Cupcakes, hold on to your frosting hats and paper lining coats, because your little fluffy minds are about to be blown. I don’t care how much sanding sugar or pastel fondant is atop your sweet heads. You’ll never measure up to the food trend that’s about to displace you.
Pie is more than a three-letter word. It is a divine creation, not to be taken lightly. Pie is flexible enough to come in varieties to please every palate, but stable enough so that whenever you hear the word “pie,” your taste buds spurt out bursts of expectant saliva. Pie beats cupcakes on so many levels, it’s easy to see why cupcakes preceded pie in the evolutionary cycle. Cupcakes are cute, but pie is perfection. It takes major skill and special gumption to produce quality pie. Cupcakes are easy; you can’t not like them because they’re too cute.
Let’s take apple pie. When you bite into a firm, flaky crust, your mouth is tantalized by a simple hint of sweetness. Then a burst of juicy, ambrosial apple caresses your tongue. For a moment all the flavors blend together as your teeth lovingly gnash, and your mind should empty of all trouble and dissatisfaction. The apples are not mushy, they hold their bodies slightly stiff against the crust. The cinnamon and brown sugar play nice with the tartness of the apples. Nobody is being a bully, and all the members in the chorus of the pie sing in harmony.
I have yet to taste such a pie at a restaurant. The perfect pie for my mouth, in my 19 years of experience in the pie area, has always come from my hands. The apples are too often mushy or too artificially sweet. The crust is either too doughy or too plain or too sweet or just not right.
Since pie is apparently the new trend in the foodie universe, I figure it’s time to share some of my brilliance in pie creation. What follows is a meditation on my pie making method.
Though frozen store-bough pie crusts are handy, they take away from the sensual experience that pie-eating can be. I start with two cold sticks of butter, and cube them delicately and swiftly, as I feel the butter’s eagerness to meet flour and mingle with sugar (only a few tablespoons) and salt (a little more than you’d think is necessary). I dump the cubes into the flour waiting with bated breath, and immediately begin to massage the butter into the flour. Though literally I pinch (with my hands, duh) the cubes of butter to distribute them amongst the dry mixture, it is with the mindset needed to give a good massage. The dangers of gluten build-up that can produce a horrid chewy crust force are very sly, and to avoid them I must become one with the forming dough.
When the butter is spread in pea sized pieces, I force myself to break away from my creation and let it rest in a ball in a frigid setting. The separation is unnerving, but the time apart is a perfect time to prepare the apples.
A lot of the apple component to apple pie is left up to the apples. Tarter varieties are better, because they hold their own against the dense sugar and the oppressive oven. Apart from mixing what seems like a good amount of brown and white sugars, vanilla extract and cinnamon to complement the peeled and sliced fresh tart apples, you are at the mercy of your fruit source. Granny Smiths all the way.
Back to crust land. After a meaningful separation where longing has strengthened the yearning in my heart for quality pie, I tenderly separate the dough ball into two balls on a floured, cold surface. I roll the balls carefully out into roundish circles. The first roll is always a failure. The second must always suffice, because otherwise the horrid chewy crust infection will plague the pie.
From here on out, everything has to be done with attention and sympathetic hands. Throwing a pie together is impossible. It must be assembled wish consideration for the composition of the different elements. Before the top layer of crust is allowed to snuggle up with the pyramid of apples and the bottom crust, a few little pieces of butter strewn around at random, and a sprinkling of corn starch over all the apples are the last touches needed for a shot at the perfect pie.
Pie is so much more welcoming and comforting than a cupcake. Apart from skinny women, and small children, who looks good eating a cupcake? No one. There’s always the awkward decision of how to deal with the icing. You inevitably stick your neck out like a chicken and peck, dangerously biting in close proximity to your hand.
Who looks good eating pie? Everyone. There’s no confusion about how to start. It’s not hiding behind any cutesy details. A good pie is pure, wholesome, organic love. The pie trend should trend on to eternity, so the less exceptional pies out there (of which there are many) will be forced to upgrade themselves. It’s all about the pie mindset of consideration for all components and simple rustic goodness.