Pie is irrational

Lots of people (including my own mother) thought I was insane for wanting to make all the pies for our wedding. I am so glad I stuck to my guns, because hive? The pie tasted awesome. People kept coming up to me and saying it was delicious (although, I suppose, who would tell the bride on her wedding day that she made sub-par pie? Hmmm…) and wedding pie was such a great idea. I have to admit that it was nice to receive all those compliments, and it felt like a little bit of vindication after all the doubters. I thought it was delicious, and I even managed to have two slices!

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(this is the first guest photo of the pie table to surface!)

This is the part where I give you the recipes I used!

I used the Fool-proof Pie Dough recipe from Cooks Illustrated, via Smitten Kitchen, but I didn’t make it exactly the same way. Here’s my version of the recipe, but I’d suggest testing it as-written the first time though. Remember that the adjustments are what work for me, in a very dry climate at 3438 feet above sea level. (Altitude absolutely affects your baking!) I also used my food processor, as I am a lazy bones.

Foolproof Pie Dough
Cooks Illustrated, November 2007

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices (the original recipe has you use a mix of butter and shortening – I just like butter better)
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/3 cup cold water (the original recipe had 1/4 cup cold water)

1. Process the flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined. Add butter and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.

2. Pour water into food processor, then once the food processor is running, pour the vodka in a thin stream through the feeder spout. Stop processor and scrape down the sides as needed. Pastry is ready the moment it all clumps into one big ball and threatens to pop the lid off (although that last bit might just be because the latch on my processor is broken!) Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Fillings

Below are the sources for all the pie fillings I made. I doubled most, as I was making two pies of each flavour, but found both the apple and the apple-blackberry much too generous. I used 7 – 8 apples per double batch of filling. I was generally aiming for 4-5 cups of filling per pie, because I didn’t want pies with enormous domes. Giant pies like that also tend to bubble and spill more in the baking. I also took care that each recipe included some tapioca or cornstarch, so the pies would be non-drippy.

Apple | Apple-blackberry | Blueberry | Saskatoonberry/Serviceberry | Strawberry-Rhubarb | Mum’s Chocolate Tarts

The cherry pie filling I made up with a vague recipe from my mum. I bought four of these jars of sour cherries:

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Drained three of them and put the cherries in a big saucepan, and poured the whole other jar (syrup and all) over them. I mixed in some cornstarch (about 3 tablespoons) and some sugar until it tasted like I wanted it to (about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup, I think) and let it bubble and get a bit thick. Remember that things will also always be thicker when they’re cool too.

For the chocolate tarts, mum came over to my house on Thursday and baked the crusts, then did the filling on Friday while we were waiting for fruit pies to bake. It’s a simple but delicious recipe.

Cooking pies from frozen:

We did 6 pies at a time in Cinnamon Buns’ mum’s convection oven, so we only got two tries to perfect this art. I don’t recommend using both oven racks unless you have a convection oven though – the baking will be too uneven. Even with the convection oven we switched the pies around from top to bottom halfway through. We started out cooking them at 350 and that took a long time, and we ended up turning the oven up to 400 near the end. The tops were brown by the halfway point, but the filling was still room temperature. What we did the second time was start the pies at 400, with the tops loosely covered in tinfoil, then when we switched them around (top rack pies to the bottom, bottom rack pies to the top) we took off the foil and turned the oven down a bit, back to 350.

We weren’t serving these hot (obviously, as we baked them on Friday, and served them on Saturday) but we still wanted the fillings to get bubbly hot, so the cornstarch and tapioca could do their jobs. The test pie I did a week or two before the wedding got cooked at 350 for an hour, and while the pastry was done, and it wasn’t cold per se, the tapioca was still visible as little white dots everywhere. If it is hard to see, stick a metal knife into the pie through one of the slits in the top, and hold it there for 10-15 seconds. Then take it out and touch it to see if it is hot. If it hurts, your filling is hot. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You can also just wait until you see filling bubbling through the slits too.

