Monday, September 01, 2008

Rum Vanilla Cream Pie (or Why Breadbasketcase Should Stick to Bread)

Monday, September 1, 2008
It was Pinknest's turn to choose the project for The Lazy Bakers' No-Rules Club. Even though there are no rules, we still sort of take turns. And she chose a rum-vanilla cream pie. From Martha Stewart no less. Martha Stewart is the antithesis of everything I stand for.
I can't blame Pinknest for this fiasco. I suggested that she might want to choose a pie because she is so good at them. It's because she's so good at them--and because Melinda has taken cake decorating classes and she knows how to pipe icing and because Evil Cake Lady is always willing to try anything, with good results--that I figured I'd be the weak link in this recipe's chain. But I was determined to be a good sport about it.
Frankly, I don't amount to much as a pie baker. And this recipe didn't just have pie crust, it had pate brisee, made with an ungodly amount of butter and sure to be hell to roll out.
I brightened when I remembered that I have an Emile Henry pie dish, which has nicely scalloped edges. I figured maybe I could just layer the pie crust in the pan, trim it off, and the pan would make the scallops itself. A self-scalloping pie.

As it turned out, the crust was the easy part. It rolled out nicely, more or less into a circle (instead of the odd geometric shapes that my pie crusts are wont to take on);

it didn't stick to the counter; and I folded it up into a triangle without swearing. (Usually there is at least one swearing episode per pie).

The pie crust came out of the oven looking pretty good.

I thought I was home free--I didn't even think twice about the custard. It was just a custard. I boiled the milk, cornstarch, vanilla (thanks, Evil Cake Lady, for the tip about using your fingernails--clean, of course--to get the vanilla seeds out of the pod), sugar and salt until it was nicely thickened. I beat the egg yolks and carefully added the hot milk mixture (thanks, Julia Child, for beating it into my head that you must do this very carefully lest you end up with scrambled eggs). Then I added butter, a tablespoon at a time, and let it cool.
As I poured it into the pie, I thought to myself, "This is runnier than I think it should be."

Because, I then realized, I had forgotten an important step. And, lazy bakers, if you bake this pie, you should be careful not to omit this step: after you beat the eggs and milk together, you must return it all to the heat and let it boil for another minute or so.
If you do not do this, let me assure you, it doesn't matter that your original milk mixture was the perfect texture. It will all fall apart.
Every hour or so, I hopefully touched the pie dish in the refrigerator, hoping that it wouldn't wobble. No luck.
Finally, I decided just to whip the cream and spread it on top of the liquid pie, thinking that a layer of whipped cream would at least hide the runny nature of the filling. Guess what I found out? Whipped cream doesn't spread on water, or other watery substances. It looked a little like floating island.

Except that it also looked like the islands might sink at any time. Jim muscled me out of the way, "Quick--let me get a picture before it sinks!"
Here it is: pie in a cereal bowl.

The crust, which I was most worried about, was fine. It was actually better than fine: tender, buttery, and delicious. The filling? Well, it's kind of hard to judge a filling that looks like it's been pureed to within an inch of its life. Even imagining that the filling would have turned out the way it was supposed to, I'm stilll not so sure I'd think it was worth making again.
In fact, I have another disk of pate brisee in the freezer, and I'm not going to use it for this. I think--after the trauma of this pie-baking event has worn off--I'll turn to The Pie and Pastry Bible, not to Martha Stewart, for inspiration.

17 comments:

evil cake lady said...

Oh, BBC, thank you so much for this blog post. I learned some important points about this custard pie that I am revving up to bake, and I learned that I am not the only one who thinks she is the weak link in the pie chain. (Let's not get started about where I fall in the bread chain...notice I have yet to bake the pecan toasting bread.)

I wish I had an Emile Henry pie dish to self-scallop for me.

And you are welcome for the vanilla bean/fingertip trick!

Way to be a good sport BBC. I know that when it comes time for you to choose a recipe, (is it your turn now?) I'll be sweating over a bread recipe, but I'll happily do it for you!

breadbasketcase said...

ECL,
Always glad to be of service. I thought briefly about not showing the last picture, which so sadly illustrates that I wasn't kidding about the custard not setting, but then I thought oh what the hell.
ECL, it's your turn!

Melinda said...

