So these days I'm writing about food a lot, and writing about food makes me hungry. It's a hazard of the freelance food journalist's life. During work hours I have to write, not cook, unless of course I'm writing about cooking. But mostly I just have to stay at my desk, pounding the keyboard and feeling deprived.
(Random aside: the best writing advice I ever read was from Dorothy Parker, who said that the best way to write a book is by the seat of your pants -- put the seat of your pants in your desk chair and *write*)
That leaves the craving food part. Recently I concocted a very quick way to make a tasty little treat that satisfies the need for Please Something, Anything, Good to Eat NOW and yet keeps my deadlines met and my editors happy: pie for one. It's not exactly a compact hydrogen fuel cel or cure for cancer, but in its modest way I like to think it advances humanity's collective happiness. Mine, anyway.
It came about when I was standing in front of my open fridge for about the eighth time on a deadline morning, hoping some tasty treat had magically appeared -- nope, yet again -- and gazing instead at all the stuff I'd have to cook if I wanted to eat it. I was about to settle for snacking on an apple when I opened the freezer just to see if any treats had magically appeared in there -- nope -- and noticed a ziploc of leftover crumb pie topping. Apple. Pie topping. Apple...pie.
So clearly the only way this works if you have pie topping on hand, or are willing to throw some together on the spot -- it's pretty quick to make, but doing so does take away a bit of the instant gratification factor. I happened to have pie topping on hand because my standard fruit pie strategy is to make one pie crust recipe into two bottom crusts, and use crumb topping -- thereby getting two crumb pies instead of one traditional two-crust pie. The topping recipe I've evolved makes a little more than two pies' worth, so I throw the extra in the freezer. It keeps well.
(On freezing pie: Usually when I make two pies I mean to save one of them to have on hand for later, but in reality that almost never happens, we just devour them both. "Pie for breakfast!" is our family's official motto. I have found, however, that when I do manage to get one in the freezer the best way is to freeze the unbaked pie, then later bake it from frozen starting out covered completely in foil for an hour, then uncovered (watching the edges for overbrowning) for another 45-60 minutes).
The key to super fast pie for one is to make the pie topping in advance and keep it in the freezer. To make the topping: put 3/4 cup walnuts (or pretty much any other nut you like -- I've also used whole or slivered almonds, which are great with peaches and/or blueberries, and macadamias make an unbelievably yummy version. I tend to use black walnuts because I can buy them locally grown), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup unbleached or whole wheat flour or mix thereof, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor and pulse until uniform texture. Add 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, and pulse in short bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. This topping freezes well and makes enough for one 9 inch pie or a whole bunch of little ones, your choice.
Then, when terrible craving strikes, take a small, oven-safe Pyrex bowl. Thinly slice one small apple, skin and all, into the bowl; if you like, toss in some frozen unthawed blueberries or whatever other fruit you have around. (You could also use all frozen fruit if nothing fresh is in season; just reduce cooking time). Cover and microwave on hi for 3 minutes. Fruit will be bubbling and should be softened. Sprinkle on as much frozen topping as appeals, then slide under a broiler or in the toaster oven for 4-5 minutes until the topping is browned. Let cool precisely as long as you can manage to resist the amazing smell of fruit, butter, and carmelized sugar, then dig in.
Ok, so since it lacks a bottom crust really it's more of a fruit crisp than a pie. My food pal Aliza has mentioned patting pie crust into muffin tins and I plan to pick her brain about mini bottom crust technique, although I suspect that adding a bottom crust will seriously up both hands-on and baking time required -- and Pie for One is all about the glory of instant gratification. So why waste time quibbling when you could already be about halfway done making one right now?