Killer Pies

You may recall a few months back, I did a “Flamingo Surprise” for my aunt’s 60th birthday. And it wasn’t just because she was turning 60 – which in and of itself, obviously, is a big deal. She has an amazing knack for gift-giving and is constantly sending me packages at work…either for holidays (think Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter…) or just because. She mentioned she was sending me a pie book that she found on a recent trip with my uncle. But, much to my surprise (and delight), the package that arrived on Friday also included this apron that apparently she had made for me. The photo is actually one of my contest pies…you can even see part of the oven in the background…so it’s nice to have some sort of commemoration of the appliance that I frantically searched for in Orlando (and almost didn’t get at all, if you recall)…so…I know my apron photo leaves a *little* something to be desired…but I really wanted to blog about it and couldn’t really do it sans photo, right? (So I took a quick picture of it and that was that…) I’ve had it hanging on my baker’s rack…but will perhaps find a better place to display it. Thanks, Auntie Leslie!

I was thumbing through the pie book that came along with this (Killer Pies) and was surprised (or shocked…or something) to discover that there’s actually a recipe from the Stagecoach Inn Bed and Breakfast in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. I have perhaps mentioned my family in Wisconsin before? The pie recipe itself is for “sweet apple” and is intriguing to me because it calls for sour cream. I’ve put plenty of sour cream in cheesecakes and the like…so I guess it would be interesting to see what would happen in an apple pie. I would think that sour cream would cut the sweetness (sort of like why my aunt eats cheddar cheese with apple pie)…but, then again, I still have a lot to learn about baking…and maybe it actually heightens the sweetness? After all, the name implies it is a sweet one. (Unless they’re just being ironic. But that would be weird.)

Nonetheless…the restaurant itself here takes me back a few summers when I was somewhat enamored with a boy who later flunked out of leather tanning school and who, the last I heard, was an insurance salesman after a brief stint selling shoes. Now, I won’t spoil the ending because there was a wedding that magical summer that will undoubtedly be one of the very first tales in the short story collection that makes me my first million…as it really was one of the first truly humiliating experiences that nevertheless proved I can bounce back from just about anything and also proved that perhaps my father is right and the best revenge is living well. So…I just need to actually sit down and take the time to compile these stories…and then, you know, shop around for an agent…and then actually get published…but, boy, oh boy…as soon as all of that happens, it’s a humdinger and I think you’ll enjoy it. So, stay tuned.

But that’s not all. My new book also has a recipe for “wet bottom shoofly pie” which I suppose could be useful for the upcoming pie contest in Lancaster, Penn. I’m pretty excited because two friends (and potentially one coworker) have signed on to make the trip with me…so I won’t have to worry about wandering around a pie festival solo this time, feeling like the world’s biggest loser (which in reality show terms would mean that I lost a lot of weight, wouldn’t it?). One friend’s mother actually hails from Lancaster and she says there’s a Mennonite recipe book somewhere that might also have some shoofly recipes for me…(there was a group of Mennonites who used to sell whoopie pies outside of my office building in Jersey City…well, actually, I’m sure they still sell whoopie pies in Jersey City…I’m just not around to see it with my own two eyes anymore).

I’ve kind of been reading about shoofly pies lately (Have I already blogged about the theories behind the name? Either it was so sticky it attracted a lot of flies…or the crumbly stuff on top looks like cauliflower and so it’s a variation of the French “chou-fleur.” And I can’t not mention the film Amelie here as even though I do not speak French (but my mother can say, “I do not know if the truck will make it over the bridge or not…”), I’m fairly certain that someone says that word in the movie (surely when talking about Mr. Collignon’s veggies?).

In any event, it sounds like there are an awful lot of consistencies of shoofly pie (from cakey to wet-bottom?)…so even though I’m still pretty sure creativity rules the day at this upcoming pie contest, I’ll have to experiment with these different consistencies and find what works best for me.

The Killer Pie book also had a recipe for a “coffee butter crunch pie” that sounds really good…but I was kind of perplexed by the crust. It calls for crust mix and then the addition of nuts and chocolate and the like. Perhaps I’m being a snob? And there’s nothing wrong with using crust mix? I don’t know…I’m awfully comfortable with my aunt’s crust…but then I worry about messing around with a good thing and think that perhaps it would be very foolish to think that I could replicate this “killer pie” crust without crust mix.

I’m a BIG fan of coffee…and so this pie got me thinking about how I really would like to make a similar pie, so I looked up coffee pies in another pie book and found essentially the same thing – Jiffy pie mix and an assortment of goodies. (My oldest childhood friend was visiting my family in Mississippi many, many moons ago…and she and I decided to make muffins one morning…and we opened a box of Jiffy muffin mix and found maggots. That pretty much did it for me and the Jiffy brand.) So…I guess it doesn’t really matter because I don’t have an excuse to make this pie and I can’t very well make it and leave it at home…and if I bring it into work tomorrow it’s like announcing to the entire world that I had nothing better to do with myself over a long weekend and I’d like to really downplay the whole pathetic loser image if I can. So…no coffee pie this weekend even though I think it sounds really good.

(A quick Epicurious search for “coffee pie” yielded no results. Perhaps this means I should do a little experiment of my own with crust mix versus Aunt Jan’s patented crust in these coffee pies…)

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