Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Stupendous Pastry Debacle

The score by the end of Sunday was:

Pastry 2 - Teri 0

Here's what happened. I decided that I wanted to perfect the fine art of butter pastry. I'd managed to wrestle a shortening pastry to the ground earlier in the summer, so I felt I was ready for a loftier challenge. I did my research, chilled my butter, water (and apprehension too), rolled up my sleeves and dived in. I was sporting a healthy dose of caution, a dollop of fear and the pitter patter of excitement at the thought of the perfect pastry that awaited me at the end of the adventure. Here's what I pictured (only with my hand on one end of the photo, proudly displaying my wares).

I had the brilliant step by step directions from Smitten Kitchen to guide me - and I was off to the races. It was all going well until the part where you "slowly drizzle the cold water over the dough until it just comes together". Well I have to say the pastry goes from all flour to all wet really quickly. So I had a hunch that I might have accidentally gone overboard on the water.... despite my absolute slow hand with the drizzle action. However, that wasn't going to dampen my spirits. I knew I hadn't over handled it, so how bad could it be?

I divided it in two and chilled it. I was doing it by the book. And then I started rolling it out - carefully, meticulously between two slices of plastic wrap. And suddenly, I panicked. How could this uber thin (almost transparent) crust actually do its job? Where had I gone wrong? When suddenly I remembered the OTHER half of the dough, still chillin'. I gently unwrapped it, rolled it into my other pastry, laying it OH-SO-CAREFULLY in the pie plate, pinching the crust and blind baking it with a tin foil "weight" in the centre.

As the crust was baking, I glanced back at the recipe to notice that the yield was for one DOUBLE CRUST pie. DOUBLE crust. I had rolled 2 crusts into one and it was past the point of no return.

What happened next was slow and painful. The edge of the crust baked beautifully - it was golden brown and looked gorgeous (despite a minor "slide" on one side). However, the bottom wasn't a matching golden brown. It continued to look raw. I even took to holding the pie plate above my head so that I could peer at the bottom of the shell through the glass. Raw. Uncooked. Doughy. I baked it for twice the time it should be baked. I was about to go in for round 3 of baking when Mister Man suggested that I turn the pie onto another upside down pie plate so that could put it back in the oven with the uncooked side exposed to the heat. I thought that was a brilliant idea!

Finally, after the shell was going for yet another full round of baking, I decided to take it out. It looked done(ish), but I wasn't convinced. "Mister Man", I announced, "I'm going to bake another one tomorrow - I just don't have a good feeling about it." So we left it on the counter to cool and went to bed out of it.

The next morning, with the knowledge that another crust would be forthcoming, we decided to test the first crust - JUST TO SEE. The edge of the crust was quite nice! Flaky, buttery... and then Mister Man decided to go for the centre section of the ground floor of the crust. Mister Man held up the little square he extracted and announced "unh oh. I think it's raw".

Yup. The demon pastry hadn't cooked all the way through despite the fact that it had been in the oven for MOST OF MY ADULT LIFE! That's okay. I had a Plan B and I was now putting it into action.

I started again. I was determined not to make the same mistake. So, I chilled, drizzled, didn't overwork etc. I was feeling good! After gently laying it in the pie plate, I proceeded with the baking. The edge crisped up first, so when I pulled the blind baking weights, I made a shield for the edge with bits of foil and had a chat with Paully and Michele on the phone. And when I pulled the pastry, here's what I discovered. The tin foil overhang had reflected heat onto the bottom of the shell, creating a brown hot spot! PLUS, some of the edge of the pastry had slid back down into the pie plate.

Here it is, ready for it's ugly little close up. It looks like it should be worn atop King Arthur's head, don't you think?

But here is the truly marvelous thing, gentle readers. I DID NOT FREAK OUT. Nay. I put Plan C into effect. I was going to make a graham wafer crust (easy and pretty impossible to mess up), and THEN I was going to make 2 batches of the filling, so that we could have one flawless pie with a graham wafer crust, and one pie as god and Teri intended, with the BUTTER PASTRY CRUST.

So I began melting chocolate.

And when Mister Man walked in from his morning of hanging out at a literary festival, I asked if he could please "GO IMMEDIATELY TO THE SAFEWAY AND BUY SOME MORE BUTTER" so that I could keep melting the chocolate as I was fully in PLAN C mode and planned to save the day with my clever ingenuity. And guess what he did? He pouted and he protested and he stomped out to get the butter. And I. FINALLY. FELL. APART. I started sniffling and snorkling and trying not to get my tears in the melting chocolate, as the water would render it useless.

And when he came back from the store, I continued making the filling. And I continued to cry. I made 2 pies. The one with the failed butter pastry crust essentially was

+ [PLUS]


Frankenpie !!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I filled the graham wafer crust. And I filled the Frankenpie crust. And I crawled in the bathtub which I filled up with my tears.... And then Mister Man brought me a coffee and told me "there, there. I'm sure it'll be delicious."

And you know what? When our wonderful friends Space Girl and Shayne arrived and dined on a truly extraordinary dinner made by Mister Man, they were actually IMPRESSED when I pulled out 2 pies and told them the whole sad saga. And they both agreed to have a slice of each! And THEN they said that the Frankenpie was by far the tastiest. They even asked for a doggie bag consisting of a big hunk of Frankenpie!

That's what friends are for folks.... that's what good friends are for... Good friends will eat your disasters and your successes, and will make you feel really great about even trying.

And here's the most important thing to come out of the Stupendous Pastry Debacle. I'm gonna try this pastry thing again. Cuz I figure I've learned a lesson or two. The only difference will be that next time, the score will be: Pastry 0 - Teri 1. Mark my pastry cutting words.....


  1. um, i brought her a coffe AND a cocktail for the tub

  2. bless your little baking heart! The Frankenpie had me weeping (in sympathy...really... ;)