at the end of last week, a friend had a couple of us over. while sipping wine and hard cider, we decided after what had been an emotionally trying couple of days, we really didn’t want to go anywhere. so we stayed in and watched waitress. it’s a movie starring a pie-making waitress, which is a concept I can get behind. she’s a lovely female protagonist who is undeniably strong. these days, “strong” female protagonists are often portrayed as physically strong, like katniss or captain marvel. but waitress reminds us that a woman can stand on her own without the muscles, she can love to bake and be domestic and a good mother, can recognize that she does not need achieve a relationship with a man and instead can choose to create her own happiness. the main character also opens up her own pie shop at the end of the movie, which is totally my wish fulfillment.
the movie really resonated with me because strength is a concept I’ve often struggled with – growing up with an asian face in a predominantly white area, I often felt so nonexistent, I wasn’t even worth being bullied. as a short, weak, not particularly coordinated person in a middle school that valued sports above all else, I rarely felt strong. even our current administration advocates for and celebrates shows of military might as the state department, essential for advancing american interests abroad through diplomacy, has hollowed out as career foreign service employees depart. it took me a long time to realize that my insecurities about weakness came not from some failure in personality on my part, but rather in the ridiculous concept of hard power that my teachers and peers bought into, oftentimes subconsciously, and preached it to me as truth.
so anyways, here’s a pie recipe, a sweet treat tempered by salt flakes, sure to win hearts and minds. soft power takes place in many forms, and food is undeniably one. it is long past time to do away with the problematic concept that physical might equals strength, and that those who lack it must therefore be helpless. in the words of jenna from waitress, “I don’t want you to save me. I don’t need to be saved.”
makes one 9-inch pie
350g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
227g (1 cup) unsalted european-style butter (I used kerrygold), straight from the fridge
1/2 cup ice-cold water-vinegar mixture
142g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
322g (1 cup) grade b maple syrup
165g (3/4 cup) packed light brown sugar
30g (1/4 cup) fine yellow cornmeal
heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
85g (3/4 cup) heavy cream, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
lisa ludwinski. sister pie: recipes and stories from a detroit bakery. new york: lorena jones books, 2018.
2 in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt and stir to mix well.
3 place sticks of butter in bowl and coat on all sides with flour mixture. using a bench scraper, cut butter into 1/2-in cubes. work quickly to separate cubes with hands until they are lightly coated in flour. with bench scraper, cut each cube roughly in half.
4 using pastry blender, begin to cut into butter with one hand while turning bowl with the other. (I like to slice from top to bottom of bowl while rotating the bowl.) when pastry blender clogs up, use butter knife to clean it out, then use hands to toss ingredients a bit. continue to blend and turn until largest pieces are size and shape of peas and remainder of mixture looks and feels like canned Parmesan cheese (sandy texture).
5 add water-vinegar mixture all at once, then using bench scraper, scrape as much of mixture as you can from one side of bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore.
6 using hands, scoop up as much of mixture as you can, then use tips of fingers to firmly press it back down into the rest of the ingredients. rotate bowl a quarter-turn and repeat: scoop, press, turn. as you rotate, incorporate any dry, floury bits that remain at the bottom of the bowl.
7 remove dough from bowl, place on lightly floured counter, use bench scraper to divide into two equal pieces (~350g each). gently pat each into a 2-in-thick disc, then wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours (ideally overnight). pie dough will keep in fridge for up to 3 days or in freezer for up to 1 year. if frozen, move dough to refrigerator to thaw 1 full day before using it.
8 on lightly floured surface, roll out disk of dough until it is 12-13 inches in diameter, rolling from the center toward the edge in all directions. lift and rotate dough every few rolls, sprinkling with flour when necessary to prevent sticking, and work quickly before dough becomes warm and sticky. carefully transfer to pie tin/dish, pressing gently into the bottom and sides. trim the dough so there is a 2-3 inch overhang, then roll overhang towards center of pie, creating a ring of dough. crimp in whatever style you prefer.
9 chill shell for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or freeze for up to 2 weeks).
10 preheat oven to 450ºF.
11 line pie dish with parchment paper, then fill with pie weights, rice, or beans right up to the bottom of the crimps. place dish on a baking sheet. transfer baking sheet to oven and bake for 25-27 minutes, until crimps are light golden brown. remove baking sheet from oven and place on cooling rack. after 6 minutes, remove foil and weights.
filling|1 preheat oven to 350ºF.
2 in large bowl, combine melted butter and maple syrup. whisk in brown sugar, cornmeal, and kosher salt.
3 crack eggs and yolk into medium bowl. add cream and vanilla and whisk until combined.
4 slowly pour egg mixture into maple mixture and whisk until just combined.
finishes|1 place blind-baked shell on parchment-lined baking sheet. brush crimped edge with beaten egg. pour maple filling into pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps (you may have some filling left over).
2 transfer baking sheet with pie on it to oven and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until edges are puffed and center jiggles slightly when shaken.
3 remove baking sheet from oven and transfer pie to wire rack to cool for 4-6 hours. once fully cooled and at room temperature, sprinkle generously with flaky salt, slice, and serve.
4 store leftover pie, well-wrapped in plastic wrap or under pie dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.