I woke up on Saturday morning with a real hankering to make apricot pie. Apricot and boysenberry have always been my favorites. My family – pie-making-genius-of-an-aunt included – used to live in close proximity and so we got together for each and every birthday as well as holidays large and small. Long story short, whenever there was anything for me to celebrate, my request was always for either an apricot or a boysenberry pie.
And yet I never make apricot or boysenberry pie myself. Apple has become my staple. I guess it’s mostly because I fear comparison – surely I could never ever stack up to my aunt. It’s like my colleague, Chris, and his sister who he says makes the best peanut butter pie he’s ever had. I already know it’s impossible to match up to hers (and yet I still attempted one this weekend…).
A couple of summers ago, my roommates and I had a big barbecue and I tried to make a blueberry pie for the first time. However, after cooking the berries until they became a gelatinous glob, it ended up tasting like nothing. In my aunt’s fruit pie recipe, she says “lemon juice, cinnamon, and other spices are optional.” As it ultimately tasted like nothing, I can only assume I didn’t add enough of anything (I used to have a basketball coach in Mississippi who’d say when you assumed that you “made an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”). The recipe also says you can use fresh or frozen fruit which makes me wonder whether or not pie-eaters will be able to tell if you slum it with frozen berries. I was going to call my mother and/or my aunt about this, but my local grocery store didn’t have fresh or frozen apricots or boysenberries and so I decided to concentrate on coworker requests instead as I’d probably get enough crust practice with them anyway.
(Coincidentally, at the aforementioned BBQ a few summers ago, everyone went nuts over my cornbread. My mom says the secret is the sugar. Nevertheless, it was a *little* ironic to slave over a hot stove boiling down blueberries and to make a crust from scratch and then to hear constant praise about the one-dish johnnycake that was slapped together with my eyes closed.)
But I digress…
Like I said on Friday, I was seriously compelled to make snickerdoodles. I’ve never made them before so I thought it would be a good warm-up for all the pie-making…and they’d also be more interesting than, say, chocolate chip cookies which I’ve made those at least 100,000 times (or so it seems).
The Joy of Cooking calls snickerdoodles “a New England favorite” and says the name is probably a corruption of the German word “schneckennudeln” which roughly translates to “crinkly noodles.” (How about that??)
And, is if things couldn’t get any better, Bed, Bath & Beyond actually had Pyrex pie pans on clearance for only $2.30 each! And when you realize that you’d spend roughly $0.99 on a tin pan you’d throw away after one use, you realize what an incredible bargain this is and how I could afford to stock up.
So…after making out like a bandit with Pyrex pie pans (not literally), my failure at the local grocery store was less pronounced. I also made a split-second decision not to buy another tub of Crisco but rather to purchase the sticks that come with handy measurements. (No more measuring with water! Although I certainly appreciate the lessons in displacement that my aunt gave me!)
I was also shocked to discover that the difference between a whole and a half crust (I only needed a half-crust for the Toll House pie for Chris) was 3/4 of a cup versus 2/3 of a cup of Crisco…which, according to the measurements on the side of the stick, is not a lot. I found it perplexing.
I was also positively STUNNED to discover that crust-making is so incredibly easy with my new Crisco! I can’t believe how long I’ve struggled with old Crisco that created crusts that are stubborn and noncompliant! Never again will I put myself through that! Crisco is not expensive! I can afford to replenish it periodically!
Although, then again, I could be wrong. I started feeding my severely obese cat (please see the February cover of Timeout and realize how completely horrified I am by it) wet food per the vet’s orders as she said it would be like putting him on Atkin’s. Afterward, I noticed he was really staticky. So…not being much of a scientist (although they do say bakers are like chemists, don’t they? Because they like everything to be precise?), I assumed it was because I was feeding him wet food as that was the only difference I could think of. Then my Super Bowl guests laughed at me and told me that it was because it’s been so cold and the air is dry. My mother backed up this theory. So my hypothesis was wrong. And I could very well be wrong about the Crisco, too. But the crust came together so beautifully and just rolled itself out and begged to be placed in the new pie pan almost immediately…so I think it can’t possibly be a fluke! It must be the new Crisco! Let that be a lesson to all of you!