Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Practicing Pie

I bet you were sleeping yesterday morning at 1am. Nice and comfy, all snuggled up under blankets, perhaps dreaming about the candied, glazed and gravy'd caloric goodies in your near future. You also may have been drooling on your pillow.

I was baking pumpkin pies.

Once again, I had succumbed to that little voice in my brain that convinces me to start ambitious and involved projects regardless of time, space and materials. I think the last time it spoke, it convinced me that I could hold a full time job, skate on two roller derby teams, play bass in a band and still have time for normal life. Possibly time for a shower every now and again. This voice also taunts me for being weak when I want to use common sense and dismiss its crazy plans.

"What's the matter, Pie, can't handle a project?"
"No little voice, I am just smarter than you and know that building the 'super-awesome ultimate cat tower scratching post playground' in the bedroom probably isn't the best idea. I mean, it is a pretty tiny room."
"You're just weak. A cowardly, scared chicken."
"But I–"
"Okay, fine. FINE! First let me just find room for the bed in the kitchen and then we'll go to Home Depot..."

Recently, I've been doing a great job at subduing most of the little voice's hair-brained schemes for greatness, and I have to say, it's been smooth sailing. Although, it seems to still come out at random times – usually while drinking – to convince me of the merits of doing such activities as say, speeding drunk down a Slip-n-Slide while already on crutches.

ANYWAYS, Sunday Jon and I decided it was time to check out the newly opened Eataly, a giant Italian market/restaurant/anxiety attack owned by Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich. It happened to be "Truffle Day", where Eataly would be selling lavish white truffles for a measly $5 per gram. HA!

Behold, the Italian white truffle, or Alba madonna

Initially, we were overwhelmed by the size and layout of the market. There were produce carts intermixed with a bunch of dining tables and deli counters. Further in, there were shelves of imported Italian candy, 2 separate espresso stands and a panini counter among countless other twists and turns filled with tasty goodies. Armed with large cappuccinos, we jumped into the madness without a clue as to where we would end up.


Pork, pork and some more pork on the bottom there

Breads breads breads

The roasted meat sandwich counter, where you could buy... roasted meat sandwiches

The drool-enducing Porchetta sandwich. Perfect bread, perfect pork. See? I'm drooling now

Someday, I will convince myself to like anchovies


I'm not quite sure what awoke the little voice from its peaceful slumbers. It might have started when we were lost in the endless aisles of pasta world. Or perhaps when I was perusing the cookbooks.

But all of a sudden, there it was. And this time it was speaking in Italian.

Ciao, Pie.

What? Not you again. Not now.

Non si gioca più con me.

Hehhhh. What do you want? I am trying to buy cheese here.

Io voglio cuocere!

You want to bake? 

Tu ed io, miglioreremo la torta di zucca!

Pumpkin pie? I... I do love to bake pies...


... and Thanksgiving is coming up...


... and I really should practice before Thursday when I'm going to make that awesome pumpkin pie with candied yams with a gingerbread cookie crust that I just invent– HEY! YOU QUIT IT! This is supposed to be a nice leisurely Sunday! I don't want to do this right now!

E noi brulee in cima...

Brulee the top you say? That is a pretty good idea...

And before I could say "goodbye leisurely Sunday" Jon and I were in Home Depot in the plumbing section searching for a butane blowtorch so I could brulee a pumpkin pie. I can also now fix our pipes if need be.


Yes. You are seeing correctly, there are two fillings in the works there. Apparently, the singular challenge of substituting and adding ingredients to try and improve an already perfect dessert wasn't pretentious enough a task for me. Noooooo. I had already added candied yams to the filling and precooked it for a thicker texture. I strained it with the finest strainer I had in the kitchen to make it velvety smooth. I replaced the cream and milk with Greek yogurt because at this point, why the fuck not? I gave it a gingerbread cookie crust. But where could I go from here? I began filling the second bowl with the pumpkin and yam mix. Not only was I now fully committed to reinventing the wheel, but I was about to attempt to create a tasty gluten-free/vegan wheel as well! Wee! Why stop at tradition? Damn the norm! Me and my little voice were on a roll now! Here we go! Yams, pumpkin, spices, almond milk, agave sweetener and cream of tartar for thickness. Through the strainer. A crust of margarine and gluten-free gingersnaps. This was uncharted territory. A brave new world.

Pies go in:

Pie cleans mess:

Pies come out:

Pies get lit on fire by other Pie:

All pies feel a bit crispy:

Exhausted and pumpkin splattered, I carried a sampling of the pies into the living room and plopped down on the couch next to Jon who was watching television. I admired the glassy sugar shells. Little voice, we did it again, this looks great! I tapped into it with my fork. Brulee perfection. And then, the unthinkable happened.
"The... pies... taste disgusting." I stated.
"They taste like butane and... gross things." I took another bite to confirm and quickly "bleghed" it back onto the plate. Jon followed suit.

I was completely dumbfounded. Like a good cook (and natural fatty) I had sampled the filling throughout the entire process, and they tasted pumpkiny and rich with no sign of weirdness. Had the chemistry of bruleeing altered the entire flavor of both the pies from top to bottom? Poppycock! This couldn't be happening. Creme brulees never tasted like flammable substances and neither should my pies! My little voice had led me astray! Et tu brulee?! GRRRRR!
Little voice. Are you there? What do we do now? How do we save this?


Little voice?


Great. That's just like you. Disappear when things fall apart. I guess it's just me now. No grandiose plans or or MacGuyver-esque ideas, just me and my two Zippo pies.

I became suddenly morose. I went back to the kitchen and stared at the pies for a while longer. It was like a pumpkin pie funeral and appropriately, I couldn't accept the fact that my little pies were gone. I wasn't ready to throw them out. I decided the only logical thing I could possibly do now was to go take a shower. I futilely wrapped the pies in foil and sulked away. About 45 minutes later, and still pouty, I walked back over to the pies, now resolved to toss them to their trash grave. I removed the foil so I could recycle it and there were my pies, staring at me with their glossy sugar faces.

Prendere un morso.

SOOOOOO you've decided to return little voice. And I will not take another bite! I don't trust you anymore.

Mi dispiace, Pie. Ma per favore, una volta di più fiducia in me.

Hehhhhh. Fine, I forgive you, but I still don't want to take another bite. They are going in the garbage– but what if...

And then, almost against my will, I reached for the fork and scooped another taste. I instinctually made a scrunchy face, but then began to pay attention to the flavor. Perplexed, my face relaxed. I reached for the vegan one and took a sample. The butane had mysteriously disappeared and they tasted pretty good. At this point in the night (early morning), I was feeling pretty pied out and completely bewildered. I felt a third tasting was in order when I was feeling lucid again, so I put them back in the fridge for their final test the next evening.

Have the pumpkin pies survived the night?
Will the dreaded butane flavor retun?
What will Little Voice have to say?

Tune in tomorrow, same Pie blog, same Pie entry!


  1. Oh my god ... you are brilliant AND please BE as creative at Christmas....I can't wait to have you in my kitchen.

  2. Pardon me, my dear sister, but where exactly did you get the idea for the Greek yogurt substitution? No, no. Not the little voice. Little sister.

  3. I'm still giggling over Et tu brulee. Have an awesome Thanksgiving!

  4. yummy

    and i aprove of the slip n slide