Tuesdays With Murray. (Chapter 3)

I like to bake. I am not great at it, but I’m learning. There was a even time I almost went to pastry school. I took a tour of ICE almost a year ago and fell in love. I was absolutely sure that’s what I wanted to do. Wachovia offered me a student loan. Then I realized I’d be putting my family 30 thousand dollars into debt so I backed away from the idea. I realized a few days ago, had I actually gone through with it, I’d be graduating from culinary school right about now.

But instead of entering a world of debt, Tobyjoe purchased some awesome literature and baking supplies for me. Now I bake on my own. I read up on food chemistry, study techniques, and watch TV shows. I genuinely enjoy it. Tobyjoe says I’m at my happiest when I’m baking. And he’s probably right. There isn’t much in life that continually amuses me; baking happens to be one of those constants.

Most recently, I have taken on the task of perfecting flaky pie crusts. So last week when Tobyjoe suggested I make something for “Fat Friday” (a new Barbarian Group tradition), I jumped at the chance at putting my crust before a couple of hungry judges. I decided to try a 9-inch, sweet cream pie crust to go with a dark chocolate mousse pie. The crust recipes in the Pie and Pastry Bible are not easy to do well. They take a while to perfect. And if one thing goes wrong, the whole thing fumbles. But I wanted to try it out so I hit the store, got the right ingredients, and set out to make a chocolate pie.

I made the crust first. I measured every ingredient out in grams. I made sure everything was exactly right this time. I wanted it to be nearly perfect. The crust took me about 6 hours to make from start to finish. Granted, that included chilling time, baking, and windowsill waiting. But it took a while nonetheless. I finished the pie shell by 6 PM. As it cooled on our windowsill, I made the filling.

The filling took a while as well. I had never made a pudding type pie filling before and wasn’t sure just how well it’d hold together. Most of the process took place over the stove. And I stupidly didn’t have all my ingredients ready for each step. One step called for adding the ground chocolate and then immediately removing it from the heat in order to strain the mixture. By the time Toby walked in, I was all over the place. I put him to work immediately.

With his help we finished the filling and it tasted pretty good. It was good enough for me to scoop a big spoonful out for myself, (which later gave me some extreme heartburn). Tobyjoe took in a few as well, slurping each gulp in through his lips, slapping them together before reassuring me, “This is really good!” I was excited. Everything seemed to be going as planned.

I loosely covered the mixture with plastic wrap to avoid having a skin form on its top, and placed it in the refrigerator. As it cooled, the pie crust sat on our windowsill atop a tall wooden table.

I fell to the couch, exhausted. I don’t do too well these days after spending too much time on my feet. It’s not uncommon for Tobyjoe to give me evening foot rubs after I do a lot of walking and/or standing. He sat down to rub my feet as the pie filling cooled. About 20 minutes later, I realized that I hadn’t seen a certain member of our family for a while, i.e. the smallest member of our family.

“Oh crap!” I blurted. “Where is Murray?” (I’m pretty sure this is going to be our son’s first words.)

“I haven’t seen him.”

“OH SHIT!!!!”

I jumped up from the couch and ran for the kitchen. I knew what I was going to see. I just didn’t realize how absurd it would look once I got there. Standing before me on the windowsill was my pie shell, my perfectly flaky pie shell. INSIDE of the pie shell (yes, his entire body was inside of it) stood a small kitten. He looked up at me, crumbs fell from his whiskers, his cheeks, and his eyelashes. His expression said, “Please, DO NOT interrupt me, WOMAN! I beg of you. Give me just five more minutes with this thing.”

A quarter of my pie crust – the edge, the best part – had been chewed off like one does corn on the cob. Crumbs were strewn about as if someone had placed it on a spinning record player. My pie crust had been destroyed.

We were able to sample the unchewed sections before tossing it into the trashcan and much to my pleasant surprise the crust had turned out almost perfect. And Murray, who was thoroughly annoyed after having his dining experience prematurely interrupted, decided to climb inside the trashcan and continue eating. (Seriously. I turned my back for five minutes and had to dig the little guy out of the trash.) In the end, Tobyjoe made a mad dash for the grocery store. My pie filling ended up in one of those ready made, trashy graham cracker crusts and Murray is a little fatter today because of it.


  1. pleeeeeeeeease tell me one of you got a photo of this? :D


  2. what you should have done was keep the crust (after dusting off the cat hair) and used it for another pie. for yourselves, of course.

    and i can’t believe you didn’t take a picture.


  3. You know what? I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture either. At the time, i was so concerned about having having a witness. I was too busy screaming for Tobyjoe to come look! Had no one been there, I probably would have, because I needed to prove it to someone. Instead of documenting the madness, I called on Tobyjoe to see the entire situation unfold. We were both in absolute awe. I had unknowingly made a Murray Pie.

    There were several photo ops too! The best one being fining him in the trashcan. Although, seeing his little body in the actual pie shell was pretty awesome as well. How is it I’m not ready and loaded for the best possible moments in my cats’ lives? I missed the Great Muffin Disaster as well. (The one where Schmitty tore the muffin tops off my roommates poppyseed muffins).


  4. I once made a coconut cream pie ENTIRELY from scratch…. the crust, the cream filling, the meringue. Ok, I did buy pre-shreaded coconut but everything else was from scratch.

    The secret to pie crust is to keep everything cold. I’d even go dumpster diving for a good pie crust. Good for Murray!

    …and don’t throw away the scraps. Form them into a ball, roll it out into a rectangle, cut into strips, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake.


  5. You’re so right about that cold bit. It’s a science, I tell ya. And this time, I had everything perfect. My butter was chilled to perfection, my flour, sugar, you name it. And BAM! Murray comes along and eats it. :]

    Cat will eat everything. I am convinced. Last night, he snaked some of my apple sauce.


  6. I wish I knew how to bake bread. More specifically, light rolls. I had an aunt that made the best light rolls in the entire universe. She passed away at an early age and her baking is one of the things I missed most.

    My grandfather emigrated from Holland and had a bakery here for awhile. I didn’t know him well because he divorced my grandmother and moved away when I was very young. Every year for Christmas he would send us a fruitcake. Why he didn’t send us something edible I will never understand.

    re: the applesauce… Murray can have it ALL.


  7. ohhhh, i was so hoping there was a secret photo that you were hanging onto for dramatic effect. but i can totally picture him, all crumb-faced and guilty. adorable, if only he hadn’t destroyed your perfect crust…


  8. Oh, I really wanted a picture! BTW, Simone’s first word was Seuss. Not momma or daddy. Seuss. I guess we were always yelling at Seuss to stop doing her meow/howling. They were big fans of each other.

    Your parents left today with a whole car load of baby stuff including a crib. Woo hoo!


  9. i knew it! i knew that’s where that was going! ha, damn cat! :)


  10. for what it’s worth, the filling was delicious! and, you got a story out of it. keep fat friday alive mihow. keep it alive.


  11. i am jealous of both fat friday barbarians and murray the cat.


  12. Of course I had a hunch where the story was going to go, but your writing is so engaging michele, Murray and the pie caper will stick with me for a long time! A well told tale doesn’t always need an illustration. Hmmm, Tuesdays With Murray, I see a book deal. Can’t have enough cat books and I don’t recall ever seeing one about a kitten and his pregnant humans.


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