Ready, set, bake!
Cue the music.
This is what I hear in my imagination as I walk down the green grassy hill in my apron to face Paul and Mary. Then I snap out of IT and sing my chorus songs while I bake alone in my kitchen.
For this week’s challenge, I turned to page 45 of the SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook and found Candy Gold Apple Pie. The time had come; no more crumbly cookie pressed crusts. This pie demanded a true handmade and rolled cold-butter crust called a blind-baked pie shell.
As I am a side-of-the-Crisco-can recipe baker, I have always made the standard Crisco pie crust for my famous and trusty dusty apple pie. According to the detailed directions for the SBF-BB pie shell (try to keep up), I have been doing it all wrong for decades.
One of the first tips for the BB pie shell is to make two, even if you only need one today. The extra batch can be wrapped and frozen for the next pie. Somehow, a non-baker who strolled through my kitchen at just the wrong moment talked me out of this. I can’t really blame my number 1 pie eater for this small contribution, but it turned out to be a critical wrong turn in a day of uncontrolled heat, so I feel I must mention it.
So a blind-baked pie shell does not mean pull the hairnet down over your eyes and just don’t look. It means one must bake it sans filling. I can’t imagine how empty and blind have the same meaning in baking (in rural Somethingshire, perhaps) but the concept makes sense. Mary’s voice chimed in my head as though her blue eyes were piercing my brown ones, “One must avoid a soggy bottom, Laura.”
The dreaded soggy bottom. I committed to following the directions to the letter.
The butter was cut and chilled. The flour and salt and sugar got a quick sift. Liquid ice (aka water) dripped in by the teaspoon. I only used my fingertips to bring the dough together into a ball because the book says my palms are too hot. Ha.
It was lookin’ good and I was ready to roll. Until I saw this.
Rolling postponed. Into the fridge to chill. (The pie dough. I did not chill one bit during these 4 hours of my life. You’ll see.)
I love to peel apples in one long curl. This pie demanded golden delicious apples to be precooked for quite a while on the stove. Hazelnuts and cinnamon and brown sugar were added. The mixture bubbled on the stove and the kitchen smelled like yum.
Back to the lone pie crust: I only left it in the fridge for about an hour, instead of three. I thought of Nadia and all the bakes when she had to rush and it all worked out in the end. The music played in my head. Onward. I rolled out the dough on wax paper and did my choreographed lift and flip onto the pan.
This was going great! I made the edges pretty and turned to pop it in the oven. But the temperature was off.
I poked some buttons and sighed and thought and thought and looked and the problem was the units. Somehow my oven was set to Celsius. How British is that!? Well, I can do math so I was sure the temperature was correct, but the C shook me up. That’s when I checked the directions again and realized I had to cover the shell in foil and add rice (or beans, or ceramic blind baking pie shell balls). Fixed it up and popped it in. Fingers crossed.
For the crumbly topping, I made what seemed like an oatmeal cookie with rolled oats and butter and more hazelnuts. It was to be baked on parchment paper, cooled, and crumbled. Did you know wax paper is not the same as parchment paper? The edges baked too fast. The center was soft. I hacked at it with a spoon, pre-crumbled, and scraped it off the smoking wax paper. Back into the oven for quite a while. I worried about the temperature. The oatmeal cookie aroma swirled with the bubbling apple aroma, but mingled with smoky wax paper.
By now the pie shell had finished. I set it to cool on the stove.
This pie took a loooong time to make. Unlike my first three pies, I got a little distracted. I did wear my hairnet, and I did sing a bit, but I also answered the phone, made lunch plans, and left the kitchen (where all three components were firmly instructed to be quiet and still and just wait for a minute) to take a shower.
At some point during the distracted minutes (and they were only minutes, maybe 10 of them) a new smell emerged.
Something was burning.
But that didn’t make sense. The pesky Celsius oven was off. The caramelized apples were chilling in the fridge. Oatmeal cookie crumbs covered every surface except in the oven. My gorgeous pie shell waited patiently on the stove.
With smoke coming out of the fork prong holes. Almost on fire.
I’d left the burner below still on from the apple-cooking stage. For new bakers and chemists, let me explain the phenomenal disaster occurring in my kitchen, the drama forewarned by the oddly Celsius oven: Cooling is an exothermic process where the system (the pie shell, in this case) releases heat to the surroundings. My beautiful pie shell endured an endothermic process when the surroundings included the flame of combusting methane. As the system (pie shell) absorbed energy, it could not cool. Yikes.
Have you ever scraped the char off a piece of burnt toast because that was the last piece of bread, or perhaps you are Irish like me and can’t throw out a piece of good bread? No? Really? You haven’t? You must have a great toaster. Anyway, the process, unpublished in any cookbook, goes like this: hold blackened bread over a sink and subject it to rapid short-stroke scraping with a serrated steak knife.
That’s what I did to the black bottom of my beautiful pie crust. The crust that did not have a twin because I did not make the suggested back-up batch.
By now I was late for my lunch date. I texted my friend and persevered, the small not-Mary voice in my head saying, “Ah, bullocks. I mean que sera sera. Pie 4.0 falls in the coconut-pie category. It has nuts (and oatmeal), so I’m not gonna eat it. I can at least make it pretty on the top for the pictures for the blog post. Those readers don’t have to know it’s burnt to hell on the bottom.”
Not at my best, I agree, but I was sweating (and swearing) and still had to brush my hair and teeth before I left for lunch. And did I mention we were having a yard sale that morning and I was involved in the sale of a knee board, a God Bless America sign, and a treadmill all while baking? And I was worn out from writing exams? I have more excuses than grains of rice in a BB-PS.
Minimal assembly was required, including a sweet and lemony drizzle on top.
Here she is.
My dear husband scarfed it up despite the burn. (He’s a little desperate since I teach 100+ miles away each week of the semester and he has to fend (“cook”) for himself.)
And the next morning I fixed the oven temperature unit. I also baked brownies to convince myself I could still bake something. And a few days later, the universe reminded me to write this blog post when my hair drier threw a white spark across the bathroom and sent a curl of smoke to the ceiling, all before my second cup of caffeine–I mean coffee.
Today I will bake homemade bread from a memorized recipe so I can eat the first steaming piece slathered in butter and have a good smell in my kitchen.
Thanks for following me on my pie journey. Next up will be a maraschino-cherried chocolate mousse on a shortbread cookie crumb crust. *sigh*