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Thursday, July 29, 2004

As Public Image never sang, but should have, this is not a pie blog, this is not a pie blog, this is not a pie blog.  But maybe it should be, at least for the summer and the early part of fall, when apples are in season...or at least through Thanksgiving, when we can share pumpkin pie recipes...or Christmas, for the mince pies...or maybe through the winter, when I can try the white bean pie recipe that just presented itself to me...aw, hell.  Any time of the year is right for pie.

There is bad pie news this week.  The intrepid travelers, testers and writers at Want Pie Now! have shut their blog down, noting with sadness that life is too hectic for pie right now.  But there is good news, too.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that once-and-future-guestblogger goliard has moved pop culture ate my brain (am I the only one who hears They Might Be Giants’ “Youth Culture Killed My Dog” every time they read that title?  Don’t worry, g, it’s a compliment!) from Blogger to TypePad on the exact same week she has expanded her baking horizons to include pie crust.  I am waiting with bated breath to hear how that blueberry pie turns out.  I also have been receiving charming missives from one of my boyfriends at one of my old stomping grounds; he is hosting friends from Poland in a couple of days and wants to welcome them with a good old-fashioned cherry pie.  Considering that it is getting harder to find restaurants and diners that actually make from scratch the pies they serve, and considering that too many home cooks and bakers still fear that pie crust is beyond their ken, it’s good to find people who face that fear, look it square in the eye, and then roll up their sleeves and start mixing flour and fat, fruit and sugar and thickener.  Whenever someone tells me “oh, I can’t make pie, I have a dysfunctional relationship with pie dough!  It hates me!,” I tell them the story of the time my mother took a baking class with Carole Walter.  (Disclosure:  I know Carole through the New York Association of Culinary Professionals, formerly the New York Association of Cooking Teachers, who awarded me a scholarship when I was in culinary school.) Carole is the author of Great Cakes Great Pies and Tarts and Great Cookies, a great teacher and a class act.  Mom took Carole’s pie and tart class.  She went in feeling anxious and came out with the most perfect, beautiful apple pie I’d ever seen.  Apparently the class was full of anxious would-be pie-bakers, furrowed-browed, convinced that they had dysfunctional relationships with pie crust.  Carole took one look around the room and said, “Just remember, you have one big advantage here.  You have a brain.  Pie crust doesn’t.” Laughter all around.  Brows unfurrowed.  Pastry cloths were unfolded and dusted with flour.  Pie crusts were rolled into perfect circles.

Of course there will be pie at Chez LloydnRina’s this weekend.  I am flirting with baking another cherry pie, simply because the season is short, but I’m also flirting with refining the nectarine and basil pie I made last weekend at my parents’ house.  Shortly after arriving in Eureka, I treated myself to this shmancy aromatherapy cologne spray fragranced with basil oil and nectarine essence.  It smelled so good that it made me wonder if the combination would taste as good as it smelled.  Of course, I knew that there would be no way to bake whole basil leaves into a pie filling without spooking the heck out of anyone who would want to eat it.  I decided to take a cue from Claudia Fleming, who includes a recipe for tarragon syrup in The Last Course:  The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern.  I picked some basil leaves out of my mom’s garden, blanched them, chopped them in the Cuisinart and gradually added some concentrated sugar syrup I’d made.  Too bad I forgot to add a crystallization inhibitor like lemon juice or cream of tartar when I made the sugar syrup, because the resulting syrup turned a bit cloudy in the Cuisinart.  As if this didn’t unnerve me enough, I cut open the nectarines we bought at a farmstand; some of them were ripe, but some of them were still green-fleshed.  I did not have high hopes for this pie, but the result was quite nice:  a buttery, flaky crust, a pale pink, tart filling, a subtle flavor that suggests basil but does not overwhelm the flavor of the fruit.  It can only get better, I think, if I get my hands on some properly ripe fruit.

Of course, I could have made a pie with the four little half-pints of wild blueberries I found at the Greenmarket today.  I have been reading about wild blueberries for years, about how superior they are to the cultivated kind, even the locally-grown, seasonal, cultivated kind, but I figured I’d never have access to them.  I kept them wrapped up in the plastic bags in which the farmer tied them up, but en route home, the bags slipped on their sides, the blueberries spilled into the bags, and a few of them were crushed and releasing juices.  When I got home, I emptied everything into a big bowl, shook about 1/3 cup sugar over them, and left them to macerate (a shmancy word that translates to “shake sugar over fruit and let it sit until more juice runs out") while Lloyd and I ate our beans and cornbread.  After dinner I whipped some of the cream I brough home from the dairy near my folks’ house and folded in some of the berries and juice:  voila, instant blueberry fool.  Now I have the equivalent of a pint and a half of wild blueberries and syrup.  What shall I do with them?  More blueberry fool?  Blueberry shortcakes?  Bumbleberry pie, achieved by adding raspberries and blackberries and thickener?  Something completely different I have not even begun to consider?

And just because I can’t resist gloating:  I got my marjoram today.  There will be pasta and beet sauce after all.  A recipe will be posted, yes.  smile

Posted by Bakerina at 12:37 AM in incoherent ravings about food • (1) Comments • (0) Trackbacks

Those Peter Rabbit books will tie you up in toddler-logic knots every damn time.  There should be a warning on them about quoting their morality lessons to children.

mouse on 07/29/04 at 10:55 PM  
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