Pie 16.0

Pie 16.0

The voices in my head began to fight the second I awoke today.

Voice 1: What time can I drive home today? Do I need gas?

Voice 2: You are home. You drove here yesterday.

V1: Oh, yeah! Then I’ll take the whole day off from electronics and make a pie.

V2: You have to edit that exam. You can’t make a pie until you blog that last one.

V1: Right. Coffee, then.

I tossed off the covers, made coffee, drank the first cup in silence while I watched the sunrise. Then, I got to work. I am exceptionally coordinated, so I will blog Pie 16.0 while I make Pie 17.0. Let’s see how this goes.

Pie 16.0 was assembled in the other kitchen in the dark again. A friend suggested I simply install lightbulbs in the ceiling light, but that’s not what I mean by dark. I usually make my pies in the morning as the sun comes in the kitchen windows–with no lights turned on. And even with lightbulbs, I use lamps instead of the overhead lights. I like soft light when the sun is gone. It’s necessary and soothing. But not so great for taking pictures of pies. So, to clarify, by dark I mean at night.


In the SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook, this pie is called “Jumping Without a Net Bottomless Strawberry Rhubarb Cups.” The recipe reveals a design made when the baker was clean outta flour–hence the no-crust. Well, I had graham crackers and seriously considered making a crunchy bottom in each cup. Voice 2 chimed in: don’t bother. I found out from my tasters the next day that a crunchy bottom was exactly what this recipe needed. Next time, I’ll listen to Voice 1.

There’s not much to tell; it was a really easy bake. The first step was to make the fruit filling and all the pictures are of the pan. First the fruit cooked down. Then other mystery ingredients were added. The hardest part was draining the syrupy juice from the cooked fruit because it clung to the pan as it drained out and landed on the counter three inches from the target collection jar. I blamed intermolecular forces, and skillfully overcompensated and missed the jar a different way.

Here is a series of pictures of the pan as the filling progressed.

While the little cups cooled, I boiled down the reserved fruit juice to a syrup.

I separated a lot of eggs and whipped up the meringue. This is my favorite part. I love whipping egg whites to stiff peaks.


I spooned a hefty dollop of white fluff onto each cooled cup and there was a whole bowl of extra meringue. I ate some. (Voice 2: Actually, you ate a lot.)

[Excuse me. I must attend to the next step of Pie 17.0.]

I’m back. The little cups were adorable in the oven.


And they came out lovely in the end, despite not having a crunchy bottom layer.


Of course, I didn’t eat any of Pie 16.0 because, you know, rhubarb.

(Reveal: Pie 17.0 (only about 1 hour of prep time!), is my second savory pie. I know. I told you I’d avoid these based on the yucky Jerk Chicken fiasco of the summer. Yet, here I am. Trying again. She’s in the oven and the place smells delicious. Stay tuned for pictures.)


Laura’s Chicken Pot Pie

Laura’s Chicken Pot Pie

Ten years ago minus ten days, our chicken pot pie tradition began. It was Halloween and the doorbell kept ringing. Our kids were gone to college and beyond. We existed in the eerily quiet empty gap years between sending our girls off to start their lives and welcoming grandchildren, so we fought over answering the door to see the goblins and fairies.

I was covered up to my elbows with flour from the pie crust I rolled. Chicken chunks browned in butter in the pan. An open can of vegetables waited by the sour cream for mixing, and the preheating oven took the early fall chill from the kitchen. We were hungry and trying not to eat too much candy while we waited for our dinner to bake.

I cleaned up and let Mike answer the door for a while, tired from the day of teaching and research and thinking about an upcoming presentation I’d make in seminar. Time flies when I’m busy and soon the tricksters were home counting their loot and we could eat real food: my first chicken pot pie.

As a chemist, I know how to cook without a recipe. The gravy had thickened, the chicken had browned. The crust rolled like a dream. Yet when I sliced into the steaming pie, my knife hit solid. A stone? A bone? What in the world lurked at the bottom of my beautiful pie?

