Monday, February 09, 2015

A bee-bop, a boo-bop, a rhubarb pie!

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing pie with a co-worker.  Why?  I can't really remember what sparked the conversation, but I did glean a lot of really useful information!

I mentioned that I wasn't happy with the way my pies came out over the holidays.  He asked why and I said that, though the fillings were delicious, the crusts left much to be desired.  He said that, during his college years, he worked at a coffee shop called Polly's Pies, and he remembered baking an absolute TON of pies.  He said that for each pie crust, they would pre-bake the bottom crust by pricking the bottom of the crust with a fork, and then placing another pie pan over the crust instead of pie weights.  He said not only did this keep the pie crust from puffing on the bottom (as the any pie weight would do), the heat of the second pan helped bake the top of the bottom crust.  Huh.  I'd never even thought of that!  For that matter, I'd never used pie weights to pre-bake a pie crust (I know - shame on me!).

After that conversation I felt I had much to learn about pie baking, so I did a little investigation.  Each holiday season I use a variety of pie pans to bake my pies.  I did an internet search to see if there were recommendations on the best pie pans, and yep, indeed there were!  Not only that, I discovered that different types of vessels require more or less baking time depending on whether it's glass, ceramic or tin.  You would have thought that I would have known that after all of these years, but nope, in fact I'd never even given it a second thought.  No wonder I have iffy luck with my pies!

So.  With all of my new found knowledge, I baked a pie yesterday.  I knew what kind I was in the mood for ... what I couldn't stop thinking about, but I wasn't sure that Kevin would agree.  When I mentioned it to him, he got a huge smile and said "YES!".  YAHOO!  Rhubarb it is!  All I could think of were those delicious sweet/tart pies that grandma Maxwell used to bake.  They had the most delicious, flakey crust, and the filling was soo delicious, it would be both sweet and make your mouth pucker with it's tart flavor all at the same time.  Mmmm.  Pure deliciousness!

I used the clear glass pie plate that received the best reviews.  I couldn't find a pan that fit inside the pie plate, so I did end up using dried beans as pie weights - and they worked out just fine.  I used tapioca instead of cornstarch in the filling because that's what grandma always used.  I set the timer shy of the time indicated just to make sure it wouldn't burn.  I added time when it was clear that the pie wasn't quite baked to perfection yet.  And waited.  Patiently.  Sort of.

About 55 minutes later, I was rewarded with a golden brown pie whose crust appeared to be quite flakey and oozed just the right amount of pink sticky liquid over the side of the glass pan.  About an hour after dinner, we cut into the pie.  I was a bit nervous, but lo and behold, it was probably THE best pie I've ever made! The crust was perfectly done on the bottom - not doughy.  The sweet/tart filling was just as I remembered.  Warm pie served with a little side of vanilla ice cream that was just beginning to melt.  Oh man.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

It's funny how conversations evolve.  How just taking a few minutes to engage in a light-hearted discussion with a friend made me a better baker.  It allowed me learn something new from my friend and prompted me to get seek out some insight into a topic on which I thought I was pretty well versed.  It's true: you (CAN) learn something new every day!

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