Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pumpkin Pie, what does it take? Pt. II (a.k.a. Epic Failure)

Did I eat this for breakfast this morning?
Of course I did. I also had another piece right after it.
Was it delicious?
Um, well it had hints of what a pumpkin pie should taste like.
Am I embarrassed that I failed on so many fronts of the pumpkin pie making process.
Yes, yes I am.

Let me just come out and say that I think I am a fairly good baker. I'm not going to win any awards, or anything, but I can whip up sugars, fats, and starches into a side of something you would be happy to have with your coffee. What I have never been able to master to a sufficient level, however, is a good pie crust. I've been making them for years and years, and yet, there is something about the simplest of recipes that I cannot master. I was determined that for this pumpkin pie, I would finally bake a pie crust even Midwestern grandmothers would be proud to claim as their own.

Except, this happened...

What the what? That is my "pie" seconds before it is supposed to go into the oven. Do you see my sad, shriveled crust? Do you see the weird, white foam on top of the filling? Do you see my look conveying disappointment, disbelief, and utter uncertainty? I'm not sure I've made a pie this dreadful since I was a kid.
For this recipe I perused my many online haunts, read through some of my cookbooks, and on a whim consulted Incidentally, I have lost much of my faith in that website, and am not sure I'll be able to visit it again for several months. But I will get to that in a moment.
In the end, I decided to partially bake the pie shell before adding the filling. Why? Because all these "experts" told me to. I've always just followed the back of my Libby's can for pumpkin pie, because I'm lazy like that, but this time I just had to get all fancy with my fancy fresh puree and my fancy European butter.
Well, that decision really bit me in the ass, most likely because I have neither pie weights nor a jar of pennies. In order for your crust not to puff up and then collapse into your beautiful pie plate (thanks for the earthenware, Mom and Dad!), you have to weight it down. The experts at told me I could use dried beans or rice to do the deed. And since we all know where this post is going, we all know that those experts at the website can suck it, because they were wrong. After rolling out the dough into almost a perfect circle, placing it in the pie plate, refrigerating and then freezing the plate, I set several cups of rice on top of the now aluminum covered pie shell. Twenty-five minutes later, I peeked in to check on the crust and uncover it for the last five minutes to get that beautiful golden color, and I see the horror of a ruined, wrinkly pie shell underneath all that rice.
There I was on the verge of tears because the crust was kind of ruined, and I didn't have enough time to make another one. So, I decided to roll with it and hope for the best, knowing that it wouldn't be the most delicious crust I've ever made. The only other problem with the pie was the filling.
Now, I swear that I followed the The New Best Recipes directions closely. I loved that the recipe called for heavy cream instead of evaporated milk, which I now know is a suitable substitute. One complaint I have about the book's writers is their obsession with using the food processor. I love my processor, but do I really need it to whip my eggs? Also, smarty-pants cooks over at America's Test Kitchen, don't you know that there is a liquid fill line on a food processor and when you add 2 1/3 c. of milk products to 16 oz. pumpkin, your going to have too much gooey pumpkin-ness for a standard Cuisinart? This was the idea going through my mind as I slowly filled my machine with the eggs and then the pumpkin mixture.
After all that, I ended up with a white foam on top of the pie filling. I skimmed most of it off, but the bit that remained ended up burning pretty badly. The crust is pretty crunchy on top and soggy on the bottom, but it will do. I'm going to say that it was not a great success. I will, obviously, need to redeem myself as a baker, most likely when Christmas cookie time comes around. Until then, I will keep on eating my pie, because I can't let all that work go to waste.


  1. I'm sorry your pie failed. Canned pumpkin is apparently readily available here in the Hague (our intern Thanksgiving had three pumpkin pies AND pumpkin bread). It won't help with the pie crust, of course, but at least your filling should turn out well!

  2. So, on the Brazilian cooking show hosted by this French guy (it's an awesome accent), he cuts out a coffee filter to cover the crust before putting the dry beans in it. He's working with individual cups, but I'm thinking the same principal applies. My goal next week is to try guava souffle. We'll see how it turns out.

  3. I wonder why a coffee filter and not aluminum foil. Maybe that is just easier. Next time I make a pie crust like this, I'm going to use beans instead of rice. Hopefully it will be more weight. Can't wait to hear about the guava souffle. It sounds so decadent!

  4. Once I used a small All-clad pot as a pie weight, but when I was pulling the crust out of the oven, I grabbed the pot handle with my bare hand. No amount of delicious pie makes up for that! Cakes are better anyway. :)