Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm Done With Pies

That's it. I give up. I'm quitting pies. I've tried and I've tried, but I just don't like making pies. I've taken classes on pies, I've practiced making pies, and I still get frustrated. The effort to result ratio is way too high, plus the results are never certain until you cut into the pie.

This past weekend we celebrated two birthdays. For birthdays I am always happy to make a cake, tailored to the tastes of the birthday boy or girl. When asked what they wanted, both birthday boys, independent of each other, requested pie. Sigh.

To accomodate the tastes of all involved (ie, my husband hates peaches), I made two pies - one peach, one apple. I started out two days ahead of time because the pie dough has to be made then chilled. I carefully went through all the required steps, cutting in the butter till pea-sized (no shortening here, all good butter), carefully adding the ice water a bit at a time, chilling the dough disks, rolling out, filling, baking.

I suspect the baking time was the problem. The pies had different baking temperatures and times. And by the time I got the final pie in the oven it was bedtime. My sweet husband volunteered to stay up and babysit the pies. Then when I heard the timer beep I sat bolt upright in bed, remembering that I'd forgotten to turn the oven temp up for the second pie. I ran into the kitchen, cranked the temp, and set the timer for another 15 minutes, hoping for the best.

Well, if hopes were dollars, we'd all be millionaires, right?

The pies looked beautiful, resting on the counter. The birthday boys eyed them appreciatively as they arrived. But looks alone don't make a good pie. When we cut into them, we had.....sigh....pie soup. So disappointing. Everyone said it tasted fine, but this was a polite group. The final word came when I sent some leftover pie home with my sister. Her report? "The peaches were good, but the pie crust Tasted flat, like you forgot the salt."

Now, understand that I really do appreciate honest feedback. I can't improve unless I get those kind of comments. But knowing that I'd served bland pie soup to a birthday boy was the final straw. If you want a birthday cake, call me. If you want pie, go to Marie Calendar's.

(My family isn't panicking about this edict. They're confident I'll forget all about it by Thanksgiving, and will take on three different kinds of pies, just to make everyone happy. We'll see.)

You might have already noticed the lack of pie pictures here today. I was so angry at the pies, I refused to take their pictures. So, instead, I give you the cake I made for Valentine's Day. Yes, the layers did slide a bit as I frosted it. Yes, it was a bit on the sweet side. But at least it wasn't a pie!

Raspberry Chocolate Cake
- adapted from Taste of Home

3 cups sugar
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, room temperature

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons milk
9 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 drops red food coloring, optional (I didn't use it)
4 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, melted

1 package (8 ounces) cold cream cheese
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur
4 cups confectioners' sugar

1- Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Butter the parchment paper. Dust the pans with baking cocoa. Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F with a rack in the center of the oven.

2- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

2- In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture.

3- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat for 2 minutes. Gradually add the cooled coffee (the batter will be thin.)

4- Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Peel off and discard the parchment paper.

5- For filling, in a small saucepan, whisk together flour and milk until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let stand until cool.

6- In a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and mix well. Gradually add cooled milk mixture; beat for 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. (It will look odd, but will eventually come together). Beat in liqueur, salt and food coloring if desired.

7- If the cake layers have domed, using a long, serrated knife, level the tops. Place one layer on a serving plate; spread with about 2 tablespoons jam. Spread one of the remaining layers with the remaining jam. Let stand for 30 minutes.

8 - Spread 1/2 cup filling over cake on the plate to within 1/4 in. of edges. Top with jam-covered layer, then spread with remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer.

9- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in cocoa and liqueur. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Frost top and sides of cake.

(If at any point the cake starts sliding around, pop it in the refrigerator to firm up the filling.)

Store in the refrigerator.


Barbara said...

Funny post, Lynn! I was smiling throughout. Pie soup. LOL.
Well, you're right about one've got to master pie crust first. It makes or breaks a pie. Don't give up. Try Ina Garten's. I think there is even a video out.
But I'll stick to cakes for birthdays any old day.

Jennifer Jo said...

