The sugar cookies drying on the rack are sporting bright white, reds, and blues, but there is a distinct hint of apple pie spice in the air. For some of us, the upcoming holiday has the potential to trigger Pie Traumatic Shock Syndrome, a malady afflicting professional pie bakers who have experienced one too many Thanksgivings. As the 4th of July inches its way towards the bakery, it feels all too familiar; I can only think of it as Thanksgiving Junior.
Pie seekers become a touch over zealous this week, tossing about words like ‘lattice’ and ‘double crust,’ ‘crumble,’ and the dreaded ‘torched meringue.’ In the bakery, we are combing through flats of blueberries, trimming green caps from strawberries and removing lethal foliage from the last hurrah of rhubarb. What troubles me is the fact that the 4th falls on a Wednesday this year, making it nearly impossible to pinpoint the ebb and flow of the retail public. Some folks will kick off their star-spangled holiday this Friday, celebrating throughout the weekend and returning to work on Monday. Luckier still are those embracing this weekend and tacking on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for an abundant holiday. Those who return to the office next Thursday will have a mere two-day work week before staring down another weekend.
From my flour-dusted vantage point in the kitchen, it appears that much of the neighborhood is already on a summer long vacation. There is a steady stream of individuals sporting untucked gingham, cherry splashed sundresses, and cropped nautical stripes. There is a fair share of madras, as well. Sipping cold brew through paper straws, they are footloose and gluten-free, carrying beach reads purchased from the local bookstore. They pause for iced caffeination, and I watch them with envy. Their summer days are filled with organic gardening, chlorinated swims, lazy lunches and firefly lit evenings. Something called Zen Habits tells me to stop being so judgy, but old habits are as difficult to quit as two shots of espresso over ice every morning.
In anticipation of the uncertainty of this weekend and the onslaught of last minute pie orders, we are gearing up at the workplace. Butter is melting out of the pate brisée and blueberries are rolling underfoot. The walk-in refrigerator is stacked high with strawberries, ‘barb, and out-of-season apples. On Saturday morning at 8am, sixteen pies sliced to feed 150 guests will leave the bakery enroute to a wedding many exits off the Garden State Parkway. The weather channel indicates Saturday’s mercury will reach 95 degrees. Come on; doesn’t that sound like a Kool and the Gang celebration to you?
My dance card is too full this week to squeeze in time for personal pie-ing. Pitting the requisite seven cups of cherries needed to fill a deep-dish Emile Henri 9” vessel will have to wait. Instead, I’m letting the pie plates in my kitchen sleep late, dreaming of sweet cherries and peaches yet to come. Instead, I’ve opted to bake an open-faced, free-form, slap-dash pastry. Suitable for both breakfast and dessert, it is filled with early summer cherries and yellow nectarines. Despite what summer revelers believe, it’s just too early for peaches. Good pies come to those who wait, and those who refuse to wait will probably celebrate with apple pie this weekend. There’s no joy in being the Debbie Downer of pies, but trust me, it is too early to tuck your forks into apple or peach pies. For those who hurry and order between the hours of 8am and 4pm tomorrow, strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry pies can be part of their 4th of July festivities. I’ll be baking, lattice-ing and crumble-ing for as long as supplies last. After that, you can celebrate the Nation’s birthday with apples brimming in cinnamon and a hint of nutmeg. A scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream will certainly enhance your Thanksgiving Junior experience, but remember to acknowledge the seasonality of fruit. For those of you haunted by the fear of missing out, relax; everything will be peachy in just a few short weeks.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm