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.