I read years ago that our taste buds die and regenerate every 10 days, which explains the phenomenon of “acquired taste,” or why something that once tasted terrible (red wine, blue cheese, coffee, olives) can morph into something absolutely delicious over time.
Recently though, I was told that as we age our taste buds continue to die at the same rate but stop regenerating as rapidly, meaning simply we loose ‘em. And, hold onto your seats, this can happen as early as 25! Apparently, this is partly why adults have a greater tolerance for spicy foods, salty foods, and strong flavors than children. Naïve as always, I thought this was a result of expanding your culinary horizons and broadening your palate…but it turns out we may be actually shrinking out palates as we age.
I guess it should come as no surprise that our taste, like so much perception, is objective. Deliciousness, it would seem, is in the mouth of the eater.
All this leads me to ask one basic question: if taste varies person to person, why then are there some flavors that just work together across the board? Let’s take pie for example, a subject I have perhaps spent too much time obsessing over. There are some definite perfect combinations like the obvious: apples and cinnamon. The cinnamon makes apples taste more like apples, and without it, an apple pie tastes all wrong. Some other favorites:
cherries + almond
blueberries and/or blackberries + citrus
bananas + nutmeg
chocolate + coffee
Today’s recipe is a new flavor combination for me, and it’s already a favorite. The key here is to keep things subtle – a splash of rosewater and only ¼ tsp ground cardamom play off the plums’ and raspberries’ already floral character. Same as cinnamon for apples, the rosewater and cardamom here make the plums and raspberries taste more like themselves. And, given our rapidly declining taste buds, this is probably a good thing!
Makes one large, juicy, and delicious pie which, along with some vanilla ice cream, serves 8-10.
One Year Ago: Green Tomato, Bacon, and Gouda Tarts.
For the Crust
- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- ¾ cup ice water
See here for tips on making flakey crusts. Place the flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse a few seconds until the mixture resembles coarse meal – some butter pieces should still be pea-size. Do not over blend! Alternatively, this can be done by hand using a pastry cutter. Dump the flour mixture into a mixing bowl and drizzle in the water slowly. Mix with your hands until you achieve a firm dough. Again, do not over-mix. Divide the dough in two, form into discs and refrigerate until firm – at least 2 hours or overnight.
In a hurry? Place the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes, and then transfer to the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
For the Filling and Assembly
- 2 ½ lbs plums, pitted and thickly sliced
- 1 pint raspberries
- ½ cup granulated sugar plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tbsp rosewater
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 egg yolk beaten with a little cold water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the plums, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, rosewater, and cardamom in a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine and set aside.
Remove one disc of pie dough from the fridge and, working on a well-floured surface, roll the dough to a diameter 2 inches wider than your pie plate. Carefully transfer the rolled dough to the pie plate* – I like to fold it in quarters and then unfold in the plate. Place the filling in the prepared crust.
*Though my fiesta pie plate is pretty to look at, I haven’t been satisfied with the way it cooks (or doesn’t cook) the bottom crust. I’m currently lusting after one of these vintage plates to solve this problem. I encourage you to raid your grandma’s cupboard if possible…
Next, remove the second disc of pie dough from the refrigerator and roll it out in a similar manner. For a lattice topped pie, cut the rolled crust into long thin strips using a sharp chefs’ knife. Lay half the strips in one direction over your pie, leaving space between each one. Next, fold back alternating strips and place the remaining cut strips in the opposite direction over your pie. I like to start in the center of the pie and work my way out to either side. Trim the excess dough and fold the edges in, crimping decoratively. Brush with the beaten egg yolk over the pie and sprinkle generously with sugar.
Place the pie plate on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake an additional 50-60 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and serve with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream.