A blushing pink pie filled with lightly spiced apples and dotted with fresh blackberries.
It’s officially Fall, y’all – and I couldn’t be more excited about all the apple, pumpkin, and cold weather things! And while it would be predictable of me to talk about the changing leaves, our first apple-picking adventure, and my favorite fall coffee drink (despite sounding too pretentious, it’s currently a cappuccino with one raw sugar packet – lol, just in case you wanted to know), I’m actually here today to talk a bit about food media and how it has changed over the recent years. That, and this pretty pink pie (jump to the middle/end of this post if that’s the only reason you are here – no shame in that!).
I was listening to Burnt Toast, Food52’s podcast, the other day. The episode was titled What’s Different About Getting a Food Job Today? featuring Food52 co-founding editor Amanda Hesser and Peter Meehan of Lucky Peach. Both are veterans in food media, and the episode highlights some of their thoughts and first jobs in the food world years ago as well as advice for future food writers trying to make it in the biz today.
Food writing as career is changing along side the blogging and social media game these days. In the episode, they talked about where it was once seen as a conflict of interest to work in AND write about the food industry, or just too much self-interest, now we want to hear from the doers – the chefs, farmers, makers, etc. In the past, going to culinary school put you on a very structured path into the kitchen, but now there are more jobs and opportunities in general and various ways to get into the industry. Now it makes you more interesting and valuable to have spent a season harvesting the crop instead of it looking like a misstep on your résumé. As Hesser points out, and I’m paraphrasing here, but now you can nerd-out on something specific like pickles or work on a farm and it’s cool. When reading résumés, it’s experiences like this that stand out over getting your masters in Food Studies (which didn’t even really exist when I graduated just a decade ago).
I found the entire conversation fascinating and thought about how it applied to my own meandering career path into food media. Listening to Meehan talk about his first internship with Food and Wine after dropping out of college and Hesser’s financial background followed by a bartending certificate, it was fun to compare my non-traditional entry to the food world as well. Starting my adulthood with a BA in Communication and trying to nurture a budding relationship with cake, I had no idea that a decade later I would be a cookbook author and ex-bakery owner.
If you are just starting out, their advice (and mine) is to get your hands dirty. “Wash dishes in a restaurant, volunteer at a co-op, assist a commercial fisherman,” as Hesser suggests. Or if your entire world revolves around finding an excuse to make a cake like me in my early 20’s, do as I did and just see what it’s like to work at a local bakery for a while. The bottom line is that if you want to work in the food media business today, you don’t have to go to culinary school or get a journalism degree. For me, I contemplated going to pastry school dozens of times. And while there is undeniable value in the discipline and attention to detail a pastry program will teach you, they can’t teach passion or creativity. At a certain point, I realized that my experience in the kitchen and love for cake was enough, and let it go (I even ended up training the interns that came from a local pastry school at one point).
I used to think that if I had a do-over I would have skipped getting my Bachelor’s and have gone to culinary school instead. This I now know is mostly due to the insecurities I had starting in the food industry without professional schooling, but I’ve made due without the certificate and am pretty happy with how things turned out (plus my four years at UC Davis were way too much fun to trade in and I probably learned a thing or two about the writing side of my job along the way). As it turns out, maybe my unconventional path was the recommended one after all.
If you ask me now what I would do with a do-over it would not be to attend pastry school but to have filled my pre-baby days diving deeper into my field of cake and pastry, traveling to other communities rich with food and culture, eating my way through France, and working on a farm. I would pick up odd jobs here and there (similar to my cake filling and frosting nightshift bakery days), finally try my hand at pickling and canning, or study everything to know about bread. Since 90% of my life is now dictated by the tiny human that runs our household, I constantly find myself holding back from applying for a job at the local pie shop, or anything in the food biz really. This isn’t because I want to gain odd experiences in order to advance in my food media career, but just because I am infatuated with nearly every aspect of food. I would love to know what it takes to make pie all day, perfect my dough from day after day of hands-on practice, and work with local produce to create the most delicious fillings around. I think the point that Hesser and Meehan were trying to make is that having that type of passion in just about anything food-related is more valuable than where you went to school or what degrees or certifications you picked up along the way.
