Within the last year, I have reached some sort of higher pie-making level. (What the official levels of pie-making are I am not quite sure…) I haven’t been a novice for a while, and now I’m fully at the point of comfort to where if you put me on Chopped and told me to come up with a dessert given the ingredients on hand my mind would immediately start trying to figure out how I could throw together a pie.
Of course, I’d need longer than thirty minutes and I would hope that my ingredients didn’t consist of some bizarre combination (green apple jellybeans, liverwurst, rice flour, and brazil nuts would be hard to make a pie out of) but you get the point. I don’t need recipes anymore. I still love to follow them sometimes and I’ll continue until I finish every dang pie in Ken’s cookbook but it is so tempting these days to throw recipes to the wind. Maybe what I’ve reached is the Freestyle Level.
One pie I’ve made in some form or another over and over this year is Strawberry Peach. The first time I used a splash of Trader Joe’s Dixie Peach juice to give it extra peachiness…if I happen to have very flavorful 100% fruit juices in my fridge, I like adding them to my pies. If you start to develop this habit though, make sure you’re using enough cornstarch. In a pie with strawberries (notorious for making pie bubble over) and a splash of extra juice, you’ll want to use an extra spoonful of starch (I’d say 4 level tablespoons went into this filling.)
Several batches of Strawberry Peaches minis were made during this spring and summer, some destined for local friends as gifts for a variety of occasions, some destined for farther places, like Nashville. When I went to Jamaica for a week, I left a few pies in the freezer, for Levi (I-love-you) and visiting friends I was barely able to cross paths with before leaving town. (In fact, the extent of our visit was a stop at Republic of Pie in between picking them up at one airport and dropping me off at another. Boo.) Pro tip: It’s good to have mini pies on hand. I have yet to meet someone who isn’t happy when you give them their own personal jar of pie. I mean, really.
One of my favorite pie memories of this summer is baking three of them (two Strawberry Peach and a blueberry) for the Onesimus crew on a hot July afternoon and serving them outside that same humid night, listening to a smoky bonfire devotion, surrounded by blinking fireflies. It was definitely an Elisha and the Widow’s Oil situation, when hungry souls kept coming and coming with plates held out eagerly for a slice, and when there was not one plate left, the pie stopped flowing. (Well, I guess at that point the one last piece flowed onto my plate. And then it was really and truly gone. And then I think some of the boys scraped the empty plates clean of any final crumbs or juicy drips.)
I made the Strawberry Peach (and maybe some apple too?) pie below in July late at night after work, waiting for some awesome house guests (and Levi) to get back from a baseball game they’d gone to. It was unplanned; the ingredients were sitting around and I had just a little time and the impulse struck, cause I’m on that Freestyle Level now, you know. And I’m finding out more and more that what it means when I make you pie is that I love you. I might not put the pie in a jar with a cute little handwritten label that says “Strawberry Peach I-love-you Pie,” (that honor is reserved mostly for Levi, I suppose) but it doesn’t mean that every pie I make doesn’t actually have “I-love-you” tacked into the name secretly. Because really, it does. It is my way of showing that I care.
In one note I got in response to a couple Strawberry-Peach pies I mailed was the sentence “Thank you for loving us all the way from California” and I thought, yes! That is what I’m doing, even when I don’t know I’m doing it. If I try to feed you pie, what I am basically doing is clumsily saying “I love you.”
Oh, Obi. Yes, I love you too, because I let you eat the pastry scraps that always fall off the dining room table when I roll out a crust.
Thanks for reading, and for eating, and for accepting my love in the form of pie.