Last week, I fell into what I can only describe as a ‘pit of existential despair’. The chemical imbalance in my brain reared its ugly head once again, and I found myself utterly crippled by deep depression paired with uncontrollable anxiety about the outside world. As a self-diagnosed agoraphobic, all I wanted to do was get stoned, play Animal Crossing, watch Gilmore Girls (for the fourth time) and cry alone in fetal position on the extra mattress I recently moved downstairs in front of my television. Which is exactly what I did, for days on end. At the beginning of all this, when the crushing emptiness had only just started slithering its way into my delicate psyche, I called up my local weed delivery service to prepare myself for the downswing I knew I was about to enter into. Similar to a bear preparing for hibernation, I got myself every kind of weird weed treat they had. Weed fruit roll up, weed lemonade, weed cookies, weed candy, weed cereal. You name it, I consumed it.
It was only after having what I can only describe as a psychedelic experience from a combination of weed hot cheetos and 3 days of consistently wearing weed arm patches (which are supposed to deliver a steady dose of THC to you throughout an 8-12 hour period) that I realized, though I’ve actually found weed to be one of the most helpful things in treating my depression, I didn’t used to use it to completely blind myself from my own experience of life. I used to use it in less intense doses, to help motivate myself to become less depressed by doing things I love doing, things that remind me why I’m voluntarily choosing to be alive for ~70 more years.
Now, what are those things that I used to do to alleviate the utter loss of hope I experience so frequently? In this situation, most people will tell you something like ‘exercise cures depression!’ but as every depressed person knows, getting up and putting on exercise clothes and running in public is just about the most difficult thing in the world for a depressed person to do, and having someone suggest it as a solution only makes you feel worse about yourself. Also, I have never been big on practical, scientifically proven solutions. So, instead of exercise, I baked pies.
Baking pies was perhaps the only thing that got me through my high school experience, some of the most depressing years of my life. I would come home from school, broken and exhausted from spending all day desperately trying to seem like I belonged. Hopelessly wishing I could figure out what, if anything, I had in common with my fellow students. I would spend all day thinking about how nobody could ever love my terrible acne pocked face and my too-tall, not-thin-enough body, then come home and lose myself in baking.
At school, I suffered, but at home, my hands were never idle. Anytime I wasn’t baking complex pies, I was typing away on my computer to people who, I felt, understood me. Internet friends who I never had, and never would meet in real life. My internet friends and my immediate family are the only people I shared my penchant for making pies with.
Upon remembering my fondness for making pies, I also remembered that I live in California and I have a medical marijuana prescription. I’m no longer a teen struggling to find weed from 27-year-old dealers who still live in their parents’ basement and charge you $20 for a dime bag.
So, I decided to combine my two favorite depression remedies: weed and pies.
Today, I am going to share one of my favorite pie recipes with you. This recipe is inspired by my grandmother’s pear pie recipe. Full disclosure though, our recipes are quite different. She made pear pies for my siblings and I as children all the time. However, being the amazing woman that she is, when we moved into adolescence, she moved on to bigger, better dessert recipes that are far too complex for me to cook on my own. I missed the pear pies though, so I learned to make my own version.
For those of you interested, here are the differences between her recipe and my recipe:
Her version was wholesome, my version gets you high
She put only water in the crust, I put vodka in the crust
Her version had a top and bottom crust, mine only has a bottom crust
Hers was deep dish, mine is more of a tart
Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Vodka? I’ve gotten alcohol poisoning from that too many times, please keep it away from my pies.’ but don’t worry, I promise your pie will not taste like vodka and you will thank me for this trick later on.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Not Exactly My Grandma’s Pot Pear Pie.
(You can, of course, make this recipe without weed too. Just replace the weed butter with regular butter.)
For all of you edible n00bs out there, the first step of making almost any good edible is making THC butter. That said, I’ve definitely made edibles where i just put ground up weed into cake batter, and they are very effective in getting you stoned, but if you don’t like the taste of weed they can be very unpleasant. I normally go with THC butter (also known as ‘cannabutter’) for that reason.
Making THC butter can seem intimidating at first. But trust me when I say, if I can make it without messing up while stoned off my ass and so depressed that using my arm to stir is enough physical exertion for the next week, then you can make it too.
