Oh Me, Oh My, Here Comes The Pie

So apparently cupcakes aren’t cool anymore. Perhaps we’ve reached our creative cupcake peak as a society, but I know I certainly haven’t yet. Truthfully, I haven’t been baking them as much as I used to. But they’re still awesome in my book.
God knows why, but pie is the new thing that is fly. I hate trends. I’ll be the first to tell ya. I really do. I resisted following them in high school, especially clothing and style trends. I didn’t want to (and still don’t) conform or be like anyone else and I really just don’t like people telling me what to think is cool or isn’t cool. Force me to like something and I’ll despise it even more. Thanks but I never asked for your opinion and I’m going to make my own decisions about who to be and what to wear and what to buy and what to like and still be awesome. That’s just how I roll.
So when I saw this article on NPR’s website the other day (Cupcakes Are Dead. Long Live The Pie!) I thought, “oh, dear… please no…. pie?!? Why PIE???” But it’s inevitable, I suppose. Seems like some are just impatiently waiting for the cupcake thing to die off. I don’t know why! But someone’s gotta constantly find the new niche and capture America by storm and make a million bucks. I guess I’m just kinda sick of these announced foodie “trends”. Interesting, though. Really.
So why is it I’m not so enthused about pie, you may ask? Because they’re a pain in the ass. That’s why. Every single recipe I’ve found for a pie requires the typical two sticks of (rock-solid cold) unsalted butter, flour, salt, and ice water ratio, requiring one to devote practically an entire day (or two) to the darned thing once you chill it and roll it and re-chill it and cut it and crimp it and lattice it, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a put-off. Hence to the reason why I’ve only made one (now two) pies in my entire lifetime. Cupcakes are so much more low maintenance. I like low maintenance. (This all depends, of course, on how involved you get, and I tend to get myself quite involved and go all out but hey, I think it’s more rewarding and a higher expression of creativity making individual chocolate mustaches and flavored buttercream frostings and roses than making a damn criss-crossed tutti frutti pie).
I’m starting to sound really negative.
That isn’t my intention.
I suppose I have kind of grown into being a pie grinch.
But after reading all of these “convincing” arguments about this new phenomenon, I caved.
Picture 2
Picture 3
Cupcakes vs. bacon vs. pie.
I suppose, on the other hand, you could say that pies can be “healthier” and more nutritious than cupcakes. They’re filled with fruit and more natural sugars, less processed flour and processed white sugar. You can use what’s in season. Pumpkin, berries, pears, rhubarb, strawberries, squash, apples, peaches, mangoes, cherries, what have you, for a sweet kind of pie. Or you could go the savory route with veggies, some kind of protein, herbs, cheese (any kind of pot pie or quiche-type pie). I get that. That’s awesome. But there’s still that crust. Not like there’s anything wrong with that, of course. I’m just skeptical.
I can’t help the fact that the latest issue of ReadyMade magazine just so coincidentally landed in my hands (thanks, Ty), featuring the hottest new up-and-coming pie bakery in Brooklyn, New York: Four & Twenty Blackbirds. These two cute baking girls with their cute aprons and their amazing-sounding cranberry sage pie, vinegar chess pie, bittersweet chocolate cherry nut pie, and PEAR ANISE PIE got to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about wanting to make this pear anise pie, I tell ya. Licorice and lemon spiced Bartlett pears with a few dashes of old fashioned bitters? YES PLEASE. I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to buy all of the ingredients to make it, especially after reading over all of the daunting steps several times. But I just told myself to go for it and not look back (a good attitude to have in many aspects of life, y’know?).
These Four & Twenty Blackbirds girls. They’re (slowly) opening up my heart to the world of pie. Piece by piece. Bit by bit.
Make this and see why. So yeah. Hi. I baked you a pie.
Pear Anise Pie
Recipe from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, via ReadyMade magazine
Serves 8

For the Crust:

2½ c all-purpose flour (I used 1½ white whole wheat, and 1 cup white)

1 t salt

1 T sugar ½ lb (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 c water with ice

⅛ c cider vinegar

One day ahead (or hours before), make crust: Whisk flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add butter and toss. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour, working quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain.

