Monday, April 25, 2011

Easy as Pie

Pie really isn't all that easy.  It's more an art than a science.  My perception could be skewed, because all of my favorite pie recipes are old family secrets, with all the details hazed over in repetition.  I remember going to visit my grandmother in Michigan and sitting on a stool next to the kitchen, watching her bake pies.  They're big on pies in Michigan. 

She didn't use any sort of measuring devices; it was all soup spoons, pinches and dashes.  Because she was used to being the best pie-maker in the family, she held some of the secrets closely.  She'd point across the room and go "Look over there!"  When I turned back around, I'd find her putting down the cinnamon or hastily shoving some honey behind a spice rack. 

She also left little land-mines in her recipes.  For instance, I learned only after great disappointment that when she said "tablespoon" she actually meant, "huge serving spoon for casseroles."  There are many recipes that say "cook until done."  Due to my penchant for cooking until half-done, that was a wonderfully helpful suggestion.

Now that I've spent the better part of 20 years parsing through her recipes (the first 8 or so, I just ate food...I didn't care about the recipes) I've gotten the hang of most of them.  I know when she really means to cook for less time and how much a "gob" is. 

For all that, Grandma had some pretty simple recipes.  Pie ought to be that way--it's a showcase for the filling.  My absolute favorite spring pie is rhubarb.  No strawberry.  I hate strawberries in pie...especially when they muck up a perfectly good rhubarb.

Pie crust (per crust...double up if you have a top and bottom crust):
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp shortening (yeah, I use shortening...people also rave about my pie crust, so deal with it)
3-4 tbsp ice water (to the final ball-consistency)

Slice a bunch of rhubarb...enough to fill your pie shell, probably a couple of cups or about 6-8 stalks.
3/4 cup of sugar
drizzle of honey
You might want to add thickening of some sort.  A couple tablespoons of flour will do, or a teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with ice water.  

Mix the filling all up and dump it into the bottom pie crust.  Drape the top crust over it and cut vent holes.  Brush the crust with some more honey.  Bake at 375 for an hour. 

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