One thing that gets me horribly frustrated is when what looks like an interesting recipe turns out to go: "Buy cake mix, bake, ice* with this stuff from a tub and sprinkle with this brand of sprinkly stuff" or, worse, "Put ready-rolled pastry in tin, pour on pie-filling, bake".
Some things are truly soul-destroying.
So I decided that today we would prove, once and for all, that actually putting the time and effort into making something properly is entirely worth it.
We made two Cherry Pies.
One packet of shortcrust pastry
One emergency packet of puff pastry
50g ground almonds
350g plain flour
200g caster sugar
150g cold butter
A little milk
Two tins of cherry pie filling
Vanilla essence or one vanilla pod
Lemon if you like it
First make pastry for the home-made pie.
Put the flour into a large bowl and grate in the butter quickly.
Toss the butter in the flour then rub lightly with the fingers until it forms breadcrumbs.
Hand Small Chef the first egg and ask her to crack it.
Clean up the mess from the exploded egg, get another egg from somewhere and quickly crack and separate two eggs, leaving the whites for meringue-making or healthy-but-unappealling omelettes, or something like that.
Dump the egg yolks, the ground almonds and 100g of sugar into the flour mixture and mix with the hands until everyone is covered in yuck.
Add a splash of milk and work the mixture gently together till it forms a dough.
Wrap this in cling film, place in the fridge to rest and go out to the library taking special care to remember to bring your library books.
Come back from the library, find the library books and put them by the door to try again tomorrow.
Now you can start making pies.
Send both chefs to wash their hands.
Get out your laptop or music system and put on Sweet Cherry Pie.
Rock out sedately in the kitchen while waiting for their return.
Put a large pan on the stove and pour in the other 100g of sugar along with a dash of vanilla.
Turn on the heat and leave the pan to its own devices until the sugar has turned to caramelly gloop.
Issue a Terrible Warning as to what will happen should anyone touch the stove, the pan, or the hot sugar.
Make a note to find a copy of Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales.
Find Smaller Chef a handkerchief.
If you have fresh cherries place on on top of a small-necked bottle, take a straw and push this through the cherry and into the bottle, neatly extracting the stone and depositing it in the bottle.
Take a moment to appreciate how amazing this trick is, then stone the rest of the cherries in the same way.
You now have a bottle full of cherry stones.
Make a note to look up kirsch recipes.
Next, roll out the shortcrust pastry and cut to fit your pie-dish.
Cut the rest of the pastry into ten strips, long enough to reach from one side of the dish to the other.
Fit the pie base into the dish.
Now open the tins of pie-filling and pour the bloop into the pie case.
Shake the cans gently to release their contents if they don't easily pour out.
Send chefs Small and Smaller to wash the pie-goop out of their hair.
When they have returned and the sugar in the pan is thoroughly gloopified, pour the cherries into the resulting caramel along with a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like it, and a good splash of kirsch.
While this is cooking down, finish topping the first pie.
Take five strips of pastry and set them across the filled pie dish.
Place one strip across the centre of the dish, crossing the other strips then fold every other strip back across this centre strip.
Take the next strip and set it across the two or three strips that have not been folded back, a little away from the folds.
Unfold the folded strips over this strip and fold back the strips that were previously unfolded.
Place another strip over the strips that are now unfolded and then unfold the folded strips back over them.
Now fold back the strips that you originally folded, again, on the other side of the dish and repeat the previous couple of steps: laying down a strip, unfolding the folded strips and folding back the unfolded to cover that side in the same way.
You should have a charming latticework top.
Failing that, take this opportunity to discuss the work of M.C Escher.
Tuck the ends of the lattice-strips under the main pie case and crimp the edges all the way round.
Put this pie in the fridge to chill before baking.
Assuming that your cherries are now a pleasingly dark and glossy mass, sprinkle in two tablespoons of cornflour and stir till thickened.
Take this pie filling of the heat and set aside to cool.
Now roll out your homemade pastry and cut to fit another pie-dish.
Discover that when you try to cut this pastry into strips it crumbles to fine crumbs of nothing.
Mutter "What have you done to my beautiful wickedness" and get the emergency puff pastry out of the fridge***.
Roll this out and cut strips ready to top this pie like the last one.
Place the pastry case in the fridge to chill till the pie filling is ready.
Watch Small Chef improvise interpretive dance on the subject of cherry pie.
Admonish Small Chef and inform her that dancing in the kitchen is strictly forbidden.
Enjoy the sweet tang of hypocrisy.
Fill the homemade pie case with homemade pie filling and top with tragically unhomemade pastry strips as you did the last pie.
Cook the pies, one at a time if necessary, in a high-to-moderate oven (we went with 200 degrees) for about thirty five minutes.
Eat a slice of each, for comparison purposes, with a damn fine cup of coffee.
Wonder what you're going to do with the rest of the pies****.
Further wonder what to do with the information that everybody prefers the homemade pastry, but two out of three chefs prefer the tinned filling***** and Richard obstinately continues to dislike cherry pie.
Consider that the advantage of homemade pie is that you can tinker with the recipe until you get it right.
Wonder how many pies you're going to have to bake before you manage this.
*Actually, it usually says "frost".
**We ended up using frozen ones, as cherries are not in season, so missed out on the cool cherry pitting trick.
***What are you talking about?
Everyone has emergency pastry in the fridge, haven't they?
****The answer, of course, is: freeze them.
******Make a further note to re-read Asterix.