Bridal injuries:

Beware when moving pies from one rack to the other! As we were fitting 3 pies on to each rack, some pies had to be pushed to the back of the bottom rack, and I (inevitably) touched my wrist to the top rack accidentally. After that mum took over the job of transferring pies, and also pointed out that I could have pulled out the bottom rack, placed the pies, then pushed it back in. Oops. Luckily it wasn’t a bad burn, or very large, and I wore a bracelet on that wrist which helped camouflage it on the wedding day.

What’s your wedding dessert? What’s your favourite flavour of pie?

Pie is a constant

Interested in the logistics of making your own pie for your wedding? I’m going to try to articulate everything we discovered about the logistics of it in this post, and share the recipes in the next one.

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Preparation:

  • The best way (in my opinion) to do pies for your own wedding is to make (but not bake) them ahead of time, and then spend a few hours the day before shoveling pies in and out of the oven. This means that you have to be able to store whatever number of frozen pies (we did 12), which leads me to:
  • Think about your freezer space! We briefly considered buying a small chest freezer, but don’t actually have anywhere to put one. We ended up making a couple trips to Cinnamon Buns’ mum’s house to fill up the freezer in her garage with our pies.
  • Think about your oven space! I thought we could get 3 in our oven on the top rack, in a little triangle. Turns out, only 2 fit, and I didn’t want to layer due to uneven baking.
  • Do you know anyone with a large or efficient oven? Cinnamon Buns’ mum has a convection oven, which meant that we could layer the pies because the heating is more even. That meant we could cook 6 pies in her oven at one time, so we borrowed her oven on the Friday morning before the wedding.
  • Now that you know how many you can bake at once, how long will it take? Baking a full pie from frozen takes about an hour and a half. How many loads of pies do you need to do?
  • Stock up on butter. And sugar. And flour.
  • Ditto on tinfoil pie plates. I thought they’d be more practical for freezing/heating, I didn’t want to be scared that glass would crack. Plus, we did 12! That’s a lot of pie plates to have leftover.
  • If you’ve made this decision far enough ahead of time, buy fruit in season and freeze it! Then you’re not trying to buy blueberries in May – that’s just unnatural. (In this part of the world at least.)

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The Making:

  • I love a production line, so I would make batch of pastry after pastry after pastry. My food processor could only hold enough flour/butter for one 9″ pie at a time, so I would just do 4 or 5 batches in a row. I didn’t bother cleaning out the food processor between batches like that, because I was just going to dump more butter and flour into it in a minute. Just a quick scrape with a spatula to get the last few bits of pastry out was enough.
  • You need to let pastry rest in the fridge, but if it rests too long it’ll be too hard to roll when you take it out, then you have to wait for it to warm up a bit. I found an hour to an hour and a half in the fridge was just the right amount.
  • Think about guests in pretty outfits, and you in a white dress. You don’t want extra-juicy pie, so I made sure all the filling recipes I used included tapioca or cornstarch. I like juicy pies at home, but I didn’t want drippy fillings at the weddding.
  • If you don’t have a standby pastry recipe already, try a single batch of the recipe you’re planning first. Then you can adjust ingredients or choose a whole new recipe as needed.
  • Think about how you’re decorating your crusts. If you have many flavours, you might want to have different crusts to tell them apart.

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I know for a fact that these ones are blueberry pies, the first picture in the post is a Saskatoonberry/serviceberry pie, and the one with the tiled hearts is apple.

The Storing/Transporting:

  • Fruit pies don’t need to be refrigerated overnight. Custard pies on the other hand, do. If you’re concerned about fridge space, go with fruit pies!
  • To transport them, we used a shallow cardboard box for each pie, and then put those boxes in big rubbermaid containers. Don’t close the boxes until the pies are completely cool! Otherwise they’ll steam themselves inside the box and get all soggy.
  • My original plan was to set everything, including the pies, on the pie table the night before, and cover the pies with tinfoil tents or tea towels to keep flies off. It was my very smart mother who pointed out that old buildings tend to have little mice-y tenants that like tasty food left out on tables. Hm… I’d forgotten about unwanted pets. So, we left them in their boxes.

