Posted on September 28 2016
Testify it's a Tesla Pie!
Don't know why Tesla's so great? Read this before you go any further: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla
Okay! Now that we're on the same page, we can talk about how you too can make a Nikola Tesla Apple/Strawberry Pie for your next meeting of the "Edison Was a Big Jerk" club.
Time to create:
Wont lie, this one was a bit of a haul... 3.5 hour total. Mainly because I decided to make the dough and filling from scratch today. You are of course under no obligation to put yourself through that pain - feel free to go pre-fab, in which case skip right to step 3.
- 0.5 hours to make the dough
- 1 hour to make the filling
- 1 hour to create the stencil digital file, trace on parchment, and cut out shapes
- 0.5 hours to create the pie top designs
- 0.5 hours to assemble
- Pie dough (crisco, salt, water, flour)
- Apple filling (giant apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, pink food colouring)
- Egg whites
- 8" pie pan
- Image editing software such as Photoshop
- Printer and paper
- Parchment paper
- Mat/Exacto Knife
- Cutting mat
- Pastry brush
- Assorted cutting boards
- Rolling pin
- Cookie cutter
Step 1 - Make filling and put in fridge
I don't know what these apples are called, but they are HUGE! That's not an optical illusion. It only took three to fill my 8" pie pan fully, and they tasted great.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, big ol' pile of peeled apples and a little bit of water. I also added a bit of pink food colouring to help the top design stand out more from the filling.
I boiled them for an hour, then mashed with a potato masher, drained and put in the fridge to chill. Make sure your filling is completely cool before adding it to your shell or you'll get nasty soggy crust!
Step 2 - Make pie shell and put in fridge
I made the dough from scratch (well, from Crisco) - but feel free to use your own favourite recipe or a prefab roll out crust if you don't have time for this messy nonsense. I wanted to do a lightning bolt trim, but the closest thing I had was this boat. Which I think kinda looks lightingy when layered - what do you think?
Egg white wash, poke holes, cling wrap and chill until ready to use.
Step 3 - Select an image and create the digital stencil file
Now for the fun part!
The next several steps follow the same process as my "Pie Hard" pie (which you can check out here.)
To make your life easier, start with a source file that already has a respectable amount of contrast to it. How can you tell if it has enough? Squint at it. If you can still make out what it is an image of when squinting, you're probably good to go.
Open a standard Letter/A4 page in Photoshop. 72 dpi is fine. Draw an 8" circle.
Place your image(s) inside the circle.
Go to Image -> Adjustment -> Threshold. Diddle with the slider until you are relatively happy with the black and white image. After that, go to Filter -> Filter Gallery (or "Artistic" in older versions) -> Cut Out. Diddle with these sliders to smooth out the areas of your stencil-to-be.
Finally, using the paintbrush tool, clean up any "islands" (areas of white fully enclosed by black) by either painting them out completely with a black paintbrush, or creating a little "peninsula" of white to connect them to the rest of the stencil.
I decided to add Wardenclyffe Tower (Tesla's famous wireless transmission station) to the composition to make things a little more interesting.
Step 4 - Print and trace stencils onto parchment paper
Print out your file at your printer's lowest quality setting (save that ink!) and trace all the black shapes on parchment paper that is curling towards your page.
Step 5 - Cut out the details
Get your cutting board, exacto knife and sharp scissors ready.
Go slowly! Every little contour matters when trying to recreate a likeness. If you mess up, trace it again on a new sheet and start over.
Step 6 - Cut the head shape out of your dough
You should now have two sheets - one on paper that is the shape of the head, and one on parchment that has all of the facial details cut out.
This part's easy. Trace around the head shape with a sharp knife, then peel off of your dough and place onto a sheet of floured cling wrap.
Step 7 - Paint the parchment stencil down with egg white
Precisely place your second stencils on top of the cut out head shape. Using a pastry brush and egg whites, paint down the stencil until every inch is saturated. Dab! Don't be a brute or you'll dislodge or destroy your little details.
Step 8 - Tap in the cinnamon and brush off excess
Shake cinnamon over the still wet egg wash and tap in with your finger to ensure perfect adhesion, especially around tiny detail areas.
This step is critical if you want to avoid stray powder destroying your image when you peel off the stencil. If you don't care about your floors, you could blow the powder off, but if that's not an option, use a brush to *carefully* remove all excess into the sink.
I tried blowing first - bad idea. Ended up with a lung full of cinnamon. One of my least favourite life experiences.
Step 10 - Peel off stencil carefully
Carefully peel off the stencil, taking care not to let any powder fall onto the rest of the pie. Place the resulting design into the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie. Do NOT cover it in cling wrap or you risk destroying your details.
If stray powder gets where it shouldn't be during the peeling process, just scrape it off with a clean knife.
Now is a good time to preheat your oven if you haven't already.
Step 11 - Create the tower freehand
With the face chilling in the fridge, I moved onto the tower. Since it was too complex to trace, I just freehand cut of a simplified version of the pieces.
Step 12 -Prep the other little details
I wanted to have rays emanating from the tower and landed on strawberries for the final design. Prep little strips of assorted sizes so you don't waste any time in assembly.
Step 13 - Prepare the filling and pie bottom
Now the clock is ticking! Add the chilled filling to the chilled pie crust from the fridge as soon as your oven and all your design elements are ready to go. The second that filling hits the shell, you've got about 15 minutes before things get soggy.
Step 14 - Transfer the top design elements over
Transfer the pieces over to your pie. For delicate elements like powder likenesses, I like to transfer on a piece of cling wrap and then carefully tug it out like a table cloth. This prevents stretching of the dough as you lift it, which can make your figure look a little wonky.
The tower and strawberries I placed normally.
Stick the completed pie in the bottom rack of the oven at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and keep it in for another 40 minutes.
Step 15 - Fill in any cracks
If your cinnamon cracked in any places in the oven, just patch the spots with a bit of cinnamon on a wet brush.
Does Edison have his own pie? No, no he doesn't.
If you liked this recipe/tutorial, please tweet, pin, instagram, etc. with the buttons below, and leave me a comment. As always I love to hear your feedback, ideas for future pies, and if you take a stab at making this design or something else with this technique, lemme know and I may feature you on the Ins-pie-ration page!
Thanks for reading, and see you next Wednesday :)
π > ∞
Jessica (aka @ThePieous)