Stacking pies in Karen's family is genetic. I'm not sure if that's a dominant or recessive gene, but I'm pretty damn happy I married into it.
Karen has spent a considerable time on Ancestry.com this year. Inspired by Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s PBS show and Who Do You Think You Are (hi, Lisa Kudrow), she's mapped back her roots to England, Scotland, Germany, and France. She says she's a mutt of Europe with some haphazard Dutch, Polish, and Swiss thrown in there for kicks.
The first time Karen got on Ancestry.com, she sat in the same chair for five hours. It's like porn for the historically-inclined.
Her Puritan roots are shocking if you know her (hello, hotness). But she's more than a little proud that her relative, Giles Corey, was crushed to death in the Salem Witch Trials. Since I used to teach The Crucible to high schoolers, I find this mental jag a little hard to comprehend. The old man that got crushed to death in Arthur Miller's play was actually related to my wife? Why couldn't it be the crazy girl who started all the lies? She's way cooler. But I guess old crushed guy is better than nothing.
Karen has also discovered that she is related to William Wallace, also known as Braveheart (insert sad Mel Gibson joke here). I try to tell her that all people with vaguely Scottish roots magically find themselves related to William Wallace. She tells me to go shove it up my English roots.
(As I'm writing this, Karen asked me if I mentioned the Mayflower. Yes, Karen, here is your fancy Mayflower comment. Your relatives were on the Mayflower. You are a better person than I am. Now do my family lines, please, so I may use this knowledge against you during arguments over who will vacuum the Cheerios off the playroom floor.)
But the best thing she discovered in her research? Her relatives in North Carolina. Cabins in the Laural detailed information about her extended family here in the US. And these fine people stacked pies.
The best part of the book is when it shared details about family gatherings. People came from all over the mountainous area of NC for these gatherings, a pie in hand. And at these gatherings, they stacked their pies.
Each pie from a family was stacked on top of another's pie. And again and again. The pies could become ridiculously high. Four, five, six, or more pies stacked on top of each other, creating something new out of their collective parts. When Karen read this, she demanded we do it for ourselves.
Some family traditions are worth passing down. Even if you never knew about them until you read a book.
And after trying it, you must make this a family tradition. Get your damn pies up.
When starting on any pie adventure, we go straight to our favorite pie source, Melissa Clark.
Her crust will save the world from its sins, whatever they may be. Put down your recipe cards, my friends. Liberty and truth and a pie crust dough that feels like velvet is within your reach. Perfection here on earth was attained by Melissa Clark and a few blitzes of her food processor. Stop your struggle for contentment and forgiveness, for lo, Melissa Clark has created it for you in the pulse, pulse, pulse of your KitchenAid.
So, her pie crust is pretty good. You should make it.
Then, on to Melissa's lemon tart filling. We (and by "we," I mean the descendant of William Wallace) decided to take Melissa's lemon tart filling and shove it into her perfect pie crust. Karen cooked the lemon pie for a few more minutes that Melissa states for her lemon tart until there's just a hint of golden to the top of the filling and the pie looks set. 2-5 minute increments over the stated baking time will get you there. Stop drinking and use your timer and your eye balls. You can do this!
For our second and third pies, we knew we wanted to do a baked blueberry and baked strawberry. Fresh versions of both are wonderful of course, but we wanted to try baked, especially for the strawberry. But here's the thing...the first baked strawberry pie we made was not good. Not good at all. We shall keep the name of the owner of that recipe to ourselves.
So we went in search of a better pie.
Our friend Google helped us find @sassyradish's Blueberry Strawberry Pie. Gorgeous. And oh, looky, looky. She adapted it from a recipe that someone named Melissa Clark did in a book with White House chef, Bill Yosses. The recipe that inspired Olga came from The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion that Melissa and Chef Bill wrote together. This is a must-have book. And Olga's is a must-read site.
What sent the Blueberry Strawberry pie over the edge into brilliance is the thyme in the filling. You must not leave it out. The thyme hits your mouth in surprising ways making you wonder what that great flavor is...and then you remember it's the thyme you popped in there.
We left off any top crust from the pie in case we were bordering on too much stacked crust as if there ever could be such a thing. I don't think you need to make that choice, but it's your life.
Together...lemon tart + intense blue/strawberry + a soul-healing pie crust? Well, how do you think it tasted? Like the best pie. Ever. x2.
You must stack your pies. Karen's ancestors knew what they were doing. This is a tradition to start today.
I promise they'll write books about it.
Recipe | Whole Lemon Tart adapted from Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite
For the pie crust, we followed Melissa's All-Butter Pie Crust here. Prebake it as directed.
For the lemon filling
- 2 large lemons
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Lower the oven on to 325 F.
- Zest the lemons. Place zest into a food processor.
- Supreme the lemons. If you don't know how to do this, follow Melissa's video.
- Put the supremed lemon pieces in with the zest. Finally together, with that pith removed. Let them have some alone time. Make some lemon babies.
- Throw in the sugar, cornstarch, salt.
- Blitz on. When combined, stop. Don't overthink this.
- Dump the contents into a bowl. Give it a thumbs up and tell the mixture it did great.
- In another bowl, dump the butter, egg and yolks, and vanilla. Whisk a bit until uniform.
- Dump the egg mixture into the lemon mixture. Play some sexy music and have a sip of wine (optional)
- Whisk! Whisk for your life! Or until the mixture is combined.
- Pour into the parbaked pie crust.
- Bake for 30 minutes and check it. We're looking for a very lightly browned surface. You may need up to 5 more minutes, so stop drinking and pay attention to your pie.
- Take the pie out of the oven and let it cool completely.
- Do a slow sway of your hips, side to side. You did it. Turn the sexy music up a little and dance.
- Feel free to make this pie a day before stacking.