Thursday, September 29, 2005

Easy as...Pie?

First off, I'd like to say that whoever came up with that expression has never actually made a pie. I, instead, have struggled through four pies, and they are not easy at all. The first pie, a Thanksgiving pie made for our Italian caving group last year, went okay. It was an apple pie, and while it wasn't the prettiest pie ever, it tasted reasonably good. Okay, so the bottom was soggy, the crust was falling off, and I almost dropped the pie as I took it into the caving meeting. But still, the apple filling tasted like it should.

The second pie was a complete failure, and I am still not sure exactly what went wrong. It was a peach pie that I decided to make for my friend Karoline and my ethnic bake sale in her town of Sant' Angelo in Pontano. Yes, Canadian and American food is considered ethnic here, so we signed up for a booth at the first annual Multicultural fest. After having spent most of the evening baking brownies, lemon cookies, chocolate chip, and more, I set out to make a peach pie. The bottom crust was not a complete disaster, but the lattice top was. I gave up on that and, instead of cutting nice strips to basket-weave over the pie, I decided to roll up long pieces of dough into a makeshift lattice top instead. It was a failure. It never baked all of the way through, and the rolled up dough tasted horrible.

That was when I made my third pie, a quick, thrown-together keylime to compensate for my missing peach pie. The crust crumbled way too much, and the meringue top was thin, lopsided and sticky. Still, I sold it at the bakesale anyway, and, to my surprise, unknowing Italians bought it. No one came back for seconds, however.

So yesterday, when I sat down to peel apples and restart the process of pie making this year, I made sure I had a complete day's time to bake my hopeful masterpiece. Wednesday is currently my day off, so I spent part of the morning and much of the afternoon at work in the kitchen, slicing up apples and rolling dough. I was determined this would work, and I took my time rolling the dough just right, cutting the apples finely enough, and reading the recipe--carefully. Twice, I almost panicked but resolved it by calling my mother to ask her advice--how do I make the crust look nice? Why is the pie so sickly looking--do I need to brush it with egg? My mother, patient as always, helped me through these tough situations, and eventually I had baked my fourth pie.

And while I was tempted to cut a piece of it immediately, to taste it and, if neccessary, throw it out and cover any evidence that it once existed, I decided to wait. That night was our weekly caving meeting, and I had been impressing new cavers with my American desserts (oatmeal cookies and lemon bars!), so the pie would make its debut there. But I kept thinking--what would the Italians think if it tasted all wrong? How could I cover up my current dessert-making success? Still, I waited, eyeing the pie for the rest of the afternoon, wondering if anyone would miss just a sliver.

The caving meeting arrived, and as the lesson portion concluded, I went back to begin cutting the pie. Various cavers, curious at this strange looking cake, began asking what it was. "Apple pie," I said, not even attempting to translate it.

"Hepple pie?" they responded.

"Yes," I said, wondering what a hepple was.

Still, it went over quite well. Some people had heard of pie, and some people remembered last year's Thanksgiving attempt. As I handed out slices of pie (Antonello's cousin, and new caving student Daniele even asked in (almost) English: "A piece of Hepple Pie please?"), I heard people happily munching away, enjoying the American treat. I had done a better job this time--the pie was a beautiful golden brown (egg wash), the crust was pinched and twisted into a pretty shape (mom's advice), and the bottom crust was not too soggy. Some people wanted the recipe, others were delighted by the taste of cinnamon, something not common in Italian desserts, and I, after tasting it, was particularly happy with the flavor of the apples, since I had been worried that I had not added enough sugar. This was the best pie I'd made yet, I thought, taking another bite.

Then Daniele said, "It's really good. I like it a lot." And as he shoveled a messy piece of it into his mouth with his fingers, he added, "one thing though--it's kind of a mess to eat."

"Oh no!" I said. I immediately began to pass out the forks.



Post a Comment

<< Home