“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive– all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
―Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The above quote comes from a magical book and brings together two important topics for me — books and pie! The Where Women Cook magazine, via their wonderful website, Amuse-Bouche, is sponsoring a contest called “Pieography”. The guidelines are simple: come up with a pie-recipe that represents your life, and write a short essay accompanied by the recipe. While I admit I’m more of a writer than a cook, I had so much fun coming up with my recipe and story. I adapted a recipe that I found online so, while the combination of flavors has been done before, this is my version. I hope you like it.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of visiting my grandmother at the library where she worked in our small town. I would sit on a little chair next to her desk, watching her catalog and process all of the beautiful new books. My other grandmother didn’t work. Instead, she lived on a secluded mountaintop with no television. Books, magazines and newspapers were her solace. Furthermore, my mother, a true reader, always indulged in a few chapters of a good romantic mystery before turning out her bedside lamp. Clearly, reading is in my genes. Long afternoons of my life have been whiled away lost in a good book. Needless to say, my baking skills have been somewhat neglected. “So Many Books, So Little Time Pie,” tells the tale of a reading life, and is not surprisingly, quick and simple to make. It has many layers inspired by the stacked pages that have flavored my years. A basic, trustworthy crust forms its foundation representing those cherished hours spent with my tried-and-true friends – characters such Encyclopedia Brown, The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew. Another layer is sweet, light and airy – much like the many “fluffy” young-adult romance series I devoured in junior high. Eventually, literature classes inspired me to read more sophisticated tales where I savored The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ethan Frome. These classics required me to “sink my teeth” into them, just like the dense, chewy base layer of my pie. The top layer is sprinkled and drizzled with various ingredients, much like my current reading – a delicious mix of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, professional journals and of course, magazines. I will whip-up this pie, cut myself a slice and get back to what I really crave…a good book!
Like readers, cooks have preferences, and they want choices. So, just like you might prefer historical fiction over suspense, or biographies over romance, this recipe gives you a great deal of freedom.
Table of Contents:
1. One pie crust – I use a plain pastry crust, but you could choose graham cracker, chocolate, etc. Use your imagination. It’s like choosing a book from a shelf where they all look good!
2. One brownie mix – once again, your choice (oil, egg, water -according to pkg.directions)
3. 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
4. 8 oz. cream cheese
4. 3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – your preference)
6. 1½ – 2 cups of frozen whipped topping – thawed
7. ½ cup milk-chocolate morsels
8. 5 oz. white chocolate (chopped) or approx 1 cup of morsels
9. A handful of chopped peanuts
10. Optional, adventurous and very delightful: a handful of pretzels
Prologue: First, you must choose the pie crust. If you want, go ahead and use your own great recipe handed down for generations from great cooks who know how to do this sort of thing. I like to buy my pie crust ready-made from the grocery store. Your loved ones will not judge you if you don’t spend hours rolling and chilling. They will be too busy asking for another slice of pie! Besides, the time you save will allow you to read a few more chapters in your book.
Chapter 1: Mix up a yummy brownie mix from the box according to the package directions. Don’t add the extra egg to make it “cake-like.” You want it to be dense and chewy. (If you want to make homemade brownies, go for it! I’m sure you can guess what I’ll be doing with my extra time.) Optional: Throw in about ¼ cup of peanut butter morsels for a little extra flavor.
Place the pastry crust in a pie plate, flute the edges, and then pour in enough of the brownie batter so that it fills up about half of the dish. (You will probably have batter left over. I’m sure you can figure out something to do with it!) Bake it at 350 for about 15 minutes and check that the edges aren’t getting too brown. Protect the edges with foil as you bake the brownie layer for about 20 more minutes, or until the layer sets up, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the pie completely for a couple of hours. These are a couple of hours that I would recommend picking up a great novel such as Chocolat’ or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Chapter 2: Put the white chocolate in a microwave safe dish and heat it up for one minute and then for fifteen-second intervals until melted. Let it cool just a little.
Mix the cream cheese (room temperature) and peanut butter until blended. Add the confectioner’s sugar until it gets fluffy and then stir in the melted white chocolate. Get this all blended together really well. Finally, fold in the whipped topping. Add this layer on top of the brownie layer. (If you have some left over, put it in a container in the fridge and use it to spread on graham crackers for a snack!) Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Melt the milk chocolate morsels in the microwave (just like you did for the white chocolate). Drizzle the chocolate on top of the pie.
Chapter 3: Now this chapter is optional, and perhaps you will reserve it only for yourself, as others may not be so adventurous. (This is like the part of a good novel – a major twist in the plot – when you say to yourself, “No way! I never saw it coming!”) If you are like me, and have a thing for the salty-sweet combination, take a handful of salted pretzels, crumble them up and sprinkle on top for a texture and flavor combination that will delight you.
Afterword: This pie is absolutely better the next day, but should chill for a few hours before serving. It is very sweet and decadent, so be sure to have some coffee, tea, or even a large glass of milk on hand to temper the richness. Combine your pie, your beverage, and of course, a good book to create the perfect blend of culinary and literary bliss.