The blackberries are ripe. Too ripe. They seep through the brown paper bag and drip steadily down West Broadway for 6 blocks, then puddle outside your door while you dig for your keys. You are Harold and this is your purple crayon. You recall the page that says “There were nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best” and you wonder if he knew how to weave lattice crusts. The recipe you’ve chosen doesn’t require lattice-ing so everything is in hand really. You have the whole afternoon and all the right ingredients (yes, even the really good butter). Now if only you could draw yourself a bigger kitchen.
See, your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp—be generous—a postcard (for reference: your sink rug functions as wall-to-wall carpet). And you thought that was the clincher, the thing keeping you from any baking project larger than a ramekin. But not today. Today is the day you bake an entire pie with nothing less than the Lovely Rolling Pin, the tool all bakers are buzzing over because it’s so precise and so, well (and here you falter) wide. You pick it up and place it under your free elbow, like a javelin.
You have to admit this rolling pin has a certain primal appeal to it. No-nonsense, wax-coated, maple (it smells good too—like a forest) and slender enough to maneuver easily with your non-lumberjack-sized palms. Plus, holding it makes you feel indomitable. And maybe that’s why you’re doing this after all. Because a pie would mean eternal leverage against this closet space with its dollhouse oven. A pie would mean you had won out. Now tie your apron on (you’ll probably bruise your elbows against the door jam) and flour your hands like Mary Lou Retton. The countertop too. Oh, and the rolling pin of course.
Here goes. The dough is mostly butter. Butter and dry ingredients. And cream. You chill that for a spell. (Go ahead. Call your mom and ask her why you moved to New York City. Ask her what it’s like to take six steps from the oven to the countertop.) Then hype yourself up to mid-century French music. The berries get macerated with sugar and you add a thumb of minced ginger even though it’s not in the recipe—adding to a recipe you’ve never made before makes you feel even more unstoppable. But that’s nothing compared to what happens next.
One second you’re holding the rolling pin looking at two lumpy discs of cold dough. And then? Well, there lay two buttery blankets of crust. Perfectly even. Perfectly symmetrical. Most rolling pins take multiple attempts in multiple directions with a design that puts the main force on the middle section of the pin so your hands just sorta...hang on for the ride. But this pin is different. You are a team. And even more than the perfect quarter-inch drape you get as you layer the holy triumvirate of dough, filling, dough, the thing that hits you most is the dumbfounded silence of your too-small kitchen. It has nothing to say now. You’ve won. And you could be smug about it but you’re too busy cutting tiny discs of dough to top your almighty pie. There. It looks like plated armor. Like golden medals. Like a crown.
45 minutes later, you sit in a patch of early September sunlight on your tiny studio floor and raise a forkful of still-warm, golden-capped, sugar-crusted pie to your mouth. Note the tart berries, that plucky bite of ginger? And something else too. Oh, that would be the sweet, sweet taste of victory.
- 2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 3 tablespoons Granulated sugar
- 1 cup Unsalted butter, cold & cut into cubes
- 6-8 tablespoons cold half & half cream
- 1 egg yolk; for dabbing onto top crust
- 2 tablespoons Granulated sugar; for sprinkling
- 3 heaping cups Fresh blackberries
- 2 teaspoons All-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Granulated sugar (use more or less depending on the berries)
- 2 tablespoons Orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract