Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Midweek Roundup: Can They Bake a Cherry Pie?

Photo by Vicki
Baking with Granny

When I think of Rose's style of baking, I think of something fancy-schmancy, with fondant, or luster dust, or homemade lekvar--15 pages of instructions with multiple, complicated steps.  Yet, look at what we've baked lately, as well as what's coming up:  caramel sticky buns, cherry pie, and oatmeal cookies.  Simple yet delicious American homestyle cooking:  things that most of our mothers made (witihout recipes to speak of, probably), made with ingredients that could be grown in the garden and canned or frozen for the winter.  Things you might enter in the state fair.  Not at all fancy, not to mention schmancy.  But of course, all these recipes have been tweaked and prodded into perfection.

Rose's cherry pie, like her caramel sticky buns, won almost universal raves, including the highest possible compliment, which must be spoken in whispers, lest feelings be hurt.  "This pie is better than mom's." A friend of Kristina's was heard to say it was better than her mother's, and Raymond himself admitted that the crust "topp[ed] even his mother's....  Kudos to Rose for this pastry."

On a par with the "better than mom's" compliment is the "this is the best pie I've ever eaten" compliment, which, I guess subsumes "better than mom's" unless mom wasn't a pie baker.  (My own mother made cherry pie from the sour cherry tree in our back yard, which I remember being an excellent climbing tree except when cherry-eating birds pooped on your head).  Even with those good, fresh cherries, I recall the pie as having too much cornstarch or tapioca, making it gummy, and she made a standard Crisco pie crust, with very little Crisco, since she didn't want my dad to gain weight.  I know, it doesn't make sense to me either.

Anyway, Kim was among those saying it was the best cherry pie she'd ever eaten (the first and only actually), but she was "gobsmacked" by how good it was.  Patricia also said it was the best ever, and although Patricia usually has a few helpful suggestions, this time she said her only tweak would be to remember to set the timer so that one half of the pie didn't look too brown.  (If you've seen the photos of Patricia's pies, you'll know that's a very minor tweak.)  Not only did we think it, but so did our tasters.  Monica's husband's cousin (I think I've got that right), said those sought-after words, "This is the best cherry pie I've ever eaten!"  In a variation on this theme, a friend of Kristina's told her that it couldn't be cherry pie that she was eating because she doesn't like cherry pie.

And Monica came right out and said what many of you were thinking:  "Why did Marie schedule this pie when sour cherries are not in season?  Why?"  Um.  To challenge you?  Well, in part because I wasn't always sure when the season was and because nothing is ever going to be "in season" for everybody in this project, living all over the world as we do.  I did actually originally have this pie scheduled for the summer, but I got a few requests for a double-crusted pie for pi day, and I chose this one.  Also, partly because I thought it would be easier to find frozen cherries than it was.  I'm actually also wondering why a scheduled the cran-raspberry upside cake at the end of March, when neither cranberries or raspberries are in season (at least not in MN) and it's still a little early for the rhubarb alternative.  I have no clue.

Maybe I should have just stopped my reasoning after saying I did it to challenge you, because you all certainly lived up to the challenge!  Lois's grocer looked at her blankly when she requested canned or frozen sour cherries.  He'd never heard of such a thing; nor had he heard of cherry pie filling.  What's going on in this country?  How will Billy Boy ever find a girl to marry?  But, undaunted, Lois bought some frozen sweet cherries and some frozen cranberries for added tartness, and pronounced it all "delicious."  Faithy (another "best pie I've ever eaten") used a combination of jarred Morello (sour) cherries and Griottines (Morello cherries packed in brandy or kirsch).  Both inventive and delightful!
Catherine did something very similar, using Morello cherries and cherry brandy (apparently sour cherries are called Morello cherries in other parts of the world, which sounds much fancier--maybe Rose should have called this a Morello cherry pie.)  She didn't get enough Morello cherries to fill the pie, so it was a shallow-dish pie, but still good, and "fun to do the lattice."  Vicki, on the other hand, had "no patience with the lattice" but still thought the pie was "incredible."  (In addition to the photo of the week, I also like Vicki's picture of her empty pie tin, showing only a few traces of what was just minutes earlier a whole pie).  Once Tony started shopping to find a sour cherry substitute, he couldn't stop:  he ended up with canned sour cherries, black cherry juice concentrate, cherry-infused craisins, and some brandy.

