Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Am Victorious! OR Mmmm, Pie!

This time of year causes many a person to wax poetic about the bounty of the harvest, embracing the earthy essence of the season, the unmistakeable pungency of roasted beets, apples as crisp as the morning air...

I'll spare you the prose. But let's get serious for about an important food group: pie.


The season for garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers has passed. Now that the regular forecast has shifted away from swamp-monster-hot-and-humid, the idea of using the stove no longer seems ludicrous (no ac at chez refeathered). As part of my Goals and Getonits, I have been trying to be more conscientious of the quality of the food I put in my mouth. As I have mentioned before:
I've become a label reader- yes, that person in the grocery store. I feel it's worth the few extra moments to read. It has certainly been enlightening and encouraged better shopping habits. Not only do I look at ingredients, but I look at where the food is coming from. I try to buy local and seasonal. However, this is easier said than done. The agri-business that is our food supply is a quagmire and will require our constant vigilance. 
In an effort to know exactly what is in my food I have officially given up ready-made pie crusts. This is big news, people. BIG. I've never really liked those refrigerated dough disks, which often taste much like the plastic they are wrapped in. One cannot reach the highest levels of pie satisfaction with a polymer-tinged crust.

My aversion to making pie crust was my high failure ratio. For some reason pie crust and I could not work it out; it was too dry, too sticky, would not roll out properly and get stuck on everything, or would tear mercilessly when attempting to place it in the dish. So, I simply gave up and shelled out a few dollars for a highly processed, mediocre tasting, but reliable disk. 

Then the label reading happened. The ingredient list on those refrigerated pie crusts are surprisingly long, and full of stuff that I cannot picture in its natural state. I decided it was time to throw my oven mitts down and show pie crust who is boss. For inspiration and guidance I turned to two of my favorite ladies:  Deb Perelman of smitten kitchen, and the All-Powerful-Oz of Good-Things,  Martha Stewart. I compared their most simple and basic recipes and methods, and (here's where it gets crazy!) concocted my own recipe for corn meal pie crust. 6 ingredients: Flour, cornmeal, butter, water, pinch of salt and sugar. Simple.

Perfectly buttery, flaky, and sturdy. I filled it with sauteed leeks and fennel and made a quiche.

I tested fate and made a second batch, this time filling it with apples from my parents backyard (super local and organic woot woot). Victory was mine, friends! Sweet, sweet victory, served a la mode. 

Could it be done a third time? Why, yes! A beautiful pumpkin pie emerged for Thanksgiving. Confidence restored. Pie satisfaction attained.

Oh, but failure was lurking around the corner. Perhaps it was the pie-gods keeping me humble. My attempt at an almond-flour and ground pecan crust for the second Thanksgiving pumpkin pie was a complete disaster. It assembled well, but did not survive the baking process. It broke apart in every possible place, surrounding the beautiful pumpkin filling with an ugly shroud of crumbly defeat. Too shameful to photograph. Not too shameful to dump into a bowl and eat with a spoon in a dark corner of the kitchen.

Ugly pie is still pie. Looks aren't everything, my dears.

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