I have been baking with my mother from the time I could walk, and some of our very favorite things to make, to this day, are pies. Although I would be the first to say that all desserts induce happiness, I think that pie is one dessert that defines comfort all by itself, nourishing the palate, and nurturing the soul. In our house, we abide by the saying: Pie fixes everything. Pies are a frequent conclusion to dinners in our household, having their place and time for every occasion.
Pie should have an elegant side, allowing itself to be transformed into crostatas or individual tartlets—perhaps with a hat of ice cream or a coiffure of billowy whipped cream (Marie Antoinette would approve)—and presented on your favorite plates. However, pie should also have a strictly casual demeanor; it should be able to be eaten away from the kitchen table, and be enjoyed instead in the sanctity of your favorite armchair or atop your picnic blanket (both without the constraint of forks and dishes).
Either way, it’s homey.
We recently bought a “toaster pastry” cutter that makes adorable rectangular scallop-edged pies, perfect for eating out of hand, no matter where you are. Pie is now “picnic perfect.”
Cherry pie remains one of my most favorite treats, and there is no better time to make it than when the heat of high summer turns the sour cherries as red as Dorothy’s slippers. But there are two problems. Number one, I cannot wait that long. And number two, unless you are fortunate enough to live near a sour cherry tree, fresh sour cherries are quite difficult to find. But no tears!
We make these pies with a blend of dried sour cherries (we order ours from Sahadi market in Brooklyn, NY), sour cherry juice (from the organic grocer), and a jar of sour cherries (not pie filling) from the grocery store. The amalgam bubbles away on the stove until it’s reduced into a extravagantly thick, dark, molten ruby jam, whose sinful tanginess makes you regret the fact that you didn’t make a double batch to have on your toast the next morning. Sandwiched between blankets of thin pastry crust, whose tender, golden crispness disperses into flurry of buttery flakes when you take a bite, then drizzled with a squiggle of lightly-sweetened cream cheese glaze, these little pies can make any day just that much better.
P.S: Our pastry dough comes from Julia Child, who holds canonized status in our home. I have yet to come across a better crust.