I can definitely hold my own in the kitchen. If you ask me to whip up a Holandaise sauce, de-bone a chicken or make dinner for 15, I am your girl.
That not withstanding, I am not a very good baker. Sure, I can make a cake and a mean pan of brownies, but the trade off is that they are not very pretty. Certainly not blog worthy.
I can do one or the other: make a dessert that looks good on film, or one that tastes good — but rarely are they both at the same time. But when they are, it is because I took my time. I just didn’t get that baking gene like some people did.
I struggle with making anything that uses yeast, involves kneading and rising or making a crust. Even when following the recipe to the letter, I still have more flops than fine finishes. I think it is because I try so hard. Yes, that is what I am telling myself.
I have spent the past few weeks telling my readers that Thanksgiving Day is not the time to crack open a dusty old cookbook and try something for the first time when you need a dish to share at a family dinner. If you are the only one who is bringing a certain thing you have never made before and everyone is depending on you, then at least do a trial run the day before. I mean, save yourself the embarrassment of bringing the flop to the dinner table. Trust me, your family will not soon forget and, in some cases (mine), you might be mocked just a bit.
Knowing this, you might find it strange that I tried a new recipe I found in an old folder of clippings for my Thanksgiving pies. Why oh why did I pick this important day to make pie crust from scratch? We all know there are many suitable pre-made crusts that I could have bought that would have worked. I guess I was determined to win this time. Heather vs. crust, Part 5.
I had been thinking of a filling for a few weeks that took the standard pumpkin pie with whipped cream and gave it a makeover. So I made my filling and stored it in the refrigerator until the crusts were cooled. I had made enough for four pies.
I assembled the ingredients to make my crust but thought it wise to multiply it times four because I needed four pies. Mistake No. 1. Then I followed each step, measuring my ingredients with a kitchen scale just like I read online. I am not sure where I went wrong, but I am assuming it had to do with multiplying the recipe instead of making it one at a time. That’s my theory anyway.
I was hoping for flaky and light; instead, I made a dough that really wasn’t cohesive. When I added more flour, it just got worse. It was a vicious pastry circle. So I was left with a ton of filling and I had to resuscitate my dessert. I decided that the filling would make a wonderful dip, so I served it with butter cookies, ginger snaps, graham cracker sticks and apples.
My family probably liked it better that way, so I pretended that I had chose it on purpose. No one needed to know that I was a pie crust failure. Again!
Moral to the story is, stick with what you know. I am. I also am going to seek out the help of someone who makes pies often and well to teach me because I will overcome my crust inadequacies somehow. I can write about food, speak eloquently about trends and cooking procedures, but I have let baking get the best of me.
I guess I can make this my New Year’s resolution. I’ll let you know how that works out next year.
Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.