Orin (who I'm beginning to think may be a person you wouldn't want to cross), decided that sour cherries must be in season somewhere so she made it her mission to find the "freshest cherries available in the United States."  She happened on Northwest Wild Foods, and phoned them to find out if she would be getting the freshest possible fruit.  She was assured that the cherries were flash frozen at the peak of their ripeness, and she ordered them.  If you glance at the picture of a bowl of her magnificent red cherries, you'll remember your own anemic-looking canned cherries and wish you'd had Orin doing your shopping.  At least, if the "you" in that sentence is me, that's what you're thinking.

Milagritos reminded us that cherries are not in season in Australia, either, but she used frozen sweet cherries and added lemon to adjust the sweet/tart ratio.  Jenn made that adjustment in a different way; she used a mixture of sweet cherries and raspberries.  It made a very pretty picture.  In fact, Jenn admitted that sometimes she doesn't care if she "likes the taste, as long as it looks pretty for the picture."  Our own Knitty Baker may have to change her moniker to Knitty Baker Photographer.  Speaking of "looking pretty," Glori announced on the Facebook page that her pie was an "epic fail," I turned to her blog like someone rushing to the scene of an accident.  What I saw was a beautiful pie. The crust was perfect.  The lattice was perfect.  If you saw a picture of this pie, you'd try to eat it. Where was the epic fail?  I read on, and it seems that Glori forgot to put her baking stone in the oven, and her bottom crust was raw.  I can see how that would be disappointing, and I don't mean to sound like I'm being all schadenfreude-ish, but I expected less beauty from an "epic fail"!  And who would have thought that omitting the baking stone would make such a difference?

Mendy had no trouble finding the cherries, or making the lattice, or baking the pie.  But he did manage to put together the most poetic and philosophic cherry pie blog I've ever read.  First this:  "A surrounding lattice, made as a net of copper."  Exodus 38.4.   Such a lovely image. Then there's this:  
"חי is a word that means life and looks suprisingly similar to the pi symbol π. A connection between the infinite source of life and a number that goes on forever?"  See what I mean?

Finally, let's just have a round of applause for Monica, who established and manages the Facebook page that has allowed the Alphas to ask for, and receive, such great advice.  Of course, it was Raymond who brought up the cherry problem, and a good thing he did, or we wouldn't have been alerted that it was not going to be easy as pie to get pie cherries.  When Vicki was stressing over a pie filling that wouldn't thicken, Hanaa told her just to add more cornstarch.  And Joan was struggling over some "crumbly dough," when Patricia came to her rescue, leading to a result that, "in the end, is another recipe that needs to be tripled!"

Thanks, Monica, and to all the other bakers who so willing to troubleshoot and come to the aid of a fellow baker.

NEXT WEEK:  We continue on the classic Americana road, with oatmeal cookies, the kind that my grandmother always had on hand.  (How is that possible?)  I don't think there should be any ingredient difficulty here, unless you can't find the light brown Muscovado sugar (in which case you can just substitute dark brown sugar, so no worries).  You do have to make the granola ahead of time, but it's possible to do that just before you start on the cookies. You could use different granola, but since most granola includes fruits and notes, I think that a storebought granola might throw off the proportions, and Rose's granola is good and easy to make.


