Pie vs. Cake.
One of life’s major dividing lines.
But I will remain impartial. Please close your eyes, (but keep reading) and digest this:
PIE vs. CAKE.
Let that really soak in.
See the pie (make it your favorite, great crust, amazing filling. Everything fresh. Contained. Camera ready). See the cake (picture whatever you want).
Now imagine how the PIE smells—right out of the oven, waiting on the windowsill for it’s future date with ice cream. Inhale the cooling crust, hand-made, uneven, real butter (think European high fat), browned to the color of an autumn leaf. The PIE calls out to you—I’m almost ready. Wait for me. I’ll be there soon. I need you, baby.
Smell the cake. Wait, you can’t smell it because it’s in a box with a clear, plastic window. The icing--strangely colored with green and purple and orange streaks that make up some kind of picture—is it a black caldron? A hockey puck? A large-headed clown? Whatever it is, the icing has hardened to resemble a floor tile in a linoleum display.
PIE vs. CAKE.
Ice cream vs. Frozen yogurt. Grass vs. Astroturf. Pie vs. Cake.
You’re still not getting it. That’s the way you are. You resist. You need to see all the angles. You second-guess. You over-analyze. You cling to a picture you have where you’re seven years old and you’re blowing out candles placed on a sheet of something made from a mix in a box.
But wait—this is important--you can’t make a pie out of a box (but you can make a cheesecake out of a box—although this is NOT advised). But isn’t cheesecake really sort of a pie—a cousin, once removed. And what about pizza? Is that in the same family? An overweight relative who should wax the carpet of hair from his back? Plus we need to mention quiche, and tarts and maybe, this is bold, chicken pot pie.
Where is the cake equivalent? I can’t hear you.
PIE vs. CAKE.
The final story.
People don’t decorate pies. People decorate cakes. This is a problem. They have to dress them up. Why? Because what’s underneath might not be good enough. It can be dry. Tasteless. Or worse. It can be a shell, concealing something that could end up making you ill.
Okay, close your eyes. (But keep reading). Concentrate. We can do this together. We’re going to all get on the same page now:
Gore vs. Bush.
RECIPE: PERFECT PIE CRUST
2 ½ cups of FLOUR
1 cup of COLD. COLD, I mean cold BUTTER (two sticks)
5 tablespoons COLD WATER
Okay, here is the secret: The butter and the water must really be chilled. You can even take the butter, cut it up into chunks, and put it in the freezer for ten minutes. But even if you don’t do this, take the butter from the refrigerator and IMMEDIATELY get the job done.
- Get your dry ingredients together.
- Add in your cold butter. Use a food processor, or if you’re a Luddite like me (note: a kitchen without even a microwave), use a fork or one of those pastry cutting things. The butter and the floor mix should be combined until it’s a kind of coarse, evenly blended meal. Now begin dribbling in the water and working it until you have a ball.
- Divide your dough into two pieces, about a 60/40 split with the 60% piece working for the bottom, and the 40% for the lattice top (or for a second, smaller tart—a chicken potpie? An experiment pie?).
- Mold the dough into the shape of a pita—or a mini-flying saucer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate your dough for a least an hour (two hours is better, but who can wait that long?).
- Remove from the frig and roll out the larger piece for the bottom (I dust a piece of wax or parchment paper, roll out onto this, and then place the pie pan on top, flip the whole thing, and peel back the paper and throw it away. Presto/chango. Cut and style the edges (with your fingers—my favorite part), and you’re ready to fill and bake (with fruit, custard, whatever your heart desires….)
PEAR PIE FILLING
6 cups sliced PEARS
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Peel, core and slice pears. Place in a bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and vanilla, and coat the fruit.
Spoon the pear mixture into your pie shell. Cover with a lattice top and BAKE at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, checking after twenty minutes to see how things are going. Remove, cool and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Pie vs. Cake. Game. Set. Match.
Holly Goldberg Sloan is a writer/director of family films. She wrote "Angels in the Outfield,", "Made in America", "The Big Green", "The Crocodile Hunter Movie" and the soon to be finished "Heidi 4 Paws". Cooking, she believes, is like writing. It's good to start with a solid plan, and then be willing to go with the flow.