Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ten Best Pies and Cobblers(IMHO)

I can resist most desserts. Ice Cream, even homemade vanilla with peaches doesn't make my knees week. Chocolate, I can do without. I can skip all manner of puddings, parfaits and bon bons. What I cannot pass by however is a well-made pie.

By "well-made" I mean one that has a crisp, flaky crust and some manner of fruit inside it. I'm partial to fruit, although there is one non-fruit entry in my list and only one woman in the world who can make it. The list herewith is personal and by no means exhaustive. I've made no attempt to rank my favorite pies in order of goodness. Instead I have included only pies which would be the best in the world at the time I happen to be in the mood for just that one special pie.

The List:

Marie Callendar Razzleberry Pie - This is one of the few store bought pies I include on this list. I include it because it is so danged good. It's a combination of blackberry, raspberry and apples. I can't always find it down at the grocery store, but when I spot one, I grab it along with a tub of Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream - the only proper ice cream for eating with pie (unless you hand crank up my grandmother's special recipe vanilla ice cream).

Sam's/Wal-Mart's giant bakery lattice apple pie - Wal-Mart makes a huge lattice top apple pie that rivals anybody's anywhere. You can get them at Sam's almost any time and for the price you can't beat it. It's not too sweet and the filling is more fruity than most store-bought pies. It can take days to eat one, they're so huge.

Mama's Homemade Peach Cobbler - Okay it's not exactly a pie. It's better. The recipe is superb, it's more peachy. She goes easy on the spices so that great flavor comes through and the pie filling isn't so juicy that you forget there's peaches in there. This is the way a proper cobbler is made in the south.  Just follow that recipe and you'll be unhappy with any other peach pie or cobbler you ever eat again.  I promise. 

Aunt Sheila's Homemade Chocolate Meringue Pie - This pie can only be made from scratch. The recipe starts from cocoa and is all about timing. My Sweet Baboo doesn't like meringue most of the time, but for this pie, she makes an exception. It's also good with Cool Whip or Whip Cream on it, but it's absolutely magnificent with meringue. This thing is hard to resist and I don't even like chocolate pie!

Uncle Tom's Lemon Meringue Pie - This isn't one of those fancy lemon cream pies or icebox lemon pies. Those things are way too sweet.  This lemon pie is a simple Jello Lemon Pudding and Pie filling pie. The secret is Mrs. King's pie crust which I cannot now duplicate and despair of ever being able to reproduce. I'm working on the recipe and will include a link later if you want to give it a try. I love this kind of pie.  I get one of these for my birthday every year instead of a cake (another dessert I can easily resist).

Tart Cherry Pie - Most cherry pies are far too sweet and syrupy. I like mine fruity and with a lot less sugar than most folk use. I like a cherry pie that contrasts with the ice cream, not one that overpowers it. With this one, I like a little evaporated milk instead of ice cream so I can taste the cherries properly. I've never eaten a store-made cherry pie that quite makes the grade.

Wild Blackberry Cobbler -  A proper wild blackberry cobbler is one where you went out and gathered the blackberries yourself. This recipe can also be made as a pie or a nice lattice cobbler. Either way it's tart, not too sweet and a perfect framework for a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. It's not nearly as good if you bought the berries. To fully enjoy this you have to be picking thorns out of your fingers as you eat it.
Quick Peach Cobbler - This unique little recipe is one of my guiltier pleasures and, in my opinion, the only thing cake mix is truly useful for. It's made by mixing up cake batter, pouring it into a casserole disk with a thick layer of melted butter in the bottom and then pouring in some peaches. The cake batter crisps on the bottom and side from the hot butter and wraps itself around the peaches to make a nice buttery/peachy cobbler that you can whip up in a few minutes. This recipe offers a from-scratch cake batter, but you can use the kind in the box quite as well. The trick is to make the outside of the crust crispy so you get the nice contrast between the butter and the peaches.

Pumpkin Pie - I love pumpkin pie because it is the only proper pie to serve for breakfast. It's much better after it's spent the night in the fridge and you take it out and eat it chilled with maybe a little whipped cream. It really needs nothing. The kind you make with canned pumpkin is just fine. The only thing is not to overdue the spices. The spices should set off the flavor of the pumpkin, not overwhelm it.  This is a nice recipe. Just adjust the spice to suit your taste.

Southern Pecan Pie -  Pecan pies are rather sweeter than any of the other pies I've included in this list, but, made properly, they absolutely make my favorite pie list. Pecan pie is all about the crust and the nuts. The crust has to be flaky and delicious to offset the sweet filling. I like my pecan pies long on the pecans and short on the filling. I find that 99% of store-bought pecan pie is only faux pecan pie. They put some pecans on top with some cracker filling around them so it looks like more pecans than there are.  In the south, we just drive around till we find a pecan tree hanging over the grader ditch, knock enough off for a couple of pies and take 'em home to shell. There is no excuse for skimping on a pecan pie in the south except that you just don't have any self-respect. If you don't have enough for a proper top coat of pecans on your pie, make brownies instead. I mean really people.....

The secret to a good pie is the crust. Any decent cook will tell you that. Everybody has their own way of doing it.  My wife's recipe is the best I've seen.  I'll add the link as soon as I torture her to get the recipe.
Dang! Now I'm gonna have to go make a pie. And my diet was coming along so well.

Tom King

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