Cooking stresses me out, especially if I am cooking for other people. I think this is because I am a perfectionist and have absolutely no idea how to do anything in the kitchen. Needing something to be perfect and having no idea how to do it are a dangerous combination. At least for me. Because of this, I have included quite a few cooking items on my 52 Things list (for example, I want to prepare a dish from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child). To kick things off I decided to bake a pie from scratch. When I told my friend Tina about my plan her immediate response was “this sounds like it’s going to be an episode of I Love Lucy.” She obviously knows me well.
I chose Three-Berry Pie with Vanilla Cream. I wanted something that I could build from the bottom up. Something that was not going to be easy. Something that would take patience. I definitely picked the right recipe.
I started with the pastry dough because it required an hour of chilling before I could use it. The ingredients were pretty simple, just flour, butter, vegetable shortening, salt, and ice water. I should note that before now I had no idea what vegetable shortening was. I actually had to google in while in the grocery store just to find it on the shelf. Now I wish I didn’t know; it’s pretty gross. Basically one solid blob of fat.
The dough was, by far, the most complicated part. I should have been tipped off by this when the recipe called for blending the mixture with my fingertips.
It took some time to get it to the right “coarse meal” consistency. Especially since I didn’t really know what meal was either.
After blending the flour, butter, and shortening for what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to take the mixture, flatten it out and put it in the refrigerator to chill and harden.
Next came the vanilla cream, which basically tastes like heaven. It’s just heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla all mixed up together. I highly suggest it for a quick, easy, and delicious dessert topping.
After the dough chilled for an hour it was time to flatten it out to make the pie crust. This is where a rolling pin would have come in handy. Instead, we improvised with two pieces of wax paper and a can of Pam. (Probably the first time I’ve ever used Pam in the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter). It took both of us about 20 minutes of working the dough and swearing to achieve this:
Finally, came the filling. Berries, berries, and more berries. And lots of sugar. The recipe also called for 2 tablespoons of “quick-cooking tapioca.” I’ve never seen tapioca in pre-pudding form before, but apparently it’s dry and comes in a box. I have no idea why it is in this pie.
If you are going to make this recipe I suggest waiting until berries are in season because they are ridiculously expensive in January. You’ll need 7 cups so picking your own or going to a farmers market would be best.
After 3 hours of beating dough, mixing cream, covering berries in sugar, and licking spoons, the pie was finally ready to go in the oven.
It baked for an hour and came out looking absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t believe that I was actually able to create something that looked like this:
Of course the real test of a job well done is not how the pie looks; it is how the pie tastes. The pie needed 3 hours to set and cool so I had to wait until morning to try it. Waiting was torture. The next day I, and my designated guinea pig, were finally able to dig into it. This is where the nerves kicked in. I was really worried that I’d done something wrong, especially to the crust, and that it wasn’t going to taste as good as it looked.
After my first bite all of my worries went away. I know it isn’t polite to compliment your own food, but my reaction can best be described as “OMG! NOM NOM NOM!” and roughly looked like this:
I’m so glad I decided bake a pie from scratch as my first new thing. It was so rewarding to put the time and energy into something that turned out so well. I will definitely be baking more from now on.
As great as the result was, I think my friend Tina summed up the process best with, “This is why women had to stay home. Because it took all f***ing day to make a pie.”