Pie 2.0

Pie 2.0

As I continue my journey through SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR: THE WAITRESS PIE BOOK, this week’s pie is from page 114, “Old Joe’s Slice of Heaven Pie.” She’s a beauty. Follow along to enjoy pictures and my random and deep thoughts while baking.

First, I should confess I made this pie without a net (hairnet) because I forgot it. My sources report there is only one slice left of Pie 2.0, which had to travel almost 400 miles to be eaten. No complaints of stray hairs have come to my attention. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Still have shoulders up and breath held until I receive confirmed hair-free consumption of that last piece, though.

Now I shall geek out on pie math.

Let’s say a pie is made of 3 layers: crust, filling, and topping. If we let these 3 layers sum to 4 parts (so they are not 1:1:1), I may compare them quantitatively to my previous pie experiences. My own pie recipes often have these layers in 1:2:1 or even 1:3:0 ratios. In my “Butter Sugar Flour” cookbook, many of the pie designs are in a 1:1:2 ratio. The crust is well planned and not always thin. The topping is often (intended to be) twice the volume of the filling. And that topping can be glorious (see Pie 1.0).

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I made Pie 2.0 for my best friend. He likes coconut. I do not. I always taste it, though, to see whether my opinion has changed but it never does. Dislike of coconut comes in two varieties: don’t like the texture vs don’t like the taste. During the concoction of Pie 2.0, I tested both. The custard called for a tiny hit of coconut extract. So I tasted the creamy custard before I dumped in the pile o’ coconut. Yuck. And then I put a few flakes o’ coconut on my tongue, let my teeth have at it, and had to spit it in the trash. Yuck. But, whatev. Best friend declared disgust (and didn’t try) Pie 1.0 because he so despises lemon. So, there’s that.

For Pie 2.0 the pie shell is made from crushed Nilla wafers. Good so far.

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The custard is cooked in a pan with a whisk while pouring in a thin and steady stream of hot milk. Then it is pushed through a fine mesh sieve (to remove something lumpy, I guess). I searched my kitchen for something sieve-like and found two candidates. One is my bacon splatter cover and I didn’t want the custard to taste like bacon (though that would be better than tasting like coconut) so I used my flour sifter instead. This step seemed silly since I was going to add loads of coconut.

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The custard must cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. It is so temperamental it needs a wax paper shield to stop it from skinning. Ick. In this picture you can see I forgot to add the coconut. I had to uncover, dump, stir, recover. Exhausting is the baking process. ‘Specially without a net.

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In making the topping, I learned the difference between whipped cream and butter cream frosting: about 12 seconds. They are both made from whipping heavy cream, but I should have stopped before I did, because I watched the cream turned nice and fluffy (“whipped”) right before it turned buttery (whoops). Oh well. I wasn’t going to eat it. And the next step insisted I cover the mound with tons of coconut, so nobody noticed.

I’ve already planned Pie 3.0. Purchased the delicious ingredients and, since I will help eat it, I’ll even wear a hairnet. It’ll be chocolate and pretty if I don’t mess it up. Stay tuned.

 

 

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Pie 1.0

Pie 1.0

My daughter, mother, and grandchildren all love the Great British Baking Show. I started watching and I’m hooked. I love Nadia. I love their accents. I love to bake. I love saying “soggy bottom” with my molars clenched and my lips pursed.

When I dragged my husband to see The Waitress on Broadway I sang along. I know all the words to all the songs. Some of them make me cry. Only the man behind me was annoyed by my karaoke. He didn’t kick my seat too much.

For my birthday, my daughter gave me the Sugar Butter Flour Waitress Pie cookbook. I read it like a novel. I’ve decided I will make all the pies. One a week whenever possible. I’ll eat only lettuce until all the pies are consumed.

The book has recipes for many dozens of pies. I have not counted, and I will not make them in order. For my first concoction, I attempted my favorite pie in the whole wide world: “Where there’s a whisk, there’s a way” aka a lemon meringue pie. It’s on page 121 in the book, which is a perfect square—the product of two elevens (my favorite number)—so it was a simple choice.

I went to stupid market number 1, expecting to have to also go to number 2, and maybe number 3. I was happy to find everything I needed for my first pie in market number 1. They had Meyer lemons and Meyer lemon cookies. I was shocked by my luck. I’m not a lucky person. I worried I had squandered my meager reserved of luck and the meringue might suffer. When one worry is quelled, I can always find another.

I walked up and down the baking aisle a dozen times. Nobody asked if I needed help finding something. And I didn’t ask, even though I was desperately tired after a two-hour drive, and I had to pee. (Sorry. Being cold or having to pee seriously ruins the inherent pleasure of grocery shopping for me.) Those challenges were compounded by bone dry contact lenses that kept me from being able to read labels.