Now honey, listen here. You can not, I repeat, can NOT, give up on pies. Very rarely have I had a bought pie that I like (and that includes restaurant)---all the best pies are made in someone's kitchen, yours included.

Buck up, Buttercup. You can do it.

Peach pies are hard, so don't even go there for now. Stick with apple and sour cherry.

And drop the idea of a butter crust. Go with all oil. I know it's not supposed to be any good, but it is. And it's very reliable and fast. It will cut way down on the effort ratio while you hone your pie soup skills.

a bossy pie baker

Jennifurla said...

LOL this post had me think the pies were sad you didnt take their pics? ha.

I heard a good trick is adding tapioca pearls to thicken it.

This layeed cake is fab.

Adam said...

I know exactly how you feel. I haven't bothered to attempt making a pie with anything other than a graham cracker/cookie crust in a very long time. There is no more frustrating, agrravating and worrysome process for me then trying to make a pie crust. And I've never gotten it right. I'm planning on having my Grandmother (who makes great pies) show me what I'm doing wrong, but until then, I'm with you, LET ME EAT CAKE! :)

Anonymous said...

Bad, mean sister here. The pies look beautiful and I don't think you should give up either. Part of the expectation is anything you make is absolutely divine; you set a high bar for us taste testers!

I love that you made this cake. I saw the recipe too and wanted to make it. "Prepare 3 8-inch round pans." Fail. I only have 2. I hope it was as good as I wanted it to be. Maybe I'll borrow one of yours sometime.

Check out Alexandra Guarnachelli's sugar cranberry pie on the food network site. I saw her do it on her program and she had me at "I like a thick crust which is hard to get wrong." Sold, and it tastes good too!

Debbie said...

I know exactly how you feel and have been there many times. The cake looks absolutely delicious. Would be gone in about 5 minutes here!!!

Aveen said...

Nooo! You mustn't give up on pies! The world would be a horrible place without pies. Your blueberry pie looked so gorgeous.

You might not like the idea of this, but try using half butter and half lard. The lard gives a lovely crumbly texture and a different, rich taste (that I promise is NOTHING like the taste of lard). I've made a lot of pastry over the years, both at home and at work, and nothing beats lardy pastry.

grace said...

i like pie, but i have to be really motivated to make one. why bother with it when the chances are so great that something will go wrong? why bother with it when you can have cake instead? :)

Elle said...

I'll take a cake...especially raspberry chocolate...drool...over pie any day. But, if you must make a pie, go for the Pillsbury Ready Crust from the refrigerator case at the grocery store. I know it probably has nasty trans fats, but, really, one pie in 6 months, and one slice only, isn't going to harm you very much. I learned as a young girl to make really good pie crust (my Dad loved fruit pies) but I pretty much only use Readycrusts these days and everyone still loves my pies. Do consider the possibility of pies again's the next big thing.Besides, when you get one that you are proud to take photos of...any you can give your self a High Five!

CindyD said...

Don't give up on pies! Your just have to find a crust recipe that works for you, which means making it enough times till you know how the dough should feel before you roll it. I use an all-oil recipe rolled between sheets of waxed paper, and I had to learn that here in dry Arizona I need to add a little more water than the recipe calls for.

Rose&Thorn said...

I get to watch a lot of American TV shows, and they always have a pie served somewhere in the script.
I get so inspired by them I rush out and try to replicate them - all without success. I thought it was because I was just not American enough - you've just squashed my only excuse!
I think I will take your advice and stick to cakes and leave the pies to the professionals.

Brilynn said...

I'm totally with you on this one, I'd rather make cake than pie ANY day.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

I'd take cake over pies too, but you can't give up on them! You need to conquer and hi five them!

Abby said...

I gotta admit that pies are probably my favorite dessert, closely followed by brownies! But I don't make them often, either, but that's because I despise making the CRUST. My mom takes a simple approach: sweetened fruit, flour and butter. They're often soupy, but they still taste great!

CaSaundraLeigh said...

I'm not a big pie-making fan either..I'd much rather bake a cake or cupcakes. Your cake looks fabulous!