Saturday, November 24, 2012

Adventures in Pie Making

Top: Lemon Meringue & Caramel Cream Pumpkin
Bottom: Caramel Apple-Cherry & Pecan
Apparently, the universe felt the need to take me down a peg after bragging about my mad pie making skillz.

This year, I planned to make three pies. My classic Lemon Meringue, which ALWAYS gets rave reviews, and two new pie recipes I found in Better Homes & Gardens. Right there, I should've just backed the truck up and said "Um, Cluttered Mama, Better Homes & Gardens? You are out of your league, homeskillet. Let's drop the lofty 'I can bake stuff I find in BHG' pipe dream and stick with what we know!" But OOOOOH no, I had to go and say "Hey, if Gesine Bullock-Prado, of Gesine, can make Caramel Cream Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Apple-Cherry Pie, so can I!!!" Oh yes, I had delusions of granduer this year. I was not content to make plain, old pumpkin pie and my go-to Caramel Apple pie, no, I had to go and aim for the stars.

In a nutshell, I was a pie making Icarus and the BHG recipes were the sun...

(Oh and upon hearing my pie menu for the year, my father-in-law sadly noted there was no pecan pie in the list, so being a kind daughter-in-law, I decided to try my hand at that one too).

So this is where we begin on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. With me excitedly clutching three new recipes to try.

On Tuesday afternoon, during Duckie's nap, I whipped up a double batch of my Never-Fail pie crust, and Little Man and I made our first pecan pie. It went well, except I learned that the oven in this house heats warmer on one side, than the other-- there was literally a line down the middle of the pie and one side was decidedly darker than the other. Overall, however, the pie was a success.

Heady from that success, I launched into rolling out and baking the crust shells for the remaining three pies. With the kids up and about and needing to be fed, bathed, etc. this took the remainder of the day. When Diesel came home from work at 9:30 pm (and had NOT picked up the Morello cherries from Trader Joe's, like I asked), I had a crust in the oven and was about to start making the caramel for the caramel cream portion of the Caramel Cream Pumpkin Pie. D & I started chatting and I neglected to keep an eye on my pie crust.

So, of course, I burned it.

And that was the last crust of the double batch.

And I was out of Crisco.

There may have been some choice words flowing at that point. But I said to myself "Cluttered Mama, it is no worry. You can just pop out first thing in the morning and pick up the Crisco when you go to get the cherries at Trader Joe's," and I set about making caramel.

Did I mention I have NEVER made caramel?

I was trying my best to make the caramel. I stired until the sugar was all dissolved into the water and then, using all the previous knowledge I had about cooking with sugar, I kept right on stirring for the 10 minutes the recipe said it would take for my sugar-water concotion to turn into caramel.

Fun fact: if you continue stirring caramel after the water dissolves, it does not turn to caramel, but suddenly crystalizes. (You are supposed to just tilt the pan from time to time, as I learned in a late night googling of "how to make caramel").

Commence more colorful language.

At this point in the swearfest, Diesel decided it was time to go to bed (11 pm). I reread the directions to see where I went wrong and/or if I hadn't gone wrong and that this was what was supposed to happen.

"Take the caramel from the heat and immediately pour in the half-and-half; the mixture will bubble vigorously but will calm down quickly. Return to low heat and stir until the caramel dissolves into the cream."

Dissolve, eh?  I thought "okay let's just add the half and half and see what happens..." It sorta fizzled and then dissolved. I thought maybe I could salvage it. I stirred until thick. Then I added it to the egg mixture in my mixer a little too quickly and got a gelatinous yellow, vaguely scrambled egg flavored goop.

I decided maybe it was time to go to bed.

Despite having gone to bed around midnight, I sprung out of bed at 5 am (after being wakened by a teething Duckie at 4:45) and headed to my kitchen. Cleaned up, threw out the gelatinous goo, peeled 2.5 lbs of apples and made a grocery list.

7:30 am the boys and I are out the door to go to Trader Joe's. At Trader Joe's we pick up cherries and half and half. Then we pop into another grocery store for more Crisco and head home.

I successfully make my caramel filling and put the pie in the oven to bake. Things are looking up!!! That is right, I'm a master baker! What else could go wrong?

I start to make the Caramel Apple-Cherry pie and when I picked up the bag of cranberries I had purchased a few days prior, I got a whiff of fermenting fruit. "Oh NERFHERDERS!!!!" I exclaimed (true story, I try to not ACTUALLY swear when the littles are around!). Immediately I launched into damage control. My internal monologue was this:

"Maybe if I just rinse them... yeah. I'll toss them in the colander, rinse them and pick out the one or two that are rotten. Yeah, yeah. Oh shit. I sent the other bag to Little Man's school for their cranberry relish. Oh my gosh. Were THOSE fermented? Did I send fermenty cranberries to my baby's school? Am I THAT mom? Oh what must his teacher think. No, wait, I would've noticed the smell when I put them in Little Man's bucket, right? I smelled these as soon as I picked them up. I'm sure they were fine. I'm sure. Oh crap. Over half of these stupid cranberries are rotten. Son of a biscuit..."

So I schlepped the boys out to the grocery to buy cranberries (and since it was lunch time, I got the boys some fried chicken-- or "stick meat" as Little Man calls it). Got back to the house, and made pies well into the evening.

On Thanksgiving day, wouldn't you know, the dang caramel cream part of the Caramel Cream pie was all squooshy and not firm like it was supposed to be.  Everyone who tried it thought it was overpoweringly sweet. The Caramel Apple-Cherry pie came out beautifully and got so-so reviews from everyone at Thanksgiving. Pecan pie also got thumbs up from those who tried it.

And wouldn't you know, my old stand-by, the Lemon Meringue got RAVE reviews.

Moral of the story?
Don't go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to... (yeah. I just quoted TLC.)


  1. Oh ClutteredMama, what an adventure in pie making! I agree, sometimes it is better to stick to the old standbys and I am sure you are happy it is all over! xoxo

    1. Yup. Better believe next year's menu will be lemon meringue, pumpkin and caramel apple (though I would probably make the Caramel Apple-Cherry pie again. I thought it was tasty!)

  2. Oh… Cluttered Momma… how I love thee… Nerfherders…

    1. Nerfherders, jackwagons, ships in the night... All excellent non-swears! ;)

  3. The look pretty at least :) and the idea of a Caramel Cream Pumpkin Pie sounds amazing, though I've never made caramel either. Bonus points for trying!

    1. Well, now you know! Once the sugar dissolves, tilt, don't stir!!! :)

  4. I know I've had internal monologues that were akin to the cranberry one - no one wants to be THAT mom, no matter the issue at hand!


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