trip together. We’ve gone to cottages for a few days, on one-day trips, on visits to friends and family in Montréal – but we’ve never just saved and planned and picked a place that is kind of far away and then gone to visit it. At the start of August, we went to Portland, Oregon. People ask us why we chose it, especially whether it had to do at all with the television show Portlandia, which, naturally, we love. I’d be lying if I said it had absolutely nothing to do with the impression that you get of that city from that show, but I think for us it was more about going somewhere that felt farther than some of the other options (Chicago, Pittsburgh) while not being prohibitively expensive to get and stay there (like San Francisco). We wanted to go somewhere where we could experience a city and do and see city things, while also having the chance to do more nature-y, outdoorsy things. Portland made sense. We had a great time.

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This was the first pie I made when we got back. I made two pies that week to make up for the week that we were away, and you’ll hear about the 2nd one soon enough. I thought about trying to make a pie while we were in Portland – we stayed in a house, and so we did have access to a kitchen, and I kind of really wanted to try and make a pie with some local Oregon fruit (marionberries, anyone?) but in the end, it didn’t happen. This was a pie that I sort of threw together one evening on a whim. I basically wanted to make a peach pie (one of my two favourite pies of all time) but I didn’t have enough peaches on hand. As you know, I love the addition of almond extract in my cherry pies, and saw that almond was paired with nectarines in a Smitten Kitchen recipe also. So I went for it. Normally when you make a peach pie, you peel the peaches. But this time I just decided I wasn’t going to bother. I mixed the whole filling in my 4 cup measuring cup, and it seemed like this pie was a little too easy. But I gotta say, it was one of my best crusts yet, for sure. I was shocked at how flaky it was when I was eating it, and suddenly felt like maybe i’m really learning things! 

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I’m finding that friends are now turning to me for pie advice – yesterday one friend called me for help (and referred to me as the Pie Doctor to which I then sang Dr. Pie to the tune of this) and another friend served me a pie she’d made and asked me to give her constructive criticism for her to improve her pastry. I’m finding that I don’t know what to tell people about how to improve their crust – I’ve noticed such an improvement in my pie crusts since starting this project, but I’m not doing anything differently exactly. I’m just getting better, I think. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing anymore, I barely have to pay attention, though I am paying attention. I just am starting to have a feel for it. It’s hard to explain I guess, but I think its really the same as improving on anything – I felt the same way when I realized that I’d finally truly become bilingual (something I’ve sadly lost since leaving La Belle Province) – suddenly, I got jokes in French but couldn’t explain them in English. It’s funny how sometimes getting good at something means that you can’t explain it anymore – in that case, I guess I was finally thinking in French. Maybe I’m finally thinking in pie. I don’t know. Anyways, this pastry was mad flaky, and I posted a photo on the internetz at the time that I will share again here.

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Peach Almond Galette – adapted from Smitten Kitchen and from this recipe.

  • one single crust pastry recipe
  • 2 Tbsp. ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • approx. 1 lb ripe peaches
  • 1 Tbsp. instant tapioca
  • splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • splash of lemon juice (optional)
  • one egg, beaten, for egg wash (optional)
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Slice peaches. Combine with ground almonds, sugar, tapioca, and vanilla and/or lemon, if using. Set aside.

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Roll out your dough to a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread your peach filling on top. Fold up crust edges to form a rough circle, working to ensure that there are no gaps where filling could escape. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes or until it is nicely browned and bubbly. As always, you can throw it on broil for a few minutes at the end if you want to brown up the crust a bit more. Let cool, and then devour for dessert, breakfast, or whatever.

mad flaky crusts, yo.

mad flaky crusts, yo.

Lattice-Top Sour Cherry Pie.

I made a lot of cherry pies this summer. And why shouldn’t I? They are one of the best pies. I thought I was going to be done with cherry pies for the season after the pie I made at my parents’s house, but then I came upon some sour cherries, and I couldn’t resist.

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There are people out there who will tell you that sour cherries are the only good cherries for pie, and I believe I’ve already voiced my disagreement with that statement. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think sour cherries make a damn fine pie. I was going to make this pie with some sour cherries I picked myself with Not Far From the Tree, but then I waited too long and some of them went bad, and I think the rest went into the freezer for safe-keeping. So when I saw sour cherries at the market I had to buy some, because I knew it may be my only chance for the year.

Strips for the latticing.

Strips for the latticing.

