Food & Drink » Food & Drink Etc.

Berry me now


Whoever coined the idiom “as easy as pie” probably never made one. Or if he or she did, the dirty cheater used one of those detestable, pre-made crusts and filled it with 19th-century instant pudding. Or `shudder` … bought one. Clearly, the coiner never experienced the pain of shrinking meringue, the agony of overworked dough, the unbearable shame of leaky filling.

Well, it’s easy enough to eat, anyway.

Now that that’s out of the way, because, you know, I didn’t want to start out by bragging, let me just say that I kick ass at fall and winter pies. Yeah, I’m a pretty big deal October through February. Summertime rolls around, though, and I’m screwed. Like heavy fabrics go out in the warmer months, so, too, do heavy pies. A pumpkin pie that hits the spot in November is melgh in July; same can be said for a lot of weightier, highly seasoned custards.

So what do you make in the summer? One perusal of my ancient Betty Crocker cookbook (which was, lol, supposed to be handed down to me at my wedding, but mom got smart), and I decided a berries-and-cream pie was as good a place to start as any.

I was right. And you know what? If I had gone the store-bought crust way, this pie actually would have been easy. But nooo, I had to go the Grandma’s-homemade-crust-of-doom way. This is the crust that had my dad, a cheesecake mastermind, hurling globe after globe of failed dough into the kitchen trash with a curse and a SPLAT! on at least two different occasions during my childhood.

Being of a tenacious nature, those memories didn’t exactly put me off. Two cups of flour, one-third of a cup of shortening, and a dash of salt later (plus one or two drops of water), and pie-crust dough had been achieved. Fine, OK, on the second try. Now, with a too-moist mixture, the dough will stick to your pie cloth as you’re rolling it out. Too dry and it cracks. With this particularly delicate recipe, I found that placing the pie pan face-down over the rolled-out crust dough, and then flipping everything very quickly as you might do with an upside-down fettuccine, is really the safest way to go. (With other doughs I tend to work my fingers underneath until the super-flat patty is resting on the underside of my forearms, and then I lower it carefully into the dish.)

Betty’s berries-and-cream pie recipe is convenient, because it doesn’t require you to first cook the crust, and then re-cook with the filling in place. Once I had crunched the edges of the crust down with a fork for a doily-ish effect, I poured in three cups of fresh, washed blackberries and raspberries. (A good Independence Day color combo, though I hadn’t thought of that at the time.) The cream mixture consisted of half and half, flour, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. After combining with a whisk, I poured the now latte-tinted liquid over the fruit.

The downside of cooking crust and filling at once, is that sometimes one element cooks faster than the other. With this particular pie, I found myself with an ever-so-slightly burnt crust. (Some people like that.) After cooling, I stored the berry pie in the refrigerator overnight, and it made a scrumptious breakfast the following morning. That’s the longest I would advise keeping it, however, as it tends to become a little runny and discolored after that. (It’s kind of a strangely hued pie to begin with.) Betty suggests serving slightly warm. But that wouldn’t be very summery of us, would it? •