My first pie class of the World Piece tour was in Napier, New Zealand. Brett Zimmerman (aka Mr. Z), a friend of Louise Watts (my host Grace’s daughter), is a cooking teacher at a local college. (College in NZ is high school in US terms.)
Mr. Z offered use of his classroom — 6 large stainless steel tables and seven — seven!! — ovens. YES! PERFECT! THANK YOU!
The first thing we did was go shopping for pie tins. There is a restaurant supply warehouse just 2 blocks from the school. And luckily they had pie tins. The only kind they had were “very deep dish” but I didn’t mind. We had plenty of apples to fill them. My pie mentor Mary Spellman taught me to make pie in generous portions: “Don’t be stingy,” she always said if I put too little filling in a pie dish. Besides, America has a reputation of doing thing BIG. So big pies were what we would make.
|Meet Mr. Z. He is not just a cooking teacher, he’s also a rugby coach.|
|This is what the classroom looked like before we made a mess.|
|Pastry gems are some mysterious cross between butter & shortening.
Seemed ideal, and the price was right (FREE!), but the texture was hard.
As for the taste, it was okay, but I wouldn’t recommend the stuff.
|Gorgeous apples from The Yummy Fruit Company.
From left to right: Ballaret, Granny Smith, Lemonade.
Lemonade is a new variety, a cross between Gala & Braeburn.
Ballaret are tarter than Gr Smith & easier to peel. Perfect for pie!
Before the class, Mr. Z used some of the apples to give me a lesson in knife-handling skills. We carved swans. He had worked in some fancy pants restaurant and they made these as a garnish, not to eat. He said he worked 14-hour days at that job. No wonder his days were so long! It takes a lot of time to create these carvings. It was fun to learn, but I prefer using apples for pie.
|Swan in progress.|
|Not bad for my first (and last) attempt.|
|Luckily I did not slice my fingers
off in the knife-handling exercise.
Especially since this was only
the beginning of my trip.
|Pie is always better with butter. I came to the right country as
New Zealand makes really good butter.
|Neil, one of the first participants to arrive.
Check out those pants! A patchwork extravaganza,
he told me they’re 20 years old.
|This cutie pie is Sam. She showed up in braids and someone asked her if she was the Pie Lady.
I wanted my pic taken with her since, based on our matching hairstyles,
we were obviously kindred spirits.
|And there is it, the teacher’s corner. More like “Show & Tell.”|
No matter where in the world I teach a pie class, it is pretty much always the same format. Introduction, overview of what we’re going to do, demo, turn everyone loose, and then watch the flour fly.
|The Pitchfork Pie Stand lives on in every pie I make!|
|“Rolling dough is like horseback riding, you have to take control of the reins.”
Yep, that analogy works in pretty much every country.
|These are some of Mr. Z’s students. They love baking.|
|Mr. Crazy Patchwork Pants and Miss Cutie Pie Braids. They were a great team!|
|This table of ladies includes a florist, a school nurse, and a librarian.
They made the most beautifully decorated pies.
|My host, Grace Bower, was clearly having a great time. She is not only an
excellent knitter of prayer shawls, she also is an excellent pie maker.
|This is Mona. She’s a food judge. But this night she was on the other side of the table.|
|A crimping lesson.|
Neil had to leave early so he took his unbaked pie home with him. On his bike. He had to ride one-handed. In the dark. I never did hear if the pie made it or not. I’m pretty sure no news is good news. I had to hand it to him for his adventurous can-do Kiwi spirit.
|The culinary students went to extra lengths to make their pies pretty.
Not for extra credit, but because they enjoyed the artistic process.
|The first pie to come out of the oven belonged to Mona the food judge.
Her pie could have won any pie contest.
I wore my running shoes for the class. I know from having used classroom kitchens before that when you have multiple ovens dispersed through the large room it is a real workout to move between the tables and around the people (dodging rolling pins and trying not to slip on the pie dough that’s fallen on the floor) to get to the ovens. You don’t want your students to do all that work preparing the pies only to have them burn!
I couldn’t read the dials on Mr. Z’s ovens as the numbers were worn off. They were in celsius so I couldn’t understand them anyway. But thanks to my sprinting and squats and the effort of rotating pies around on the oven shelves, every single pie came out looking….well, YUMMY.
|See? No pies were harmed (or burned) in the making of this film.|
|After all these years and all these oven burns, pie still makes me happy.|
|Louise Watts presents the “Apple Award” to Mr. Z. The hand-blown glass artwork
came from Utah and Grace determined that people who have contributed something good
should be bestowed with the award–or at least have their picture taken with the apple.
Every pie class ends with a “Victory Shot.” This one was no exception. Look at all those happy people. And look at all those gorgeous pies! Pie really does make the world a better place.
And to think is only the first class of the three-month, 10-country, round-the-world journey. Here’s to many more pies and many more happy people.
Thank you, New Zealand — Grace Bower, Louise Watts, Brett “Mr. Z” Zimmerman & the William Colonso College, Paul Paynter & the Yummy Fruit Company, the Ibis & Novotel Hotels in Rotorua, and many others — for making the first leg of World Piece a fun, safe and successful one.
Next stop: Australia (June 14 to 24)