Here are the supplies you will need:
Wooden spoon or ladle
Fine mesh metal strainer
Container with a tight fitting lid (big enough to hold all of your butter)
Here are the ingredients you will need for the cannabutter (these are the proportions I used, if you want less strong cannabutter, you can use less weed, or more weed if you want it stronger. This recipe is very versatile once you get the hang of it):
½ cup (one stick) of unsalted butter (higher quality butter = better tasting cannabutter)
¼ ounce of weed, VERY finely ground
The first step is to prepare your buds for the butter. Take your very finely ground weed and spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the weed in a 240 degree oven for 45 minutes. This process is called decarboxylization and it will help you get the highest possible potency out of the weed.
Essentially, what the decarboxylation process does, is prepare your weed for having its THC crystals boiled off of it. As I understand, raw cannabis contains a chemical called THCa, which is not psychoactive (as in, it won’t make you stoned). When you apply heat (via smoking, for example), the THCa becomes THC, which does get you stoned. Then, when you put your weed into your butter, the THC crystals easily melt off the plant, giving you some perfectly potent pot butter.
Decarboxylization. Doesn’t that sound fancy and scientific? Impress your friends with this new scientific term you just learned.
So, after you have decarboxylated your buds, the next step is to melt your butter in the sauce pan at a medium-low heat. It is important here that your heat isn’t too high, because you don’t want to burn the butter. Not burning the butter is pretty much your main goal. You want to watch the butter CAREFULLY here. It will go from perfect to burnt quickly if you have the heat on too high.
Once your butter is melted, you can begin adding your weed, little by little, while stirring at the same time. This ensures that the weed is all being evenly coated in butter so that all the THC crystals are melted off.
After all your weed is added, simmer your butter and bud on a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring FREQUENTLY.
When your butter is done simmering, pour it through your fine mesh metal strainer and into your container with a tight fitting lid. Use the back of the wooden spoon to push the weed against the strainer, squeezing out all the butter. (I’ve heard of people using a cheesecloth for this step also, and squeezing the weed in the cloth to get all the butter out. I haven’t tried that way though.)
Once all the butter is in the container, put the top on and refrigerate it. (The refrigeration step isn’t necessary for potency, if you drank the butter melted you would still get stoned out of your mind. This recipe just happens to call for cold butter.)
Congratulations! You made cannabutter.
So, now we can get started on the actual pie. Here are the supplies you will need:
9-inch diameter shallow pie pan
2 medium pots (for poaching)
1 medium sauce pan (for pastry cream)
1 large mixing bowl
1 medium mixing bowl
And here are the ingredients:
For the pastry cream:
2 ¼ cups of whole milk
6 egg yolks
⅔ cup of sugar
⅓ cup of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of almond paste or 1 vanilla bean (optional)
For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of cannabutter
4 tablespoons of ice water
1 tablespoon of vodka (any brand)
For the poached pears:
4 firm pears (such as bartlett or bosc)
1 bottle of red wine (I used two buck chuck merlot)
½ cup of sugar
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
1 whole cinnamon stick
Let's start with the pastry cream. Though I have total confidence in you to make a beautiful pastry cream, I must confess this is probably the hardest part of the recipe. If you aren’t careful, it can turn into overly sweet scrambled eggs instead of a beautifully thick and delicious custard.
Don’t worry, I will talk you through every step of the way.
An important thing to do with pastry cream is to get everything set up before you start, because once you begin the cooking process you will not be able to pause. I recommend reading all of these instructions thoroughly before you begin.
First, in your medium mixing bowl, whisk together ½ cup of the milk, all the egg yolks, ⅓ cup of the sugar and all of the corn starch. Then, pour the remaining 1 ¾ cups of milk into the medium saucepan. At this point, you can flavor the pastry cream in a lot of different ways. My personal favorite ways to flavor pastry cream are with almond paste or vanilla bean. For this recipe I am going to use vanilla bean, but feel free to do some research and come up with your own flavors. You can use pretty much any kind of extract you want.
So, add your flavoring of choice here. Today, mine is vanilla bean. If you chose to use vanilla bean, cut open the pod with a paring knife, scrape the seeds into the custard then throw the entire pod into the milk (we will fish it out later). Sprinkle the remaining ⅓ cup of sugar over the milk, then put your saucepan over medium heat and let the milk come to a gentle simmer without stirring. The sugar will sink to the bottom of the pan. That’s okay. Don’t panic.
Once the milk has come to a simmer, take it off the heat and whisk it so that the milk and sugar are combined.
