Let it be known that the only reason I am awake right now is because I knew there was a pie waiting for me in the fridge when my alarm rang at 6:00 this morning. After a string of overwhelming days, there is another full day ahead today . . . and while it's full of many enjoyable things, I am not a person who functions well on little sleep and lots of work, so I surprised myself by not even hitting snooze this morning. Atypically, my alarm rang, and I thought to myself, Breakfast! and hopped out of bed. Or stumbled, more accurately. But still. The fact remains: Pie got me out of bed this morning.
Pie from the Facebook "Pie Party" event, contributed by Michelle Dunkerton.
Yesterday, thanks to the blogging world, was pie day. Seattle writer and food genius Shauna James Ahern (the Gluten Free Girl), along with a few of her equally food-loving colleagues, hosted a giant, international Pie Party via social media. What started as a conversation between friends who wished they could bake together turned into a Facebook event page with over 1,500 people marked as "attending."
This, in my opinion, is social media at its best: 1,500 people, most of whom have never met, all "attending" the same event by doing the same thing on the same day and sharing photos and stories about it. Or perhaps this is social media at its best: hundreds and hundreds of shared pie-baking anecdotes, pictures, and (let's not forget) recipes. Overnight, Facebook and Twitter became two of the best resources for innovative pie recipes on the entire web. Who would have guessed?
My personal pie-baking history is not unlike the stories told by many others who observed the day. I think I may have made three pies in my entire life. My grandmother makes what is arguably the best apple pie in the country, and attempting to make a pie in her shadow always felt a little pointless. Regardless of how good my pie was, it would simply never be that good. After a couple of mediocre tries, I realized this and gave up. Then came the day when I could no longer eat my grandma's pies, due to gluten intolerance. The whole idea of pie suddenly seemed hopeless and futile. (Yes, really. That dramatic.)
Enter the Pie Party.
I hadn't even thought about making pie for years. But with an entire Twitterfeed suddenly overwhelmed by pie tweets, there was no way to continue ignoring the topic. Inspired by Ahern's encouragement in one of her posts - None of this has to be perfect. [...] It's pie. - I clicked "attending" on the Facebook event and called my mother for a recipe suggestion.
My mom is not gluten-free, but she owns a recipe book for every possible situation, and her latest find happens to be one titled, Quinoa 365. I call and I say, "I want to make a strawberry pie," and she says, "Oh, I have a new book!" And off I go. Armed with berries from the farmer's market, a list of potential supplementary recipe suggestions, and an untested pie crust from an untested book of recipes, I jump in.
Quinoa is the epitome of trendy these days, but should in no way be discounted as such. Unlike rice flour and many other gluten-free flours, quinoa flour is high in protein and bears a distribution of protein/carbohydrate/fat similar to that of all-purpose flour. Really, really expensive all-purpose flour. A pound of quinoa flour from Bob's Red Mill will most likely cost you somewhere between $10 and $11. (It's fortunate I don't make pie that often.)
With foreboding, I began assembling the recipe, prepared to battle it out with distressing and vague pie instructions like "Cut butter into flour until it resembles coarse crumbs." But what I found instead, was simply this...
Basic Pie Crust, from Quinoa 365
The combination of flours makes a stable, no-roll crust suitable for liquid fillings such as fruit. It [...] is slightly less flaky than a regular flour pie crust....To make gluten free, use tapioca flour in place of the whole wheat flour.
Quinoa flour Whole wheat flour or tapioca flour White or cane sugar (optional) Ground cinnamon Butter, melted and slightly cooled 1 Tbsp water Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, sugar and cinnamon if using, in a medium bowl and mix well. Blend in the melted butter. Add the water and use your hands to form a soft dough. Press evenly into a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. If baking the shell empty, bake on the center oven rack for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding filling. If baking filled, bake according to the original recipe instructions, covering with foil if the edges become dark. Note: If using a liquid filling such as fruit, prebake the crust for 7 to 8 minutes prior to filling and baking.
Whole wheat flour or tapioca flour
White or cane sugar (optional)
Butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 Tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, sugar and cinnamon if using, in a medium bowl and mix well. Blend in the melted butter. Add the water and use your hands to form a soft dough. Press evenly into a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate.
If baking the shell empty, bake on the center oven rack for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding filling. If baking filled, bake according to the original recipe instructions, covering with foil if the edges become dark. Note: If using a liquid filling such as fruit, prebake the crust for 7 to 8 minutes prior to filling and baking.
Really? That's all? In about 10 minutes, the crust was pre-baking in the oven, and I was mashing strawberries according to directions for a strawberry glaze pie from Taste of Home online. The whole thing assembled with alarming ease.
I fell asleep in a house that smelled exotic, the rich, sweet and earthy smell of cinnamon and quinoa. And when I woke up, it was to a breakfast of the same. A strawberry glaze, often too sweet for my taste, neatly offset by the nutty, "whole-grain" flavor of the quinoa crust. It was not your average pie crust, and when they said "a little less flaky," they meant "texture similar to shortbread."
So. Much. Happy.
But for the quickest, most painless pie-baking experience of my life, it was (I mean, is... I didn't eat the whole thing yet) not only relatively successful, but also satisfying and quite delightful. Most importantly, it was confidence building, and I might try a more daring pie next time.
Meanwhile, I think I will go purchase this quinoa cookbook. And should you wish to join the rest of the world in affirming that pie is the new cool thing, try browsing the aftermath of the Pie Party Facebook page for recipes (both gluten free and conventional), or log in to Twitter and search the hashtags #pieday and #pieparty.