Look, Mom! My First Pie!

My mother is famous for her homemade pizza. In high school, my friends would come over to watch The Real World on Tuesday nights and they would line up by the oven the minute she said it was done. These little parties grew (and contained enough hungry teenage boys – and girls!) so much that the first pizza, cut into eighths, wouldn’t be enough for everyone to get a piece on the first round. Eventually it got to the point that we had to make four pizzas just to feed everyone and have some leftovers (the leftovers are SO good). While my mother is a very patient and giving person, there was no way she was going to make four pizzas each week for my friends without my help, so just like that, I became her little pizza apprentice.

At first I would just help mix the simple ingredients of yeast, water, oil and flour and let her do the heavy lifting of kneading the dough. But then I started to do that as well and by the time I left for college, I was getting pretty good at making dough. Of course these pizza nights continued whenever I was home for a visit. Even in the first few years after I got married, a night of having friends over for pizza was not uncommon whenever I happened to be in Yankton. I learned right and I learned well and I make damn. fine. pizza. Have for years. Just like my mama!

What my mom never taught me to do, though, was make pie crust. Just like her pizza crust, her pie crust recipe is simple and amazing, but I never once helped her make the darn thing. I have watched her make many a pie over the years and helped with the filings, but for some reason (uh, because she’s GOOD at it?!), she always did the dough.

Somehow, in the almost six years of my marriage, this lack of skill has never been an issue. I make plenty of sweets and desserts, but I’ve never really had to make a pie because other family members do that when we have gatherings and it’s not like Ben to request such a treat. But yesterday our neighbor offered up his rhubarb patch and we just so happened to have a huge container of strawberries in the fridge that Ben had just purchased and so he suggested, ever so innocently, that a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie would be good. Good?! We love that pie. Ben’s grandma, Louise, makes it and it is my favorite thing ever. But me? Make a PIE?! Pie means pie crust and I had never even attempted a pie crust before, much less a whole pie and our favorite pie at that!

Like I do so often, I called my mom to get her recipe. She emailed it to me because my arms were full of screaming kids and when I looked at it last night, she added this little note to the end: “Good Luck, Betty.” Funny lady! It actually took me a second to get the joke and then I snorted when I did; it was quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. But wouldn’t you know it? It made me even more determined to make the pie.

This morning I made a quick trip to the store for cornstarch for my filing and then I followed the steps on my great grandma’s recipe for pie dough. As promised, it really was simple. After it chilled all morning, I set to work rolling the dough, adding my filling, and putting on the top crust:

Here is what I learned. Even though my I’ve never made a pie crust with my mom, I have watched her do it enough that the whole process kind of felt familiar. I formed the dough into the same round disc like she does and used the pie plate to measure out how big my circle actually needed to be. Now I highly doubt she would have ripped the top crust right in the middle or flutted the edges so poorly that the juices ran over in the oven, but hey – this is my first pie. Give me some credit, would ya? I mean, it did look like this when it came out of the oven:

Not bad, eh? Except for those darn edges. Oh, well. That is what self-cleaning ovens are for as far as I’m concerned!

We let the thing cool, although I thought Harrison might dive in the minute he saw it. “Oh, wow! Look at that! I love pie!” is a rough transcript of what he said upon first seeing it. So if my husband hasn’t been requesting pie, I guess I can count on my son to pick up the slack! It probably doesn’t help that we have a Backyardigans DVD where they make pie. Like a samurai! Yes, samurais who make pie. And now HD is a bit mystified, it seems, that his mama, too, can make a pie. Does that make me a samurai in his eyes? Awesome!

Now, I need some of you pie making people out there to tell me what in the world I did wrong, because proud as I am of my first pie attempt, I’m a bit baffled as well. The thing tasted amazing. The crust on top was yummy and flaky and the filling was delish, too. Here’s the only problem. It looked like this:

There was no way I was getting a piece out in actual pie piece form. It was just a big old mess. And what was left in pan was super juicy, like this:

Not that we really cared. We threw some ice cream on top (except for HD, who refused ice cream. He said it did NOT go on pie. Ben & I did not listen to that, by the way), and all three of us pretty much inhaled it.

So it was edible and enjoyable for the palate, if not the eye. But if you have a hypothesis (another word Harrison used today – thank you, very much, Dinosaur Train!), please share!!

So yes. I made a pie. And I have a feeling I might just make some more. It didn’t take me that long to get good at the whole pizza dough thing – just a few years. & I doubt my boys will complain if I keep practicing my pie skills even if it takes that long to really get the hang of it. Everyone keeps telling my husband he’s too skinny – maybe this will help.

Good Lucky, Betty! Ha!

UPDATE: Shhhhhh! I had a piece of pie for breakfast the morning after making it (oh, come on. if doughnuts and danishes can be breakfast, so can pie!), and it came out in pie form! My mom thinks maybe it wasn’t 100% cool & that is why the juices ran so much. I guess next time I’ll know that three hours does not automatically equal ready to eat temperatures! But, yummmmmmm – such a good breakfast treat! 

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