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The first 6 pies (strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, sour cherry) and 2 chocolate tarts almost ready to go!

The Display:

  • We spent 12 months stocking up on cake/pie plates, and ended up with more than we needed, but better more than too few!
  • To get the pies where I wanted, once all the cake plates were set up in a pleasing display on Friday, I put a sealed pie in a box on each stand, and left instructions for our day-of-coordinator to take the pies out of the boxes before guests came in.
  • Make signs for each flavour of pie. I woke up at 4am on my wedding day with the thought of ‘I never made flavour signs!!’. Then I decided there was nothing I could do about it, and went back to sleep. I had been thinking of making a little tent card for each pie, but once Cinnamon Buns and I had cut the wedding pie, the caterers ended up cutting and plating a whole bunch of pieces of pie so people could just walk up and grab a plate. Had I known that was going to happen (and had I actually remembered to make signs) I probably would have just done a list of what flavours there were in an 8×10 frame or something. It didn’t work out too badly, because once the pies were all cut like that, you could see what was in them.

The Amounts:

  • I made 12 fruit pies, 2 each of 6 flavours. My mum made 2 chocolate tarts, so we had a total of 14 pies. Our math ran like this:

60 guests + 5 people working = 65 people. Many flavours means people will try multiple pies, so let’s average 2 slices per person. 65 people X 2 pieces each = 130 slices, which is probably a generous estimate.

If each fruit pie is sliced into 8 slices, that’s 96 slices. The chocolate tarts could be sliced into 12 slices each, that’s 24 which = 120 slices of various pies.

Here’s the answer to the question that everyone is asking: how much was left over?

Sunday, when we went back to clean up, there were 5 boxes left with pie in them. Two boxes had whole, untouched pies (a Saskatoonberry, and a blackberry-apple) and the other three boxes had slices of various flavours in them, which probably comprised 2.5 total pies. We took them back to our house, and at our Sunday British-relatives’ dinner, the three boxes of slices were polished off. The whole blackberry-apple we took into work on Monday as a thank you for a very touching card they sent. That means that the two of us just have to polish off the Saskatoonberry pie, and the wedding pie is done with! I think the amounts were just right. Also remember, if you’re using this as a planning guide for your wedding, that we had a ‘heavy appetizer’ or ‘tapas-style’ dinner, rather than a full plated meal.

Does this post make making pie for your wedding seem feasible? I hope so, because I had fun doing it, and wouldn’t change a thing! (Apart from maybe actually getting these done a month before, instead of a week or two).

How vodka helped me make pies for my wedding.

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Absolut Pie.

So. Hive. Let’s talk about that crazy plan of mine to make all the pies for our wedding. ‘All the pies’ consisting of 7 different flavours, and two pies of each. I like baking, I thought it made sense. Cinnamon Buns was as supportive as ever, and let me fill our freezer full of tasty in-season fruit over the summer. My original plan was to have all the pies done and frozen before the end of May, for our late-June wedding. That, I am not ashamed to tell you, did not happen. Nor did I do anything about pies (apart from stock up on butter) in the first week of June. It was the middle of June when I thought to myself ‘ok Cinnamon Bun, better do something about those pies’.

I made 3 batches of the usual pastry recipe – butter, flour, water. It was all a wee bit crumbly, and I was scared to add too much water, so I just pressed it into lumps, wrapped them in cling wrap, stuck them in the fridge and crossed my fingers. This did not go well. When time came to roll out the pastry, it just crumbled. I tried again, it crumbled more. I did what I always do when I’m baking and thinking – I ate a little piece. Then I munched on a little more while trying to press it into submission with my hands. I ate what stuck to my hands. I threw away that batch (sneaking a bit more to eat before it hit the trash) and tried one of the other 2 batches I’d made: the same problem.

