Pie 12.0

Pie 12.0

My daughter chose “Lulu’s Lemonade Pie” from Sugar Butter Flour for Pie 12.0, a perfect choice for a hot summer day in the southland. The picture in the cookbook is pretty and pink. Take a trot to this site to read about the purported history of how pink lemonade got its pinkness. Ahh, refreshing, right?

I didn’t realize my first mistake for hours after I made it. As I lined up the sugar and butter and flour for their portrait for this post, while the dough for the crust chilled in the fridge, I realized (whoops) I used bread flour for the crust. I traded the bread flour for the regular flour for the photo, but it was too late for the crust. What a way to start. When I rolled out the dough it was quite tough. No kidding.

While at the beach a week ago I got a text and email from my sister about a package that could not be delivered to my house. We’d stopped our mail during the vacation. Anyway, in our text exchange I asked her what was in the package. I always ask this before birthdays and holidays, and nobody ever falls for it and tells me. My sister, fresh from watching all four seasons of the Great British Baking Show, couldn’t contain her excitement and told me: New icing tips and bags! Surprise (almost). No more cutting the corner off a Ziploc for my pies.

At the stupid market I had contemplated the lemons by weighing them in my hand and guessed I’d need at least four for the recipe. I bought five. I don’t have a juice squeezer thingie but I do have strong hands, so I put the flour sifter in a small blue bowl (to catch the seeds and other solids) and I squeezed those lemons by hand. Turned out, I only needed two.


Also in the stupid market, I checked off the ingredients carefully from my list. Eggs. check. Lemons. Check. Butter. Check. Heavy cream. Check. Half and Half. Check. Back home I sighed and dropped my clenched shoulders. I unloaded the bags in my kitchen to find there was no Half and half. None. I scanned the receipt. None. I closed my eyes and relived the dairy section in the stupid market.

Milk, heavy cream, coffeecreamersourcreambuttereggscheese.

Hmm, said my mind, you’re such a dithering dolt. I did not even look at the Half and half. Who the heck crossed it off the list? Anyway, extraordinary chemist that I am (recall the raspberry vinegar from a recent delight) I made my own: 1/2 whole milk, 1/2 heavy cream. How hard can it be?

I didn’t have any red tights to boil, or red cinnamon candies to dissolve, or any cranberry juice, so I just followed the recipe to make my pie pink: I added three little drops of red food coloring. Pink enough.

I must confess, the actual name of this bake is “Lulu’s Lemonade PieS,” as in many mini pies. The crust dough and all the fillings were to be divided amongst eight little cutie-pies. But, like the lemon squeezer and (until recently) the frosting tips, there are no mini pie shells in my kitchen. Gasp. Get over it. So I made one big pie instead of eight little ones. The physics of this modification demanded a 50-minute bake, rather than 30. When I checked the monster at 30 minutes, the filling almost sloshed over the side. You can imagine how my bread-flour-based-crust reacted to 20 extra minutes of drying in the oven. (Alas, someday I’ll get it right. Perhaps I’m not quite ready for my debut on TGBBS.)


While I worked and sweated, across the counter from this old baker sat a lovely young woman and her lovely friend. Together they are not yet 60 years old. They chatted and drank coffee and laughed. One was my daughter, and the other calls me Aunt Laura but is not my niece. My daughter’s sole job, besides choosing the pie recipe, was simple: separate the pink from the non-pink jelly beans. There were 17 and I needed 16. Perfect. At least something was going right.


I whipped up the cream for the topping and spooned it into a frosting bag with one of five or six tips I wanted to sample. After many frosting tips it was clear: I’m not qualified. I must practice. To the utter horror of my audience, I scooped up my first attempt with a spoon and tossed it back in the bowl to try again. The lovely chef/caterer who thinks I’m her aunt suggested I practice later with actual frosting instead of whipped cream. She’s pretty smart. She and daughter licked that whipped cream bowl to a shine.



As an encore, I must disclose my dear husband helped RE-decorate after he saw my messy pie. We were just back from the beach where we made drippy castles (with no children helping–just two oldies playing in the soft silky sand) every day.


So my DH jumped in and made drippy castles on my pie with the new frosting tips.



Pie 12.0, like almost all her predecessors, turned out delicious despite my strenuous efforts to screw it all up. Conclusion: if it tastes delightful, it can look like a sand castle. Your mouth won’t know.

The fall semester starts in four (4!) days. Either I will be too busy to bake, or I will be desperate for the relief of baking. It is quite impossible to predict these things. Please excuse me either way.


Pie 11.0

Pie 11.0

I love chocolate.

This pie cookbook has so many chocolate delights. It’s hard to choose. Someday I’ll get to them all. Apparently the chef didn’t even try to decide which chocolates to focus on for Pie 11.0. She just used them all. I say bravo!

