Don’t do baking experiments for the holidays

When the November issue of Living came out, I’d originally intended on tackling the “advanced” Apple-Blackberry Pie in the “Pie 1-2-3” article for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, you got yer easy pie over here, yer medium pie over here, and yer advanced pie that is all the way over here in the dream bubble over my head. “Advanced pie” is a phrase I cannot resist.

Unleeeessssssss, I am lazy. Well, 90% lazy, 10% environmentally conscious. Blackberries aren’t in season, Martha! I decided not to overload myself (since I had magazines to read and Super Mario Galaxy to play), so I whipped up the “easy” Pumpkin Pie with Press-In Shortbread Crust as well as the Apple Tart from the issue.

The tart was heavenly — easy and beautiful. A big hit with some vanilla ice cream. The PIE, on the other hand, was certainly easy to put together. Ugly, unsuccessful, crumbly, uneven, but easy to put together. Here are my thoughts:

1. If I had used a food processor and cold butter instead of a bowl, a wooden spoon, and softened butter, I think I could have gotten a more even crumble and therefore a better crust. I don’t really see what’s “easier” about a bowl and a spoon vs. a machine that does everything for you, but I imagine the principle is “People without food processors can make this pie.” Grumble.

That’s my only thought, I guess. The best pie crust I’ve ever made was the Vodka Pie Crust from Cook’s Illustrated, which scientifically added a bunch of vodka to the pie dough, providing it with enough moisture to roll out as easily as cookie dough, but the alcohol didn’t stiffen the gluten (and baked off in the oven), so it picked itself up and draped itself over the pie plate, practically. The end result was flaky and perfect. The $30/yr subscription to that website will pay for itself, by the way. I can’t recommend it enough.

Everyone in my family was polite enough to excuse the disastrous pumpkin pie crust, but it’s probably because the tart made up for it. Thank goodness Martha was there to cover Martha’s ass, man.

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