I used a spoon to scoop the first piece. It was heavy and fell apart as I lifted. With a tingling clink, a spoon (not my scooper) crashed to the table. A spoon. Baked in the pie. “Little Jack Horner…eating his Christmas pie…stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plum…”

You know what we did, of course. We chucked the hot and slimy spoon into the sink and ate it anyway. The only other available food was chocolate. And the pie, flavored by spoon, was delicious.

I remembered this baking fiasco this morning while I whipped up this year’s chicken pot pie. I won’t be home on Halloween, so the tradition must be flexible. There is no recipe to follow. It’s just in my head. But today I paid attention, so I give this pie to you. Try it and let me know how you do.

Laura’s Spoon-free Chicken Pot Pie


Brown a small chopped yellow onion in a blob of melted butter in a frying pan. Add about 1.5 pounds of chunks of boneless chicken thighs and brown. Add a half a cup of water and a package of brown gravy (or mushroom, or chicken, or whatever kind of powdered gravy you like). Stir in and boil for a minute. Then cover the pan and turn off the heat while you make the crust.


Preheat the oven to 375F. Place a cookie sheet in the oven for the pie to bake on, to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom.

Mix 2.25 cups flour with a teaspoon of salt. Cut in 1 stick of butter. Add about a quarter or a third of a cup of sour cream and stir. Add milk to form dough. I just pour it from the jug. I think I added ~2 tablespoons milk and stirred, and then ~2 more tablespoons and stirred. You can tell you added enough when the flour is all wet (but not sticky) and the dough forms a ball when you stir with a fork. If it feels really sticky, add handfuls of flour and remix as needed.

No need to knead the dough. Just squeeze it all together and then rip it in half. Use your hands to form a ball, then flatten the ball and pinch around the edges to smooth it out before you roll it out on floured waxed paper (two 2-foot long pieces overlapped on the long edge by about three inches) until the circle is at least four inches larger in diameter than your pie pan. Try my flip trick: Put your forearm over the middle of the dough and lift the edge of the wax paper with your other hand to flip it into the pie pan. I put the pie pan on the right. Use my right forearm, and lift the waxed paper with my left hand. If you have trouble on your first try, don’t worry. That’s the bottom crust. Just do it the other way on the top crust (in a few minutes). Roll out the top crust and leave it there while you work on the filling again.


Stir in ~0.5 cup of sour cream. Stir in a drained 29 ounce can of mixed vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have no idea how much to add, just don’t. You can add it when you eat it. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the solids to the pie shell. Boil down the remaining gravy and juices to about half volume and then spoon over the filling.


Do your flip trick to put the top crust on the pie. Fold the two layers of crust together and under all the way around. Pinch the edges to seal. You can press with a fork, or use your thumb and finger. I use the edge of my straight thumb and above the knuckle of my bent pointer finger. I suggest spinning the pie clockwise (and pinching around counter-clockwise) if you are right handed, or the other way for lefties. Do a light pinch at about 45 degrees. It’s more a press down than a pinch together. Lift your hand and place your thumb in the dent from your pointer finger and continue around. I usually give it an extra spin and re-pinch as needed. Use a pointy knife to make steam holes on the top.

Refer to my pictures to guide you so you know how it should look if all goes right. No need to bake in a spoon. It tastes the same either way, but it’s easier to slice without the metal surprise.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375F, then turn down the oven to 350F for 30-40 more minutes. The filling is already cooked, so you are really trying to bake and brown the crust. Keep an eye on it and don’t let it burn.


Note: On the second day, after resting in the fridge, slicing cold, and reheating, this chicken pot pie tastes even better. Some kind of magic.





