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Living the Life of Pie

By Sandy Hu

I just took my apple pie out of the oven, juices bubbling and sputtering from between the lattice crust. And now my whole house smells of butter, sugar and apples – a mouthwateringly delicious combination.

I’ve been working most weekends and baking a pie isn’t what I would do normally to relax. But I am inspired to make pie after a hands-on class I took recently with a remarkable teacher, Kate McDermott, who had flown in to San Francisco from Seattle to teach a series of hands-on pie baking classes. I came home that night with a scrumptious, freshly baked rhubarb pie with the most delectable crust.

And while I loved the pie lesson and couldn’t wait to try the techniques I had learned, Kate also taught life lessons – about how we can approach food and cooking, and the value of staying in the moment as we prepare our food.

I’d never baked a pie just for fun before. Until now, I’ve baked pies and tarts with a purpose: because I need dessert when company is coming. And in retrospect, I’ve baked these pies quite impersonally – cutting the butter into the dry ingredient in my food processor, adding ice water through the feed tube and waiting for the machine to make my dough. I was looking for a result, instead of making the pie for the sheer joy of it.

In Kate’s pie class, we experienced the dough by doing everything by hand. We used our fingers to cut in the butter. We achieved the proper consistency by feeling the flour and fat with our fingers.

Here are some things I’ve reflected on after my pie class:

  • Don’t be judgmental about the quality of your food or your cooking.
  • Most mistakes can be remedied – with pie crusts as with almost anything else.
  • Don’t let the recipe dictate to you. Learn the cues to determine when something is ready – how a baked pie should look and even sound (“Listen for a sizzle and a deep and subtle bubbling,” Kate says).
  • Enjoy the moment when cooking or baking – make a point to have fun!

For more on pie baking, see Kate’s blog post.

“A pie is a hope of a future memory,” Kate says. “It’s not just what’s in the pie – it’s also the memories the pie brings up.”

I’m determined to make some of those memories. I’m making more pies.

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Reader Comments (1)

Beautifully written, Sandy. I hope the next time I make a pie, I make it just like you and Kate did. :-)

May 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

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