Sunday, December 6, 2009

pie crust or roofing shingles, humiliation AND dissapointment

I've made this crust before. Many times, bc it was such a success the first time, probably the first decent pie crust I've ever made. I attributed this to the way the water is added. You FOLD it in w a spatula, pressing and smearing, and you get a very flaky, crispy but tender crust. Also it is the crust that is given w my all time favorite pecan pie recipe, from cooks illustrated, (is there a conclusion to be drawn about people who are overly reliant on Christopher Kimball?) This time I doubled the recipe bc I was making two pies, one for me and one for my bf and his family. And I usually cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter and it is usually just fine. I am lazy and don't like having to wash the food processor; it seems so large and cumbersome and takes up the entire drying rack and I just have an aversion to it.
So I cut the butter with the pastry cutter, added the water with egg white, added a little extra water, but I usually do, so I'm still thinking it will be ok. I wrap it and chill it and roll it out and press it into the pan, and my mother flutes the edge bc I am incapable of doing that, it always looks as if my dog tried to wrestle the pie away from me.
The first clue was the smoke, thick, dark smoke seeping out from the edges of the oven door. I opened the door, knowing full well that the ridiculously placed smoke detector, the one directly above the oven, would go off, but I wanted to see what exactly had happened. The smoke detector started screeching, my mother and I flew around and opened doors and windows trying to create a cross draft. I tried to remember my password to stop the alarm, then I tried to remember where I had left the sheet with my password helpfully written on it. The alarm company called and I was still trying to find the cheat sheet and I could barely hear the man on the other end of the line as he asked me for my password and kept saying, "no, that's not it," "no, that's not it," as I ran through my elementary school teachers, the names of each band member from The Talking Heads, then The Gourds. Finally they said they were going to have to send the fire department.
Really? Someone has broken into my house, set it on fire and stayed around to answer the phone, even though she doesn't know the stupid password? It's not the burglar alarm that was going off.
Finally I found the cheat sheet, it's always the last place you look, silenced the alarm, and reassured the alarm company personnel.
Now I only had the voluminously smoking pie crust to deal with. Actually, it was the butter that had dripped onto the oven floor that was smoking. When I took the crust out to remove the pie weights, there were great puddles of melted butter washing back and forth in the pan. This seriously alarmed my mother. And in hind sight, that was the there-and-then moment. I should have started over, dirtied the food processor and done it correctly. But I still believed that it would be OK. I've done this before.
We blotted up the melted butter and put the crust back in the smoky oven. The alarm went off again, the alarm company called again, I left it for my mother to answer as I went to the basement to get a fan so we could direct the smoke away from the smoke detector.
The filling went beautifully, the pie looked lovely, thanks to my mother's fluting.
I left one for my bf who was having his whole family over for Thanksgiving dinner. Apparently his family, just in trying to cut it, never mind eat it, said, "Oh, now we know why she didn't come to dinner."
And it was awful. Like cardboard, only tougher. Like plywood, plywood that has been tempered in a grease fire. My mother thought I had mismeasured. She was really disturbed by the failure, even though it was my failure, or maybe because it was my failure. At one point she said, "Think of all the people who don't even cook, and they can make a better pie crust than that." I know she was just trying to deal with her own feelings about the experience, but how was I supposed to take that?
The lesson is (why do there always have to be lessons, why can't we just wallow in ignorance and still have a tender crust?) use the food processor and then fold the water in after. Yes, then you end up with both a food processor and a bowl to wash, but at least your bf's entire family doesn't make joke after joke at your expense.
And pecan pie is my favorite pie, so there was also the whole dashed expectations thing to deal with.


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Elise said...

Your poor mother