Pie 15.0

Pie 15.0

Remember that old song lyric “If I knew you were coming I’da baked a cake”? That always sounded so welcoming, so I never do a drop in. I always call ahead before I visit so I’ll be greeted with a cake. It doesn’t work, but I still try. I mean, there’s a song, so somebody must make cakes for expected guests, right?

Anyway, my sister was coming, and I knew she was coming, and it was all a big secret surprise for my other sister, so I baked a pie.

Pie 15.0. Baked late at night in an ill-equipped kitchen. No rolling pin. No teaspoon (but I always have my palm). No whisk. No blades for the mixer (so I brought mine from home). No big bowl (so I used a cereal bowl). No pie pan (so I bought an aluminum one from the stupid market). You get the picture.

Speaking of stupid market–they didn’t sell chocolate covered coffee beans. Nowhere to be found. So I compromised.

Back up the bus. I forgot to describe the pie. It’s officially called “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee Pie” from page 123 of the Sugar Butter Flour cookbook. It was chosen while in the stupid market, when my sister responded to my text question about what we should eat for the weekend we would spend together with this: “Sat morning coffee. Sat evening eat out. Sunday morning coffee. Sunday lunch your choice.” We are Irish twins, live 1000 miles apart, and both love coffee.

Anyway, I started the pie in the dark by crushing the package of graham crackers with my hands and mixing them with melted butter. I pressed the mush into the tiny pan, chilled, baked and chilled. You know the drill by now.


Then I made espresso in my little pot. Drank some, let some cool, and made the filling.

20181012_165534Here is the nasty smelling unflavored gelatin.

20181011_20111020181011_201050I had to whip some egg whites to fold into the cooked coffee/gelatin/other ingredient concoction, but I should have used a bigger bowl.


There was way too much filling for the tiny pie shell.


This had to set and cool in the fridge for many hours, so I went to sleep.

The topping called for Kahlua, but I didn’t have any, so I made some by boiling down some espresso and mixing with whiskey.


Then I whipped the cream and added the yummy tasty ingredients and spread it on the pie filling.


As I mentioned, the store didn’t sell the required chocolate covered coffee beans, so I shredded a tiny Hershey bar and sprinkled it on top. Voila!

Yummy Beige Pie.


I love my sisters more than coffee.

Pie 14.0

Pie 14.0

This is the best pie I have ever tasted.

(So far.)

I made Pie 14.0 in my sunny kitchen yesterday morning. I started at 8 am and didn’t take a taste until 7:30 pm. I found her on page 83 of the Sugar Butter Flour cookbook.

It only took two trips to the store to buy all the ingredients. Two trips are annoying, but they were both during my 2-hour Friday evening commute, and together they extended my commute to 3 hours, but what’s an hour in a long work week in the 7th week of a semester that’s blowing by like a typhoon?

I awoke yesterday before the sun. Weekends cannot dent my internal clock during the semester. My brain snaps awake and wonders what it forgot to do. My first thought was pie. My second thought was coffee. Instantly I stopped worrying about the tortuous mess we are in and set my brain on bake. This is my self-soothe. Let me share it with you, at least in words and pictures, if not in the hug it brought me to bake and taste.

The crumb crust called for chocolate wafers and both stores did not sell any. I used chocolate graham crackers because, obviously, I’m a genius.

Instead of my normal crumble technique with a Ziploc bag and a rolling pin, I slammed a whole pack of crackers on the counter and then squeezed them with my bare hands around the throat until they were pulverized. Like I said, I’m a(n angry) genius.

While the crumb crust chilled and baked and cooled (an hour process, at least) I tackled the strawberries. First, I hulled all the strawberries as directed. Then, I crushed five of them with a fork until they were mush and put them in the fridge. Next, I melted chocolate chips with a secret ingredient in the microwave at reduced power for many, many cycles of 30 seconds. I stirred until glossy. I did not lick my fingers.

