Hey there, Sugar Pie!

Tonight, I had the privilege of helping two cool teenagers bake a Cherry Pie. One of my daughter’s friends wanted to make a pie for her dad’s birthday, so they did. They even made homemade crust! I was proud of them AND myself. I’m a control freak–especially in the kitchen–so letting them do the work was an accomplishment for everyone. They really did a terrific job! We hope her dad loves the pie–cherry’s his favorite.

Next on the pie docket was a new pie for me, Sugar Pie or Tarte au Sucre. I used a recipe from my favorite PIE cookbook. What a fun pie to make! The girls used homemade crusts for their pie, but I had one store-bought crust left, so I used that for the Sugar Pie. Here’s how it went down.

First, I made this crumble stuff. It has butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt all crumbled together. I don’t have a pastry blender, so I used my hands. Worked great for getting the pieces small.

After the crumbly stuff was made, I set it aside to get the crust ready. I crimped it and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. I’ve come to really appreciate this step, especially when pre-baking is involved. If you’re going to put foil and beans in a crust, it better be tough, and freezing does the trick for keeping it intact during baking.

The filling is made from maple syrup (I confess that I used regular old grocery store syrup–it takes a whole cup, and that’s all I had), eggs, and a little bit of baking soda. I heated the syrup up to “just a little above room temperature” on the stove-top and then whisked in everything else. 

All the while, the crust was cooling from where I had pre-baked it. The pre-baking process takes at least 30 minutes, but I have found that it really ensures a crispy crust which makes any pie tastier.

Next, I poured the yummy, syrupy filling over one half of the crumbs in the pie shell. 

Finally, I sprinkled the remainder of the crumble mixture on top of the filling. So it was crumbs, then syrup, then crumbs. 

Now, for the record, this process is similar to the construction of a Shoofly Pie. Shoofly Pie is one of the few foods on this planet that I seriously would be fine never eating again. Yuck. It’s those molasses. But Sugar Pie has no molasses, so I had hope.

The pie baked for just 30 minutes, and the recipe cautioned not to go over 30 minutes, even if the filling seemed jiggly, which it absolutely did. I allowed the pie to cool for about 45 minutes. Although it had come out of the oven sort of “poofy,” it ended up looking really good.

Now, I should have waited longer, I think, to taste the pie. Almost all pies are better if they cool for a couple of hours. But you know me–no waiting. So I sliced into that sucker. It was kinda droopy–really needed the cooling time, BUT….

It tasted like Christmas morning.

Or some other awesomely wonderful day that you want to go to. I’m here to tell ya, folks, it’s the first pie I have LICKED OFF OF THE PLATE. I just didn’t want it to end. 

It did not taste like syrup or any other specific thing. Just warm, beautiful, smooth SUGAR. It fit its name perfectly.

I love it when something is what it claims to be.

I have heard deceptive descriptions before, for sure. Especially about food. For example, “Tasty, nutritious, fiber” or “Fresh, bright, vegetable delight!”

Other food lies include, “You’ll never know it’s sugar free!” or “You won’t miss the calories!”

Umm…yes. Yes, I will. 

So tell it like it is–food or otherwise!

I’ll end with this quote–a favorite of my Dad’s:

“Be what you is, and not what you ain’t. ‘Cause you ain’t what you is, if you is what you ain’t.”

True. So true.


Body, Mind, and Soul—and Pecan Pies

Today I baked two Chocolate Chip Pecan Pies. One was baked in a homemade crust that was waiting for me in the fridge. The other was baked in a store-bought crust I picked up this morning. Both pies were for thanking folks.

I based the pies on a church lady recipe from a church lady cookbook. Here’s what’s in it if you want to give it a go:

Homemade or Store-bought pie crust (both worked GREAT and looked equally appetizing)

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup corn syrup (dark or light will work–I used dark)

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup melted butter


chocolate chips

Mix together the eggs, sugar, salt, butter, and syrup by hand. Line the bottom of the prepared shell with pecans and chocolate chips–just enough to cover the bottom. Pour the mixture over the top of the pecans and chocolate chips. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for 1 hour or until knife comes out clean (one hour worked for me).

