Aunt Linda here….
It is predawn in the Old Pueblo, summer constellations flicker overhead, the early morning mating songs of birds twirl their way to my ears. Right now the air cool and dry. In a matter of hours it will heat up to triple digits. Those who live in the desert a resilient sort. We live with significant temperatures swings all year long, fascinating animals (I saw a Gila Monster June 1st), and lots of spiny cacti, all of which we find beauty in.
I like my food to be resilient as well. Which makes me think of pie. It can be savory or sweet., or both. It can be served hot or cold. It is forgiving in what it allows the pie maker to do. It can be frivolous or serious; nutritious or not. Its flavors can reflect family and cultural identities and preferences. Pie does it all.
Which makes me curious about who the First Pie Maker might have been. The particular “who” remains a mystery. After reading up on pie, it seems to me that there were likely many many many First Pie Makers in nearly every culture known to cook and experiment with food. It is, after all, quite simple: the creating of dough, or pastry, and then filling it with regional, seasonal foods.
“New World Resiliency Pie” Being inspired by the prickly pear pads that radiate with that fresh spring green color, (photo) right now. I decided to make a pie, ancient and not from this continent, with a New World Flare. New World Pie Fillers: nopalitos (fresh prickly pear pad), chiltepin, chocolate. (Talk about Resiliency, each of the foods above have survived centuries. One example: Coprolites (human droppings) found in caves reveal that humans have been the relatives of the chiltepin for thousands of years! )
The First Pie Maker was not a Southern American, despite many Americans strong cultural identity about pie. Read even a little bit about pie and you quickly find intensely personal accolades about it. For those who “get” pie, there is a love for it that is both reverential and sensuous. It includes a deep feeling of being “nurtured”, pie often being equated with Grandma’s Love. It is clear that human beings have been feeling nurtured by what we now refer to as pie, for a lot longer than the United States has been a country.
One first version of pie, came from Egypt, around 9500 B.C. That surprised me. It places the first pies all the way back to the Neolithic Period. The rustic pies were made from dough made from oat, rye, barley, and wheat – and then filled them with honey! The pies were then baked over hot coals. There is no doubt in my mind that their flavor was fabulous – what with the sweet of the honey and the smoky taste of having been naked in coals. By the time the Pharoh’s bakers got into the action (by 1300 BC-1200-something BC) nuts and fruits were added to the honey “pies”. Ramsey the II’s tomb shows etchings of this. The beekeeper in me loves this! Remember that the Egyptians were prolific beekeepers, floating their hives up and down the Nile to follow the honey flows.
“The Pharohs’ Honey Nut Pie” (add fruit of your choice)
As epochs continued, and cultures evolved the fillings included meats of all kind, as well fish, muscles, and oysters; dairy products became another beloved filler. Human are creative and the number and variety of pies world wide is enormous. They include Indonesia’s “panada”;, Jamaica’s “patty” Malasia’s Keripap (curry puff), Nigeria’s “meat pie” and on and it goes. Throughout Latin America and Mexico you find the Empanada. Sweet meat emapanadas are made for Christmas in Mexican tradition.. At the ranch, we make Calabasa (squash) with Pilloncillo (a brown cane sugar) Calabasas.
As much as I value a good, slow cooked meal, it is just too hot in Tucson presently to be near heat for very long. So I decided to try to create a version of pie that was smaller and thus quicker to bake. It is also more portable. And infinitely flexible: you can eat them warm or cool, pack them for a hike, lunch, bike or car trip, kids lunch. They can be fancy, humble, or decadent. Create great tasting pies from foods you are most passionate about. Create them from leftovers. The two photos above show you how versatile the ingredients can be.
Savor the Southwest Portable Pies
INGREDIENTS: for 9 to 12 portable pies
All you need in the way of equipment for these joyous little pies is a standard 12 cup, muffin pan and some parchment cupcake-paper inserts for your muffin pan.
+++ Pie Dough or Pie Crust of your choice.
Make the favorite family recipe. Investigate a new one. There are a plethora of recipes available in these food savy days, vegan options, full fat ones, raw ones. I used a store bought crust for these tiny pies. While I have made crust in the past, and value making it, I needed something quicker this week. There are a number of buying options these days. I found one at my local health food store, whose ingredients I felt comfortable with.
I feel dough-headed (brain fog) and lethargic if I eat a lot of dough, so I minimized it in these recipes – but you can and should use as much or as little as your would like. Fill the sides! Cover the tops (remember to slice air holes). Add decorations with the left over dough. Remember resilience, and you can practice it in the act of making pies. I used the equivalent of 1, 9″ pie crust; but if you would like to have more pie crust to the pies, make enough for two 9″. Also, using the parchment is completely optional. I used it because I travel a lot and I thought the pies would travel better, too. I think the tiny pies might be more beautiful for your table if you don’t use the paper, and if you use dough for the whole pie, including sides and top. In that case, after unrolling your dough (you’ll do this whether you make it yourself or buy it), place it on a lightly flowered surface, and roll with a rolling pin, to about 1/8′. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter cut 12, 4” circles for the bottom of the pie and 12, 3″ circles for the top, or for as many pies as you would like to make.
+++ 3 eggs
+++ Imagination and Play-full-ness as you select your Other Ingredients. We humans can be a tad on the serious side. Too much seriousness undermines resiliency. A spirit of play help us strengthen resilience. So allow your spark to guide you, as I did in the New World Pie above.
Fresh egg yolks.
The Basic Recipe/How to:
Place the muffin parchment papers in the muffin tins, or gently handling the dough, press dough into the muffin cups. Break the 3 eggs into a small bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout) and beat with a fork until combined.
Divide your ingredients to the bottom crusts, and then pour about two tablespoons of the egg to the pie. Add the top crust, or weave a top crust. Once you have the pies filled, and topped with crust, refrigerate the muffin tin for 30 minutes. Preheat Your oven to 375 F – and when the small pies have sufficiently chilled, bake them for 20-30 minutes. The time will vary from oven to oven, and from the types of pies.
For the New World Resiliency Pie, I added prickly pear, chilpetin cheese (see my January post for the recipe), and the 2 T of beaten egg.
I then tried a New World Dessert Pie – and filled the pie with Chocolate and Chiltpein Cheese (like a French pastry, but with the chile cheese). Note there is crust just at the bottom.
Then the 2 T of egg was added, and the crust on top. I did this with the Pharohs’ Honey Nut Pie. As well
The “before” baking Portable Pies – you can see the pirckly pear pads peeking through. The “after” photo is at the top of this post.
I was surprised how VERY fun it was to think up names for pies!
Here are a few:
Bye Bye Mrs. Neolithic Pie
Pico de Gallo Pie (hmm there goes the rooster – rooster pie?)
Portable, Picante, Prickly Pear Pad Pies
New World Resilience Pies
Feel free and post some of your pie variations and names!