Well, I am laughing so hard my weak bladder is sure to give out on me!
I must be a extremely cruel person, more so than I realized because I really love it when everything goes pear shaped. It amuses me more than when it all goes perfect!
I feel your pain though for realizing your mistake and wishing beyond hope all would come good and pretending it didn't happen. I have been there many a time.
My Pecan Toasting Bread was a door stop but I knew it would be even before I baked it. It sat on my counter for 3 weeks, the uncut loaf. My husband asked me if we were going to spray it gold and use it for a Christmas decoration. So I got the courage to throw it out.
But I still haven't remade the recipe or done the write up!
Thank you for the extremely good laugh and the smiley face on me to start off to work today!
I will be forewarned on this project. I think you are a super trooper to come out of your baking comfort zone. A+ for effort and an excellent write up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie,

THE PASTRY LOOKS GORGEOUS! I *knew* you could do it! Ok, there was a custard issue, but not a pastry issue, and most people have problems with the latter. But not YOU!

Go girl! *\o/*

Laura Lee

PS: The symbol is a cheerleader.

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda,
Failure is more humorous than success, that's for sure, and it's even more humorous if it's someone else's failure. I wish you had spray-painted the three-week-old pecan bread with gold paint and decorated it with a sprig of holly, and then written about it. I would have laughed out loud myself! Instead, I'm going to look at pictures of other people's perfect pies, and grind my teeth in jealousy.

Laura,
I've always wanted my own private cheerleader--thank you so much! I may have to try this pie again after all, just to see if I can really do it.

jini said...

oh my.....luckily my bladder is stronger than melinda's! i am laughing out loud which is making me cough, and really creating quite a scene.
i think that the floating island tag is quite appropo and perhaps even a topographical island. very eco-friendly and all.
i bet it tasted delicious in the bowl and how nice of jim to get good photos to remember it by. :>) you are a very good sport and should be writing humorous things for publication!

breadbasketcase said...

Jini,
I'm eating another piece of pie soup as I write this. I didn't think I'd be tempted, but Jim has been slurping away at it, assuring me that it's rather addictive. It actually does taste pretty good, even though by now it's even a bigger mess than it was on Monday.
Thanks for the compliment, but I'm pretty sure there's not a mass market for stories about failed pies.

Anonymous said...

I admire you for putting in your failures as well as your triumphs! When I made the cover cake from Dorie's book I could have cried, instead I sulked allday!!! Jeannette

pinknest said...

lol!!! i love it, i love it. and i love the liquid pie. i'm so glad you took on this pie baking challenge, especially because, after all, it was the crust you were worried about! pate brisee is the best pie crust ever. it can even hold up to the liquidy custard! anyway, i will eat the pie soup either way. it's genious. and hilarious. bravo to you! (mine's in the fridge right now...i haven't poked it yet.)

Doughadear said...

Oh Marie
How I love your blog. If it doesn’t put a smile on my face I am sure to be howling with laughter. At first I scanned down to see your photos and the pie crust looked so good I thought the next photo would show a real masterpiece and the next photo was quite nice – then I saw the last photo and I felt your disappointment then I read the caption “pie in a cereal bowl” and I lost it. I haven’t had the best of luck with Martha Stewart recipes either by the way. Thank you for making my day and as usual a great read.
Oriana

breadbasketcase said...

Jeannette,
Obviously you need to lower your standards--I don't remember anything being wrong with the cake you made!

Pinknest,
We'll see how good a sport I can be when I see pictures of your perfect pie.

Oriana,
You are welcome. I guess everyone can identify with a sad failure. I was seriously hoping for a real masterpiece myself, but c'est la vie.

pinknest said...

so was your custard thick and bubbling when you added it to the eggs?

breadbasketcase said...

Yes. So thick and bubbling I never thought anything would go wrong.

Jude said...

I'd still gladly have some of that in a cereal bowl. It's kind of like that "Floating Island" dessert that you mentioned.

breadbasketcase said...

Jude,
Very kind of you--but if you ordered pie at a restaurant, and they served you this, admit it--you'd send it back!

Faith said...

Hey, I think all you need is the
proper name for this pie--how about-
Atlantis sinking pie?

breadbasketcase said...

Faith,
Good idea--although I don't think that would inspire anyone to give it a try.