I just love the way that sugary, syrupy stuff looks when I’m pouring it over the chips and nuts. And the smell is downright intoxicating. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get to taste any of the pie today. I baked them for two of our son’s teachers–music and P.E.

They don’t teach my son every day, but they do see him once or twice a week, and I really believe in the impact they both have on kids’ education. It’s been known for a long time that balance works–body, mind, and soul must all be in sync to help us function at our best. I know this is true for all of us, but I think it’s especially true for little boys.

Anybody who thinks that the education system of our country will improve by skimping on physical education and the arts is just WRONG. When my kid gets enough exercise, he sleeps better and eats better. When he has a song to sing or an instrument to explore, his mind is sharper and his heart is happier.

Who doesn’t feel better when they sing?

So I wanted to thank them. These two terrific people make my son’s life richer, so they make mine richer, too.

Who makes your life richer?

How can you let them know how grateful you are? Do it today!

Fingerprints and Pineapple Cream Pie

I’m gonna go ahead and show you today’s pie, Pineapple Cream Pie, before something crazy happens to that meringue. Right now, it looks just right. The meringue made an interesting design and behaved properly by becoming toasty brown in the oven set at 350 degrees.

But we shall see…

Making this pie was more of a process that I thought. I found the recipe on the internet–always a gamble. Even more risky was the fact that the original baker was unnamed, and while I’ve used anonymous recipes before, I always have a curious feeling about it–did they NOT put their name because it turned out really bad? So far, that has not been the case.

I chose this pie because I had crushed pineapple. We’re having company over tonight to watch a movie, which we do about once a month. One of the rules we have for ourselves is not to spend a bunch of money. We already have the movie, and we just make snacks out of what we have around. So Pineapple Cream Pie it is.

I prepared a homemade crust (again, had the stuff–didn’t wanna buy anything), and was reminded once again how I love the feel of that dough in my hands. It is a predictable recipe, so I can count on it feeling exactly the same way between my fingers each time. My fingerprints are all over it, but then they are gone again with kneading.

The filling is made on the stove top. It has crushed pineapple, butter (a whole big yummy stick of it), sugar, 3 egg yolks, cornstarch, and milk. Well, I set the kitchen timer to make sure that my crust had time to cool on the rack–30 minutes. I was thinking I’d have time to kill–wrong! Man, did I stir that filling. And stir. And stir. My sweet husband stirred for a while. I stirred some more. Definitely more than 30 minutes to thicken it up. Custard pies are funny that way–they’re runny…runny….runny….then SUDDENLY, hurry up and get it off the stove before it burns.

I poured the filling into the crust, which was plenty cool by now, and I had a bit left over.

So I ate it.

Warm, sweet, and delicious it was. Licking it off that wooden spoon gave me something to do while I whipped egg whites. And whipped. And whipped. And whipped. Until it was meringue. I spread the meringue carefully on top–all the way to the edges so it wouldn’t shrink up like some kind of awkward pastry beret on my pie. Then into the oven it went–me watching carefully to be sure it didn’t burn.

All the while, my 7-year-old (almost 8, sniff) was working on painting a bird house he’d built. It was a Christmas gift from my mother that we were just getting around to. I love it, because there are no screens. No noises (except for little boy noises). Just imagination and creativity. Perfect.

I complimented him from time to time, admiring his work. He asked me, “Mama, do you think I’m an artist?”

“Yes. Yes, you definitely are an artist.”

I want him to remember–to know–that if an artist is what he wants to be, an artist is what he is. Or at least that I believed he could be one.Fingerprints in dough go away with kneading.

The impressions we make on those we love make a lasting imprint.