Book Review: Git in that Kitchen and Make Me Some PIE!

I have a good husband.

He not only has finally come to appreciate food and can actually converse intelligently on the subject (just as I can converse intelligently on the subject of guitars), he is quite good natured about buying me odd bits of culinary equipment and cookbooks for all major holidays.

And he is not in the least bit self-serving about this, either.

No, not in the least.

After I declared my intention to finally spend this year learning how to make a pie that not only tasted good but looked pretty, he decided to help me out.

Because, you know, I needed it. Because, well, it is like this–I could make tasty pies with flaky crusts and juicy, delectable fillings.

But they looked like utter crap.

And I was constitutionally incapable of rolling out a pie crust that was round. As Morganna said through a vale of giggles as she watched me roll out the crusts for Thanksgiving pies last year, “Mom–it looks like a map of Australia!”

Yes, well.

So, Zak, in a fit of utter selflessness, decided to step in and give me something to help me out in my utter cluelessness when it came to pretty pies.

So, on a frozen, dark Yule eve, when we were huddled before a completely inadequate fire in our stone fireplace, wearing fifteen layers of clothes and tented under quilts with our cats, I unwrapped a treasure, which weighed several pounds, and squinted to see what it was by fitful candlelight. (We had no electricity. A freak ice storm had swept through central and southern Ohio a few days before Christmas and had torn away power lines, and crumbled oak trees like they were kindling. Millions of people were without heat, water, light or cooking capability. It sucked. But, on the plus side, the view outside our huge windows was gorgeous–a full moon shone down on woodlands covered in diamond-studded snow, with ebon branches coated in shimmering ice.)

It was, Ken Haedrich’s simply titled book: Pie.

Mmm, pie. Me love pie.

It is huge, 608 pages long, and is all about pie. Three hundred kinds of pie. Fruit pie, custard pie, nut pie, ice cream pie, chiffon pie, and chocolate pie. Apple and berry pies get their own chapters, (which is astounding, because Haedrich’s first book is on the subject of apple pie and contains over one hundred variations on what one thinks of as a basic recipe) while the first 25 pages of the book is taken up on intricately written instructions on how to make umpteen-eleven different pastry and crumb crusts with recipes for lots of different toppings.

When I unwrapped it, with blue, shaking fingers, I have to admit to being completely frustrated by my inability to read it or work with it. Hard to bake when you have no working oven and it is harder to read when there is no light, but still, I hugged it to my bosom and kissed my husband. It was so cold, our lips stuck together, but he knew I was happy.

After the heat and lights and oven came back, we were engaged in packing up to move.

So, while I could read the book, I couldn’t put any of the inspiration I gained from it into practice.

Until this summer, after the move and the unpacking had commenced, and the sour cherries started coming in.

Then, I could finally use the wisdom that Mr. Haedrich so kindly imparted to me over the months I had been reading his book in sips and deep, thirsy gulps.

During this time, the amount of weird pie-making equipment in my kitchens began to rise as I picked up this gadget or that one in order to facilitate the making of pies.

And Zak, the good husband that he is, not only facilitated the accumulation of bizzare looking stuff, but ate a goodly chunk of every last pie I produced with it.

So, yeah, I should get to the review part of the show, right?

Right.

The book has been a boon to me. I like Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible, but in a lot of ways, her very precise, “This is -the- way to do things” writing style starts to get under my skin very quickly. Zak loves her The Bread Bible, and has used it to great effect, but
her writing just made me as nervous as a cat when I tried to follow her recipes. My hands would shake as I measured ingredients. I looked like I had the DT’s or something. It was bad.

I much prefer Mr. Haedrich’s style, because he chills me out.

And if there is one thing that a new pie baker needs to do, it is chill out. At least, I did. I was so stiff and twitchy, that it affected the pastry dough negatively. Type A personality that I am, I was too into controlling everything and it made me all tense when it came to rolling out dough. Once I relaxed, and started letting go of the fact that my pie crusts look like maps of countries I have never visited, they suddenly started looking more round.

A lot of my relaxation was because I had absorbed Haedrich’s calming voice into my psyche.

He really explains every step of pie making in patient, simple words that are as soothing as having your grandma or grandpa standing next to you, murmurring instructions in your ear. Each recipe has a delicious-sounding introduction on where the recipe came from, who he aquired it from, how he changed it and how it developed. At the end of each recipe he has little nuggets of wisdom he calls “recipe for success” writ down in bold red type so you cannot miss them, even if you try to.

I have used the book to make some damned fine and tasty sour cherry pies a couple of which have even come out looking beautiful. Mind you, I forgot to take pictures of them before I cut them, but there we are. I am making blackberry pie this afternoon, so I will do my best to take pictures of it, since I am not cutting it until tomorrow.

All in all–I think the cookbook is one of the best investments Zak has ever made in the future of his stomach.

Oh, wait–I forgot. He was completely without ulterior motive when he bought the book. That is right. It was all for me.

I have such a good, selfless, loving husband.

2 Comments

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  1. LOL!
    Well, I also look forward to seeing some of the fruits of your labor. :-)

    Comment by Christina — August 1, 2005 #

  2. hahahaha – i love the bit about zak investing in his stomach! :D

    Comment by Maninas — July 19, 2007 #

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