Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Pie's The Thing... (with apologies to W. Shakespear) - 2

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this installment 
has been unavoidably delayed. We now return you to
the scheduled pie-filled melodrama already in progress . 

Cooking for family is always different for me than cooking for friends. Since I don't get to visit with my father or siblings very often, I rarely have the chance to show them that I've evolved from that kid who made pretty decent french fries (they're amazing now) and pretty decent fried eggs (I can do over-easy now with confidence and skill). So, when the opportunity arises, I put a lot of pressure on myself to turn out an amazing meal or baked dish. In the past said pressure has led to some disastrous results. (An apple pie that had a crust that baked up like the roof of the Astrodome comes to mind.)

Last December I had the chance to make a different impression on my big sister, Karla, since she was coming to NYC for a visit. As fate would have it, her time here would include my birthday and she'd get to have the experience of one of my not-quite-world-famous Birthday Teas.

Sidebar: I absolutely love celebrating my 
birthday! I'll blog about Birthday Tea some
other time, though. I just wanted to say that
I absolutely love celebrating my birthday!

I usually have a select group of friends over and I serve my version of an afternoon tea. I have a standard menu of baked goods and meats and cheeses but I always serve a "showstopper", something that's delicious and surprising and has a lot of "wow!" factor. With Karla attending, everything had to be as perfect as I could make it to erase the memory of the aforementioned "Astrodome Pie" from her brain. And mine.

Seriously! The pie looked like this...only it was brown.
And made of flour. And was almost as hard.
I'd already decided what the basic menu was going to be – adding my first attempt at the ginger lemon cream cookies to that. As I was trying to come up with a true "showstopper", Karla made a suggestion: "Why don't you make Nana's egg custard pie?" "Sure! Why not?" I replied. The exchange was casual. The panic it instilled in me was not. I'd never attempted that pie before and now I'd committed myself to make it for not only my friends but also for my big sister, who knew what it should taste like! No pressure, right? Ack!


I like to think I can rise to any baking challenge given the proper pans, the right recipe and a reliable oven. In this case I had one out of three: the pans. The oven was becoming temperamental and I didn't have a clue as to the recipe Nana used – because she no longer had a clue. I could have called her and asked, again, but I already knew the answer to that. I decided to pull a couple of recipes and combine them with my own pie memories to give myself a jumping-off point.

I consulted one of my "go-to" books, The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook.

I bought this in 1986 and I still turn to it whenever I'm starting a culinary adventure.
I've had it for twenty-six years and it's been a life saver. It certainly helped this time around. I that and another recipe I found on-line, and my standard pie crust recipe, for Egg Custard Pie 1.0. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of it; I just didn't have the time to take process shots or end result shots; I was way too busy baking...and fretting over getting ready for Tea. I will say that the pie looked pretty good and the guests liked it but both Karla and I knew that it couldn't compare with Nana's. In my opinion, it came out with a consistency and taste too close to flan. I'm not a fan of flan, so my rating on that pie attempt is "fail". It took forever to set, didn't taste right the internal texture was all wrong.

Overall, though, I'll put the experience of baking for my big sister in the "win" column. She had a great time and went back for thirds. She even took home a batch of ginger lemon creams to share!

The next day I called my little sister, Monique, to talk over the results of my labors. I asked her what she remembered of the recipe she got from Nana and the ingredients she rattled off were surprising in the only thing common to both our recipes was eggs! And not even the same number of eggs at that! On top of this, Nana had only given her a list of ingredients with absolutely no amounts of any kind. Not even a "pinch" of this and a "dab" of that. So, we really were on our own with this.

Part 2 Ends
**Cue wistfully sad musical riff.**



  1. Of course I loved pie 1.0 but then I love flan. It had a wonderfully smooth, creamy texture, wasn't too heavy, and a deep vanilla flavor. So, if you screw up & bake that again just give it to me, k?

    1. Though a screw-up of that magnitude is unlikely at this point in the development (I think I'm on version 4.1 now), consider it a deal, m'love!

  2. At the very least, make your love some Flan! : - )

    1. Well, that means I'd have to learn how to actually make flan, Steven! Not that I wouldn't do so for Michele, mind you, but it's so much easier for me to learn how to make things I'll actually eat. ;)

      But, as they say: never say never.

  3. Share with who? I didn't get no parts of those cookies! ;)teehee

    1. Well, you'll have to take that up with Karla, Miss Kee!