by Barbra Walton
(Barbra cleverly improvises a fix during a crisis – a baking crisis no less. – mb)
I hate it when I screw up a dish. So when I moved the flour and found the unopened package of tapioca behind it, I said all my favorite swear words and pulled my freshly-made cherry pie out of the oven and plopped it on the counter. This pie already had a long history; I bought the sour cherries at the farmer’s market Saturday morning, but by the time I pitted them and made the crust, the temperature had hit 95 degrees and we don’t have air-conditioning. Running the oven would have made the house uninhabitable. Everything went into the fridge until a milder day.
Monday morning was cool. Shortly after my first cup of coffee, I decided to get the pie in the oven before the day heated up, and that was my first mistake: never do anything requiring skill or precision before two full cups of coffee. I wanted to make a lattice-top, which I’d never done before, and took my time getting it perfect. I congratulated myself as I put it in the oven, at least until I found the tapioca.
Cooking is forgiving; baking, less so. I had two choices. Go with the un-thickened filling, or try to fix it. I decided to try the fix. The pie had been in the oven less than ten minutes, and the crust was still malleable. Potentially, I could remove the top lattice, add the tapioca, and put it back on. Of course, things are never that easy. The lattice fell apart when I pulled it off, but no worries – I had extra crust in the fridge. I know, you’re never supposed to re-use already-rolled dough, but this was a crisis, and a tough top crust was better than no crust at all. Once the old lattice was fully off, I added the tapioca to the cherries, gave them a stir, and rolled out the leftover dough. Score one for lattice-tops: you can get two full tops out of one crust recipe.
I put it back in the oven and poured another cup of coffee. An hour later, the pie was done. The lattice wasn’t quite as perfect as the first time around, but the filling was perfectly thickened and not overly sweet. The cherry flavor was intense and concentrated, exactly what you want in a pie made with fresh, in-season fruit. Despite the setback, it was delicious