I started with a simple pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie (my fave) and then I got into strawberry rhubarb pie. Rhubarb completely fascinates me…it’s both beautiful and tart and is the perfect companion to sweet things like fresh local strawberries in the springtime. Last year, I planted rhubarb in my back yard and I can’t wait for it to start sprouting!
I tend to make pies based on what’s in season and fresh at the market, but usually use pre-made crusts from the grocery store and they’ve always served me well. Those food engineers really know what they’re doing!
Then, I finally decided to make a crust from scratch with the help of Smitten Kitchen (thanks, Lesley!) I followed the Cooks Illustrated recipe using part butter, part shortening and…vodka. Who would ever imagine vodka in a pie? Not this novice baker! It turned out well and I shared it with some friends. They all raved, but they had also said they loved the ones I made with crusts I’d purchased.
Then…I had a bake-off in my tiny little Hampden kitchen. I made two blueberry pies – one with a homemade crust and one with a Pillsbury crust. I used blueberries simply because Whole Foods had tweeted about a buy-one-get-one-free dealio a few days prior.
My neighbors and friends were my taste testers. While they loved the flakiness and texture of the scratch crust, the taste overall was not THAT much more amazing to us overall, so I doubt I will be a faithful homemade crust girl. Maybe I would if I had a little more free time…but also, baking requires precision…and I think I’m more of a ‘smidge of this’ and ‘handful of that’ kinda cook. Much like my grandmother – she didn’t even use recipes. I have a lot of friends who would never-in-a-million-years buy a pie crust. I respect them completely. I just cannot hang with them on this.
Do you bake? What’s your specialty? Cake? Pie? Recipes? Tips?