That baking aisle almost canceled my pie plans. I could not find cream of tartar. It’s a white powder, as are so many baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, and corn starch. So I looked with my dry, squinting eyes very carefully in the vicinity of each of those things. At the end of the aisle, a man with a cart was on the phone with his wife and complaining he couldn’t pick out something on the list she’d sent. His cart and body blocked the spices, but it didn’t make sense for the tartar de crème to be in the spices, so I didn’t stink eye him out of my way. I just kept looking at everything else. Finally I left that aisle and went to check in the cereal aisle, and then near the coffee and pancake mix. All the while I clenched my legs and squinted my eyes, and tried not to scrap my pretty pie plan.

I stalked a couple of workers. I considered asking for help. One of them looked like she knew where the C.O.T. was hidden. I couldn’t do it. My dad worked in retail and hated when customers bothered him while he worked. How hard is it to find the peanut butter without asking? There are signs for Christ sake.

So I Googled “where is the cream of tartar in BiLo” and Google suggested I search in the baking aisle, in the spice rack, alphabetically in the Cs. Google was correct. I found it, waited in the checkout line, bought it, drove fifteen more minutes, unloaded the car, peed, removed contact lenses, and went to bed.

The next morning I made a mess in my kitchen. I baked for hours in my red apron and a hairnet.

I crushed cookies, separated eggs, grated lemon rind, squeezed lemon juice, whisked, added sugar 1 tablespoon as a time, and left the light on in the oven so I could watch over an hour of baking. Here are some highlights.

I made the crumb crust. Next time I’ll pulverize the Meyer lemon cookies.

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I grated the lemon rind. First time in my whole life.

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I made and baked the lemon layer. Yes, I licked the bowl.

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I started the meringue. The recipe called for six egg whites, but I dripped some yolk in after three eggs and had to start again. New process: separate whites into small bowl and then dump from there to the big red bowl once the yolk is safely in another bowl.

And after three hours, I had to clean up this mess.

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The final pie was lovely and tasted like heaven.

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There is one slice left in the fridge. When that is gone I’ll start Pie 2.0.

Crichton meets Atwood

Crichton meets Atwood

Chapters from my next novel, INFINITY LINE, a tale of hope and horror, sorrow and love, are available for preview at infinitylineweb.wordpress.com

∞8∞8∞8∞8∞8∞8∞8∞8∞8∞

In 2072, in a once vibrant metropolis on the eastern coast of what used to be America, biochemist Dr. Lorelei Worthington hunts men.

In a world gone insane with hatred, somebody has to do it. Lorelei stalks them until they catch her. She doses them with a molecular cocktail (silently, painlessly, with a needle, to the neck) to tame them. Part of an improbable plan for peace, Lorelei works to drive humanity toward a future that’s female. Exclusively female.

Twitter Troubles

Twitter wouldn’t let me in the other night. I was bored. Checked email. Thought about reading or watching TV. Picked up my phone to scan tweets about Olympics and politics. But it said my account was compromised, something about security and spammy-ness, and I had to do some security stuff. So I picked all the pictures with a car, wondering why they’re mad at me. (I live on the line, following the rules, paralyzed by middle child syndrome since birth, all so nobody gets mad at me.) My last tweet was sadness and outrage about the school shooting in Florida and a link to a chapter of my next book. I regularly retweet and “like” sentiments in opposition to the current executive administration. I tweeted something about the Petrochemical Era with an invented hashtag “#whathistorywillsayaboutus” and a near-quote from my book:

“In the Petrochemical Era, humans bought and depended upon water in plastic bottles made from polymerizing small molecules from petroleum drilled from below the surface of the earth–instead of collecting rain water or drinking from lakes or rivers.

I am just paranoid enough to think the comb-over got me blocked. And I have blocked enough bots lately to wonder why they are following me. Either way, initially I made my Twitter account to help with my publishing. It wasn’t a great way to market, but I love the writing community and contests and #1linewed. So I did my best to get back into the club. I tried to comply. I changed my password. I changed my browser window. I searched for ways back in like a kid outside the playground, nose pressed to the cold chain link. No dice. No doubt: somebody is mad at me. I should apologize. Or hide. Or something.

But I do not like to be told what to do. And this seems quite unfair. And I insist on fair.

So I contacted them and “appealed” my locked account. I may be risking any chance at getting back in the party by sharing this on my blog, but let’s risk it. About a day later I received this reply:

“Hello,
We’re writing to let you know that your account features will remain limited for the allotted time due to violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our rules against abusive behavior.
To ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs on our platform, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse. This includes behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another person’s voice.
Please note that continued abusive behavior may lead to the suspension of your account. To avoid having your account suspended, please only post content that abides by the Twitter Rules: https://help.twitter.com/rules-and-policies/twitter-rules#abusive-behavior.
Thanks,
Twitter”

So I Googled my account (@lauralanni) and read my tweets and I can’t find this mystery tweet that makes me look abusive. I really don’t get it. I hold so much in. The only thing I oppose in public is a man. He and I differ on every opinion except that we both think white powder under our eyes makes us look better. Isn’t this America? The place where I don’t have to agree with people and I can say so. Is that abusive?

If you have a minute, scan my tweets and let me know what you think I did wrong. I am so baffled.

