I have to admit that baking a pie is not my favorite thing to do. —Baking—I love. But baking a pie? Not so much. If I'm going to do it, this is it.
OUT OF THE FOG
Over the past year I found myself in and out of depression, waking up from the lull of a stagnant yet increasingly toxic relationship. When I decided to bake this pie, I realized I had no one to share it with. And I was in a relationship. How lonely is that? It was a wake up call. The smack you on the lips and show yourself some love kind of wake up call. This isn’t just Stormy Skies Pie. This is Stay Woke Pie.
Pie Is Love
Especially chocolate pie. Chocolate pie has a romantic feel to it, a deep comfort. I decided this pie was an expression of love, even if it was just to share with myself. I ended up sharing with neighbors and friends. Each day felt like I was just trudging through the motions with ominous cliches looming overhead. Even when I immersed myself in the things I love.
Had I become some depressed girl cliche coping with an abundance of chocolate? Nah, that's just part of who I am regardless of emotion, savoring it in small bits to the best of my abilities.
C’mon, y’all. Pie is love.
Becoming Comfortable in the Uncomfortable
I'd never actually baked my own pie of any kind before. (I helped my mom cook growing up, and baked cookies and pizza on my own, but never attempted to bake a full blown dessert type pie.) Now, as an adrenaline junkie of sorts, and no stranger to the kitchen, I hadn't considered baking as a way to get out of my comfort zone of familiarity, and back into the comfort zone of growth—which for me really means being comfortable facing the uncomfortable. That's where something as innocent as pie caught me off guard and opened my heart back up. Something cliqued. It was that small action of doing something new by myself, that also allowed versatility along the way.
When Jordan Smith debuted her home cooking blog, Small Comforts Kitchen earlier this year, I was psyched for three reasons (Pie itself was not one of them):
First, was that I know Jordan. As a volunteering member for a non-profit organization known as The Writers League of Texas, I've spent several hours under her wing at various events, and have only glimpsed a splinter of her workload. (She is currently the Member Services Manager). I can't say I know her deeply, but that I know she is compassionate, dedicated, and her shoes are hard to fill. She wasn't someone that popped up for me in an online recipe rabbit hole—nothing wrong with that—but it was that direct personal connection that amplified my intrigue.
Second, was that her recipes are incidentally gluten free. Jordan describes them as "gluten-free recipes that aren’t good in spite of being gluten-free; they’re just damn good recipes."
Third, chocolate. Need I say more? I'll let Jordan do the talking here. In the following interview with Jordan Smith, get inside the mind behind Small Comforts Kitchen, and discover why her debut recipe incorporates chocolate. If you're already drooling, please be careful tilting your head. Breathe. Her recipe can be found towards the end of this post. Or here.
INTERVIEW: JORDAN SMITH of SMALL COMFORTS KITCHEN
When and how did you get into home cooking?
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when, but one of my first memories of cooking on my own was attempting a strawberry whipped cream cake for mother's day when I was nine or ten. I'm pretty sure the whipped cream "frosting" kept sliding off the cake. But I inherently understood that it was special to make food for a loved one, and then when I was a teenager, I started to find solace in being home by myself and cooking my own food.
Under your mouthwatering art on Instagram, you shared that you have depression, and that cooking is a form of self care. Personally, how has cooking your own meals helped you through your depression?
Cooking literally gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I was going through a rough period and couldn't get myself out of bed for my day job, even though I didn't have to be at work until 10 am. When I started cooking breakfast for myself each morning, things started to shift, and then eventually posting my breakfast on Instagram led to wanting to start a blog. I wanted the name for my blog to hint at my experience —something that would be warm and welcoming but also subtly convey how I use cooking to alleviate the depression.
What are your favorite small comforts outside of the kitchen?
I practice yoga (I used to teach it, but stopped during the low point of my depression). I also enjoy coloring books and have recently started gardening. (I may have a house plant-buying problem.) And I have way too many lavender-scented things in my bathroom cabinet right now.
At what point did you decide to take your recipes and way of home cooking a step further and share it with the world?
This is actually my second time starting a food blog. I had a blog on and off in college, but it was just a personal diary of sorts and not really something I was trying to share with others. This time around, I was worried that if I started a blog, cooking might become stressful instead of fun. But on Instagram, it seemed like I was getting really authentic interest from friends and strangers, which can be hard to do on social media. One day I told myself that if I got 100 likes on a post, I'd think about starting a blog. Around the same time, I was contacted by Addie Broyles about running some photos of a cake I made in the Austin American-Statesman. That's when I started to feel like maybe I was onto something.