And then I was momentarily stumped by the directions “Holding the berries by the stem end, dip them one at a time into the bowl.” The stem end was obvious, but the stem for holding was gone, hulled away by the genius. That made the task tricky. How the –bleep- to hold the stemless berries while dipping? Needless to say, the genius got quite sticky. Yet, still she did not lick her fingers.

Here I am! Back from third-person-land, a blackhole that tried to suck me in. Anyway, almost half of the melted chocolate was left over after the strawberry-dipping. I considered re-dipping them. Then I considered eating it all with a spoon. (No, Laura!) And then I poured it all onto waxed paper to harden and save for another pie.


I was delighted by the next step. I snuck some strawberry preserves from the fridge and added a secret ingredient. I spread the mush onto the bottom of the crust and put her back in the fridge so I could attack the filling.

I forgot to mention the formal name of this pie: “Jenna’s Devil’s Food Chocolate Oasis Pie.” The filling needs some separated eggs, a LOT of milk, the magic of cornstarch, and bittersweet chocolate. There is boiling and whisking and sieving involved. It was all too complicated to describe and almost beyond the ability of this baking genius. The hardest parts required three hands. Like the pouring of the massive quantity of milk in a “slow steady steam” while whisking (and holding the handle of the pan). And the pouring of the heavy hot chocolate concoction through a sieve while pressing with a spatula. I only swore a little. Most of the chocolate I spilled has been found and wiped up.

The hot chocolate concoction had to be cooled to room temperature under a buttered wax paper in a glass bowl. The cooling took 2.5 hours. The buttered wax paper was the butter wrapper. What? It’s clean on the inside and it was already buttered.


I eversocarefully dumped the filling over the surprise strawberry layer in the crust and got to work on the topping (5 hours later). In the meantime I napped and watched football. The chocolate filling had to cool for half a day. Eventually I got to the topping.


After a dozen pies, I’m finally pretty good at whipping cream. I folded in another secret ingredient (listen, if you want to know the secrets, you have to buy the cookbook) and spread the deliciousness over the chocolate. Then I pressed on the huge chocolate covered strawberries and Pie 14.0 was complete in all her splendor.


I ate just a tiny sliver (what? I’m on diet again, ok?) and almost groaned at the light and fluffy combination of strawberry/chocolate/whipped cream/crunchy crust in my mouth. This was the best pie I’ve ever tasted. Yet. There’s a lot left if you want to come by for a slice.






Dear men who have never assaulted a woman,

First of all, relax. Men who have assaulted women are vultures. The women who call them out are brave. The act of sexual assault is more painful for the woman to endure than your fear of being accused unjustly.

If you have never sexually assaulted a woman, good for you and us. But many of you have. Or think you have. Or might have. Or at least once you didn’t ask before you pushed onward, removed clothing, touched where you should not have. And there was your error. And here is your fear. Will she tell anyone?

Yes, we are telling someone now. We are telling each other. We are helping each other through the pain by talking about it. But don’t defend an obvious predator because you fear being accused. Don’t deny the voice of the victim, and disregard all women who call out a man’s actions. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by lying about this. It happened. We carried on. We survived. We are stronger together.

But he still did it.

So. The innocent among you don’t need for me to tell you to relax, because you already are relaxed. Keep an open mind, and so will we. It is natural for women to believe other women, because the crime is so prevalent. Really. And it is natural for most men to believe the accused who deny, especially for a man who has personal doubt in his own past actions.

If you’ve always respected women. If you’ve taught your sons to do so. If you have behaved as though women should not be treated as pawns, used for your pleasure and tossed aside. If all these ifs apply to you? Relax.

But consider the math. So many women, easily more than half of them, have been threatened or groped or raped, or leered at, or abused. It make us feel horrible. And if half of us have suffered this, half of you did it. Simple math.

I do not want this to continue to be the societal norm. I do not want my granddaughters to suffer. Speak up, women. Innocent men, relax. Guilty men, there is nowhere to hide.

Teach your girls to be brave. Teach your boys to be gentlemen.