Friday, March 16, 2012

Humble Pie: the true tale of how I screwed up my grandmother's pie recipe and will have to live with that shame forever

I make really bad lemon meringue pie.

I thought I had this, man. I thought I could do it. But it turns out trying to make a lemon meringue pie in the 45 minute window before you have to leave for ballet, while the baby sits and screams in his bouncy seat and the phone is ringing off the hook with clients IS A VERY BAD IDEA INDEED.

Pie - good pie - cannot be rushed. I know this now. And honestly, I think that my pie-making experience was Grandmother telling me to slow the hell down and get back on that ADD medication.

I have never been a baker, because I do not have the patience. Souffles deflate, cookies burn, cakes stick to their pans, I use baking powder and baking soda interchangeably like they are the same damn thing, and I frequently forget to set the timer. But Wednesday - Pi(e) Day - was going to be the day I conquered that frontier. I was going to make a kick-ass homage to my beloved grandmother, in lemon meringue form.

And in honor of my other grandmother, Sarah brought a bottle of white wine. Dude also drinks white.
Coincidence? I think not. She also brought a bag of Mini Eggs - both to keep my energy up, and also (as it turned out) as an emergency back-up plan for dessert.

a bottle of white for everyone

I gathered the ingredients. I carefully chose a glass pie pan. I found two marble tiles (leftover from an epic cheese board friends made us for an anniversary party) on which to prepare the pastry. I even had some fancy-pants chain of tiny metal balls that are specifically for weighing down pie crusts when they are pre-baked. I was going to make the best damn pie EVER. With the recipe on my laptop, and Sarah and Max dictating step by step what I was supposed to do, I began.

Within 30 seconds flour had been flung far and wide across my kitchen counter, water was running everywhere, and I was covered in goop that decidedly looked nothing like the step-by-step illustrated instructions. "You're doing fine." Sarah encouraged me. "Just don't work it too much."
"What's too much? Fuck, this is a disaster." I was already aggravated.
"You're doing fine! Keep going. Form the dough into a ball. But I gotta tell you - the next step is to chill for two hours."

As my friend Boss would say, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

TWO HOURS? Who the HELL has two hours?
Not this girl.
I chilled it for about an hour, during which time Sarah had to leave and the baby woke up.
This was not going as planned.
When I took it out, I could already tell something was wrong.

But while I was waiting for it to chill I cleaned my counter!

I had 45 minutes to figure this out, so I soldiered onward and completed my mission in the time allotted, but I'm not gonna lie. My pie crust had the taste and consistency of shoe leather. Salty, vaguely slimy shoe leather. It may have had something to do with my rolling. I think I used too much pressure.

Do you see how I am white-knuckling the rolling pin?
That's not good. Don't do that.

The pie weights certainly didn't do anything to improve the situation.

Pie weights are a total scam, apparently.
The crust bubbled up all around the weights, it took longer to cook,
and it STILL tasted like crap. Boo.

When the pie came out of the oven, it looked beautiful. I convinced myself it was going to taste amazing despite all of my misgivings.

Beautiful, right? My grandmother was totally smiling down on me.

Yeah, well. Looks can be deceiving.

W. T. F. was the phrase of the day.

We still ate it, of course. My friends and family gamely chewed away at the crust, hoping that they just got a bad spot. But it was all bad. And the filling was liquid. The meringue was gorgeous, though!

(Max did that part. I'm not gonna lie.)

I plan to try again. I WILL NOT GO DOWN LIKE THAT. But I'm going to use a boxed crust next time, to take some of the pressure off. And I am going to work on my pastry technique. I have a long list of recipes to try, and a huge can of Crisco. For making pie crust. And other things.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too have pie crust issues, but this recipe totally worked. The key seems to be (besides having enough TIME) is to keep everything as cold as possible. Here's the recipe: Good luck!