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For Dessert Lover, Baking is Never Easy as Pie

by on July 30, 2014 6:00 AM

I'm really good at buying pie.

I get an extra slice to share, sometimes with myself, and always purchase some vanilla ice cream from Meyer Dairy or The Creamery.

I try hard to leave some for breakfast the following morning. I may even stick a dollop of ice cream in my coffee.

As for making pie? Dealing with the mess of flour, getting the persnickety edible playdough to form into something resembling a crust and wielding a rolling pin? I'd leave that to the experienced folks.

Yet it seemed, at least on social media, like everyone was turning local summer treasures into pie. Plus, in the midst of promoting the pie contest Friends & Farmers Cooperative is hosting Saturday, August 2, at Pennsylvania Organic FarmFest, I was asking others to do what I hadn't done myself. It's a "people's choice-style" contest and everyone, from amateur bakers to those who wouldn't dare bake a pie crust without fluting it first, is encouraged to enter.

The photos, recipes and pictures of just-picked local peaches enticed me. So when I drove by Harner Farm last week, I pulled in and asked the woman at the farm stand how many peaches I needed to make a pie. Next, I e-mailed my professional baker friend, who told me to consult food writer Melissa Clark's "Perfect Crust." The recipe looked deceptively easy.

"We're going to make pie," I excitedly told my 6-year-old daughter, forgetting for a moment that she stubbornly doesn't want to participate in anything that interests me. (Sound familiar, Mom?)

"No we're not," my daughter said, matter-of-factly.

In the end, I enticed her with the rolling pin, which I had to excavate from the Drawer of Neglected Kitchen Tools. The science of baking sustained her interest. She kept sticking her fingers in the ice water, then rubbing them on the dough ball and observing the changes in consistency. The Beiler Family Farm butter I purchased at the farmers market was another point of interest. "It looks like ice cream, Mom," she said. "I want to eat it."

An hour later when it was time to take the dough ball out of the fridge and roll it out, I started wishing my daughter wasn't around. Because I really wanted to curse. I didn't seem to have enough dough. No matter how much I rolled it, it wouldn't stretch out enough to fill the bottom of the pie pan. There'd be no fluting for me. I also couldn't stretch the dough without breaking it.

I'm sure most first-timers end up rolling their dough out several times before producing something worth baking, but I knew I was about to lose my daughter to an art project or her Smurf collection. So I stuck the dough in the pan and hoped for the best.

After I piled the homemade peach filling on top, I suddenly wondered if I had made a big mistake: my pie was naked. I didn't have enough dough for a top crust. Fortunately, I had the internet and within minutes came back downstairs with a recipe for an Almond-Streusel topping. Satisfied, we transferred our creation into the oven.

A heavenly smell filled our house as I wiped, washed and vacuumed several cups of flour from my kitchen and daughter. By the time I was finished, so was the pie.

It was 3 p.m. and I couldn't wait for dessert, so I shared a few warm slices with my kids. And you know what? It tasted amazing.

The whole experience was messy, not all that pretty, and completely worthwhile. Kind of like parenting.

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Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of StateCollege.com. Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMStateCollege or contact her at mitchmarchetti@gmail.com
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