Thanksgiving is over, and the deluge of December holidays will be here before I’ve fully recovered from it. In addition to the frenetic shopping, traveling, and gift-swapping that await me, there’s cooking to be done. And in the world of holiday baking, ’tis the season for Cook’s Illustrated’s Foolproof Pie Dough.
Published in the November/December issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, this recipe has been the talk of message boards and food blogs, with bakers everywhere producing stunning and tasty pies. I first experienced dough-related success back in October, when I used the recipe to make Cook’s Apple-Cranberry Pie. The revolutionary addition of vodka to flour, salt, butter, vegetable shortening, and water created a malleable dough and wonderfully flaky crust. So when I promised my mother that I would make a pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving feast, I knew exactly which recipe to use. The good people at Cook’s, always thinking of everything, had generously posted a single-crust version of their foolproof recipe on their website.
With the pie crust mentally taken care of, I turned my thoughts to the filling. In the past I’ve made a perfectly good pumpkin pie using canned pumpkin purée. I’m not ashamed to admit it. But this year I decided to challenge myself and make my purée from real pumpkins. A quick stop at Whole Foods after work on Monday loaded me down with two sugar pie pumpkins, and I envisioned two leisurely days of pastry making, pumpkin roasting, and pie baking.
What is it about time management that I will never understand? On Monday evening I made my dough and placed it in the fridge to use the next day. What I should have done next was roast the pumpkins, so that I could quickly assemble the filling from The Joy of Cooking the following night. Somehow I decided that watching television was a much better idea.
I am sure you can imagine how the next evening turned out. After roasting the pumpkins, pre-baking the pastry shell, mixing the filling, burning my left arm, and baking the pie, it was 11:30 pm before the pie was finished and I could go to sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep.
But I didn’t experience the satisfied slumber of one who has cooked a perfect pie. Oh, no. You see, my pie was ugly. Somehow the crust had cracked during the pre-bake, and filling oozed around one side of the pie. I also misunderstood the crimping instructions, and didn’t trim the edges of the dough enough; the crust crumbled off every time I shifted the pie’s position. Transporting the pie to Yonkers on Metro-North was an altogether separate, distressing adventure.
By the time my bedraggled pie appeared on our Thanksgiving table, I could only hope that at least it tasted good. And it did: The filling was light, airy, and full of fresh pumpkin flavor, the crust appropriately flaky (at least in the spots where the filling hadn’t leaked around it). Lucky for me, whether I give them a jewelry box made of popsicle sticks or a sad-looking pumpkin pie, my family is always proud of me, and will usually eat whatever I make for them. And for that I give thanks.
And next time, I will give more time to my pie.