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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Baby Don't You Cry -- Gonna Make a Pie

So, lately I've been feeling stressed. Nothing urgent or terrible: just lots of stuff to do, phone calls unreturned, etc. 

And so I made a pie. 

I both love baking, and am sort of self-dramatizing, and this is one of my favorite movies: 

So it's impossible to make a pie without getting this song in my head: 

And if you want some poignancy to your evening, check out a little about actor/director Adrienne Shelly

But you know what else I love beside pie? Rice pudding. 

Oh, rice pudding. 

I think this might be an example of pure psychological intransigence -- or perhaps some genetic memory. 

My mother's British, and she hates rice pudding. 

Rice pudding is a very British dish. It was imperialistically stolen from India, and then transformed into a stolid British staple. 

So my mother grew up with stuff like rice pudding and was determined to expose me to more exciting, spicy, flavorful food. 

Exciting, spicy, flavorful food is overrated. You know what's awesome? Rice pudding. 

I mean, c'mon. It's like zen in a bowl. Sweetness! And rice! And it's practically digested for you already! 

So, the perfect storm was created when my vegan roomie showed me a book:  Vegan Pie in the Sky. Flipping through it, I came across a recipe: 

"Chai-Spiced Rice Pudding Pie. With a gingersnap crust."

Excuse me. What? 

It must be done. 

Firstly, to make the crust, you need a bunch of gingersnaps. The book suggests you use a blender or food processor to grind the cookies into fine crumbs. 

I really didn't want to put the food processor together or to later clean it. 

So I just put a bunch of vegan gingersnaps into a plastic bag and pounded them with my fists. 

I may have bruised my fist. Just a little. Plus, I was sweating a little by the time I was done. But hey -- a workout + pie + therapy! Win win. 


Plus two tablespoons brown sugar and canola oil, plus ten minutes in at 350 degree oven 

Yes, I would rather bruise my fist than put this guy together: 

You have your priorities; I have mine. 

Then you combine 1 3/4 cup almond milk, plus 16-ounce can of coconut milk, plus 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice, plus 3/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp salt, into a saucepan. 

The only cans of coconut milk we had were 13.6 ounces, so I valiantly opened TWO cans to get 16 ounces, and now have to figure out a use for about 11.2ish ounces of coconut milk. I believe in PRECISION, people. Except when I completely don't. 

You bring all that to a boil and then lower the heat: 

Then you add four chai teabags and a cinnamon stick and let simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. 

Insert joke hear about teabagging, etc. Hey, remember that glorious moment when the Tea Party was calling themselves The Tea Baggers? Man, that was awesome. 

After the rice is tender, remove teabags and stick (snerk!). Mix together 1/2 cup almond milk and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (the recipe says to do this in a measuring cup, but, heck, if you "vigorously" mix this in a measuring cup, it will splatter. Just sayin').  

Then, stream that milk-and-cornstarch mixture into your saucepan. Cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add a few minutes if the rice is still not very, very tender. 

Then turn off heat and add 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. I didn't have lemon juice, and added slightly over 1 tablespoon lime juice instead. I think this worked well, actually, and you know what? Lime or lemon juice is a STRONG flavor. So think about that. 

Then you have rice pudding! 

You pour that mixture onto your crust and wait till it stops steaming.

Yeah, you basically just made rice pudding and put it in a crust you made from crumbled cookies. Really not that hard. 

 Then, cover with plastic wrap or some other covering and put in the fridge for two hours (I left it overnight). Before serving, top with cinnamon and sugar. 

And then...

In the morning...

You know what we had for breakfast? 


You guys, it's everything that's amazing about rice pudding and pie -- combined! The texture is quite solid (impressively so), the gingersnap crust is a great crunchy burst of flavor, the tea adds a delicate flavor, and IT BASICALLY TASTES LIKE RICE PUDDING! 

I've been trying to do some psuedo-deep reflections on what I love about baking.

Before, I'd reflected on this

I was also thinking, what is it about baking that I love so much? It really does just make me so happy, and I realized I'm not sure why. There are obvious thoughts: 1) It's secure and rule-following (or rule-fucking up); 2) You can make variations within a structure (like a poem or short story); 3) It produces sweet things, which I love; 4) It's an area of control and certainty in an increasingly uncertain universe.

And I particularly love making pies. 

I think: 

1) I love making ONE thing. It's contained. It's not an amorphous dish. It's not lots of little things. It's a pie. 

2) It's great to feed people. What's a better feeling than someone eagerly snacking down on what you've made? Nothing. And when you're a fiction writer/writer in general, moments like that -- visible, immediate gratification of the audience -- are rare. Though it makes me uncomfortable in a certain way, how immediate that interaction is, having to watch the person eat the food. There is something to be said for the distance of writing. 

3) Pies are unnecessary. Cooking a meal doesn't sedate me/soothe me in the same way as baking, perhaps because everyone NEEDS to eat. As much as the immediate gratification of feeding someone is addictive (THEY NEED FOOD! And no one NEEDS art, not the in same way), something about an act that's necessary for survival (cooking) doesn't appeal to me as much as act that's in many ways, purely decorative and unhealthy and unnecessary (baking). So I love the immediacy of baking, but I also love how ultimately aesthetic and purely for gratification and useless it is as well. 

I'd rather give other people something that's, at its heart, a delicious and unexpected EXTRA, than I would give them something they truly have to rely on. Which says it all, really. In a weird way, that's a more personal gift from me than anything else. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cute post, having similar thoughts and have been wanting to make a pie so this is happening this weekend. :)

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