Saturday, July 28, 2012


One of the things I promised when I started this blog was that I would talk about my failures as well as my successes. This post chronicles the former, a "pie-saster", if you will, that was several days in the making and had a particular impact on me with regards to my baking. I apologize for not having any pictures; I'll make sure I photograph all the baking projects that explode in my face from now on. It'll be educational. Besides, I'm sure there are many folks would love to see me with egg custard on my face. (Yes I went there!)

The story unfolds as follows: On July 14, after midnight, I attempted to make a cherry pie for Michele to take to her office pool party at her boss’ house in Jersey. After days of deliberation I finally decided I really didn’t want to go but wanted to give her something to take with her. I didn't feel so bad because at least one other husband wasn't going either. However, my delay in deciding led to the aforementioned "pie-saster" which counted for not one, but two, marks in the "F" column in a twenty-four hour period. That takes some doing!

First bad choice: I didn’t make time to get buttermilk, which I use in my preferred pie crust recipe. We were at a symphony concert in Central Park until 11 p.m. and I didn’t want to stop in at the 24-hour grocery on the way home. Instead I chose a recipe from my Great American Pie book. Simple recipe: flour, Crisco, water. That led to the second bad decision, which was choosing to follow the recipe and not chill the Crisco. My preferred recipe calls for chilled shortening. I didn’t have the time for that, anyway, so I just followed the book recipe. I mixed the dough and it hung together pretty well but it was difficult to roll out. It fell apart when I tried to put it in the pan and I had to piece it together and spread it out by hand. Already this pie was off to an auspicious start.

Then I poured in the filling.

Cue ominous music and fade to aside.

An aside: Earlier that day, I had purchased two cans of Comstock cherry filling, my favored brand, 21 ounces at $5 each. I used it when I made Mama's cherry cheesecake last month at home. Since I was going straight to Central Park to stake out our blanket territory, I didn't have time to drop the filling at home. So that meant I was carrying more than two pounds of cherry filling in my bag from work to the park (which involved quite a bit of tracking and backtracking before I got to the Great Lawn, where the performance was being held). From our chosen spot to another under a tree when it began raining. From under the tree to the open field to watch fireworks. From the open field back through the park (in the dark I might add) to the bus stop. And from our stop on 1st Avenue to home. That's a lot of cherry carrying.

Aside ends. Cue more ominous music and fade up to blog.

The filling was “No Sugar Added”. I thought that I’d be able to keep the pie from being too sweet that way. I’ve bought low sugar fillings before. I dumped both cans in and then dipped my finger in to taste. Ugh! Fake sugar! Sure enough, when I looked at the can it proclaimed, in a teeny-tiny logo at the bottom: “Made with Splenda.” Splenda?!? That should be illegal! Someone should be incarcerated for this travesty! At least be proud of the fact that you've put fake sugar in your product and display that fact prominently on the label. That way people who hate said fake sugar will have no problem passing it by on the shelves. Oy!

Well, that scratched the effort for the night. I dumped the filling and the crust, made another half crust and placed the dough in the refrigerator. I figured I’d get up the next morning, get to the store and purchase the right filling. I’d be able to bake the pie and have it cooled in time for Michele to take with her. I looked and looked and the only Comstock cherry filling they had was made with Splenda. I’ve never seen such a thing! So I ended up getting a brand I have never heard of (at $2.00 each for two 16-oz cans).

I rolled the bottom crust again, this time using my wax paper method for recalcitrant crusts, and it went into the pan okay. I rolled the top crust and then cut that into strips because I wanted to make a lattice crust. The strips were too fragile to pick up, so I re-rolled the dough, placed it on top of the pie, sealed it, cut steam vents and baked it.

Once it was done, I pulled it out of the oven and immediately the edges just started crumbling off. I put it on the marble to cool and tasted some of the crumbling crust. It was horrible! This was the worst pie I'd made since Astrodome Apple almost half my lifetime ago! No way was I sending that with Michele; I could never forgive myself. And neither would she because, if I haven't said it before, it was horrible! The filling wasn't bad but for me, it's all about the crust. A pie isn't a pie if the crust doesn't hold up.

In the end, I went out and bought a variety of cookies from Two Little Red Hens for her. (This is the bakery we would have used for our wedding cake but since they didn't deliver, we went with a different bakery and a different flavor cake.)

All told, this was a $14 – plus the cost of the wasted ingredients I already had on hand – series of mistakes. I will never make a pie without chilling the fat and using some chilled wet ingredient – water or buttermilk – in the future. And I am determined to never buy cherry pie filling ever again. If I can’t find real cherries, either in season or frozen, to make my own filling, I won’t make the cherry dessert.

I'm always going to make mistakes in my baking. I'm always going to have disasters and and accidents. What knowledge I gain from those mistakes is more important than the fact that I made the mistakes. Thus are lessons learned. Thus spake Bakerthustra!

Part II will soon ensue.

Currently listening to: Feist - My Moon My Man



  1. Just to note, it was only several feet out from under our lovely sheltering tree to the open area from which we were able to see (YAY!!) fireworks. I still applaud you for being the best cherry pie filling carrier in all of Central Park. And, for securing fabulous blanket space. I think it was ever so gallant of you, and ever so generous of them to schedule fireworks (YAY!!) for my birthday.

    1. Well, love, it took a little arm-twisting and at least one threat of beaning someone's cranium with a 21-ounce can of cherry pie filling, but I'm glad I could make your night! ;)

  2. Baking disasters come and go it's just how the cookie (or should I say) pie crust crumbles! Mon.Y.

    1. Well, flaky crust is the way to go. And it should only crumble if you're doing an actual crumble top. This was indeed a learning experience, little sister.

      Next time you're able to come visit, I'll bake one of these in your honor!