My crazy pie journey started about 4 months ago with the extraordinary Pie 1.0. Eleven pies in, I promise I’m not giving up. Just slowing down. Busy in the summer. Perhaps on a diet so I need to pace myself. And I might never make all the savory ones after the jerk chicken experience. Enough ado. I give you Pie 11.0.

Officially called “In the Dark Dark Triple Chocolate Truffle Pie” from page 86 of the Sugar Butter Flour cookbook, Pie 11.0 was built from dark chocolate, white chocolate, cocoa, bittersweet chocolate, and chocolate cookies, from Ghirardelli’s, Baker’s and Hershey’s–even a small piece of chocolate is ridiculously good. I’ve never thrown out a Hershey in my life.


Here are the chocolates posing for a portrait. (Coffee photo bombed again.)


The crust was the same deliciousness I made for Pie 3.0–crushed chocolate cookies. The butter did not explode in the microwave (like it did for Pie 7.0) this time. Ah memories.


The filling was thin like chocolate milk and baked for 45 minutes until it set.

The topping was chocolate (duh) and fluffy (is that what truffle means? Somebody look that up.) I piped it on with an X tip hooked to a plastic bag, in my normal don’t-have-an-icing-bag-but-a-Ziploc-will-do. Good enough.


I tried to make chocolate curls for the garnish with a paring knife and my innate skill, but the bars melted in my summer hot hands. I should have just used the cheese grater. Somehow I persevered and managed to make a pile o’chocolate shreds for the top. I licked my hands, washed them good, and finished up.

Another globetrotter, this one. She rode frozen in the car to VA, like Pie 2.0 and was eaten for the three days of a long weekend. Perfect for breakfast with coffee.


Pie 12.0 will be made in a week with my daughter, who will also choose the pie. Stay tuned for pictures of more delicious stuff you don’t get to eat. Cheerio!

Pie 10.0

Pie 10.0

Back to sweet and fruity.

On page 108 of Sugar Butter Flour I found the recipe for Pie 10.0, known formally as “Razzleberry Buttermilk Custard Pie.” Spoiler alert: she was so delicious, she only lasted a couple days in my house.

Let me start with my stupid market adventure and two hurdles called buttermilk and raspberry vinegar. The buttermilk hurdle was low and I glided gracefully over it, once I realized it was with the milk and not the butter. I found exactly zero (0) bottles of raspberry vinegar after I looked everywhere. (No, I did not ask for help.) But I used my wily-ness to concoct my own raspberry vinegar. After all, how hard can a recipe be when the two ingredients are in the name? I squished up a couple raspberries and poured white vinegar over them and let them get acquainted while I worked.


The pie shell, the custard filling, and the whipped topping ALL incorporated some buttermilk, all with detailed directions to use either “well-shaken, chilled” or “well shaken, room temperature” buttermilk. (I may have mixed them up on one part.)

The crust was easy, but I overbaked it because I didn’t read ahead and realize the filling would also be baked. Whoops.


I did weigh down the blind bake with rice, and this time I saved the rice to reuse. Here is the box that now lives in my pantry.


The filling required a lot of whipping and folding, but I’m almost a professional now, so I won’t bore you with the details. Just when I thought I’d messed it up bad, I read this in the recipe: “Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit curdled at this point!” I love a good set of directions.


You can see there, after the bake the crust was quite browned. My dear husband loved it anyway.

I made the whipped topping, but it came out a bit thick and buttery again. Those 12 extra seconds of whipping (plus the warm day) beat my whipped cream to churned butter. Again, no one complained.

And the recipe called for three (3) cups of raspberries–way more than needed. After a sprinkle of sugar we dug in.


I used the extra raspberries and my new crushed-graham-cracker-crust-and-whipped-cream skills to make these little bonus cups.

Pie 11.0 will be either strawberry or chocolate, and she might travel north by car for six hours. Any requests?


Pie 4.0: ready, set, bake!

Pie 4.0: ready, set, bake!

Ready, set, bake!

Cue the music.

This is what I hear in my imagination as I walk down the green grassy hill in my apron to face Paul and Mary. Then I snap out of IT and sing my chorus songs while I bake alone in my kitchen.

For this week’s challenge, I turned to page 45 of the SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook and found Candy Gold Apple Pie. The time had come; no more crumbly cookie pressed crusts. This pie demanded a true handmade and rolled cold-butter crust called a blind-baked pie shell.

As I am a side-of-the-Crisco-can recipe baker, I have always made the standard Crisco pie crust for my famous and trusty dusty apple pie. According to the detailed directions for the SBF-BB pie shell (try to keep up), I have been doing it all wrong for decades.

