The weather Gods smiled upon us Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The last of the summer peaches were ripening in the sun, early autumn apples were fresh for the picking and the tubs of Door County, Wisconsin cherries had arrived as promised. In fact, legend boasted that it had never rained on the previous Revivals. Note to self: never say never.
With the voice of Marvin Gaye pouring out of the makeshift iphone speakers, we were on a roll and a crimp. Dakota was a formidable partner in pie crime, blanching, peeling and slicing peaches, blind-baking crusts and navigating pounds of sugared apples beneath circles of pate brisee. She is gifted with good baker’s hands, and the sunniest of dispositions. She also washed an arsenal of dishes, never once complaining.
The oven timers beeped constantly, reminding us to rotate trays, cover edges with strips of foil to prevent over-browning and catch wayward fillings. I was painstakingly doing Baker’s Math, checking and double checking my recipes while stock pots of wild blueberries and sour cherries reduced on the stove. The crumble for the cherry pies was tempting, and we nibbled on dark brown sugar, toasted almonds and oats.
The long wooden dining room table groaned under the weight of the pie parade. We had commandeered every available surface in the kitchen as well. Pies rested on cooling racks, their aroma a medley of sweet and spicy, fruity and nutty. The fragrance tumbled through the window screen on to Main Street. Apple, (both double-crusted and crumb), blueberry, cherry, peach, pecan and lemony buttermilk.
On Saturday, the weather app on my phone indicated a 30% chance of rain in the morning, inching its way up to 70% by mid-afternoon. Smirking in the face of an inclement forecast, I proceeded full steam ahead. Egg whites and sugar rode the merry-go-round whisk attachment of the red Kitchen Aid mixer. I desperately wanted to believe that my meringue would laugh at the weather and hold their marshmallow swirls high.
Pies were sealed in rain bonnets of commercial plastic wrap and window bakery boxes. The lemon meringue pies didn’t stand a chance. They were not the only ones fighting the elements. By noon, the deluge was steady, a bonafide carwash of rain, causing chefs to don baseball caps and striped woolen hats. Foodie participants huddled in the barns, shoulders hunched against the chill, Popsicle toes inside soaking wet shoes. We were cold and soggy and smelled like a barn full of wet dogs. At one point, I sought refuge in the car for a brief spell, blasting the heat on high. My hair refused to dry, dripping steadily like a leaky water faucet.
The Pie Wheel was relocated from the field to inside the barn. We wiped the water from the pie boxes and set them down on the moist gingham check tabletop. At six o’clock the rain finally called it quits and we assembled for a sumptuous dinner with dessert to follow. Cue the pies.
Overall, the pies were a great success and 80 pies is indeed a fine warm-up for that November pie holiday. Will I include lemon pies on the Thanksgiving menu? Doubtful.
As of this writing, I am back in the bakery and just in time for the first holiday of the season. Apples and honey will take center stage next week with nary a lemon nor an egg white in sight.
But not to worry. In honor of the 2014 LongHouse Food Revival, our beloved and witty Media Lab Director Megan brilliantly dubbed the signature dessert of the weekend; she calls it lemon meraingue.