Hand over the pie, Birthday Boy

Is there anything more American than apple pie?  Maybe baseball, but nobody really watches baseball.  It’s just an excuse to drink beer and eat bad stadium food.  You know it’s true!

Travis has been after me to make him a pie for months, despite my litany of excuses.

I don’t have a pie plate.

This oven is so different.

Fruit is so expensive here!

Valid reasons, all, but since October is his birthday month, I could no longer resist.

Switzerland has a peculiar tradition in which the birthday boy is expected to provide dessert to co-workers on his birthday.  We asked a Swiss friend here why this is tradition and he actually had a rather good answer.  He explained that it’s the best, and sometimes only, way to announce to your co-workers and even friends that it’s your birthday.

Well played, Switzerland.  Well played.

Where’s the “pie” setting on our oven?

So instead of being celebrated with balloons, cake, and office shenanigans festively “decorating” his lab space, Trav put his wife to work in the kitchen.  Typically I make strawberry/rhubarb pie, his favorite, but I no longer have a garden cranking out both, nor a healthy stash (of rhubarb, ya pot heads) put away in the freezer.  Both are out of season here, and apples are much easier to come by, so apple pie it was.

This was my first real attempt at baking in Switzerland, and it felt good to be back in the kitchen, covered in flour with the intoxicating smell of apple and cinnamon heavy in the air.

Sadly, the pie turned out  – ok.  Not great, but ok.

We’d already discovered that our oven here runs on the cool side, which was then exacerbated by the layer of aluminum foil I used to line the bottom to catch dripping juices (they’re a beast to clean).

All of our ovens we had in the States had a large raised heating coil that rested on the bottom of the oven, which meant the foil I laid underneath those coils didn’t block the heat.  The ovens here (at least the ones I’ve seen) don’t have a raised heating coil – the heating unit is beneath the floor of the oven.  This meant that my foil blocked the heat and the underside of my pie cooked slower than the top.  I always wrap the edges to prevent burning, but this time I also had to cover the top to allow the bottom more time to cook.

If you do this, make sure to cut slits to allow the steam to escape.

Instead of an hour, the darned thing took almost 2 hours to cook and when I finally pulled it, many of the juices that had seeped down under the bottom of the crust were blackened.  It didn’t taste burnt, but it wasn’t pretty, folks.

Meringue pie for Trav's birthday in Switzerland
We had dinner with friends the night after Trav’s birthday; the hostess remembered his birthday with 2 pink candles in her beautiful lemon meringue!

As always, Trav didn’t complain.  Since he ended up not going in to the lab on his birthday, he took the pie in to share with co-workers the following day.

Bless their hearts for eating it.



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