One of the first tips for the BB pie shell is to make two, even if you only need one today. The extra batch can be wrapped and frozen for the next pie. Somehow, a non-baker who strolled through my kitchen at just the wrong moment talked me out of this. I can’t really blame my number 1 pie eater for this small contribution, but it turned out to be a critical wrong turn in a day of uncontrolled heat, so I feel I must mention it.

So a blind-baked pie shell does not mean pull the hairnet down over your eyes and just don’t look. It means one must bake it sans filling. I can’t imagine how empty and blind have the same meaning in baking (in rural Somethingshire, perhaps) but the concept makes sense. Mary’s voice chimed in my head as though her blue eyes were piercing my brown ones, “One must avoid a soggy bottom, Laura.”

The dreaded soggy bottom. I committed to following the directions to the letter.


The butter was cut and chilled. The flour and salt and sugar got a quick sift. Liquid ice (aka water) dripped in by the teaspoon. I only used my fingertips to bring the dough together into a ball because the book says my palms are too hot. Ha.


It was lookin’ good and I was ready to roll. Until I saw this.


Rolling postponed. Into the fridge to chill. (The pie dough. I did not chill one bit during these 4 hours of my life. You’ll see.)


I love to peel apples in one long curl. This pie demanded golden delicious apples to be precooked for quite a while on the stove. Hazelnuts and cinnamon and brown sugar were added. The mixture bubbled on the stove and the kitchen smelled like yum.




Back to the lone pie crust: I only left it in the fridge for about an hour, instead of three. I thought of Nadia and all the bakes when she had to rush and it all worked out in the end. The music played in my head. Onward. I rolled out the dough on wax paper and did my choreographed lift and flip onto the pan.



This was going great! I made the edges pretty and turned to pop it in the oven. But the temperature was off.

I poked some buttons and sighed and thought and thought and looked and the problem was the units. Somehow my oven was set to Celsius. How British is that!? Well, I can do math so I was sure the temperature was correct, but the C shook me up. That’s when I checked the directions again and realized I had to cover the shell in foil and add rice (or beans, or ceramic blind baking pie shell balls). Fixed it up and popped it in. Fingers crossed.


For the crumbly topping, I made what seemed like an oatmeal cookie with rolled oats and butter and more hazelnuts. It was to be baked on parchment paper, cooled, and crumbled. Did you know wax paper is not the same as parchment paper? The edges baked too fast. The center was soft. I hacked at it with a spoon, pre-crumbled, and scraped it off the smoking wax paper. Back into the oven for quite a while. I worried about the temperature. The oatmeal cookie aroma swirled with the bubbling apple aroma, but mingled with smoky wax paper.




By now the pie shell had finished. I set it to cool on the stove.


This pie took a loooong time to make. Unlike my first three pies, I got a little distracted. I did wear my hairnet, and I did sing a bit, but I also answered the phone, made lunch plans, and left the kitchen (where all three components were firmly instructed to be quiet and still and just wait for a minute) to take a shower.

At some point during the distracted minutes (and they were only minutes, maybe 10 of them) a new smell emerged.

Something was burning.

But that didn’t make sense. The pesky Celsius oven was off. The caramelized apples were chilling in the fridge. Oatmeal cookie crumbs covered every surface except in the oven. My gorgeous pie shell waited patiently on the stove.

With smoke coming out of the fork prong holes. Almost on fire.

I’d left the burner below still on from the apple-cooking stage. For new bakers and chemists, let me explain the phenomenal disaster occurring in my kitchen, the drama forewarned by the oddly Celsius oven: Cooling is an exothermic process where the system (the pie shell, in this case) releases heat to the surroundings. My beautiful pie shell endured an endothermic process when the surroundings included the flame of combusting methane. As the system (pie shell) absorbed energy, it could not cool. Yikes.

Have you ever scraped the char off a piece of burnt toast because that was the last piece of bread, or perhaps you are Irish like me and can’t throw out a piece of good bread? No? Really? You haven’t? You must have a great toaster. Anyway, the process, unpublished in any cookbook, goes like this: hold blackened bread over a sink and subject it to rapid short-stroke scraping with a serrated steak knife.

That’s what I did to the black bottom of my beautiful pie crust. The crust that did not have a twin because I did not make the suggested back-up batch.




By now I was late for my lunch date. I texted my friend and persevered, the small not-Mary voice in my head saying, “Ah, bullocks. I mean que sera sera. Pie 4.0 falls in the coconut-pie category. It has nuts (and oatmeal), so I’m not gonna eat it. I can at least make it pretty on the top for the pictures for the blog post. Those readers don’t have to know it’s burnt to hell on the bottom.”

