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.”
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.