Since I’ve already made two cherries pies (at least? have I made more?) this year, I knew I had to mix things up a bit, even though these were different cherries anyway. So I decided to do a lattice crust – I haven’t done any lattice crusts yet! Part of the reason I haven’t is because I had convinced myself that, while lattice-top crusts are pretty, I prefer the look of a full top crust. Being a pastry lover, I also like having the maximum crust to consume. And since I’d only done a lattice crust maybe 2 or 3 times before in my whole life, I think I just convinced myself that it was unnecessary extra work. However, I told myself that if I’m making a pie a week for an entire year, I can’t skip over lattice top crusts. GET REAL. Much like I’m going to force myself to blind bake some pie crusts during this project (I NEVER do, but I should get good at that during this project, because when else will I learn?!) I decided to wade a little into slightly uncharted waters.

Reading to weave.

Reading to weave.

And man, lattice-top crusts are GORGEOUS and they are TOTALLY NOT THAT MUCH WORK. Silly me! The key to lattice crusts is just weaving it properly – the first time I tried to do one I didn’t look up any directions and so it was really what some people online call a “faux lattice top crust” which basically just means it isn’t woven its just strands of pastry set on top of each other, but then bottom ones ultimately sink down too far into your pie from the weight of all the pastry strips going in the other direction. So find some basic instructions and it goes fast and easy – like these.

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I also decided not to use my trusty almond extract in this pie – I usually use it in all my cherry pies, but I just wanted to taste the cherries in this one, unadulterated. So that’s what I did. It’s crazy to me how much a straight-up sour cherry pie actually does kind of taste like those cans of pie filling. Without further ado, here’s my sour cherry pie.

Lattice-Top Sour Cherry Pie – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 double crust pastry recipe
  • 2 1/4 lbs sour cherries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • one egg, beaten with a bit of water (optional)
  • coarse turbinado sugar (optional)
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this is what you’re working for, people.

Roll out your bottom crust and place in your pie plate. Put in the fridge or freezer to chill.

Pit your cherries (again, I totally recommend investing in a cherry pitter) and combine them with the sugar, tapioca starch, and salt. Set aside.

Roll out your top crust to the size you normally would – then cut into strips about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide – I like to use my pizza wheel to do this. If you have a nice pastry cutter thing that makes pretty designs, use that! I don’t have one, maybe I should get one. But I digress. When your strips are cut, take your bottom crust out of the fridge or freezer, fill with your cherry filling, and then start weaving your lattice crust following the instructions linked above, or any other of the many, many online resources for this task – or look in a good ol’ fashioned cookbook like The Joy of Cooking or something! When your crust is woven, cut off excess pastry, leaving about an inch around the edge. Fold the bottom crust edge over your lattice crust edge, and crimp! If you’d like, brush the top of your crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Protect your pie edge with tinfoil.

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Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 and bake until the pie is bubbly and the crust is golden brown – this should take somewhere between 40 minutes and an hour total, and you’ll want to remove the tinfoil from the edge for the last 5-10 minutes. Then – ENJOY.

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The Curse of My Mother’s Kitchen.

You may remember from my very first post on this blog that when I was growing up, my mother and I attempted to make pie several times. Every time was a harrowing experience. We tried everything – dozens of pastry recipes including the phrase “fool-proof” in the title or description, given to us by family friends; several different methods (the food processor! two knives to cut the butter! our hands!); we tried rolling out dough on wax paper, or on a pastry mat, or between two sheets of plastic wrap (actually that last one works pretty great). Always we ended up with a crust that was overworked and nowhere near as flaky as we’d like, pie edges that were often burnt, a very messy kitchen, and a lot of frustration. In the years since I have started to make pies on my own, I have grown quite comfortable with pastry dough – I’ve found what works, what I like and don’t like, and methods that are, for the most part, “fool-proof” for me.

None of these things remain true once you step into my mother’s kitchen.

My parents' cherry tree.

My parents’ cherry tree.

Every pie that I have made at my parents’ house has had some element of disaster or failure associated with it. The first year that I declared that I could now make pie well, I was tasked with making the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. The story has become a running joke in my family – I made several batches of dough (the first was with this weird-tasting “butter” flavoured Crisco that was all wrong) and required several additional trips to the grocery store. When I finally got some pies in the oven that I felt okay about, my mom and my aunt convinced me that they could keep an eye on the pies while I had a shower. I think you can imagine how this ends….they didn’t exactly keep an eye on them, and the result was pumpkin pie filling that was boiling like thick lava in the pastry, and came out with charred crusts and blackened filling.

Pitted and halved cherries.

Pitted and halved cherries.

On several occasions since then I’ve attempted pies there – always having my pastry stick like glue to my rolling surface and having to patch up many hole and tears – this was the problem my mother and I most frequently encountered in my youth, and I decided that it was the surface that was to blame. I would only roll pastry out on plastic wrap or parchment or wax paper from now on!