For fun, Brett and I dream of retirement or even just a solid 48 hours to spend however we want. My dream usually involves reading cookbooks for hours, sourcing ingredients from the local market, and then cooking without interruption. For as much as I am turning into a city girl, this daydream now includes visions of working on a farm. A few weeks ago, we took Everett apple picking – a first for all of us, actually. I had an absurd amount of fun. Who would have thought driving to a farm and picking your own produce with a toddler could be so much fun!?!?! And while I know a couple hours picking apples does not even begin to compare to actually working on a farm and all the hard labour it requires, I can still romanticize what it would be like to really get my hands dirty. What, that’s not romantic to you? LOL. I didn’t put it together before we went, but the farm was Willow View Farms in Abbotsford – the family farm of my Insta-friend, Kelsey, aka the Kelsey_thefarmersdaughter.
Maybe Kelsey can hire me as intern one day once the kids are in school and I can drive an hour out of the city to pick apples and help tend to the goats…..
This is the first of many apple treats I have headed your way this season. And yes, I did use apples from the farm in my recipes. This pie in particular is studded with blackberries. Once baked, the berries turn the inside PINK! This combination doesn’t scream FALL, but it is a nice break from everything dripping with caramel and packed with cinnamon these days. For more detailed instructions on how to create the intricate braids and cut-outs, check out my article on Food Network.
Apple Blackberry Pie
adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup very cold butter, diced
½ cup cold water
¼ cup ice
1 tablespoon apple cider
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar. Place the ice in the water and set aside.
2. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or by hand, rubbing the pieces of butter between your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Once the pieces are no longer lager than about a peanut, begin to flatten the pieces of butter in sheets between your palms. Be careful not to over-work the butter or let it get too warm.
3. Working with only a couple tablespoons at a time, add in about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the water along with the vinegar. Stir together using a wooden spoon or even just a clean hand in the bowl. The dough should appear fairly shaggy and not sticky. Once you can squeeze a few pieces together and they hold, the dough is done being mixed. Do not over-mix.
4. Divide the dough into half and shape each piece into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (preferably).
5. Once ready, bring one disc out of the refrigerator and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Liberally flour the work surface and begin to roll out the dough, working from the center out – rotating the dough after each roll. Roll the dough until about ¼ inch thick and about 12 to 13 inches in diameter.
6. Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to a 8 or 9 inch pie tin. Fit the dough into the bottom of the tin and up the sides, allowing for about an inch of overhang. Trim with kitchen sheers and place back in the refrigerator.
7. Start the filling (recipe to follow)
8. For the braided top, repeat step 5. Using a ruler and a paring knife, cut thin strips, about a 1/4-inch wide, for the center lattice. Follow the remaining instructions for the fishtail, 5-strand braided border here. Place the strips and braids on a sheet pan and chill.
9. Finish the filling.
10. Fill the chilled pie crust with the apple-blackberry filling by layering the apple slices in tightly and dotted with berries, but leaving the juices behind. Remove the strips from the refrigerator and create a lattice on top of the filling.
11. Fold all of the excess dough around the edges under itself and crimp using your thumb and index finger. Cover the edges with the braided border.
12. Return the pie back to refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
13. Just before heading into the over, create an egg wash by whisking together a whole egg and a splash of milk. Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the crust and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
14. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil.
15. Allow the baked pie to completely cool before slicing and serving.
Apple Blackberry Filling
4 to 5 apples, pealed, cored, and sliced into thin wedges (about ¼ inch thick or less)
juice from ½ a lemon
½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons corn starch
¼ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups fresh blackberries
1. Place the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a large bowl. Place the cut apples in the mixture and set aside while you prepare the top crust – about 20 minutes.
2. After the apples have a chance to rest, drain out all of the liquids.
3. Toss the slices with the remaining sugar and dry ingredients.
4. Gently fold in the blackberries before laying into the bottom pie shell.