Originally published on the Diocese of Cleveland website.
“Take the teachings of the Church, grow in holiness and become a beautiful creation – more beautiful than when you started.”
That’s Father Ed Suszynski’s recipe for success.
Known on Instagram as “bakingpriest,” he lives by that advice, both as administrator of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Litchfield, and when he works in the kitchen baking his award-winning pies.
He says recipes are akin to the precepts of faith.
“You read a recipe and follow the directions, which is like a seeker who is on a journey of faith. Sometimes you make a mistake with a recipe. Maybe you forget to add something, but you learn from your mistakes; you move on and do better. In our faith journey, we seek reconciliation when we make a mistake. There is advice and penance to help us do better going forward. The confessional is an opportunity to grow and learn,” Father Ed said.
The younger generation “tries to live in a perfect world. But we’re not perfect,” he said. “We learn from our mistakes. And who knows what God will do with us when we learn from our mistakes?”
Even the baking process has faith applications, he said. “You can look at faith as being tested or tried by fire. We try to avoid some things; we might feel like we’re in the oven or in the heat, but God walks with us through that heat, through suffering and shows us we are never alone. The good news is in that coupled with suffering is the joy of the resurrection,” he said. “A pie baking in the oven uses heat to turn into something beautiful – and delicious.”
Father Ed, of Polish and Czech heritage, grew up in St. Bede Parish, Mentor and is the oldest of three children. Ordained in May 2008, he began baking almost by accident during his seminary internship, when he was assigned to St. Malachi Parish on Cleveland’s West Side.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.
He was working with some diocesan staff members on the Vibrant Parish Life Phase 2 program and the meetings always ended with a meal and pie. “It was my turn to bring the pie and I thought how hard could it be to follow a recipe and make one?”
So he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. His first effort was well-received.
“I thought he’d been baking for years,” said one priest recalling one of Father Ed’s early pies.
After that, he never looked back. Family members, parishioners, his classmates, fellow priests and others have all enjoyed Father Ed’s pies. He watched YouTube videos and researched best practices through trial and error to perfect his creations, earning accolades from the pastor at his first assignment, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Parma.
“Father (John) Carlin told me, ‘You’ve got good crust, kid,’” he said.
He really stepped up his pie-baking while at St. Charles, since the rectory kitchen had been renovated and there were two ovens. “One year, I baked 32 pies at Thanksgiving time,” he said, adding that he brings the pies to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. “We have a pie buffet.”
He continued perfecting his baking techniques at his second assignment, St. Gabriel Parish in Mentor.
He also gives pies as gifts and has donated them as raffle prizes at events.
Father Ed says he enjoys the challenge of baking pies and likes to try new things. He prefers using fresh fruit and although he hasn’t tried making a blueberry pie, he is considering a recipe with port wine and blueberries. Recently, he decorated the top of a cherry pie with hearts fashioned from pie crust with a cookie cutter.
Sometimes, he does a lattice crust on top.
“It’s all in the presentation,” he said.
Now that he’s assigned to Our Lady Help of Christians, a sprawling, rural parish with four worship sites, he decided to enter his pies in the Medina County Fair. Last summer, he swept the pie category, taking home first-, second- and third-place ribbons for his Dutch apple, banana cream and cherry pies.
“I sure didn’t win for presentation with that cherry pie. I think I rode the taste train to success,” he quipped.
When asked which was his favorite, Father Ed said he considers his pies to be like his children, but acknowledged the Dutch apple caramel is his favorite. “It has all the goodness of fall. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee, you’re good to go,” he said.
Visit dioceseofcleveland.org/recipes for more pie recipes.
Father Ed’s Perfect Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen*
5 tablespoons butter-flavored Crisco, frozen*
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water
Freeze butter and Crisco ahead of time, night before or longer
In food processor, combine add flour and salt, pulse to incorporate ingredients
Add butter and Crisco, pulse until butter and Crisco are well combined, almost pea size or a little less and mixture starts to look mealy
Start to add water while gently pulsing; mixture should start to come together as a loose dough. Add more water if mixture is not coming together, eye ball this, probably not more than 1 or 2 more tablespoons
Once a loose dough is formed, remove from food processor and place on plastic wrap and form a small mound, then place more plastic wrap on top (parchment paper or even wax paper can work, too).
Taking rolling pin and roll dough out to approximately 12 inch by 12 inch square
Remove top layer of plastic wrap
Place a greased pie tin upside down on dough (rolled dough should be approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches outside diameter of pie tin)
Take one hand and put under dough with other hand on top of the upside down pie tin, then flip over to dough is in the pie tin, peel off plastic wrap
Form edges of pie to your liking. If crust will not be used right away, put in refrigerator or freezer to keep it cool.
Use dough as directed in your favorite recipe
*Frozen fats will help make a flakier crust. Buy butter and Crisco in sticks as this will help measuring.
Father Ed’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
*be sure to use pure pumpkin or pumpkin puree – notpumpkin pie filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large or extra large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup pure/real maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 (9-inch) unbaked pecan pie crust
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk all ingredients (except crust) in a saucepan until well combined. Place on medium heat until the mixture is just warm, all while gently mixing. This will help incorporate ingredients better.
Pour into crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted one inch from crust comes out clean.
Cool. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.
Father Ed’s Cherry Pie
1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie
1 (20-ounce) can pitted sour cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon red food coloring
1 egg white combined with a splash of water (egg wash)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drain cherries*, reserving 1 cup liquid. In a saucepan combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in cherry liquid and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Mixture will thicken.
*drain cherries well, even overnight in the refrigerator, if possible
When mixture is thickened, fold in butter, almond extract, food coloring and cherries until well combined but not overworked. Cover and refrigerate until filling is cool. Tip: do this ahead of time, night before, etc.
On lightly covered surface, roll out half of the pastry into an 11-inch circle. Put into 9- inch pie dish. Roll other half of pastry into another 11-inch circle.
Pour cooled cherry filling into pie dish. Place pastry in lattice or design of your choice, across the top of the pie and lightly brush with egg wash. Place in oven and bake 30-35 minutes or until filling is reduced and well set, then place on cooling rack and let cool before serving.
Father Ed’s hints:
“Frozen fat is your friend.”Add a couple tablespoons of flour to the empty pie shell before adding apples and pie filling to absorb some of the apple juices.Incorporating juice from half of a lemon with fresh fruit filling adds acidity and balances flavor
Roll dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. It uses less flour and makes cleanup easier.
Don’t handle the dough too much.
Use middle finger and thumb to pinch up crust for a deeper crust.
Keep the dough refrigerated; make crusts in advance and freeze or refrigerate for use later.
Prep filling, toppings, etc.in advance.
Use an apple peeler and corer/slicer to save time.
Leave foil pie guard on the edges of a fruit pie to prevent overbrowning.