One of my great failings, not only as a food writer and sweet lover, but as a human, is that I don't care about pie. More than 99 percent of the time, I would rather eat a cake, cookie or hawthorn fruit roll than any crust filled with fruit or cream. It is a grand statement, then, when I say one of the best desserts I've eaten all year was a pie from Punk's Simple Southern Food.
Clearly, lead chef and pastry chef Nena Reiser knows a thing or two about pie that most bakers do not. For the holidays, she's baking several versions, including pumpkin chiffon, sweet potato with toasted marshmallow fluff, and both traditional and Bourbon-chocolate pecan. Homemade buttermilk biscuits with honey butter and jelly are $18-a-dozen, too. I'm sure all of those things are delicious. But it was her peppermint-chocolate chess pie that made me rethink my entire stance on dessert.
Upon opening the box, mint teased my nasal passages. Clearly, she wasn't fooling around. The center, somewhere between custard and a fudgy brownie in texture, was just sweet enough and cracked as I cut in, causing fissures in the meringue-like upper layer.
For one of my colleagues, the mint was too strong to be pleasant. For the rest of us, the flaky, buttery crust held just enough to leave us feeling refreshed for the rest of the afternoon. I may not be a pie person, let alone someone who orders holiday pies. But that pie has me reassessing my values as I never thought a pie could. All I know anymore is that I want more.