We’re in the midst of the holiday rush, it’s a major time for baking. Gearing up for Christmas I thought I’d share some things that didn’t go quite so well for Thanksgiving. It’s so easy for it to seem that everything always works out, and everything is perfect when you read about other people’s recipes, celebrations, and holiday rituals. From Pinterest, to Instagram, lifestyle blogs, mommy blogs, it seems like everywhere you turn folks have it all figured out, and make it look so easy. In my day job I’m a digital marketer, and I know how to craft and maintain an appearance or brand. But even knowing what I know, I find myself falling into the trap, comparing myself to others. But part of why I started this blog, was to learn and improve my baking, crafting, gardening, and parenting, by trying things out recording and reflecting on those trials.So I don’t want to try, fail, revise—all offline and hidden—only to emerge with a polished presentation of the final product. I want to show what it takes to get to the end product. Often it takes making mistakes to improve. Mistakes often show us the “why” we may not know.
So here’s what I learned from my failed Thanksgiving pies.
First, it’s important to know, I. Love. Pie. Pie is my desert island food. And holiday pie flavors are the favorites of a favorite. So even though we weren’t hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I had to make some pies. I’m still trying to avoid eggs, and I also still had leftover almond paste from the Almond & Cardamom Cakes, so I thought I’d try two pie experiments…one frangipane-style and one pumpkin, both using flax eggs.
I made 2 pie crusts—all vegetable shortening, to keep things vegan. I blind-baked them and left them to cool. Then I began mixing my fillings. For the almond pie, I creamed together the almond paste, softened vegan butter, sugar, and almond extract. Then I mixed in 2 flax eggs, some flour and a little salt. Once everything was incorporated, it was into the oven, 375 degrees until it was set.
It took longer than I would have thought, but I waited until there was just a jiggle, no waves in the pie like I would for any custard pie. The crust was well-browned but fully burnt.
Then I mixed the pumpkin. This one was much more of a risk. Since I am much more familiar with pumpkin pies, I decided to try and riff this recipe. I know, riffing and baking don’t always mix! But why not. Nothing risked, nothing gained! So I combined puréed pumpkin, coconut milk, 2 flax eggs, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, a slug of bourbon and a few tablespoons of tapioca flour.
In the midst of this, the twins awoke, so things got a little more chaotic. I got that pie into the oven and again found it took a long time to start to set. It just kept not setting! So finally I took it out, let it cool to room temperature, and put it in the fridge hoping it would finally come together.
After awhile, it was time to try the pies! The almond pie had set, no problem. It was a little grainy, but tasted fine. I was happy with it. The pumpkin…was another matter. It hadn’t fully set, but it did hold in pieces and was able to be served by the slice.
I took a bite, and immediately realized the mistake I had made. You may have spotted it while reading. I neglected to add any sugar. It was edible, but not that satisfying.
Perhaps fittingly, that first piece of pie met an unceremonious end.
What I learned:
- I’m not quite good enough a pie baker to completely eschew a recipe.
- Baking while looking after twins leads to goofs.
- Sugar does some structural work in addition to adding sweetness.