Pie Lovers Unite! celebrates the 'food of the heroic' for the 6th time
Photo by Bob Kuehne
In 1902 the New York Times wrote scathingly regarding the suggestion to reduce the number of times per week to eat pie from daily to only once or twice: "It is utterly insufficient... as anyone who knows the secret of our strength as a nation and the foundation of our industrial supremacy must admit. Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents mark the calendar of the changing seasons. PIE IS THE FOOD OF THE HEROIC. No pie-eating people can ever be vanquished."
All my heroes have rolling pins and they know how to use them. Except for the blast-oven temperatures, it's high pie-making season and I'm ready with peaches, raspberries, blueberries and a few cherries in the house right now. I'm thinking about pies today because this coming Sunday, July 22 is Slow Food Huron Valley's 6th Annual Pie Lover's Unite!, an event which I've helped organize every year.
I love this event because it recognizes the skill and the heart of all the great bakers in the neighborhood. And it's amazing to see a 10-foot table covered entirely in dozens of homemade pies — every kind, from your Triple Berry and Chocolate Pretzel to Tuscan Zucchini and Roasted Garlic Vegetable. Plus, seeing a hundred people gather to pay homage to the glory of pie and write "pie-ku" (pie-themed haikus) is a heartwarming sight.
This year, like every year since the first event in 2007, entrance is free if you come with a homemade pie. And also like each year since 2007, Zingerman's Bakehouse is providing some of their delicious pies for prizes, and Mighty Good Coffee is generously donating their fine brew.
Because of the spring freeze, it's a sad year for those of us who love fruit pies the best. There aren't going to be any apricots or apples from my favorite growers, and precious few cherries, plums, or peaches. Perhaps I'll make a purslane pie? I've got plenty of that.
Whatever the pie, remember "When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, bit if it's not, mmmmmm, boy." — Jack Handy
makes about 18-20
6 ounces fresh purslane, washed and trimmed
1 cup onion, diced (I used Vidalia)
6 sprigs thyme, use all, discard only hard stems
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon sea salt (adjust to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Trim the purslane by removing the thick stalks, keeping the leaves and tender stalks. Wash well, let dry. Dice onion and place in a bowl. Add sumac to the bowl and mix well, add all other ingredients and mix until all blended.
3 1/2 cups whole grain flour
1 1/2 cups luke warm water (may vary based on altitude)
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Sift the flour in the mixer bowl, add salt, sugar and mix well. Bloom the yeast in 2 tablespoons of luke warm water. Add oil and yeast mix to flour and slowly start adding the water as you mix. Add water as needed to get all the flour incorporated well. Continue mixing until the edges of the mixer bowl are cleaned out (about 1 minute or 2). Test the dough with your finger. If too stiff or resistant, add a touch more water and mix again until all blended and bowl is cleaned again.
Place covered in a bowl to rise for one hour. Divide dough into 3 large balls and let rest again covered for 30 minutes before handling. Place a ball on a floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick, cut the dough in circles (I used 4-inch cutter), place a heaping tablespoon of the purslane mixture in the center, fold over and seal edges shut. Bake at 500 degrees for approx. 8 minutes until dough is baked. Remove and serve warm or cold with a squeeze of lemon or plain yogurt.
Gramma Bayer's (Never-Fail) Pie Crust Recipe:
Makes at least 3 single crusts, more if you roll it out thinner
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cup cold butter (3 sticks), cut in 1/2-inch pieces *
5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon vinegar
Stir together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs — largest no bigger than a pea. In a separate bowl, whisk together ice water, vinegar and egg. Pour this over the flour mixture in a circle. Use a large fork to stir the dough until it just holds together in a shaggy ball. Pat dough into a ball, handling it as little as possible and keeping it as cool as possible.
At this point, most recipes say to rest the dough at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator but I'm often in too much of a hurry. I find it still works. :) Either way, my mom's technique is to take a piece of dough (about 1/3 for one crust) and pat it into a coherent disk on a well-floured pastry cloth. Flour the rolling pin cover/sock thingy to prevent sticking also. And roll to the size you need.
*Gram always used Crisco to make her dough, but I've switched for taste and health(!) to using all butter. This makes the dough a little harder to handle. Half Crisco and half butter is probably the best compromise for taste and handling.
Kim Bayer is a freelance writer and culinary researcher. Email her at kimbayer at gmail dot com.