Monday, August 9, 2010

How Far Would You Drive For Pie?

Another journey begins. I will make a 1,700-mile drive from Los Angeles to Des Moines, Iowa -- all because of pie. To eat pie. Lots and lots of pie. Homemade pie. Competitive pies at the Iowa State Fair. When you think about the reality of this it makes you wonder, doesn't it, just how much do you love pie? And how far would YOU drive for to eat it?

For the record, let me just say I'm driving my Mini Cooper to Iowa instead of the RV for this long trip. While I'm going to miss my feather bed and my espresso machine in my house-on-wheels, I am not going to miss paying for gas at eight miles per gallon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My 16-Year-Old Niece Learns to Make Pie(s)

In case you were thinking that in preparation for my upcoming mega-pie-eating stint at the Iowa State Fair I'm cutting back on my pie consumption, think again! I left Portland for LA exactly one week ago and in the past week I've made -- and eaten -- three pies. Pie was a priority this weekend as I gave my 16-year-old niece, Lauren, a baking lesson. She had taken a culinary course at her high school and is a pro at making cookies and crepes, but she had never made a pie from scratch. Until Aunt Beth (The Pie Whisperer) arrived on the scene, that is. I unloaded my bin of pie supplies from the Mini Cooper, Lauren put on my mom's ratty old faux bandana apron, and we cleared some space in my mom's kitchen.Lauren is a confident and smart young woman. I couldn't believe how she just took charge of the dough with no fear. Talk about a dream student!She continued to impress me with her expertise, crimping the crust like she had done it a hundred times.The peach pie was gorgeous! One that could have been a state fair contender. It was so good it disappeared in less than an hour. Well, we are a big family. But still. An empty pie dish is always the greatest compliment.

The next morning, while Lauren was doing what most 16-year-olds do -- sleeping in -- I sat in the kitchen drinking coffee with my mom. Pointing to the door of the slumbering young beauty, I asked, "Was I like Lauren when I was a teenager?"

My mom said, "You never slept late."

"No, mom. I meant was I assertive and so adult like her."

"Oh, you were bad," my mom said. "You ran away from home when you were her age."

It was true. I was ready to see the world, excessively impatient, and bought an airline ticket from Iowa to Oregon. "Okay, well, apart from that. Was I so comfortable around adults and having adult conversations?"

"Yes, you kids were all like that."

That came as a relief. And though I never had any culinary classes, I do recall that I was baking cookies and crepes during my high school years.

When Lauren finally got up I was waiting. "We've got another pie to make, missy." And just like that, she jumped right in, measuring, stirring, mixing, pouring, whipping, all with a great attitude, enthusiasm, and interest.

"I was thinking I might want to be a pastry chef," she said.

If I ever thought teenagers were supposed to be snotty and surly, my niece has shattered that misconception.I asked Lauren, "So which pie did you like making better? Peach or banana cream?"

Her answer was as lovely and balanced as her. "I liked both. I liked getting my hands dirty making the peach, but I liked licking the spoon of the cream pie."


Banana Cream Pie

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
whisk dry ingredients together in heavy saucepan
gradually whisk in 2 and 1/2 cups whole milk
vigorously whisk in 5 large egg yolks (beaten)
stir constantly, bring to simmer over medium heat,
remove from heat, scrape sides, stir until smooth
return to heat, whisking constantly, bring to simmer and cook for one minute
Remove from heat then add (whisk in)
3 TBSP butter cut into small pieces
1 TBSP vanilla