Okay here comes the important part, listen carefully now. We are going to do something called ‘tempering’ the eggs. This technique is not difficult, but it does require patience. Take your time with this. The goal here is to slowly introduce the hot milk mixture to the cold egg mixture, because if the eggs heat up too quickly, they will become scrambled. So what you want to do, is pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture LITTLE BY LITTLE while whisking the mixture consistently. Make sure you never stop whisking during the tempering process. Continue this until the entire milk mixture is added to the eggs. The consistency should be smooth.
Pour your combined mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. It should begin to thicken. DO NOT overcook the pastry cream. It is still liable to become scrambled eggs at this point. 1 minute should be plenty of time for it to thicken, and don’t worry, it will thicken even more as it chills.
Transfer the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate until cold.
Okay, now let's poach our pears. This part is easy as pie (haha!).
Peel the pears and place them in your pot, whole. Add the wine, sugar, cinnamon stick, orange peel, lemon peel and just enough water to cover the pears completely. Put the mixture over high heat, bringing the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring gently .
Remove the pot from the heat and let the pears cool completely in the liquid. After it has cooled, fish the pears out of the liquid using a slotted spoon and set them aside.
Alright, now here’s the part of the recipe you’ve all been waiting for. The weed vodka crust. If you want to make this easier on yourself, and you have a food processor, by all means use that. I, however, do not want to make anything easier on myself. So, I used my hands. Needless to say, if you want to use my method, make sure your hands are EXTREMELY CLEAN, or even better, use gloves.
Pour your flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Cut your COLD cannabutter and regular butter into ½- inch cubes. Put the butter into the flour and, using your fingers, you want to kind of smush the butter into the flour by rubbing it between your fingers until it resembles coarse cornmeal. You can also use a pastry cutter for this if you don’t want to get your hands messy. The butter should be equally dispersed throughout the flour in pieces no larger than a pea. Now, add your ice water and vodka to the butter flour mixture, one tablespoon at a time (doesn’t matter if you add the water or vodka first). Continue doing this until you have a moist, but not wet, dough. It should easily form into a ball without falling apart.
Wrap your dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for for at least 1 hour (but this recipe can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead of time).
A note on the vodka addition: I don’t know why, and I don’t remember where I learned this trick, but adding vodka is an essential component for a foolproof pie crust. It helps provide that tender, yet flakey texture we are striving for. Especially if you are new to pie making, I cannot recommend this trick highly enough. The alcohol is cooked off while the crust bakes, so don’t worry, you will not taste the vodka. I’m sure there is some kind of science behind why the vodka makes the pie crust this way, but I already explained enough science in this article with the weed decarboxylization, and I don’t want to bore you guys. Just google it. Or better yet, blindly trust me.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, such as a counter or cutting board, roll your dough out (with a rolling pin or, if you don’t have a rolling pin, a wine bottle will work) to about ½ inch thick. Press your rolled dough onto the bottom and up the sides of your buttered pan. At this point, if you want to do a scalloped edge on your pie crust, or something fancy like that, go for it. If not, you can just trim off the extra pie crust hanging over the sides with a knife. Gently prick the bottom of the crust with a fork about 10 times. This prevents bubbles from forming
Because our filling does not need to be baked, we are going to do something called blind baking the crust. For this you can use pie weights which are sold in baking supply stores, but in my opinion they are useless. Instead, I cover the crust with a piece of foil, then pour 2-3 cups of dried beans onto it. Be sure there are enough beans to get all the way up to the edge of the pie. This prevents the crust from sagging. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven and let it cool completely.
Okay now for the last step, and my personal favorite part: putting it all together. Cut your pears in half lengthwise, scoop out the center, cut off the stems, and place them on 3 layers of paper towels. This will help drain out all excess liquid so our pie isn’t soggy.
Spread your pastry cream on the bottom of your crust. You can use as much or as little as you like, but if you use too much it will turn into a custard pie instead of a fruit pie. You will likely have some leftover. Just eat it with a spoon when nobodys looking.
Cut your peaches and pears into slices and arrange them decoratively atop the pastry cream, covering it completely.
And you’re done! Now all you have to do is sit back, relax, enjoy some pie and get fucked up.
Oh, and a note of warning to anyone who is not familiar with edibles: start by eating a small amount, then wait a full hour before having more. It is extremely easy to get uncomfortably stoned from edibles, especially ones that taste good and it usually takes an hour or more to feel the full effects. Also, you will get the strongest buzz if you eat the pie on an empty stomach. Which means that you now have the perfect excuse to eat dessert before dinner. You’re welcome.