It’s not that I’m a bad cook, you know. I just have a natural pessimism about my cooking, unless it’s something I make regularly… or at least have made several times in recent history. The knowledge that I hadn’t made a pie crust in a year or two wasn’t helping me, and then there’s the fact that I’ve recently started a diet that doesn’t allow me to eat one of my favorite desserts. Yes, I knew, going into it, that I wouldn’t be able to try the pie (don’t ask me which diet, I’m not ready to talk about it, that would jinx me), so I was prepared.
Well, prepared to resist, not for realizing that I couldn’t even try a slice, to make sure it was absolutely perfect. I could’ve take a slice from the pie I was keeping at home for my Aussie family. But unfortunately, they decided to keep it for Sunday dessert, so I had to take it to my party, untried.
Also, I’m dealing with Australians who immediately think the idea of pumpkin pie is disgusting, because they consider pumpkin to be a vegetable. Just for a review, let’s go over this once more. Aussies consider pumpkin to be a vegetable, so the idea of having it for a dessert is revolting. Understandable, when you consider that they call pumpkin is actually what Americans call acorn squash (green) and butternut squash (light brown). What Americans consider to be pumpkin is actually part of the squash family, but Aussies call it a jack pumpkin (orange).
So, if you’re now caught up, please remember the differences. The jack pumpkin, which Americans carve up for jack o’lanterns and scoop out of the can to make dessert, it apparently has a slightly different flavor than the other varieties. Since I haven’t tasted jack pumpkin, recently, I couldn’t tell you. But I assure you, the idea of putting squash in a pie… well, most Americans would think that sounds yucky, too.
Back to the baking of the pie. Because I have plenty of other things to do, before leaving next weekend, I planned to make the pies on Friday night. You know, after I didn’t have to deal with the heat or the flies anymore. So, in preparation, I checked my ingredients, and asked Mrs. B what was comparable to Crisco in Australia, since we usually use that for pie crusts, in the U.S. Since Crisco is vegetable shortening, Mrs. B suggested that I get Copha. I took her word for it, having no idea what I was looking for, figuring there was a can that looked like Crisco, somewhere in the grocery store. As it turned out, Copha comes in a block, and sits next to the margarine, in the refrigerated section. I took some home, but with misgivings, wondering how that hard stuff was supposed to soften up into pie crust.
With my new worries, I went online and started searching for information on this subject. Yes, I had conveniently forgotten, until I looked online, that you could make pastry with butter, instead of shortening. My family’s used Crisco for years, because my mom likes the results she gets with crusts. And because lard is harder to find. We just never, so it didn’t occur to me. So, as it turns out, the Copha will probably be used by the family to make chocolate crackles (I think I have that right) sometime in the future, because I can’t use it, after all.
I had the house to myself, had brought my mp3 player downstairs, and was getting ready to get the ingredients out, when I noticed something. I’m guessing all the recent rain had produced a cloud of little flying insects that were attracted to all the lights inside and they were managing to get in through all the doors. Thoroughly grossed out, I ran for the bug spray, turned off the outside lights, and went out to spray down all the doors and windows, as well as the insides of the doors.
Trying to control my shudders, I kept telling myself I could do this, while debating whether to wait for daytime and enjoy the flies, instead. But as it turns out, my spraying helped, I killed off most of the population of bugs, and I was mostly left alone in the kitchen. But I had some fans on, to discourage any other adventurous bugs. And yes, before you ask, I washed my hands regularly, and not one bug got into my pies. I didn’t tell this story to scare anyone away from eating my food, but to amuse you with the situation I found myself in.
My recipes, as you’ll see from the pictures, are quite crazily written and scribbled on, as our printer isn’t working, and I was typing fast. Don’t worry, I’ll rewrite the recipe. Starting with the crusts (a good idea, I assure you), I started blending the butter and flour with a fork, as we didn’t have a pastry blender. I continued to argue with myself that I’d really have to try hard to ruin the recipe, so I should stop worrying about it. But the cooking pessimism continued, having been further rattled by the bug incident. But despite having a different feel to them (as far as I can remember), the balls of dough looked good, and I reminded myself that I’d be adding plenty of flour when I rolled each crust out.
The rolling pin was solid wood, no spinning handles, so I had to get used to that, and I was just guesstimating that my pie pans (measured in metric) would be the right size for my 9-inch crusts. Remember, all measurements in the recipes are American. But with minimal damage to the crusts, I transferred them to the pans, and managed to fix all the empty gaps and crimp the edges. It looked pretty, I just didn’t know if it would taste pretty.
