Telling people you love a particular TV show can be a bit like telling them about a dream you had last night. They think, Great. I’m really pleased that I’m hearing about something fictitious which happened while you were entirely sedentary. With my weekend, I sculpted the concept “love” out of clay*, bought an adorable classic car, went to three different concerts, and took a mini-break to the seaside with my many, many friends. Tim mostly bears the brunt of my dream-recollection, including my fairly irrational indignation when he does something annoying in said dreams, but I do find it hard not to talk plenty to whoever’ll listen about TV shows that I love. In case you’re wondering, it’s all the obvious ones – Mad Men (I want a pencil skirt!) Game of Thrones (I want a dragon!) The Wire (I want Stringer Bell!) But recently Ange, our ex-flatmate but current friend, gave Tim and I something we’d been after for a long time – the TV-est TV show of all: Twin Peaks. A show that gave water coolers a dual reason for existence. A show that has basically one piece of music for its entire score. A show that straddles horror and hilarity. A show with a feature-length pilot episode that was sold off to Europe as a stand-alone movie.
And a show – this is where I’m hoping it’ll start to make sense – a show that talks about pie a lot. Also donuts, but the cherry pie is apparently a big damn deal to Kyle McLachlan’s character Dale Cooper, and I swear nearly every time he mentions it, he uses some kind of reference to death. As one of my old uni tutors would say, while slapping a copy of In Cold Blood in time to each syllable, it’s all in the text. To illustrate the dramatic-ness of how we feel about it, last Saturday night Tim and I had planned to go out and do Saturday night things. We thought we’d casually watch a bit of TV till the point of the evening where it feels acceptably late enough to leave the house. At 1.30am, five episodes into Twin Peaks, we realised we weren’t going to be leaving the house that night at all. And I realised the time had come, after Dale Cooper’s boundless and influential enthusiasm, for me to make a cherry pie.
Above: If Dale Cooper was here, he’d zoom in on this picture of cherries and see my reflection in them. (+10 points for referencing something from the show while referencing something from the show!)
Lucky for me, I had a jar of morello cherries that my nana had given me as a present a while back sitting in the cupboard. If you’re not blessed with such a cool and shrewd nan as I, the jars seem to be fairly easy to get hold of and not very expensive – plus their syrupy habitat means you can turn this out any time of year. While cherry pie is as American as apple pie (or pecan pie, or blueberry pie – what a lucky country!) I somewhat predictably turned to Nigella Lawson and a recipe from her seminal text How To Eat. While you can make pastry completely by hand, and I’ve done it, it’s definitely a squillion times easier with a food processor. Either way, the significant upside is that this recipe doesn’t need blind baking – you just roll it out, line the pie plate, fill it up, put a pastry lid on it and bake.
This pie is a joy, both in the making and the eating. Rolling out the pastry and carefully arranging the light-catching cherries. The scent of them jammily cooking away, and of butter and flour coming together as one to form rich, crisp pastry in the oven. The feeling of grabbing it out of the oven with teatowel-shielded hands, setting it down on the bench and vaingloriously roaring “I MADE PIE”.
And how. The pastry is biscuity and buttery and miraculously not prone to soggy-ness (unlike the endearing but mysteriously Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan in Twin Peaks who cries constantly.) The filling is an appealing mix of tart and sugary. And due to the minimal ingredients, the peerless, fragrantly sweet cherry flavour is allowed to shine.
Above: Dale Cooper really liked black coffee. And that’s actual coffee in there, which I drank after taking this photo. Not just an empty-cup-as-prop. I keep it real for this blog, even while engaging in flights of baking-fantasy as inspired by an ancient television show.
Dale Cooper: “They’ve got a cherry pie there that’ll kill you!”
*Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cooler, I should probably own up that this is a reference to Ashley Wyeth, a character from Baby Sitters Club #12, Claudia and the New Girl. That is all.
Recipe from How To Eat, by Nigella Lawson
240g self-raising flour (or, plain plus a heaped teaspoon baking powder)
120g cold diced butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
1 jar – around 700g – of morello cherries in syrup
30g melted butter
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon of juice from the jar of drained cherries
Set your oven to 200 C/400 F, and put in a baking tray to heat up while this is happening. This helps to properly cook the bottom of the pastry shell.
Put your butter and flour into the freezer for a few minutes, before briefly whizzing in a food processor to the point where there are no large pieces of butter and it looks like damp sand.
Mix the liquid pastry ingredients together and add to the food processor, briefly processing again till it comes together in larger clumps, and if you pinch together some of the crumbs they stick together. Tip out this crumbly mixture, push it together into a large lump, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Then, divide into two discs, roll out both, and use one to line a fairly shallow 20cm pie plate.
Filling: Drain the cherries of their juices. Mix the butter, sugar, flour and reserved tablespoon of cherry juice to make a pinkish paste and spread this across the inside of the pastry lining the pastry place. Dot the cherries evenly across the pie plate until it’s covered, then drape the other disc of pastry across the top, trimming the edges and crimping them if you’re good at that (I’m not!)
Make a few small slices in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape, and then place on the hot baking tray in the oven. After 15 minutes, cover loosely with tin foil and reduce the temperature to 180 C. Bake for another 18 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before eating – it’ll collapse if you try to slice it too soon.
Title via: The Beastie Boys, Whatcha Want – very likely my favourite song of theirs after Remote Control, and fortuitously referencing cherry pie. Not that ready whip topping was involved in the making of this, but it wouldn’t be out of context if you’ve got some handy…
I know she has so many hits that even ten years ago it required a double CD package to release a compilation of them all – but some of Mariah Carey’s early album tracks are absolutely glorious in their own right, too. Like And You Don’t Remember from her second album Emotions which could’ve easily been a single alongside the rest of the outrageously good ones from that album.
From Slow Boat Records today I snapped up the 1987 revival cast recording of Anything Goes on vinyl. Patti LuPone was in sublime form (and wears very cool blue and white tap shoes) and gets so many good songs it’s hard to know where to start. But of course the title track is as good a place as any.
Falling, aka the Twin Peaks theme. Someone kindly made a montage of of images of waterfalls for you while you listen to it on youtube.
Next time: Not pie. Probably something from my Ottolenghi cookbook, since I flicked through it this morning and thought “oh, that’s right! I want to cook every single recipe in this!” Also: my parents adopted a kitten. There might be photos, accompanied by captions deeply imbued with longing.