November 2, 2008

My grandmother was always known as a phenomenal baker, and her piece de resistance was her pies.  I have wonderful and fond memories of her making both apple and strawberry rhubarb pies from scratch.  I have her recipe for pies, and I’ve tried my hand several time at pies.  When I’m successful, I love having baking-accolades lauded upon me: I’m proud of my work as a baker.  But oh, how the sun refuses to shine on the days I am not successful – there is no joy in Mudville.

Baking is tough: as Alton Brown says, it’s about chemistry.  For the record, I sucked really hard at Chemistry in high school (barely passed with a C-), and I wussed out and took a pseudo-chemistry class in college (and bombed the section about electron clouds in the beginning of the semester).  Crusts are about the hardest things I’ve ever had to master.  As one of the nuttier tricks I’ve tried, I’ve even resorted to making crust out in the garage because the ambient temperature in the house is enough to ruin the fats in the dough to make it impossible to roll out.  I would gladly take custard over crusts.

For the last three or so weeks, I’ve been making pies for work, for The Boy, and for the family.  I’ve gotten pretty confident with my crust-making abilities (even after I completely destroyed three pies I was supposed to make for the 4th of July), and so I didn’t have any reason to fear this particular batch.

But woe!  I was punished for my pride!  I knew the instant I began to add the final tablespoons of water to bring today’s batches of dough together that there was something terribly wrong with my crust.  But, I pursued, and tried to roll the dough out.  When it began to tear when I tried to turn it, I knew it was done for.

Since I’m such a terrible perfectionist, I wanted to say screw it, and throw everything out.  I understand that some people use store-bought crust, and believe me, I wish I could loosen my sphincter enough to just let Pillsbury take care of the tough work, but I can’t.  I cannot be conquered by crust.  Today, however, I reluctantly gave in and bought the ready-made crust.  I tried to doll it up with my raw sugar crust, but I knew I put the proverbial lipstick on a pig.

I think I might have to go on another self-imposed pie-making hiatus.

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