W.W.J.D.: What would June do?
As most things in our household begin, it all started with QVC.
One evening, my mother and I were watching T.V. and stumbled on “In the Kitchen with David,” OVC host David Venable’s showcase of kitchen gadgets and gourmet goodies, all for sale. David was tasting a round of freshly baked pies, oooing and ahhhing. Obviously, Mom and I could not peel our eyes away from the screen.
“Those look so good,” I said.
“I bet you could make those,” said Mom.
Then David held up a cookbook – Perfect Pies: The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes from America’s Pie Baking Champion.
“You should order it,” said Mom.
“Ok, let’s do it!” I said.
Little did I know, The Thanksgiving Dessert Disaster 2012 was underway.
Pies are a very important part of the Thanksgiving feast. After grace is said and everyone has stuffed themselves with turkey and green bean casserole, there is nothing more satisfying than digging into a sweet treat. Traditional Thanksgiving pies include pumpkin pie and pecan pie.
However, our family is decidedly anti-pumpkin. (Correction: my mother is anti-pumpkin. All those spices just don’t agree with her post-turkey and stuffing coma. And I’ve never been fond of pumpkin pie myself.) Every year, my Mom would declare to Grammie that she would be making a fruit pie or a cake for Thanksgiving dessert.
“You’re not making a pumpkin pie?” Grammie would gasp into the telephone.
“No, I don’t think we need anymore spices after all the sage and rosemary in the stuffing.”
“Well, I’m going to make a pumpkin pie then,” Grammie would say.
“No, Mom, don’t stress yourself out. You’re already making the turkey and the sweet potato casserole and the stuffing. I can take care of the dessert,” Mom would plead.
But, nevertheless, we would show up at Grammie’s and she would have a gorgeous pumpkin pie cooling on the counter.
This year, our Thanksgiving will be different as Grammie is no longer with us. Mom is in charge of the entire meal, we are frying the turkey, and everyone is on a diet. Naturally, having been enticed to order Perfect Pies, I volunteered to bake dessert.
“I’m making Maple Oatmeal Raisin Pie!” I declared to the world. “I’m baking it in a special pink breast cancer awareness pie dish for my Auntie Cheryl!” I chirped. “It’s going to be so delicious!” I bragged. Little did I know, I was doomed.
Perfect Pies: The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes from America’s Pie Baking Champion is the creation of Michele Stuart, the owner and pastry chef of Michele’s Pies in Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut. According to the dust cover of the cookbook, “Her pies have earned her twenty-seven National Pie Championship Awards – mostly first place – in a range of categories.” Michele’s love of pies began when she was a child, watching her grandmother bake in the kitchen. As an adult, she quit her career as a nuclear medicine technician at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital to open her own pie baking business out of her ski condo in Killington, Vermont.
If she can do it, I can do it – or so I thought.
So, on Thanksgiving Eve, I entered my tiny kitchen, armed with a mixer and enough sugar and butter to induce a heart attack. I turned on my French music so that I could pretend to be Juliette Binoche’s character in the movie Chocolat. I imagined myself looking something like this, queen of my kitchen:
Instead, by the time I was finished, I looked more like this:
Anyway, here is the recipe for Maple Oatmeal Raisin Pie. I hope you have better luck than me!
I cheated an started with pre-made dough from Publix. Maybe this is why the pie baking gods are punishing me. Doesn’t it look just dapper in that adorable pink pie plate?
Start with 3 large eggs…
… slightly beaten.
Next, using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the eggs, 3/4 cup Grade B Vermont Maple Syrup (honestly, I think I used Grade A… once again, the pie baking gods seek revenge)…
… a 1/2 cup granulated sugar and a 1/2 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar…
… a 1/2 cup of whole milk…
… 1 stick of salted butter, melted (I only had unsalted butter, so I added 1/4 tsp. of salt)…
… and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (which, if I drank the entire bottle, would still not have made this experience any better, haha) …
…. Alas, here I am, getting ready to combine the above ingredients with my handheld mixer!
Next, stir in 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut and 3/4 cup Old Fashioned Quaker Oats.
Then, add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts and 1 cup dark raisins. Stir.
Your lovely mixture should look something like this.
Place the oatmeal raisin filling in the pie shell, distributing it evenly.
Oh yes, forgot to mention, make sure to preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake your pie for 40 to 45 minutes.
But —- here is the important part. Make sure you put your pie in the center of your oven. Silly me, I failed to move my oven rack and ended up broiling our Thanksgiving pie. I set the timer for 43 minutes and snuggled up in my bed with the latest issue of Garden & Gun. Soon, aromas of sugar and maple syrup wafted from the kitchen. “Yes,” I thought to myself, “I’m such a good little baker.”
Yet, as the minutes passed, the sweet, sticky scent turned into that of burnt sugar. “Well, maybe that’s just what happens when you bake a pie,” I thought. When my little timer chimed, I opened the oven door.
“Gee, that’s awfully dark and crunchy on top,” I said out loud in the kitchen. I read the recipe again. “You can test the pie by inserting a knife into the center; when the knife comes out clean, the pie is done.” I stabbed a butter knife into the center of that burned pie… and it came out covered in liquid maple syrup. Undaunted, I stuck the pie back into the oven, on the top rack. “Oh well, it must need to cook longer,” I thought.
Ten minutes later, I pulled out the pie, covered in a nice, black crust. Ooops.
I called Mom, sobbing. “I burned our pie!” I cried into the phone. “I don’t care how bad it tastes, I’m making everyone eat it because I made it!”
“You can’t make us eat burned, under-cooked pie,” my mom said, matter-of-factly. “You know, Publix is open until 10 p.m.”
In a very un-June moment, I screamed into the phone, “Ahhhhh, you make me feel terrible.” And I hung up. Poor Mom.
Yes, our pie looked something like this:
Okay, not so bad, you think.
But in my mind, it looked like this:
So, I did what any other person would do. I looked through my cabinets, found some chocolate chips, picked a new recipe, and drove like Hell to Publix at 9:30 p.m. to get ingredients. Grimacing, I raced through the store in a sweat suit and Jack Rogers, pulling boxes of sugar and bags of chocolate chips off the shelves, shoving them into my basket.
I baked a new pie, Chocolate Walnut Pie. It came out beautiful, like this:
And I looked like this:
And then I called my mom and apologized.
And I will never try to broil pie again.