Your blog features recipes that are delicious, uplifting, and incidentally gluten free. When did you personally shift to eat gluten free?
I was diagnosed with celiac in summer 2012. I may have had symptoms my whole life, but they only became severe that summer. I was lucky in that I got a diagnosis very quickly after I got sick. I happened to know two others who had been recently diagnosed. My doctors never proposed that I might have celiac, and I was met with some resistance when I asked to be tested for it. I'd encourage anyone who suspects that they might have it -- or any other illness -- to keep advocating for themselves until they find answers.
After my diagnosis, I very quickly made the switch to eating gluten-free, though it took me years to start enjoying eating and cooking again.
If I made your Stormy Skies Pie when it is bright and sunny outside, what nickname do you suggest to call it?
Love this question! Chocolate Dream Pie!
Do you have a favorite kind of chocolate?
I'm typically more of a milk chocolate person, but I also tend to gravitate toward chocolate paired with other interesting flavors. I love salty chocolate, as well as anything with lavender or hazelnuts.
What is your favorite chocolate related memory?
Truthfully, making the Stormy Skies Pie. I chose to post that recipe first on my blog because it came together in such a seamless, enjoyable way, and I really think it encapsulates what I'm trying to do with the blog, which is to make gluten-free food that everyone will love. And at a very close second is being interviewed by you!
Get Jordan's Recipe Here: Stormy Skies Chocolate Silk Pie (or Dreamy Skies Pie) with Cointreau Whip Cream (gluten free)
What I love about this recipe is its tremendous versatility. It can be modified for any diet. It can be a bake or no bake pie, and finally, it is one I have come to enjoy during any season, through cloudy haze, or under a sapphire blanket studded with stars.
Jordan's recipe was adapted from several sources: gluten-free cookie crust adapted from Kate McDermot via bon appetit, and the chocolate silk was adapted from the New York Times. The boozey Cointreau whip cream is all her.
I decided to experiment with my own variations, which became a challenge as the heat was picking up here in Austin, Texas. In a 540 sq ft studio apartment, an oven isn't exactly calling me when it is between 90 and 100+ degrees fahrenheight outside. So I took some time to play with the versatility of the recipe outdoors on the grill, which isn't something I do unless I'm grilling several things, so as not to be wasteful. Now that we have finally entered what feels like Fall (late October), I will continue to experiment with this delicious recipe.
Special Ingredients: Put a Little Soul Into It
In my own adaptation, I didn't stray far from Jordan's recipe, but still wanted to personalize it. I decided to do this with ingredients that are references to my memories and a few individuals who have empowered me along the way in my chocolate and writing journey. Small details are also small comforts, right? Let's call this Writing up a Storm Pie. Something like that. Hmm. No. Dreamy Skies Pie fits better.
The pie itself is my reference to Jordan.
Because I know Jordan through the writing community, sharing her debut recipe is a huge joy in itself. Plus, the chocolate silk reminds me of my childhood love for chocolate mousse. I still love it.
TCHO Cocoa powder is a reference to two people.
The very first interview I posted on my blog here was with Simran Sethi, author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of The foods We Love, a compassionate woman whom I dearly respect. In her opening chapter, she introduces us to TCHO Chocolate, of California.
The very first person I shared any of my chocolate writing with in the industry was Sander Wolf, Founder of The Dallas Chocolate Festival. He is also a fan of TCHO chocolate, and was the first person I ever heard pronounce the name in person. Even having read about it, I was mispronouncing the name! (Though sometimes I will adore a mispronunciation and it will become a nickname or joke).
Fair Trade bakers chocolate used is by Divine Chocolate, which is ethically sourced from Africa's first farmer owned cooperative organization Kuapo Kokoo, of Ghana, Africa. The heart of my research in cacao was on the ground in the Volta region of Ghana, where I joined some students on their college dissertations. We surveyed 16 rural cacao farming villages.
*Butter was from Vital Farms, because I believe in supporting small local businesses when and where you can. Plus, ethics. Bullshit free.
*Sugar used was also Fair Trade, which is often an overlooked ingredient when it comes to ethical food sourcing.
I also added grilled strawberries, because, I was grilling.