  1. You all are so wonderful--hats off!!! or should I say toques off? I'm glad Marie chose sour cherries even though hard to find, especially now. It resulted in so much creative work arounds. I have to admit that of all my pies, cherry pie is the one I've spent years tweaking as it was my father's favorite pie. Since he lived to almost 98, that was a lot of pies. He liked it best when I spritzed the crust with a little water and sprinkled sugar on top for the crunch but also that he had a major sweet tooth. Ironic that he should have married my other, a dds who considered sugar to be the enemy. But at 30 years of age, he did have a single filling so that could have been the deal maker.
    Thank you all for the richness you bring to my life with all your comments, criticisms, and adventures. You are all a delight.

    PS the granola is so good just as granola for breakfast with a little milk. You won't mind having extra.

  2. Wow! I'm gobsmacked to see this picture chosen. Jim makes it look better! Thank you. I only have a cell phone camera and don't know how to work the thing. Waiting for eldest granddaughter to spend the summer and walk me through the gadgets. Thank goodness lousy pictures do not affect the surreptitiousness of this pie. I'm still in awe we could tinker with Rose's recipe so much and still have success.

    1. It's a good picture, Vicki. My favorite is still your empty pie tin--it speaks volumes.

    2. I liked the message of the empty pie tin too; but my first criterion in looking for a picture is that the baked item has to make an appearance, not necessarily the entire item but enough of a portion to make it recognizable (at least to me). I did not tweak the picture, but being barely past the novice photographer stage, I do tweak my own photos a lot. There are some very good, free cellphone apps that can crop out the messy stuff or brighten up the colors/colours. There are also good, free computer programs like Picassa for PC use (I don't know about MACs, but if you use a MAC, you probably already know all about it).

    3. Well, now I'm really bowled over! It still looks better on Marie's blog. And Marie, obviously I shouldn't type without the right glasses on. I meant to say scrumptiousness, not "surreptitiousness". Again, thank you both for the shout out.

  3. Great photo Vicki and great roundup Marie. I really like seeing what others make of the recipe.

    Rose, I'm glad you're so sanguine about our comments - sometimes I think they must be a bit hard to take!

  4. Great roundup!

    I have to admit a significant level of amusement at you twice referring to my male coworkers as 'she.' Given the ratio of men to women in my office, it entertains me way more than it should. ;)

    1. Oh, no, I've done it again. When I'm not turning women into men (Hi, Orin), I'm doing the reverse. Maybe it will all even out, although that's probably cold comfort to to those undergoing the unwitting sex change.

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  6. Great photo Vicki! Congrats on being featured! I love that ice-cream on top of the pie! :D This cherry pie is amazing!! I'm salivating as I am thinking about it...

  7. I'm so happy Vicki's pie was chosen as the feature pic. Really loved the one of her empty pie plate - it spoke volumes!

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  8. Congrats Vicki! I also love the empty pie tin.

    Marie, it's funny you mentioned Knitty Baker Photographer because my husband calls me that at home! I still prefer Knitty Baker though since it's the "original" and also shorter :).

  9. congrats vicki! great roundup as usual, marie, although i was left out :( i know there's a lot of us to keep track of. i love our FB group; it has been so helpful and fun!

  10. Thank you Marie for again giving us such a good round up! I'm so glad the FB group has been so useful to everyone, you all made my original vision - to have a place to discuss, give tips, shout for help and simply connect - a reality. I have been able to get to know all of you in a deeper level and that speaks volumes in how Marie's bake a long has all (I think) enriched our lives a little. I know not all of you are part of it, so if you want to be include, send Marie or myself an email and/or find me in FB so I can add you to the members list.

  11. Another great round up. Glad you liked my shot of the pie but it's definitely a case where looks can be deceiving!

  12. Hi,

    Thank you Marie for the compliment...and if your asking, I wouldn't mind being a hired shopper, because after all, sometimes finding specialty ingredients can be just as exciting as the project! I know we all had our frustrations with finding fruits that are not in season, but I would rather take the challenge of locating a hard to find fruit than attempt to make a pie crust in 100f degrees with 80% humidity! As always Marie, I enjoyed your sum-up and fresh witiness.