About 56 weeks ago, I baked the first of over fifty-two pie. Add in pies baked for birthdays, parties, events, it’s easily north of sixty in about as many weeks. A more organized blogger would’ve counted the pounds of butter, bags of flour, number of eggs, but this has never been that sort of project.
The idea was to improve my pie skills—demystify pie dough, decent meringue, and bake the pies I’d never had. Now’s the obvious time to look back and figure out what’s what.
Pie dough? Check. I can make it in my sleep. I generally make the same pie dough, same flakiness, same butter to lard/crisco ratio. It’s a solid dough, flexible enough for any filling.
Meringue? A late comer, but check. That skill clicked about a month ago. Practice, practice, practice. Practice while changing one variable at a time. Routine searches for tricks and techniques paid off eventually, and I now have a stable, reliable meringue method.
Different pies? Oh yeah. Big Check. I remade a few pies over the year, but almost every week brought a new pie or new version. Some failed and are sitting in a drafts file—I’m looking at you upside down peach pie. Others, like the sugar cream and the Mississippi mud pie were good, but could be better.
Did I ever really go into the why of this work? I don’t think so. Everyone has limits, and one of mine is needing to understand how something works before I can be creative with it. I need to understand the medium. I have to make the mistakes, understand the influences, break the thing, so I know the limits and how all the pieces work. It’s a frustrating way to learn, but I know that’s how I find the deeper relationships between ingredients. The right word is “grok.” All this work has been to grok pie. To feel confident in my abilities and knowledge of pie means lots of baking.
No, that’s the “How.” The why: a shop. I’m a professional bread baker. Sourdoughs, yeasted breads, croissants and danishes. Like 95% of food professionals, I want my own place. And I want to bake pies, good pies, pies that are honest, approachable, and tasty.
The next step here will be more pies and looking at the components of pie. Crusts, fillings, toppings, creative uses of standard pastry techniques and ingredients, who knows. I’m feeling comfortable with the work and that means time to push limits and refine.