February is National Pie Month and so continues my quest to make pie so good you’d waterboard your mom for a slice.
Baking is one of those things that I sometimes just have to do. It’s my happy place. (Okay it’s one of my happy places.)
And certain things are like trip wires that compel me to bake: Company is coming; the weather is kinda crappy; I’m hungry; the weather is amazing; these pears look righteous!; what would happen if you put Chinese 5 Spice inna pie?; I’m still hungry; hey look at all this butter!; my friends look hungry; the only thing that could make this day [better/bearable/more kickass] is pie!
It’s not always about pie — sometimes it’s cookies, cakes, quick breads, and cook-ca-breads. (Okay not really, not yet anyway: I don’t think mankind is ready for a cookie-cake-bread onslaught).
I wish I could brag about all the focaccia and “real” bread I bake but honestly, for me it’s usually about the sweet stuff.
Even though everyone says it’s the White Devil, I kinda feel the same way about sugar that my grandad did about his cigars: if I stop, that’s what’s gonna kill me. He started smoking when he was nine years old, the same age he learned to drive an early Model T, and it wasn’t the tobacco that eventually took him down. (It was the sugar. Kidding!)
Over the years I’ve accumulated a few tools and pieces of equipment I’m ludicrously mad about — a bright orange Kitchen Aid mixer (can’t say enough good stuff about it), a food processor that can make pie dough so quickly there is no excuse not to eat pie all the time. I mean seriously, I could eat pie everyday, and hey people, it’s PIE MONTH (it really is) so let’s do it up right!
If you want to make really good chocolate things, use really good chocolate. It’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be the best chocolate — save the stuff that stops time and sends you into a choco-coma for emergencies like agonizing heartbreak or attack by space robots. (The chocolate wont stop them but you wont care.)
In case you’re coming fashionably late to this blog, chocolate is one of the best things around. It’s probably why we’re doomed to eventually be invaded by space robots: they will be coming for our chocolate. And take the time to melt the chocolate properly, because nothing is more soul-crushingly sad than a fabulous bar of chocolate that got overcooked and went gritty (been there, done that, shed the tears).
Sometimes you gotta laugh to keep from crying. (Melted chocolate should run like a satin ribbon off your spoon, not grab on like mashed potatoes.) Everything else should be fresh and I do try to go organic as much as possible, but I haven’t found fancy butters or flours to be worth it. And don’t even talk to me about white chocolate, I’ve got one word for that stuff: “abomination”.
Occasionally people surprise me with a drop by, which quite honestly is kind of a pain if I’m painting but a lovely surprise if I’m baking. (Apparently I’m more social with an apron strapped on. Or maybe it’s ’cause I’m all sugared up.) Once my friend Fred serenaded me by guitar while I baked; it was twelve kinds of awesome.
Drop ins get free treats because I’m rarely in a Little Red Hen mood (“Who helped me roll out of the dough? Who helped me chop the apples? That’s right, none of you losers, so git your own damn pie!”). It really is all about the sharing and reveling in the sugary, buttery goodness. Plus I like to hear a lot of moaning around the dining table. (I know, I know: “That’s what she said!”)
And speaking of aprons (because we were, just mere moments ago), treat yourself right and get an apron. Or if you’re like me, have a really big apron collection.
I have an apron for just about any mood you can think of, including a large number of vintage holiday baking and “hostess aprons” that I
make let everyone wear each year for the annual Night Of A Thousand Calories holiday cookie baking party. (Michael always snags the polka dot “culotte” apron with velcro leg straps, which sadly you cannot see in this photo.)
You’d think my love of aprons would have transferred into the studio a long time ago, but it wasn’t until I recently ruined my 678th pair of perfectly good jeans that I decided to strap on an apron in the studio too. This one I swiped from my high school boyfriend Tom The Kickboxer, who briefly worked in an ice cream parlor.
It was one of those places where they did mix-ins — for my birthday he gave me an entire crate of Reeses cups, which was my fave candy at the time. “Memories, like the corners of my miiiiiind….” Sorry, had a Streisand moment.
At this very moment my Meyer lemon tree is going into overdrive, so I’m thinking about Lemon Bars, and Lemon Souffle Pudding (which is off the chain — a tart airy souffle on top with a gorgeously gooey, hot lemon custard underneath). But I’ve got a LOT of lemons so feel free to make suggestions! And the necto-plum tree that I planted last year will someday, I hope, give me necto-plums — and maybe that will be The Pie That Redefines Joy. (Then the robots will come for sure…)
A quick shout-out to Laurie Olinder: if it weren’t for the Celebrationists I wouldn’t have known that not only is there a Pie Day, but that February is National Pie Month. (Every month is pie month around here.) Now go bake something!!!