A very broken, and sadly patched pie.

A very broken, and sadly patched pie.

It was with this resolution that I decided to make a cherry pie when I was visiting my parents for a weekend in July. Because I thought I might make a pie while I was there, I travelled with my cherry pitter and tapioca starch in tow – which garnered lots of giggles, I have to say. First we decided I would bake a pie using the cherries from my parents’ cherry tree – so I went out and picked a bunch, only to discover that they either weren’t ripe or weren’t edible for humans. Another trip to the store…not off to a great start. Fast forward, and let’s just say that I had a similarly frustrating pastry experience – dough sticking and glueing to the counter, ripping and tearing when I tried to transfer it to a pie plate. Then, it seemed to have to bake for the longest time, and every time I checked on it it looked as if the cherries were dry as a bone and rock hard – as if the sugar wasn’t turning to syrupy-pie goodness, as if something was terribly wrong. I fretted.

The aftermath of a stressful pastry-rolling.

The aftermath of a stressful pastry-rolling.

In the end, while it was certainly one of the uglier pies I’ve made, it received rave reviews from my parents and our dinner guest, so maybe, just maybe, the curse is soon to be broken.

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To make this pie, you can simply follow the recipe that I shared in the Colossal Cherry Pie post – these cherries were less colossal, but still quite large, and so this time I actually halved all the cherries after pitting them, and it made for a much nicer filling, in my humble opinion. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

I’m pretty sure that I never had a strawberry rhubarb pie in my entire life until now.

That seems crazy, right? Does that seem crazy? I have this memory of my childhood where I would always hear about strawberry rhubarb pie but always felt somehow shy about it because I had never had it before. It’s possible that I had it once and didn’t like it – I had a lot of pie growing up that I didn’t like, usually because it was over-sweetened or had terrible pastry. As you know, my grandmother Marnie was the pie chef extraordinaire, and I don’t remember her ever making strawberry rhubarb pie in my time. I mostly just remember her peach and pumpkin pies (incidentally, my favourites, if you were wondering).

Preparing fruit filling to macerate in the fridge overnight.

Preparing fruit filling to macerate in the fridge overnight.

Well I have to say – I’ve been missing out. Because this, THIS PIE, was amazing. Yes, the crust got soggy in the 30 hours of summer humidity between when it was baked and when it was served, but it didn’t matter. The sweetness of the strawberries was cut so perfectly by the tart rhubarb, it had the perfect sweetness level for my taste, and the filling had the perfect consistency.

Maceration Station.

Maceration Station.

Consistency wise, this is because I ventured into new thickener territory – and I don’t think I’m turning back. People who bake fruit pies know that you need a thickener in your filling – otherwise your fruit + sugar filling is far too soupy, and will run all over your plate instead of staying within the confines of that pastry you worked so hard on. In my experience, most recipes call for flour or cornstarch as the thickening agent. Generally I don’t use either of those. When I started trying to hone my pie skills in 2009, I started with peach pie, and I thoroughly read the Cook’s Illustrated America’s Test Kitchen information about what they found made the best pastry, and their recipe for the best peach pie. I abandoned their pastry recipe some time ago (it uses vegetable shortening) but stuck with their thickening agent of choice for peach pie – potato starch. But recently I’d been reading a lot about tapioca starch, and how superior it is. So I tried it! And I’m definitely a fan. Just so you know.

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Remember a few weeks ago when I realized that making a galette on a ROUND pan made so much sense? And remember a few years ago when I realized that putting tinfoil around the crust to prevent burning is a lot easier to do if you put it on the pie BEFORE it goes in the oven, so that you don’t burn yourself? Well, with this strawberry rhubarb pie, I figured out another thing that should have been obvious: cutting designs into your top crust is a lot easier if you do it before you put that crust on your pie. I mean, if you are going to be doing really elaborate cut-outs, maybe not, because then it may be difficult to transfer your top crust without it breaking, but really otherwise this makes so much more sense. I can only assume these little things are part of why making a pie-a-week-for-a-year results in better pie making. Learning!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – from Smitten Kitchen, barely adapted, so she gets almost full credit here

  • 1 double-crust pastry recipe
  • about 1 1/2 pounds of rhubarb, trimmed and sliced (3 1/2 cups)
  • about 1 pound of strawberries, hulled and sliced or quartered (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca (mine is called “instant tapioca”)
  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into little cubes
  • 1 egg beaten with a bit of water, for glaze
  • coarse sugar, to sprinkle on top (optional)

Combine your chopped strawberries, rhubarb, and brown sugar in a bowl. Let macerate in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge, add in the white sugar, lemon juice, salt, and tapioca.

