09/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The World's Ugliest Pie

You may not know this (or anything) about me: I am the "novice" home cook for's Project Recipe. Along with Chris Hall, a much more accomplished foodie (and, as it turns out, photographer), I am cooking my way through's Top 100 Dishes. There have been successes. There have been failures. There has been NOTHING at the level of this pie.


THE RECIPE: Summer Peach Pie with Vanilla and Cardamom

In high school a dear friend of mine volunteered to answer a question in AP Environmental Science. She told the class that if global warming continued at the same rate it would be a "disastrophe." She caught her mistake (conflating disaster and catastrophe), but nonetheless, the word entered all of our vocabularies. And while I do not claim that my first attempt at making pie from sratch is on the same plane as climate change, it was, without a doubt, a disastrophe. A train wreck. A horrible mess. A disaster and a catastrophe. Although it tastes pretty good.


The crust recipe calls for lard. I was planning to follow these instructions, but I am not the type of person to go on a city-wide lard chase (I live in NYC). I ended up at Whole Foods.

Me to Whole Foods empoloyee #1: "Do you have lard?"

Her: What's lard?

Me: "Uh, animal fat."

Her: "I don't know, ask him."

Employee #2: "Try aisle three."

The "lard" in aisle three was shortening, so I ventured into the refrigerated section where I found seemingly sophisticated shortening. I took the refrigeration as a sign that it was probably closer to lard than Crisco—so I bought that.


I went home, watched the pie crust making videos on, and put all my supplies in the freezer. (It is, according to, important to have cold ingredients for pie crust.) After about 25 minutes I got to work. I put everything, in the appropriate order, in the food processor. The first bit of trouble happened when the dough came together really fast. It went from "coarse meal" to dough in half a second. I stopped it, took it out, gave it a tiny knead (leaving pieces of butter as suggested) and then wrapped it in wax paper and put it in the freezer again. About 25 minutes later I took it out, realized I had forgotten to separate it into two discs, did that, and then began to roll it out. It seemed too warm so I put it back in the freezer and made the peach filling.


This is done in the processor also. I tossed in sugar and the tiny pieces of scraped vanilla bean. The smell of 8th grade girls filled the kitchen. (Seriously, why do 13-year-olds, my past self included, love to smell like marshmallows?) That mixture went through my sieve and into a bowl. Then I added flour and cardamom. Man oh man, even with a scant teaspoon it seemed like a lot of cardamom. That business is potent. I tossed it all together with the peaches and felt optimistic (ha).


I got the dough back out and began to roll it out. It seemed like I didn't have enough dough to make a 12-inch round. I was rolling it out on a silpat, which has measurements, and it wasn't getting big enough. It barely fit in the pie dish. I did the best I could, which was awful. I then decided to just stretch it as much as I could and hope the top piece was bigger and worked out. I put the peaches in the dish. And then I realized something was strange.

It appeared that my pie dish was too big. I thought it was a 9incher but my other aluminum 9-inch pie dish was much smaller. "Uh-oh," I thought. "This pie dish is too big, and I don't have nearly enough dough." Now, at this point, I could have put the peaches back in a bowl and started the dough over for a smaller dish, but instead, I panicked. I rolled out the other dough, transferred it to "cover" the filling.

2008-08-06-bridgetsuglypiecrust.jpgTHE DISASTROPHE
Let me tell you why I put quotes around the word "cover": That dough sat on top of the peaches like a yarmulke. I did my best to "glaze" it with the whipping cream and shoved it in the oven. You can imagine how well that went. The peaches instantly broke through the pathetic dough cap. After an hour the juices were bubbling thickly everywhere due to the fact that the top crust had collapsed onto the filling like a drunk cobbler.

I took it out and let it cool for two hours. It tasted ... very cardomom-y. Way cardomom-y, but pretty good. The crust was not quite flaky. To be fair, it was not quite anything. It tasted fine, a little mushy and not exactly like a pie, but sweet and interesting.

No matter what it tastes like though, it looks terrible. What makes it worse is my colleague Chris's absolutely drop-dead gorgeous version.

Try the recipe out, let me know how it goes. But mine would be totally safe on a windowsill; actually it would probably ward off intruders.

Previously published at