At that point I carved a little chunk off with a knife to nibble on while I thought. It was then that I remembered this amazing pastry recipe, and figured I should give it a go. The pastry I had made was obviously too dry, but I had added more than the required amount of water. What better recipe to use than one that adds extra liquid in the form of vodka, which will evaporate completely when baked, leaving just a regular pastry? It’s the obvious answer for baking in a climate as dry as Calgary’s!

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A day later I pulled out the Absolut (for the pie), and the Van Gogh Espresso (for the cook – if you haven’t tried this yet, DO IT. On the rocks. So yum.) and got my pie on. This time, I made one pie’s worth of pastry, let it sit in the fridge for an hour, then tested to see how it worked out, instead of making 3 pies worth of stuff that wasn’t going to work, like the last time. It rolled out beautifully! That got made into the first strawberry-rhubarb pie. Once that pie was complete and in the freezer, it was time to production line everything. Sadly, my food processor is too small to do a double batch of this recipe, but once I knew it worked, it was easy to follow the recipe (mostly, I used 1/3 cup water instead of 1/4 cup) 4 more times in a row, to make pastry for 4 double-crust pies. The little pile of trimmings from pie #1 was just sitting on the cutting board, and I’d sneak a piece or two as I was measuring flour, in between sips of my espresso-on-the-rocks.

Once I started making up the pies (strawberry-rhubarb as well as sour cherry that night!) there were even more trimmings that I snacked on, until I realised I was feeling a little woozy. Wait a minute… if I’m adding vodka to the pastry so it is wet enough to work with before baking, and the vodka will evaporate after baking… I’m just eating vodka-soaked flour and butter bites. Ergh.

Pastry-induced headache aside, I made 5 pies that night and managed to find enough room in our freezer to stash them away (just). We baked one the next day, to see what baking a whole pie from frozen was like. It was pretty easy! An hour at 350 and we had a delicious pie. I’m planning another post with details of the recipes and tricks I used, at this point that will definitely come after the wedding (ie: when I have made all of said pies!).

A couple days later I made some blueberry pies, and took this photo before wrapping them up:

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Six pies, with the baker’s little helper.

The plan at this point is to run these six pies to Cinnamon Buns’ mum’s house, because she has an empty chest freezer to store them in, and a bigger oven to cook them in when the time comes. Six pies is also the limit of our freezer space. It was four, until I reclaimed some space by making the two ziplock bags full of blueberries into two pies full of blueberries.

Are you a baker? TRY. THIS. PASTRY. It makes it so easy! If you’re a snacker like me, just don’t plan on driving anywhere after you make it.

Have you found wedding help in unexpected places?

Variety is the Spice of Pie

I love looking at pictures of dessert buffets at weddings. I just love the idea of a table full of yummy sweety goodness. I am equally over-the-moon about our table that will be covered with pie, but I also wish there could be a bit more variety. Variety in the look of it, because I would be perfectly happy just pie-type desserts for the rest of my life!

But tables like these, that have big things, small things, things in bowls, things on sticks, things on plates… I love them too.

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(via Martha Stewart)

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(via Martha Stewart)

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(have I mentioned that I love Martha?)

So far, our dessert table is going to be delicious, but everything is going to be entirely pie-shaped. Not too much variety. It’s a bit late, now that I’ve collected all my perfectly mis-matched cake stands to go for a minimalist, spare pie set-up, and I don’t think that would jive with the rest of our wedding anyway. Then I found this:

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(via Sugar Pie Bakery)

Sugar Pie Bakery, a bakery here in Calgary that makes pie pops! I knew about pie pops before, I just never considered it because I’m making the rest of the pies, and pops just sounded too fiddly for the bride to be making before the wedding. I’m not 100% sold on this idea yet, but I think it could be cute! We could get a big old thick (out of date) dictionary, drill some holes in it, and display them that way.

The next inspiring still-pie-but-different thing I found was this:

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(via Inchmark)

Pumpkin pie in a tiny mason jar! The same mason jars our favours are in, actually. I’d been planning on making a pumpkin pie, the day before the wedding (can’t freeze it like you can freeze fruit pies!) but how cute would this be, pumpkin pie in little jars? The tutorial above doesn’t include a crust at all, I thought it might be cute to roll out some pastry and cut it out with heart-shaped cookie cutters or something, and put one the top of each, rather than try to bake it in the jar. For some desserts-in-jars you can buy, check out All Jarred Up on Etsy!

