Earlier this year I decided to enter my local newspaper’s baking contest. The theme was pie. Every year I follow the competition with serious envy. I enjoy baking as a hobby and am fairly successful most of the time. But, my success is measured by my family’s happiness with the results. They are a pretty easy crowd to please.
I follow Michael Pollan’s premise that in order to cut down on processed foods, you can eat sweets as long as you make them. Challenge accepted! He’s probably not willing to whip up a dark chocolate layer cake on a random Tuesday after work, but I am!
My mother has always baked a great pie, specifically cherry pie. It’s her thing. (I am still looking for my thing….you know, that thing where people say, “Have you tried Kristin’s _____________? It’s the best!”) So, I chose the cherry pie category in which to compete.
Now this was 2017, so in my digital age wisdom I thought I need to put my spin on cherry pie. The fact that my mom has produced a no-fail crust for probably 60 years did not phase me. The fact that she only used water packed cherries (canned pie filling never entered her kitchen), and kept it simple to enhance the true flavor of the cherry, pish-posh. I could do better! The fact that I had used her recipe to make dozens of delicious pies in the past, somehow seemed irrelevant.
I made a lot (A LOT) of different crusts, trying something new each time. I attempted to “enhance” the natural flavor of the cherry with a variety of different flavors….’cuz that’s always a good idea…perfecting nature.
I’m guessing that you see where this is going.
So I arrive at the contest not knowing what to expect. This was in fact my first rodeo! The pie in the picture was my entry. The crust and filling recipe a combination of some of those I tried. I was proud of how it looked but had no idea how it tasted.
There were a lot of contestants, but a lot of categories. So that’s good, right? Chatting with other contestants while waiting for the judging to begin, I learned that there were very few first time cowboys. Let me cut to the chase, as I am sure you are on the edge of your seat.
Good news, I won honorable mention (not everyone got one of these snazzy pot holders) and a professional chef said that my pie looked perfect. He said it was the only one that had the correct coloration of crust.
That is where the good news ends. Trust me when I say that the feedback given to me to help me improve as a baker, was less than complimentary. It was brutal.
So here is the lesson. Don’t try to improve on perfection. Experts come in all shapes and sizes (85 year old mom’s being one of them). Trust your mom. Oh, and could someone please tell my daughter that?
Now, I can’t leave you with nothing but sage advice today so how about a few recipes. The first is my mom’s cherry pie recipe. It’s the one with the pot holder. It’s a keeper, but you already know that.
The second is a recipe for Cherry Pie Bars that I found on The Country Cook. I needed something to use up the leftover cans of pie filling I had in my pantry. Don’t tell my Mom!
Soon, I’ll take you on a tour of the baking “station” in my kitchen. Prior to setting it up (during a renovation) I planned it to be efficient and fun. It’s evolved slightly with use, but it is still my favorite place to try out recipes (old and new ; ).