The Scoop: On Pie A La Mode

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This is more ice cream on the side than à la mode, but you get where I'm going.

I can't think of a food I hate more than whipped cream. There, I said it. Every time a barista at Starbucks asks me, "Whipped cream with that?" I want to say, "No! Want to just spit in it too?"

OK, I'm not as aggressive as that—unless it comes to pie. I don't want to play favorites, but a good seasonal fruit pie is probably my favorite dessert. So when someone ruins it by covering in a blob of death whipped cream, I want to cry. I want to shake my fist and say, "Why, why didn't you just get a pint of ice cream?"

Because pie à la mode, now that is something I can get behind. Some people may find it passé, a retro diner throwback, but I say nay. Making pie à la mode allows that pie to reach its full pie potential. How? Let's examine.*

*For the sake of brevity, I'm saying "pie" but I'd like to specify again that I mean "fruit pie", i.e blueberry, apple, cherry etc. Cream pies don't work as well, for reasons that follow.

1. Temperature contrast. Pie should be served warm. Ideally, it should be just-out-of-the-oven warm, but a quick reheat to a fresh pie is almost as good. Warm pie means a warm crust, and a warm crust tastes the most of butter. When warm fruit filling mixes with cold ice cream, it's like a pleasure combustion goes off in your brain.

2. Textural contrast. Flaky crust, slightly chunky fruit filling, smooth, creamy ice cream—when the textures in the pie meet each other, they become intensified. The slightly deflated blueberries in a pie seem more plump when squished in a mouthful of melting ice cream.

3. Flavor Boosters. Pie and ice cream naturally contain boosters to each others flavors. A hint of lemon juice in the pie filling and bit of salt in the crust make the ice cream taste more vanilla-y and dairy-rich, while the milky cream makes the fruit taste almost fresh.

4. The Puddle. I hope that you always eat your pie à la mode in a bowl, or else you might end up missing the best part (unless you're like me and you have no shame in literally taking your tongue like a windshield wiper to your plate). What am I talking about? The puddle of melted ice cream and fruit syrup that pools at the bottom of the plate, waiting to be lapped up, so deliciously sugary and intense.

5. The Obvious. You can have pie. You can have ice cream. Or you can have pie AND ice cream. Nuff said.

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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