Monday, January 12, 2015

Alpha Bakers -- Black & Blue (& Bloody) Pie

Why do I bake so much? The pursuit of attainable goals. I am in all things a procrastinator. Like Mr. Bennet, I'm "dilatory in undertaking business, [but] quick in its execution." I have trouble stirring myself to do things other people consider basic. I don't hang pictures on my walls. I rarely dust. Half of my furniture is broken. Once I begin a project, I am happy to have begun it, but it is terribly hard for me sometimes to begin even the simplest-seeming things. For this reason, I love structure. I love step-by-step guides and challenges and deadlines. And I love baking--quickly executed projects that use skills I enjoy, that produce tangible and pleasing results in a minimum of time. Low commitment, quick execution, ephemeral decision. It's not the only reason I love baking, but it does seem to be the one discipline I have where I am quick, decisive, and good at planning out my time. Baking gets me out of bed better than anything else--I will lounge if required to shower but happily hop up at 4am to preheat an oven--which has made bread baking a great structure to hang things like writing articles or papers, as the time constraints marry nicely. 

Add on the domestic goddess aura and a sexy if slightly nuts whiff of Little House self-sufficiency, and it becomes clear why this happens so much. Also, pie is delicious. 

This week's pie was the Black & Blueberry pie, a mixed berry with a cream cheese crust. Unlike some of the Alpha Bakers, I make a lot of pie, and I love it. I don't find pie crust daunting, and I like to make it with my hands. I don't mind runny fillings, (John Thorne says they're the way to go, and he's always right), and yet pie always carries with it a certain anxiety that doesn't come up in most other baking circumstances. 

Pie is more than a set of instructions. It's a skill. A physical skill. Because of this slightly mystical truth, pie gets a lot of reverence and a lot of fear. It's not hard, it's just not easy to get right. Pie can turn and bite you in the ass. Every pie is different. I realize that to the true baking personality (or the true librarian) this unpredictability can be painful, even destabilizing. Luckily, I'm more the kind of baker (and librarian) who is caught up in the story and careless of some details, so pie is my kind of game. Also, pie is so, so delicious. I would rather have pie than cake any day, but that's another story (never mind).

It's a story about fruit. We can talk about it when it is not winter any more.

Black & Blueberry pie. A fairly straightforward double-crust pie, made with Rose's cream cheese enriched pie dough. I like this pie dough, but it hasn't become my one and only. An all butter crust still has my heart. The cream cheese crust is very friendly, though, and holds a very nice shape without getting too tough. I can't bring myself to put it in and out of a bag and the freezer as Rose instructs (sorry Rose, I know your detailed instructions really do get unexpectedly perfect results, I just can't be perfect about pie. Talk to me when we're back to wedding cakes), but my hands-in technique yielded some quite acceptable pie crust action. Substitution alert: I misread the amounts I would need so the final product had subbed in mascarpone for 1/3 of the cream cheese (richer, but not devastatingly so), and I used leftover coquito (condensed milk, evaporated milk, coconut milk, and rum) for the three tablespoons of heavy cream. Alcohol is good in pie crust--some people swear by vodka.

I also mis-read the filling amounts a bit so the final mix was 12oz frozen blackberries and the rest frozen blueberries, with a handfull of cranberries and strawberries thrown in, making this a Black & Blue & Bloody pie (Black & Blue & Bloody new band name I call it). I didn't change the ratio of other filling ingredients because I judged it close enough, and so it was. I added the berries to the cornstarch (all right, it was tapioca), sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest straight from the freezer, then let the pie rest filled for roughly the recommended hour and had no problems. There were plenty of juices but it wasn't runny at all. I would have possibly opted for a runnier pie and a slightly less thick tapioca twinge, but that's a personal preference. It did run enough to resemble a very satisfactory crime scene.  
We had it for brunch, along with a very excellent quiche. My friend 'BeeBo,' below, is a big fan of blueberries.


Vicki said...

Most excellent post! Highly entertaining and a darn good read. Crime scene indeed! "Ccoquito" sounds scrumptious. This little friend is adorable. And your pie looks bloody fabulous.

Unknown said...

It's nice that someone can bake pie without the angst. It looks good. I'm with John Thorne and the runny pie.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

What a cutie! You have such an entertaining writing style. All butter pie crust has my heart too! I've never been a big fan of the flavor of cream cheese crusts, but I have to admit they are a pleasure to work with.

Patricia @ ButterYum

Faithy said...

I like all butter crust too..but this was ok too. Your pie looks wonderful too!

Unknown said...

Loved your post and BeeBo. I liked the crust too but I prefer all butter also.

evil cake lady said...

I love your post! BeeBo looks like a good pie taster. At first I thought he was getting ready to play Scrabble!

Rosa V. said...

oh that's sad you gave it away you should have kept some for yourself it's very delicious no matter if you had a bit of juice like everybody else , next time we know better right to reduce half of the juice and then mix it at the end with the fruit again and the cornstarch that's the secret ,your post is lovely dear.

Mendy said...


Your pie looks great.

Love your quirky posts.

Sometimes your a strange Kat(ya). :)

Jenn said...

Funny post Katya! You are a great writer. I much prefer hours of baking than dusting (though I love sleep as well so no 4 am bread for me).

Joan said...

So I finally understand the secret to get you to do things you dont want to do. get you baking first. guess i was missing it all these years - dad