Sunday, January 10, 2010
pie or no one likes change
I have been composing a song, sung to the tune of "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly."
There was a sister who couldn't bake a pie
I don't know why, she couldn't bake a pie,
perhaps she'll cry.
There was a sister who couldn't make the crust,
even her mother grimaced in disgust,
she couldn't make a crust and she couldn't bake a pie,
But I didn't know why she couldn't bake a pie,
Oh Heavy sigh!
You get the idea.
Pie after pie was down right inedible. The best I could muster was passable, probably not poisonous, better than boiled tongue, but would rather have cinnamon toast for dessert.
And pecan pie is my favorite pie and I kept trying.
After the Thanksgiving pie crust debacle I gave up for a while. Then the new year and its 2 month baking moratorium was looming so I decided that I really wanted a pecan pie. The only one I ever make is the cook's illustrated. I decided that in the interest of research, something I'm coming to view as another word for misguided experimentation, I made Dorie Greenspan's pie. Dorie Greenspan is no baking Magus. Some things are wonderful and some things are too sweet or too weird. Her pecan pie was both. The crust, even though I dirtied the food processor to make it, still dripped butter in the floor of the oven and created a smoke emergency. Then I took her advice and put a cookie sheet under the pie pan. While it catches the dripping butter, this direction bewilders me. There isn't supposed to be dripping butter so I'm not sure why she does that. The bottom of the crust was raw. It was nasty and the filling has espresso powder in it, and it was also sort of opaque. The flavor was off-putting and cloying, the nuts were mealy, the crust, as I've said, raw and soggy and too hard where it wasn't raw.
I was despairing. I am the sister who can't bake a pie.
But I had a few more days and I really wanted that pecan pie. So I went back to my favorite recipe. No one likes change, least of all me.
I did the crust in the food processor. I fluted the edges so they stood tall and away from the edge of the pan, well inside the edge of the pan. I prebaked, I glazed and sealed it with an egg yolk, I warmed the filling before pouring it in the crust, I checked for doneness and took it out when it was still jiggling.
I know my sister doesn't like pecan pie. I'll let her tell you why. But this one is sublime. It is everything a pecan pie should be and it is sending me into the baking moratorium on a cloud of sticky gooey sweetness and crunch all tempered with some perfect whipped cream. And I am delighted to be the sister who mostly can't bake a pie, but every now and then produces one that makes up for all the previous disappointments.
If only all my failings came with such a silver cloud.