Not at my best, I agree, but I was sweating (and swearing) and still had to brush my hair and teeth before I left for lunch. And did I mention we were having a yard sale that morning and I was involved in the sale of a knee board, a God Bless America sign, and a treadmill all while baking? And I was worn out from writing exams? I have more excuses than grains of rice in a BB-PS.

Minimal assembly was required, including a sweet and lemony drizzle on top.


Here she is.


My dear husband scarfed it up despite the burn. (He’s a little desperate since I teach 100+ miles away each week of the semester and he has to fend (“cook”) for himself.)

And the next morning I fixed the oven temperature unit. I also baked brownies to convince myself I could still bake something. And a few days later, the universe reminded me to write this blog post when my hair drier threw a white spark across the bathroom and sent a curl of smoke to the ceiling, all before my second cup of caffeine–I mean coffee.

Today I will bake homemade bread from a memorized recipe so I can eat the first steaming piece slathered in butter and have a good smell in my kitchen.

Thanks for following me on my pie journey. Next up will be a maraschino-cherried chocolate mousse on a shortbread cookie crumb crust. *sigh*

Pie 1.0

Pie 1.0

My daughter, mother, and grandchildren all love the Great British Baking Show. I started watching and I’m hooked. I love Nadia. I love their accents. I love to bake. I love saying “soggy bottom” with my molars clenched and my lips pursed.

When I dragged my husband to see The Waitress on Broadway I sang along. I know all the words to all the songs. Some of them make me cry. Only the man behind me was annoyed by my karaoke. He didn’t kick my seat too much.

For my birthday, my daughter gave me the Sugar Butter Flour Waitress Pie cookbook. I read it like a novel. I’ve decided I will make all the pies. One a week whenever possible. I’ll eat only lettuce until all the pies are consumed.

The book has recipes for many dozens of pies. I have not counted, and I will not make them in order. For my first concoction, I attempted my favorite pie in the whole wide world: “Where there’s a whisk, there’s a way” aka a lemon meringue pie. It’s on page 121 in the book, which is a perfect square—the product of two elevens (my favorite number)—so it was a simple choice.

I went to stupid market number 1, expecting to have to also go to number 2, and maybe number 3. I was happy to find everything I needed for my first pie in market number 1. They had Meyer lemons and Meyer lemon cookies. I was shocked by my luck. I’m not a lucky person. I worried I had squandered my meager reserves of luck and the meringue might suffer. When one worry is quelled, I can always find another.

I walked up and down the baking aisle a dozen times. Nobody asked if I needed help finding something. And I didn’t ask, even though I was desperately tired after a two-hour drive, and I had to pee. (Sorry. Being cold or having to pee seriously ruins the inherent pleasure of grocery shopping for me.) Those challenges were compounded by bone dry contact lenses that kept me from being able to read labels.

That baking aisle almost canceled my pie plans. I could not find cream of tartar. It’s a white powder, as are so many baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, and corn starch. So I looked with my dry, squinting eyes very carefully in the vicinity of each of those things. At the end of the aisle, a man with a cart was on the phone with his wife and complaining he couldn’t pick out something on the list she’d sent. His cart and body blocked the spices, but it didn’t make sense for the tartar de crème to be in the spices, so I didn’t stink eye him out of my way. I just kept looking at everything else. Finally I left that aisle and went to check in the cereal aisle, and then near the coffee and pancake mix. All the while I clenched my legs and squinted my eyes, and tried not to scrap my pretty pie plan.

I stalked a couple of workers. I considered asking for help. One of them looked like she knew where the C.O.T. was hidden. I couldn’t do it. My dad worked in retail and hated when customers bothered him while he worked. How hard is it to find the peanut butter without asking? There are signs for Christ sake.

So I Googled “where is the cream of tartar in BiLo” and Google suggested I search in the baking aisle, in the spice rack, alphabetically in the Cs. Google was correct. I found it, waited in the checkout line, bought it, drove fifteen more minutes, unloaded the car, peed, removed contact lenses, and went to bed.

The next morning I made a mess in my kitchen. I baked for hours in my red apron and a hairnet.

I crushed cookies, separated eggs, grated lemon rind, squeezed lemon juice, whisked, added sugar 1 tablespoon as a time, and left the light on in the oven so I could watch over an hour of baking. Here are some highlights.

I made the crumb crust. Next time I’ll pulverize the Meyer lemon cookies.


I grated the lemon rind. First time in my whole life.


I made and baked the lemon layer. Yes, I licked the bowl.


I started the meringue. The recipe called for six egg whites, but I dripped some yolk in after three eggs and had to start again. New process: separate whites into small bowl and then dump from there to the big red bowl once the yolk is safely in another bowl.

And after three hours, I had to clean up this mess.


The final pie was lovely and tasted like heaven.


There is one slice left in the fridge. When that is gone I’ll start Pie 2.0.