Roll out your bottom crust, put into pie plate. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes is up, roll out top crust, cut decorative slits in it. Pour filling into bottom crust – you can discard some of the accumulated liquid, but let some of that go into the pie still. Dot the top of the filling with butter pieces. Place top crust on the pie, trim edges, and crimp to seal. Brush with egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Add tinfoil around the crust edge to prevent burning. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes, removing the tinfoil for the last 10 minutes or so.

N.B. This pie leaked for me, resulted in a sugary rhubarb mess on the bottom of my oven. It may be good to protect your oven if you’re worried about this, by putting a cookie sheet under the pie or on the rack below.

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NOM.

Rhubarb-Ginger Pop Tarts.

I’ve been meaning to make these for a very long time.

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Let me tell you something – I love Pop Tarts. For reals. I love them in all of their corn syrup, weird cracker crust goodness. I know that they are terrible for you and probably filled with all kinds of terrible things. I know that they have gelatin in them. But every once in awhile – usually if they go on sale for a really low price – I can’t help but buy a box. I’ll toast them up and enjoy every last bite.

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That said, when I first saw a recipe for making them at home, of course I knew they would be better. Truly, they are a different beast – I mean, when homemade, they are PASTRY, whereas the storebought ones….well I don’t even know what to call that hard-as-rocks crust. Homemade pop tarts are really just a standard hand pie, except that distinctive rectangular shape makes me feel like I just can’t call them anything but Pop Tarts. I decided long ago that these would be a part of this pie project. So finally, one Saturday night while most people my age were probably out drinking and dancing at a bar, I stayed home alone and made pop tarts. Worth it.

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Both Deb and Alana had talked about making these, and I believe that both of their pastry recipes were adapted from King Arthur flour, which I assume is an American brand of flour that doesn’t exist here in Canudia. While something about using a straight up pie dough recipe was comforting to me, I decided to use Smitten Kitchen’s recipe and add an egg to the dough to make it sturdier. Now let me tell you – while I am still confident that Deb’s dough recipe was the best choice in terms of sturdiness and pick-up-able-ness, I really struggled to work with it. It’s a much drier dough than my pie crust usually is – more like a shortbread crust (like on a lemon square) and less like an elastic pastry. I found rolling it out extremely difficult – it kept wanting to crack and break. It was kind of a pain in the ass, actually. BUT they turned out well. I think I’d like to try out making something like this (or a hand pie in another shape) with a regular pie dough, and see how it is in terms of sturdiness, because I think it would be a lot easier to work with.

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Cooking at 11pm = bad lighting.

I decided to make mine with a rhubarb filling – I’d received rhubarb in my very first CSA pickup, and was remembering the rhubarb tarts I’d made a few years ago from this book (and pictured on the cover).  Those tarts were GOOD. Actually, just now I noticed that Alana made these with rhubarb as well – something I hadn’t noticed because I’d been looking at the recipe from her cookbook rather than the blog. I guess in a lot of ways rhubarb makes the most sense for something like this – sometimes with summer berries I can’t bring myself to cook them down into mush – I just want to eat them whole and fresh while I can. But rhubarb is different – you want to cook it. I used the basic recipe for rhubarb compote from Kim Boyce’s book (an adaptation of which is accessible here) but instead of using Kim’s hibiscus or Deb’s vanilla bean, I opted to use ginger with the rhubarb. I’ve made a rhubarb ginger jam before that I quite enjoyed, and I find them to be really nice together. I also added a splash of orange juice because, why not? The recipe made quite a bit of compote – I still have a jar in the fridge, and it is great spooned onto yogurt or oatmeal in the morning.

Rhubarb Ginger Compote (adapted from Good to the Grain and Smitten Kitchen)

  • 3/4 lb rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • splash of orange juice
  • approx. 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger (it grates really easily if you keep it in the freezer)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the rhubarb has fully broken down and it has reached your desired thickness. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pop Tarts (adapted primarily from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp milk (the original recipe calls for 2 Tbsp. but I found the dough way too dry and added a bit more)
  • an additional egg

You make this dough the same way that you would make regular pastry – combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter. Instead of adding ice water to bring the dough together, you beat one egg with the milk and use that as your liquid. This dough is WAY more dry than a normal pastry recipe. Like I mentioned, it is a bit more like a shortbread dough.

