Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Essential Pie Tools

I opened my Pitchfork Pie Stand at the American Gothic House two and a half weeks ago and have been reminded that making pie in large volumes requires more than my usual two tools of a rolling pin and a mixing bowl. I have also discovered some new, indispensable items...some you can purchase, some you cannot.

1) Transport Vehicle (er, preferably a station wagon or pick up truck)
First, you need a vehicle to transport supplies. A big vehicle. While I am madly in love with my Mini Cooper, I have had to make multiple trips to the city in order to haul the 50-pound bags of flour and sugar required for baking pies for a business. Not to mention, 50 pounds of apples, pictured below. Maybe I should have let my car salesman talk me into the Mini Cooper Clubman after all.
2)  Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer
What pie baker's rock have I been living under all these years?  How could I have not known about this apple peeler/corer/slicer device?!  Seriously, I've been making pie for 30 years... Even the Amish, who don't have Internet or phones, have been using these since they were invented. Which was probably around 200 BC.

Eldon is a small town (pop. 998) so word travels fast. When Priscilla Coffman heard I was opening my pie stand and would be baking 10 pies for my first day of Saturday business she showed up like a Fairy Godmother at my back door early Friday morning with a box. "I thought you might need this," she said, and then proceeded to demonstrate how this simple yet genius contraption works. (That's Priscilla doing the demo below.) You skewer the apple onto the prongs, lining up the stems with the corresponding holes, and then just turn the handle. The peelings come off in one long skinny strip, the apple is evenly sliced, and the core stays behind on the prongs when you pull off your skinned apple. Amazing! Miraculous! And speedy! How did I ever live without this?
3) Fairy Godmother
See Priscilla Coffman above. True to form, she just brought me basket full of pears tonight, fresh from her 30-acre property. Yes, I will be looking for a pear pie recipe. From the cookbook she loaned me. (The endless generosity of the people here in Eldon never ceases to impress me.)

4) Bash N' Chop
This is the best ten bucks I have EVER spent! I've seen these scraper/choppers before and always meant to get one. I finally used the $25 Bed Bath and Beyond gift certificate I got for Christmas last year and brought one home. (Note you can get it for $5.99 on the Bed Bath and Beyond website but it goes for $9.99 in the store. Hmmm.) Even if I paid $4 more for it, this scraper tool is a dough maker's dream. You can scrape your counter clean, keeping the rolling surface smooth, and getting rid of the gunky debris and crumbs that accumulate in your workspace. You can also cut balls of dough. I've even used it to help scoot my pies in and out of the oven. Why did I wait so long to get one?
5) Friends
I've had a steady stream of houseguests since I moved in just over one month ago. Unsuspecting houseguests. They think they are coming here for... for what? A vacation? Ha! From the moment they arrive they get an apron wrapped around their waist and a rolling pin placed in their hand. The funny thing is, they all seem to have a really good time making pie. My friends Stacy and James (below) traveled all the way from Portland, Oregon and apart from a little bike ride through Eldon they never left the house. Instead they managed the pie stand sales while I cranked out more pies in the kitchen, and then when I had to catch up on email and bill paying they cooked meals for me and made more pie dough. They left my freezer filled with pie shells. Even after all that they said they want to come back. Come back? I didn't want them to leave!

My current baking endeavors may require a lot more time, resources and tools than before, but that just means there's more opportunity for pie -- and it's meaning of sharing, comfort and community -- to reach that much further.