Combine the ice water and vinegar and sprinkle 4 tbsp over the flour mixture and mix with a spatula. When the liquid is fully incorporated, add more, 1-2 tbsp at a time. Mix until dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze lightly with your fingertips to bring dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more liquid if necessary.

Divide dough in half, shape into flat discs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour (overnight is preferred) before using. (Personally I just stuck it in the freezer for an hour or so and this worked fine.)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Leave about ½ inch of the rolled out crust beyond the pan’s edge. Chill in the fridge.

Roll out the top crust and cut into 1-inch-wide lattice strips on a piece of parchment paper placed over a baking sheet. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the lattice and chill it in the fridge.

Prepare your filling:
6-8 Bosc or Bartlett pears, just barely ripe and a little firm

Juice of 3 lemons

¾ c white sugar

4 T all-purpose flour

2½ t anise seed, divided, or 1 t anise extract

⅛ t allspice

¼ t salt

2 dashes of old fashioned bitters (I used Underberg)

1 egg

1 T milk

Demerara sugar

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Core, peel, and slice the pears to about ¼ inch thick with a sharp chef’s knife. Place in a large mixing bowl and coat with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Add in the anise extract if you are using.

Combine the sugar, flour, 1½ tsp anise seed (if not using extract), allspice, salt, and bitters in another bowl; lightly whisk to combine.

Gently combine the pears with the flour and spice mixture.

Remove the crust from the fridge and gently place the pear mixture into it.

Arrange the lattice crust on top and trim or fold the ends to match the edge of the bottom crust. Roll the crust in from the outer edge to seal the two layers together. Flute the edges, going around the crust, pressing the top and bottom crusts together with your fingers.

Place pie in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up the crust.

Remove pie and brush crust with remaining egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar and anise seed.

Bake at 425°F for 15-20 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack until crust just starts to brown.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, move the pie to the center rack, and bake for 45-55 minutes more. Pie is finished once juices are bubbling, you can easily poke a knife or skewer into the pears, and the bottom crust is browned. (Using a glass pie pan makes this easier to see.)

Cool, slice, and top with freshly whipped cream with a little honey stirred in. (Or vanilla bean ice cream, which is what I’d recommend…)

So does this mean I’m going to throw all my vegan cupcakes taking over the world cookbooks out the window and change my cupcake bakeshop opening dream into a 1950’s housewife style pie baking one? Probably not (but you never know). Would you say that I’m convinced? Hardly. I still think they’re way more time consuming and a pain (in the ass) to make. The results? Yes, they can be quite delicious. Yes, they give off that seemingly cool, put on your hand sewn apronand take out your retro vintage cookbook that grandma gave you and rolling pin sort of vibe. But I’ll still take my love for cupcake baking any day over this stuff. (Although I would like to try my hand at their other recipes because the combinations sound way too damn tasty, creative and awesome to pass up. That’s what wins me over.)
Here’s some more anti-cupcake, pro-pie posts, if you’re so inclined…

4 responses »

  1. We totally share your thoughts on pie, but when it comes right down to it, the pies from Four and Twenty are so darn fantastic that we had to share them! I'm glad you made the Pear pie- that was my hands down favorite! -Amy (from ReadyMade)

  2. My first time coming across your lovely blog! I really enjoyed your post on pies being the next "trend"…I had read that article too. Last year I think the buzz word was that the French macarons were de-throning the cupakes, now it's pies. Cupcakes are cute and portion-controlled mini-cakes; French Macarons are delicate, finicky and gluten-free; Pies are, like you mentioned, comfort food pastries in a crust. It's all good stuff! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Vegan Basil Peach Pie « The Baking Bird

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