By Mary Bryce
Photography by Mary Bryce
There is nothing better than a just-out-of-the-refrigerator cold wedge of pie.
I know from experience; I’ve had a lot of pie in my life. I associate it with long road trips to Oklahoma where, the minute we arrive at my grandma’s house, we’re presented with a gorgeous coconut cream pie from one of the magnificent local greasy-spoon diners.
Coconut cream pie is a classic—custard filling with shredded coconut, mountainous meringue, then more coconut on top, toasted so crispy it’s almost burnt. It’s divine, especially after an eight-hour drive.
It took me a while to come around to pie, though. I believe there are two kinds of people: pie people and cake people. I was a hardcore cake person for most of my life. Other than the aforementioned coconut cream pie, which might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I didn’t like pie—especially a fruit pie like peach. There was something about it—the mouthfeel, I guess, that really turned me off.
But now I’ve grown to appreciate pie and its attributes. It’s the Lone Ranger of the dessert universe as relatively few eateries still feature it on the menu—eschewed to make way for more pretentious items such as crème brûlée, flourless chocolate tortes and sorbettos. Pie tends to be the odd man out; the eccentric cousin of the pastry family—beloved, but still kind of unpredictable. Perhaps this is because pie has a reputation for being difficult, which is deeply unfortunate. Pie making is simple, but finicky. You can’t rush pie.
I had never made a pie until a few years ago. I was flipping through a cookbook, saw a picture of an apple pie, was immediately obsessed and made it that very day. The pie was transcendent, and I instantly became a pie evangelist. This year alone I’ve made peach pie, apple pie, coconut cream pie (though it didn’t measure up to my Oklahoma pie standards), plum-apricot pie, pecan pie with chocolate, blueberry pie, banana cream pie, blueberry-strawberry-nectarine pie, cherry pie and chocolate pie (I may have skipped a few).
My new favorite pie, though—the one that, at this moment, is trumping my love of coconut cream—is pear. Each wedge is beautiful, with slices of pear suspended in custard like pale jewels in stained-glass windows. The flavor is divine: rich custard with mellow fruit, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. And the consistency is perfect; while other fruits often wilt when baking, pears hold up well and provide a lovely, firm contrast to the delicate custard.
Another thing that’s stellar about pie: no matter how badly you think you’ve failed, pie always gets eaten.
And it’s even better when it’s just-out-of-the-refrigerator cold.