Art of the Pie...and Life / by Anne Livingston

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If you would like to know how to make the best pie on the planet, the kind that makes chefs cry out with joy, there is a pie class for you. It’s called Art of the Pie, and it’s taught by the warm and delightful Kate McDermott.

Yesterday I went to Kate’s Pie Cottage in Port Angeles and took this class. She keeps her groups tiny so that each of us students can have her full attention when we need it. The intimate nature of the class also helps us feel relaxed, which is important, because her Pastry Tip #1 states, “Keep everything chilled…especially yourself.”

When I was a kid, I first made a pie using a recipe from a cookbook. I had no pastry cutter and used two knives to cut the flour into the butter to make those pea-sized nuggets. Even that first step filled me with angst, worrying I wasn’t doing it right. I was the antithesis of “chilled.” So was my butter, by the time I was through with it.

Remembering my first pie-making moments and then watching Kate in action was a truly freeing experience. She tossed ingredients in, measuring with her hands, laughing and chatting with us. “Every pie is different,” she told us. She showed us how to measure ingredients by eyeballing it.

My inner kid, anxiously trying to get everything right, just relaxed and went along for the ride in her presence. We made pie, and we were chilled. I was actually a little overheated with excitement, but at least I wasn’t filled with angst.

In case you haven’t figured this out yet (I didn’t, at first), her pastry tips are also life tips. Her other two tips are just as vital to an awesome pie--and life.

Kate's Pastry Tip #2: Keep your boundaries.

Kate's Pastry Tip #3: Vent!

Kate showed us how to make these three Pastry Tips a reality. I think my "boundaries" were a little iffy (my pie dripped a bit in the oven), and this class helped me understand how to work on that, at least with my pies. I wonder if working on pie boundaries will help me with boundaries in life. I could see how making pie is a great activity for life meditation. 

This particular class was actually a gluten-free pie class. She teaches the gluten-free ones every once in a while. Making pie without gluten requires a different set of approaches and techniques. For example, using plastic wrap between yourself and your dough is key to working with it.

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It also helps to use two different rolling pins: a roller with handles works best for rolling out, and the more slender French rod makes it easiest to transport the dough to the pie plate.

Since I’ve only made pies with wheat flour before, it was especially fun to learn gluten-free pie strategies. Gluten-free baking is a relatively new field, and I felt like a baking pioneer working with these techniques. One of the women in my class experimented with different flours. I was impressed with her baking bravery! Just realizing yesterday how many flours and starches are available to us gives me a sense of many possible adventures with piemaking.

My husband, not a pie-lover, tasted some of this pie and, surprisingly, loved it. Remember, this is gluten-free pie, too. As for myself, many times I have enjoyed a slice of pie, only to leave the crust on the plate. I figured I was not a big fan of pie crust. However, this pie? While eating a slice, I would cut a forkful from the tip, then take a bite of that flavorful crust from the edge. At that rate, the crust was gone before the filling. What magic was happening, here?

If you want to know, I recommend learning with Kate. In addition to her classes at Pie Cottage, she also teaches pie camp! There’s one coming up on Whidbey Island this November in case you want to become a complete pie ninja and, you know, have a transformative life experience. Thank you, Kate!