Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Fire of 2010

When we were getting ready for dinner the other night, I spotted a couple of black things on the kitchen floor that looked rather like dead beetles. They really stood out, of course, because my floor was impeccably clean as always. (Okay, it's actually only clean for about an hour other week, when I mop it whether it needs it or not.)

Anyway, I didn't want to touch the dead beetles, so I asked Bill to investigate. He knelt and picked one up without hesitation. "Looks like an ember from the Great Pumpkin Fire of '10," he said.

Ethan, who was dutifully setting the table, paused for a moment. "The what??"

"Oh, didn't I tell you about that? I'll tell you over dinner."...

The week before last, I roasted one of the three sugar pie pumpkins I've bought so far this season. While the puree was draining into a bowl, I whirled up my very first pie crust in the food processor. It was easy!.. Until I rolled it out.

Bill, who was doing the dinner dishes while I worked on dirtying the kitchen again, had to listen to a lot of whining at that point.

"Why is it all cracked around the edges?"

"It'll be fine."

"But I can't make the cracks roll together."

"Don't worry, Sarah. It's all good. But hey, it doesn't look like you used enough flour. It's going to stick."

"No, I read that too much flour makes the dough tough."

Even though Bill was the only one who had successfully made a pie crust at that point, he didn't argue with me. He coached me as I wrapped one side of the dough around the rolling pin, and then the other.

As I maneuvered it over the pan, he said, "Now center it over the pan and-"

I plopped the dough down haphazardly.

"...or you could just drop it in any old which way," Bill muttered wryly.

Again, he bit his tongue as I struggled to smooth out the dough and conform it to the shape of the pan. Of course, half of it tore apart. All I said was, "DARN it!", but it could have been much worse.

Now Allyson decided it was time to put in her two cents. "Why didn't it work, Mommy?"

"Because I'm not Daddy. I can't just make a pie crust on the first try without any trouble at all."

"Now, now. No need to get testy," Bill said. "Just roll it out again. It'll be fine."

"Listen to Daddy," Allyson admonished. "He knows how to make pies." 

I was sorely tempted to say, "Why don't you do it, Bill? You're better at it." Instead, I squared my shoulders, added a bit more flour, and rolled it out again. This time I almost managed to get it into the pan all in one piece, and I was able to pat the dough back together on the marred edge.

Following some instructions I found online, I brushed the dough with an egg wash, lined the empty shell with parchment paper, and added some dried beans and rice to weigh the paper down. Then I slid it into the preheated top oven, a small one just the right size for pizzas and cookie sheets. Just as I began to worry about the possibility of the parchment paper brushing against the heating element, one side of it burst into flames!

"Oh no, Mommy! It's on fire," Allyson informed me. "This is horrible!"

I started to jerk the pan back out, but I was afraid to dislodge the beans and rice and burn the dough. I carefully slid it out halfway, cascading some rice onto the bottom of the oven, and started blowing on the flame, which flared even higher. I expelled all my air, as if I were trying to blow out 40 birthday candles. The flame flickered. I blew again, so hard that I saw stars, and it finally went out.

Ethan interrupted my narrative at that point with a very good question. "Weren't you worried about the house burning down?"

"Well, maybe a little. But I was really more worried about saving the pie."

"You mean you were more worried about a PIE than our house?"

"Yes. I worked really hard on that crust!"

"It was horrible," Allyson interjected. "I ran out to tell Daddy about the horrible accident."

"It was already out by the time he came in from the yard," I reminded her.

In the end, all was well. I replaced the parchment paper with foil and prebaked the crust for about 10 minutes. Afterward, I agonized over whether I could still use the rice and beans and finally threw them out. At last I poured in the filling and baked it.

Wow! It was fabulous. The crust was flaky and tender even though I used 100% whole wheat pastry flour, and even though I had to roll it out twice. I guess Bill's not the only one who can bake a pie!

Couldn't Stop to Take a Picture Until AFTER We Tried It

Update 10/24/10 12:05 AM: You'll never guess what I found at the foot of the stove right after I published this entry! Yes, it was a black beetle. I kid you not; I can't make this stuff up. It was on its back on my impeccably clean floor (truly--I mopped today), flailing its legs frantically. Bizarre.


Victor S E Moubarak said...

I'm a great cook! My dog has enjoyed many a meal that no one in my family would touch.

God bless.

Sarah said...

You're hilarious, Victor. I've got some bread in the oven (you'll probably read about it soon) that just may end up in the dog's bowl this evening.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Just had another failure! I made a coffee cake and it has raised well but it's very chewy and tasteless. It's like eating a giant sponge made of rubber.

The dog sniffed at it then laughed at me.

God bless.

Sarah said...

Victor, I'm sorry to hear about your tasteless coffee cake. My artisan bread actually turned out great even though I got most of the instructions all wrong. The bread looked pretty weird, but it tasted great! I took it to a home group meeting for my church, and they gobbled it up. Yay!

k and c's mom said...

HA! Glad to know that I am not the only one who is challenged in the kitchen. Bet it was great. Maybe I'll try this in the next, oh, year or so. :)

k and c's mom said...

PS: Added you to the blogroll on my blog. Hope that's OK.

Sarah said...

Thanks for reading, K & C's Mom, and for adding me to your blogroll. Yes, it's good to know other people struggle in the kitchen! The funny thing about me is that it doesn't stop me from enjoying myself--or from making other silly mistakes. I think one of the silliest things I did was leave out the eggs when I made waffles. I know from experience that you CAN accidentally leave out the oil, but the eggs are absolutely essential! (But that didn't stop me from peeling those rubbery waffle things off the iron and eating them anyway. They were pretty tasty dipped in maple syrup!)

Jenny from the Block said...

Glad to know that even good cooks have these kinds of stories...I am not alone...

NC Sue said...

My first experiment with making pie dough also had a few "glitches". I grabbed the flour out of the cabinet and carefully followed the directions...

...I've never been able to live down the fact that I made the pie with rye flour.

Sarah said...

Jenny - It's good to hear from you! I'm glad you're blogging again.
Sue - A rye pie crust? Hilarious! Did it turn out great except for the taste?


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