January 16, 2008

"The Papa Dale Pie Project"

My Dad inherited an extra 4 kids when he married our Mom. Our “real” Dad was killed in an airplane crash, and my Mom had the good sense to marry Dale C. Riggins, Jr., AKA, “Papa”. We also got two groovy brothers out of the deal, even though one of them licks my face to this day and thinks it’s funny! Papa became my loving and very patient guiding light over these many years of various mishaps, hilarious hi-jinx, and other assorted activities that would have driven a lesser man to drink. But, you see, they just don’t make men like my Papa anymore. He has a high set of standards that he holds himself to, but never judges others for failing them. He treats all, but especially my Mom and his kids, with great respect, loyalty, and has led and advised us with common sense and humble intelligence. I have never heard him gossip about others. He worked hard all his life, but still was up for whatever adventure one of us would drag him into. He would embarrass me to death when I was 17, when on a family vacation to Southern California, he walked down to the beach (the one with all the cool surfer dudes I was trying to impress with a lot of hair flinging) in his Bermuda shorts and cowboy boots. Then turn around and bail me out of whatever nonsense I had gotten into.

His hero is John Wayne and he loves pie, my Mom, bass fishing, and hunting. He is 81 years old and still could out-walk me, out-shoot me, and pretty much out-wit me any ol' day of the week. I'm crazy about him.

Which leads to my new “project”….the “Papa Dale Pie Project”. My Mom is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and I go to visit them every week (they live some 2 hours south of me). Because my Mom can no longer make pies, and my Dad misses them terribly, I’ve taken on the task of trying to make pies that will meet his exacting standards. Now these standards were in place at a very young age for him, because his Mother was a test cook for Betty Crocker and various other “test” kitchens. So, just any ol’ pie won’t do! There are various things that must occur! For instance, in apple pie, you must use Golden Delicious, not Granny Smith…(a mistake I made, that I will not make again, for sure!). And you can’t mess around with a pie too much. No “gourmet crap” or “weird stuff”. So it has become a little enjoyable test for me each week – making a pie that makes my Dad happy. At the end of each visit, he gives me my “assignment” for the next week. Last week was Coconut Cream Pie. It was “pretty good”. Sigh. Today is Blackberry Pie. It is a very basic pie, relying on deft pastry skill, and the freshest ingredients….which of course, I have neither of those, so I used a basic pie crust recipe and frozen (thawed overnight and drained) blackberries, because I could find any respectable fresh ones. Because I cannot travel down today, my husband (ol’ “what’s-his-name”) will deliver it later this morning for me. I’ll wait until this evening, then I’ll call for the verdict. I hope it’s better than “pretty good” – because my Papa is definitely more than “pretty good”.

Blackberry Pie

4 cups fresh blackberries (or frozen – thawed and drained)
½ - 1 cup granulated sugar (strictly a matter of taste and how sweet you like your pies!)
½ cup all-purpose flour (now, I think I might throw a little tapioca flour in there next time)
1 recipe pastry for double-crusted 9 inch pie
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Some milk for brushing top
¼ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Place the berries into a large bowl. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Combine with the berries – blend well, gently as to not break up berries.
3. Pour berries into pastry shell and cover with top crust. Crimp edges, and vent with sharp knife. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle the ¼ cup sugar over top.
4. Bake in preheated over for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake until done. I leave the time completely open, depending on ovens, but in my oven, it takes about 35-40 minutes longer to get that glorious brown crust! I also “tent” the edges of the crust if they brown too quickly…I use the quick-release foil, because I’ve had “issues” with foil sticking to the edges!


Emiline said...

Your papa sounds like a nice man, thanks for sharing.

Although, he does seem pretty picky about his pie. I hope he likes this one! It looks really good. You don't need too much going on except berries and crust.

I saw some fresh cherries at the store. I feel like baking a pie now.

Catherine said...

Thank, Emiline...
Can't wait to hear how he liked it! Fresh cherries?! Now THAT'S a pie...I haven't made one for quite a while...that may be my next project!

Jenny said...

Oh my goodness Catherine, what a sweet story about your "Papa!" He sounds like something straight out of an old movie. I think it's wonderful the way you are taking care of your family, it's got to be hard at times, but you know they must appreciate you beyond measure!

Good luck with all of your pie baking. Crazy that papa's mama was a Betty Crocker test cook! Your pie looks beautiful!

Catherine said...

Hey Jenny,
Thanks so much...he is a peach of a guy! I just called and the pie was "excellent"! HOWEVER, "not sweet enough". It's always something!
It is an honor and pleasure to help with my folks...they gave all to us, and this is just a little bit I can do.
Thanks Jenny, your encouragement and support is part of why I get up at 6am and bake brownies!

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"The Dish" by Catherine Wilkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.