Molly's Hoosier Pie is a tribute to her aunt, who made the pie yearly for Thanksgiving meals. The introduction to the chapter is one of loss. The loss of her uncle to AIDS, the loss of her aunt to cancer. Both taken far too young. It seemed a fitting recipe to share in discussion of my own recent loss.
My first cousins and I are "stepping stones." I don't know if that's an actual term, but it's how I always thought of us. I'm the eldest. My mother's sister had a daughter the year after I was born. Thatbrother was born the following year. My mother's sister had a son the year after that. And the year after that, China was born. We were bookends.
China and I were both named to honor our grandmother. After high school, she decided to go by her middle name. "I can't call you that," I once told her. "If I call you that, it ignores the special connection only you and I share." And I got special dispensation to use the name that united us.
The age difference seemed so vast at first. In truth, growing up, Thatbrother was always closer to China than I was. They were "the kids" to me. But 4 years isn't such a difference as a grownup, and we grew closer when she wasn't a pigtailed munchkin. Especially after she moved to California to attend college.
My family is small. My father's side of the family especially so. It consisted of his sister and China. So when she moved to California, China got enveloped in my mother's side of the family. Which was small enough that they were happy to include another. And so China became a staple at Passover, Thanksgiving, and other family gatherings.
She delighted in the "other" with a fascination for Mormonism and anything Chinese. She studied and taught in China, a passion which earned her the moniker used here, but also created a bond she shared with Thatdad. But China's number one interest was children. Every avenue she desired to pursue involved kids. And she couldn't wait to have children of her own. Until then she took such delight in Thatkid and Baby B.
Just last month, China flew out for my grandmother's memorial. Even though it wasn't her grandmother. Because, like I said, our family is small. We talked about her upcoming 30th birthday and how she wasn't exactly looking forward to it. Like most of us before such a big milestone. Her birthday was a special one, since she turned 30 on the 30th. Thatkid sent her a special birthday video and we laughed over his insistence on wearing a mask.
Last Wednesday I got a weird text from my mom, asking me to call her at my earliest opportunity. I knew something was up, but I wasn't expecting what awaited me at the other end of that call. China, less than a week after her 30th birthday, had passed away.
We traveled to Arizona last weekend to attend the funeral, one of the hardest things I've had to do.
Our family still hasn't gotten over the loss. It's hard to rationalize the death of someone so young, and the future she will miss out on. And our future without her. And I feel not only the loss of my cousin, but also the loss of another part of my father. I am devastated not only for myself, but for my aunt, who has already lost so much.
Like I said, this seemed a fitting time to share a recipe that is in memory of someone. Reading this chapter after the death of my cousin seemed to come at just the right time. Because food can evoke such memories of people.
Hoosier Pie (From A Homemade Life)
4 Tbsp ice water
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick + 1 Tbsp cold butter, cut into cubes
4 Tbsp butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp bourbon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecan halves
- In a small bowl combine the ice water and cider vinegar.
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend.
- Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- With the motor running, slowly add the water-vinegar mixture, processing until moist clumps form.
- Turn the dough out onto a wooden board and gather it until it holds together. Shape into a ball and press into a 1 1/2 inch thick disk. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 days.
- Allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375.
- Roll the dough into a circle wide enough to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Transfer the dough gently into the pie plate, fold and crimp the edges to form a high fluted rim. Put the prepared pie plate in the refrigerator.
- In a medium bowl, beat the room temperature butter on medium-low speed until soft and creamy.
- Gradually add the sugar, beating all the while.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Beat well.
- Beat in the bourbon.
- Remove the pie plate from the refrigerator. Scatter the chocolate chips and nutes evenly over the base of the crust.
- Pour in the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the eddges are firm, the top is a deep brown, and the center seems set but jiggles ever so slightly.
- Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.