23 November 2008

The Pie-tastrophe Story

In honor of Thanksgiving, and all you cooks who are stressing out right about now, I thought I'd resurrect this email to a friend from late November 2005...

So here’s a story for your entertainment: after doing a bunch of cleaning last night, I finally got around to making a ‘test pie’ for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Understand that my stepmother and her mom are incredible bakers, and that my grandma has taught me to make a pie crust from scratch. The problem is that I only do this once a year or every couple of years, so every time, it’s like starting from square 1, except I don’t have my grandma or Janet there as I did the first time.

So at 10 o’clock last night I call up Janet – fortunately, only 9 p.m. there. I’m covered in flour, the entire kitchen is covered in flour, and I can’t decipher my notes from when I learned the recipe with Grandma. So I call Janet, who has Grandma visiting, but of course is a darn good baker herself. Janet proceeds to talk me through the entire process, but only when I’m rolling the dough on the counter and it’s cracking all over the place – in fact, it looked like a map of Ireland rather than the circle it was meant to be – do we figure out that because the climate here is so freakishly dry, I need a lot more water.

So I put it back in the bowl, add more water mixed with flour, and try working it again. At this point, what is supposed to be adhering to itself in a ball is flaking like freaking Paris Hilton. It’s all over the place. So I add still more water. Now, it strongly resembles play-dough. I roll it out again, and this time manage to achieve something that basically looks like a pig, which is at least rounder than a map of Ireland. I put it in the pie pan, cut off the ragged edges, and pinch the rim into shape. I preheat the oven and make my pumpkin pie filling.

So you’re supposed to bake a pumpkin pie for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then reduce heat to 325 and bake for 35 minutes. And this works great if you are in Owensboro, Kentucky. But in Colorado, at 6700 feet, this does not work so well. An hour and twenty minutes later, it was close enough to being fully cooked that I just turned the oven off, left the pie in there and went to bed at 1 in the morning.

This morning, Ben and I tried the pie for breakfast. We each had about two bites and threw the rest of the pie out. The crust was hard as a rock, and the filling was still too mushy. At least the flavor was good. Thank god I made a test pie, because I think now I know what to do (and not do) on the next go-round.

And yes, I am buying a ‘back-up pie’ on the pretext of having two flavors!!

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