When the crusts were both made and covered, I attempted to get the oven on to preheat, but as it’s a finicky gas oven, I was unable to light it. Worried that I might gas myself, along with everything else, I turned it off, and hoped the family wouldn’t return too late from their Christmas party (the kids were there, too, after all). Sugar and spice got mixed, and I opened the fridge looking for eggs. There were five eggs in the fridge and I needed four. Then something tried to fall out on me, while I was holding one egg in my hand and in the ensuing fiasco, that egg got crushed in my hand. Thankfully, I still had four left.
I had managed to find evaporated milk in the stores, but didn’t know how much the metric measured can would amount to in my American measures. We just always buy the small can, because it only comes in large and small at home. I ended up getting the larger cans, here, and one can did two pies. So maybe the little cans would’ve worked, after all. We don’t have a pointy ended bottle opener, to punch two triangular holes in the can, so for the first time in my life, I used a can opener to open the evaporated milk and got to see what it really looked like. I know, thrilling, isn’t it?
After scooping the pumpkin puree into the bowl (I had to order it online from Candy Kingdom, in Brisbane), I mixed it all up and then poured it into the pie crusts. It was getting late, I really wanted to get on with the baking, but no can do. I could not get that blasted oven to light. Mrs. B got back about fifteen minutes later, though, after I called her and asked for some helpful hints. Of course, the oven was fun to work with, anyway, because I had to translate my baking temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and then ask Mrs. B what those translated into on the oven settings. It’s marked for 1 through 8, and somehow, each one means something. If you’re looking at my handwritten recipes, you may see a (6) or (5.5) written somewhere, which meant what setting those temps worked out to be.
At about a quarter after 10, the oven was preheated and I put the pies in for 15 minutes. I set the timer, but thankfully, I’d looked at the timer, because when I came back, the timer hadn’t moved. So, I turned the temperature down (as required), and set the alarm on my phone for 40 minutes later. While the pie baked, I continued to be industrious and addressed Christmas card envelopes.
Finally, the pies came out, looking beautiful, but I still wasn’t sure of them, even having used a knife to see if they were done. I stuck the knife in, and it came out clean. Make me feel better? No. The pies are supposed to cool off for at least two hours, so I’m sure the residual heat does some more last minute cooking. After a refreshing shower, I came out, covered them with dish towels, and went to bed.
First thing in the morning, I rolled out of bed, went downstairs and put them in the fridge. Then I went back to bed. Yay for Saturday morning! For most of the rest of the day, I got to work on a collaging project, before going to my friends for our Christmas party. I had to exert myself to resist both the pumpkin pie and the pavlova, but I managed it. My friends seemed to like it, though there were plenty of teasing complaints about the idea of pumpkin as a dessert. But they polished off the rest of it at Sunday Bible study, so they must’ve liked it. One of them even had seconds, and tried it how I like it, completely coated in whipped cream.
And finally, this evening, my Aussie family got to try it for dessert. When I announced what it was, Emmie said “Gross!” and Sadie said “Ewww.” But Bea and Kit had both been wanting to try it for a while, so under their influence, Emmie stopped complaining and ate a slice. Actually, I think she just didn’t want to miss out on dessert. Sadie took a little longer, insisting she didn’t want any, but Bea got her take a taste. Then, before she could continue to badger Sadie about it, I told Bea to give her a minute. Sure enough, I think the lure of dessert (or distaste at not getting any) got to her, and she asked for a small slice. They all liked it, which made me quite happy. Almost as good as having some to eat for myself. Almost.
Oh, sorry, almost forgot to type up the recipe. Here goes.
Flaky Pastry for 1-crust pie
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp butter (or Crisco)
2 to 2.5 tbsp cold water
Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal.
Sprinkle on cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, tossing mix lightly and stirring with a fork. Dough should be moist enough to hold together when pressed gently with a fork. It should not be sticky. Shape dough into smooth ball with hands and then roll. Put crust in 9-inch pie pan and crimp edges.
These ingredients are for one pie. Double all ingredients if you use a large can of pumpkin and it will make 2 pies.
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 cup evaporated milk (1 can)
Mix sugar, salt and spices. Beat in eggs, then pumpkin. Add evaporated milk. Stir with a whisk.
Bake in preheated 425° oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temp to 350° for 40-50 min. Test with a knife, if it comes out clean, it’s done. Let cool for 2 hrs.