Wherever David goes, good food and charming people are sure to follow.
While David was playing host to me while I was on the Best Coast, we were invited for dinner – our responsibilities were simple: Taco shells and dessert. (Side note: David taught me how to remember that between desert and dessert, dessert has two “s”s – because you always want more dessert). Taco shells were easy for David – I’m fairly sure that boy can make them in his sleep. Dessert however was a little tougher. Yes we could’ve bought something and been done with it, but 1) I’m a baker, and that doesn’t stop just because I’m in someone else’s kitchen and 2) it wouldn’t have gone with the pot-luck, impromptu, communal, “we’re in this together” affair that dinner was becoming.
With just a few hours and no recipe on hand, we went with a no-bake pie. The make-shift recipe will follow but this is the moment where I need to reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with assembling something. Absolutely nothing. I bake. When I bake, I like to make everything from scratch. Not because I’m (purely) pretentious, but because I’m selfish and curious and I like to know how things are made. Different strokes for different folks and whatnot. When you share a meal, something you’ve taken the time to create and assemble and make for another person, you’re showing them that you care. That you thought enough to give up some of your limited time to make them something. The experience of making something edible for another, be it a sandwich at lunch or a 5 layer chocolate cake for their birthday is amongst the ultimate in selfless giving of yourself to another. When the meal is done, there is nothing left of your efforts except for the memories (and the dirty dishes). That’s why I bake. Because I can’t say ‘I love you’ to the people I love the most – sometimes I even find it a challenge to even be moderately nice to them (this is because I’m an emotionally stunted human being. Or a bitch.) I try to show them in some form of caramel covered way how very much they mean to me. What this is, is a longwinded way of saying that much like your mom told you when you gave her that cobbled together birthday card that was misspelled and drawn on the back of the Rice Krispies box, “It’s the thought that counts”.
So, back to pie. If you’ve never made pie before – this will be your perfect starter pie! It’ll be the Ikea assembly of Pie. Sweet, sweet Berry & Cream pie. This may require a stroll down the aisles of your local Safeway/Whole Foods/Loblaws/D’Agostino’s but I assure you, this will be as pain-free and breezy as pie will ever be.
Start by picking up some berries. I suggest whatever’s in season/on sale. If organic is an option, do it – mainly because it’s hard to wash all the pesticides off berries (Side note: Do you know that in most restaurants/bakeries, they don’t wash their berries? They just brush them with a wet paper towel to remove visible dirt. This is to keep the berries from wilting. #themoreyouknow). For the sake of this pie, the strawberries was just so red and juicy and fantastic-looking that I couldn’t resist – but if we were making this pie now, blueberries would be my berry of choice.
Next, swing by the baking aisle and pick up the following:
- Graham Cracker Pie Crust. This stuff is magic. It’s got to be, it’s made by elves. Tasty cream filled elves.
- Instant pudding. Vanilla is always a safe bet. French vanilla if you’re feeling extra fancy. Chocolate or lemon if you’re a daring maniac.
- Vanilla extract (if you don’t already have some tucked away in the back of your pantry)
- Powdered sugar (or confectioner’s sugar, or superfine sugar – whatever they call the white baby-powder sugar in your neck of the woods).
Last things last: enough milk to make the pudding & heavy whipping cream (if you have a hand mixer) or whipped cream (if you don’t) (A note on whipping cream – if you don’t bake, and you don’t have a hand mixer, I don’t suggest you do it by hand. You will go blind. Or at the very least, hate your life for the 7-10 minutes of whisking it’ll take and you will never, ever, ever want to make anything ever again. #realtalk, ok? Trust me on this). Now, pay for these things and go home.
Once home, put on some music. Preferably something happy, something that encourages twirling around and singing really loudly and something you would otherwise deny having in your iTunes library (ie – Showtunes, early 90’s Kylie Minogue, Disney – you get the point). Wash your hands (hygiene people, it’s very important). Now you’re ready to start. Wash your berries and set them out on a clean kitchen towel or some paper towel to dry out. If you’re going with strawberries, core them and cut them down the center. Make the pudding according to the directions (add cold milk to powder, mix) and add a dash more vanilla. Pour into the pie (after you remove the protective plastic layer) (Side note: keep this protective plastic. It’ll be the lid for your pie when you’re done. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Captain Planet thanks you!).
If you’re making your own whipped cream (and I suggest you do, the tasty goodness is worth investing $15 for a meh mixer at Bed, Bath, Beyond, not to mention the bragging rights of “Oh, the cream? Fresh, organic and homemade, no biggie.” when we all know – total biggie). Pour about 1 cup of cream into a large measuring cup or bowl, add in some powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla (I don’t mean to be vague, it’s up to your taste – start with 1/3 cup of sugar – you can always add more). Beat on medium speed with your hand mixer until it stiffens up. Taste (with a clean spoon) and see if you need to add more sugar. If not, keep mixing. Stop when you can pull the mixer up and there are peaks of creamy goodness remaining in the bowl.
Spread the whipped cream across the top of the pie – you can use the back of a big spoon to do this. If you’re using store-bough cream (and again, no judgement – we’re in a judgement free circle of trust here), spread/spray it across the top of the pie. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, you’re going to cover it with sweet, sweet berries. Now cover said pie with sweet, sweet berries. Flip the protective plastic over so it domes over the pie and pinch the metal sides of the pie pan to cover it. Pop your pie in the fridge and let it set for an hour. It’ll keep for a day or so like this. I don’t suggest longer than that though because the cream will wilt and the berries will sweat. (Ewwwww. Sweaty berries).
Now go over to someone’s house and say “I made you a pie.” and hopefully they share the pie with you. And it will be good. Because pie is comforting. It’s domestic. It’s classic. It’s far from fancy and it is what it is.
Berries & Cream Pie
1 Graham Cracker Crust
2 pts Berries
1 package Instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk, cold
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioner sugar (plus more if necessary)
Or Pre-made Whipped Cream
Dash of vanilla extract (optional)
Put on music. I seriously mean this step. Everything is dependent on this.
Wash berries, core and cut in half if necessary. Spread out on clean cloth to dry.
Prepare pudding according to package directions, adding a dash of vanilla if desired.
Whip cream, dash of vanilla and confectioner sugar until stiff peaks form.
Pour pudding into pie shell and smooth out.
Spread whipped cream across the top of the pudding layer.
Cover with berries, drying if necessary.
Chill for an hour.
Share and eat.