Would you find it funny to have some pies large ones you get pieces of, and some in individual jars?

Stand-ing Around

I pulled out all the wedding stuff from behind the couch the other day (ACK!) and had a bit of an organize. I put out all my cake/pie stands on the coffee table to see what they look like together. I posted about my vintage ones recently, here is what they look like with everything I have!

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The two glass ones are vintage, the wire one and the centre white one are from Crate & Barrel, and the large white one is Sophie Conran. I’ve had that one for a year or two, because I felt like I needed a cake stand. Once I started packing up, and realised that I’d missed one!

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This one Cinnamum bought for me at Capital Iron in Victoria, BC. The box doesn’t give a clue to the maker or anything.

It was great to lay them all out and take stock of what I’ve got. I think I’ve got enough white ones, I like the wire one because it is different in look and much taller than the others, the glass ones add pops of colour…. What else do I need? I think I want to find one of the ones that has a nice wide decorative edge that hangs down from the plate part, like these ones:

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(from Clara French)

Browsing the Clara French website is fun, because you can actually rent her cakestands! I think that is really cool, because it is cheaper than buying, and you don’t need to figure out what to do with it after the wedding. I would, if I didn’t think shipping to and from Canada would be a royal pain, and a lot more money than is quoted on the site. If I was in the US though, that’s absolutely what I would do. I’ve also found another (expensive) cakestand that I lurrrve, but again I’m sure shipping will add even more on to the not-insubstantial price. This one just speaks to the hobbit inside of me:

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(from Bell’occhio – why didn’t I know about this store when I was in San Franciso?!)

I think I’m doing pretty well in the cakestand department, I probably need just one more considering that some pies can just go on the table, and I want at least one on a stack of books. For some reason, this doesn’t stop me browsing Etsy, researching places I can go vintage hunting, and looking at pictures of more cakestands than I would ever need.

Does anyone else have a problem with stopping researching a topic? I don’t need to do all this anymore, but I still do….

Stand and Deliver

As you might remember, we are not having cake at our wedding, we’re having pie instead! I happen to think that pies can be just as pretty as cakes with fancy icing, so I want to make sure they are displayed as best as they can be. I had decided to collect some mis-matched cake stands, and have the pies on those. There has been one picture in my inspiration folder from the very beginning that got me on to this kick:

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(from OnceWed)

We’ll have many more pies than that photo though, so we’ll need many more stands. Yay! An excuse to go antiquing! Sadly, my very favourite antique mall has shut down so I didn’t really know where else to go in town, so I put it off. I’ve managed to gather (and by I, I really mean Cinnamum) a few nice new ones that look vintage. But, for Christmas, Cinnamon Buns’ mum gave me these:

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Is either one in wedding colours? No, but that is the whole point of mis-matched, isn’t it?! Cinnamum-in-law found a weekend market/bazaar or something, one of those wonderful markets where most people are selling junk, but if you dig you can find something amazing. She found these! I gave them both a good soak in soapy water, and they came out sparkling. I love the stubby little feet on the yellow one:

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It is great to have such a low one, because I think the pie table will look best with many different levels. I’m still wondering if I can work books in there too… I’ve toyed with the idea of a pie on a stack of books, but I’d be worried about them all tipping over. Maybe glueing or screwing or tying the books together would work to make a stand?

I still want to find somewhere to go and find a cakestand myself. I get that thrill-of-the-hunt thing and it feels really good to find a gem in a crowded little shop that is mostly full of junk. That I know I get from my mum, Cinnamum. She knows her antiques, and I’ve been towed around antique stores by her for as long as my dad has towed me around used bookstores. I don’t do it very much, because the condo Cinnamon Buns and I live in is pretty full already!

Do you like antiquing? The thrill of the hunt?