Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blackbird... baked in a pie?

"Sing a Song of Sixpence, a pocket full of rye...
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie."

As I made my Thanksgiving pies this year, I hesitated making the cherry pie my son loves.  Not that it's hard, or it doesn't turn out absolutely delicious.  I just detest the mess it makes of my oven.  The juicy filling always spills over and bakes onto the bottom of the oven - even when I barely fill it.  That's the nature of fruit fillings it seems.

I had purchased this little item months ago, and decided to see if it lived up to it's claims.  I was really happy with the result - no overflow!  (And my grandkids were absolutely fascinated with that bird...)

If you've never heard of a "Pie Bird" - you're not alone.  In England during Victorian times, a similar item was used - only it was called a "Pie Funnel" or a "Pie Vent."  It allows the steam created when the fruit filling (or other contents) are cooking to escape from inside the pie.  It also supports the pastry crust in the center of the pie so it doesn't sag in the middle.  They are most commonly made from ceramic, as this one is.  Traditionally they are nearly always in the shape of a bird or an inverted funnel with arches on the bottom for the steam to enter - but now they are made in numerous shapes.

Many celebrities such as Princess Diana, Ronald & Nancy Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George & Barbara Bush, etc... have owned and collected Pie Birds.  What a great idea for a collection!  Each of my children have a collection of various things - some as unusual as pencils & 'bouncy balls'.  If you're looking for something to give someone who has everything - this is worth considering.

There are several ways to utilize a pie bird.  Usually, one would line the pie dish with pastry - then place the bird in the center and position the filling around it.  The pastry top is then placed over it, with the bird's beak peeking through.  I chose to insert mine after completing the entire pie.  All I had to do was cut an "X" in the center, peel back the corners, and insert the bird.  

If you don't want birds in your gadget collection - I've heard that making decorative holes in the top crust and inserting several pieces of macaroni works just as well.  The mini "chimneys" allow the steam to escape and keep the pie juices from overflowing.  Simply remove the macaroni following baking.

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