Feel the music, smell the smiles, enjoy the rest

He stood very still. The children, unable to be still, watched him open the thick binder and feel the pages.

He was in charge of them for only half an hour, their eight-year-old selves in his care. When the bell finally rang (after the incessantly loud second hand on the clock ticked 1800 times), the dreaded six-year-olds would come with their sticky fingers, sniffles, and utter inability to whisper. Their teacher, Mrs. Browning, newly married and very nervous, would hover in the hall, instead of running for a coffee and a chance to pee. He knew the children would watch her as she peeked at him and them through the window in the door. She was never quiet. If little Freddie, who smelled like peanut butter and sweat, so much as wiggled in his chair, Browning would tap twice on the door and give him a look. But for now, since their teacher had already fled, he was the sole protector of the eight-year-olds.

He knew all their names. He’d taught them songs for three years now, and knew where they sat (alphabetically), who could hold a tune (not many), and who needed to be afraid and who did not.

It interested him that some of the children feared him (but clearly, not all). He thought about it often, wondering if there was something in his face or manner that looked monstrous. He tried to smile, but it’s hard to smile when no one smiles back. He knew what a smile sounded like. His mother used to smile at him all the time and her voice sounded just like honey tastes, and just like a warm breeze feels on your face. There was rarely honey or soft wind in an elementary school chorus room with a tired old blind man in charge.

He tapped twice on the metal music stand and thought “F sharp. It always sounds like F sharp.” He heard his own voice sing, “Shoulders back. Chins up. Deep breath. Ready, children?”

“Yes, Mr. Andrews,” they sang back to him. Jolie kind of screeched it at him. Maybe he could rearrange the aisles and increase their number by one seat. That would put her in the back of the first row instead of the first seat in the second row. On second thought, it would move greasy Glenn (of the fifth grade set) to the front of the last row by the window, and, though only ten, that boy smelled unmistakably of tobacco. Best to keep the stinker in the back after lunch and try to ignore screechy Jolie.

“Please count off to the tune of Old McDonald and his. . . what animal. . . Kelly?”

Kelly whispered, “Pig,” and roll call began.

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three,” and so it went up to 26, at which point their little voices sang the rest of the verse: “Old McDonald had a farm, e I e I o.”

“Now listen,” he sang, “and follow my beat.” His pencil struck the music stand: Rap, tap, rap-a-tap. “Pencils, please!”

The children drummed the end of their pencils on their desks: Rap, tap, rap-a-tap.

He struck his stand again, same pattern and sang, “Toes, please.”

The children tapped the floor with one toe.

“Good! Now listen to this one and drum it back to me with two hands.” His pencil drummed “Rap-a-tappity, rap, tap.

Dozens of little fingers drummed away. He felt his face smile and was sure some of them were smiling, too.

“Ok, at ease.” Some giggling. “Today I’d like to introduce the idea of resting in music. Does anyone know about resting?”

Silence.

“Ah, no, that’s not what I mean. You should not be resting. You should be thinking. Does anyone take piano lessons?”

Silence. Almost. Something was happening.

“I think someone’s hand is raised. Please knock once on your desk if your hand is raised.”

From the back of the fourth row a knuckle knocked on a desk. A boy’s knuckle. Fifth seat. “Bobby?” he asked.

Laughter. Then Bobby’s voice, “How do you do that?”

“I’m a good guesser. Tell us about resting, Bobby.”

“Sorry, Mr. Andrews. I don’t know anything about resting. I just like watching you guess.” He didn’t sound mean. Mr. Andrews knew the tone of mean. This boy sounded impressed and respectful, a nice surprise from an eight-year-old.

“That’s all right. I’ll show you a simple beat, you play it back, and then we can talk about rests. Ready?”

“Yes, sir.” The children were silent. Watching. Listening. The blind man clapped his hands while he nodded his head to a slow beat.

Nod. Clap.

Nod. Clap.

Nod. Clap.

Nod.

Nod. Clap.

Nod. Clap.

Nod. Clap.

Nod.

“Everyone watch him. You do it, Bobby.” The boy shuffled in his seat.

Clap. Clap. Clap. Pause. Clap. Clap. Clap. Pause. “How’s that?”

“I’ll tell you in a second. Children, did Bobby move his head while he clapped?”

They giggled and all yelled, “Yes!” and Mr. Andrews felt a breeze on a sunny day and smelled honey. “The nod without a clap? That was a rest. Bobby, you did a nice job.”

“Thanks. Can I pick the first song?”

“Sure.”

They sang Row Your Boat and Kumbaya in rounds, with Mr. Andrews singing around and through their young voices in a clear and happy tenor, until the second hand clicked around a bunch of times and the bell rang.

On their way out, each child tapped once on his music stand with their pencil. He counted to twenty six and the room was emptied of sounds and smells for almost two hundred clicks on the clock before the six-year-olds shuffled in single file, lips together and eyes wide, while Mr. Andrews hummed “I’m just a little black rain cloud” from Winnie the Pooh, and Mrs. Browning cleared her throat and snapped her fingers a dozen times before the door clicked closed.