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Chill dough. Roll out and cut into rectangles – about 2.5 inches by 4 inches. You should end up with 16 rectangles total – i.e. enough for the tops and bottoms of 8 pop tarts. The recipe was supposed to make more, but I couldn’t manage to get more than 8 tarts out of this. Do your best! Place 8 rectangles on a parchment lined baking sheet (or two baking sheets). Brush with beaten egg, this will help glue the two pieces together. Place a generous tablespoon (or a bit more) of compote in the middle of your bottom pastry – leaving at least a centimetre around the border. Place your top pastry on, and crimp closed by pressing a fork around the edges. Poke holes in the top to let the steam escape. You can brush with egg on top as well if you want, to help the pastry brown. Chill for 30 minutes before baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Any that you don’t devour right away can be reheated in a toaster or toaster oven – but keep an eye on them because they are a bit more delicate than the store-bought ones. YUM.

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Colossal Cherry Pie.

You know, I really don’t understand why cake seems to have all the fun. As far as I’m concerned, birthday CAKE is for chumps.

Did you know that I have a Warrant t-shirt? Many years ago, my co-workers and I went in costume to a fancy dinner (a tradition that would probably take too long to explain) dressed as the 7 Deadly Sins. Rather than tell people what we were dressed as, we just acted like our assigned Sin and had people guess. How do you dress as a Deadly Sin, you ask? Well, for Pride my friend Carly dressed as one might for Gay Pride, covered in glitter and rainbows. I was Gluttony – for obvious reasons. I wore Carly’s Warrant t-shirt, sweatpants, and stole everyone’s wine and pie all night. Now if you know Carly and I at all, you may not be surprised that one of the guesses as to our costumes was “YOU’RE EXAGGERATED VERSIONS OF YOURSELF!” which, to this day, is one of my favourite stories.

But I digress. The point is that I never gave Carly’s Warrant t-shirt back to her. Sometimes I find it fascinating to try and trace my thought and conversation process. Cherry Pie –>  Warrant –> story about 7 Deadly Sins costume –> Stolen t-shirt –> Cherry Pie.

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Anyways, PIE. More specifically, birthday pie. I am thankful that I have a group of friends who mostly understands the superiority of pie over cake, and thus never finds it strange to serve pie at a birthday. Cake? Who needs it! (Though let me say that there was, in fact, a cake at this particular birthday party that was DELICIOUS).  At the end of last month it was my dear friend and facebook-wife’s birthday. I spent the night before with her drinking cheap beer and oversized gin and tonics, eating nachos and watching Taylor Swift videos, and then on Saturday – between the hangover and the brunch and the grocery shopping – I made her a pie. Now, her birthday is in late May, which makes it still just a bit too early for most Ontario fruit, but I figured dabbling in some U.S. cherries wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I found some from Loblaws that were dubbed “Colossal Cherries” because of their size. They weren’t kidding. Most of these cherries were too big to actually fit in my cherry pitter, which resulted in quite a mess. In my humble opinion, the cherries were a bit too large to suit a pie, but they did just fine.

cherry pitting always seems like a bloody affair.

cherry pitting always seems like a bloody affair.

And while it was a bit too cold for park-sitting, we shivered in our layers anyways, cut the pie with my swiss army knife, and devoured it while sitting in the twilight.

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Colossal Cherry Pie (adapted, very slightly, from Smitten Kitchen)

Note: I’ve heard several people say that cherry pie is only good with sour cherries. That’s just not true! I refuse to believe that any fruit – especially the beautiful cherry – is not suited to pie. It’s just about making sure that you take into account the sweetness of your fruit so that you don’t add too much sugar. If you think that cherry pie tastes like that canned cherry filling you are missing out so, so much.

  • 1 double crust pie dough
  • about 4 cups of pitted cherries (invest in a cherry pitter – they are only about 12 bucks, and you can use them for olives too!)
  • 4 Tbsp. potato starch (I virtually never use corn starch as a thickener. I prefer potato starch or instant tapioca)
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup of sugar (depending on the sweetness of your cherries)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • lemon juice – 2 Tbsp or so
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract – don’t skip this! It really adds something special. Unless you are allergic to almonds. Then skip it.
  • about 1 Tbsp. coarse turbinado sugar and 1 egg (optional)

Combine cherries, potato starch, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and almond extract in a bowl. Roll out bottom crust and place in pie plate. Fill with cherry filling. It’s okay if it seems very full, the cherries will soften and sink when they cook. Roll out top crust, cover pie and fold over and crimp crust edges. Cut slits in the top crust to let the steam escape. If desired, brush the beaten egg on top crust and then sprinkle with coarse sugar – this adds a pretty, finished look and a nice crunch to the finished pie. Protect crust edges with tinfoil.

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this pie looks kind of angry, like he is scowling at me.

Bake the pie at 400 for 25 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbly. Let cool for several hours and then DEVOUR.