With the pandemic situation improving here in Ontario, I want to resume this project. It would look a bit different than it did in 2019. Most activities in indoor public spaces are not an option, and large outdoor crowds were out. The things I do would have to be solo projects, or at most with other vaccinated people. If they involved going in to public places even briefly they would be in places where people are fully masked and maintaining distance.
Under those conditions I was a bit unsure of what to do. As always, Sage had an idea and it would be a secret until the last second.
It’s a Sunday afternoon and we have both finished lunch. The camera goes on and Sage reveals what I’ll be doing: Making one of my favourite pies: pecan pie.
I realize, looking back that I have an internal bias: I classify things into three groups: things I can do, things I can’t do (but could probably learn) and things I probably can’t do. And somehow baking has ended up on that last list. This is a bit silly because making something like this seems like no big deal – even something I could whip up on a weeknight after work.
But baking, particularly pastry looks like magic to me. This is firmly in the realm of things that other people do.
We gather the basic ingredients, flour, butter, salt, corn syrup, eggs pecans. Wait. We only have about half the pecans we need. So today’s baking starts off with shopping. We head out to the grocery store.
Once we get back I find a recipe that even includes a helpful video. So far it doesn’t look too bad. Mix dry ingredients in a food processor, throw in some cold butter that’s been chopped up into small pieces and mix some more. Then pull it together like dough.
I wrapped the two pieces up in plastic and put it all in the fridge. This part of baking, at least, is not rocket science. I’m feeling pretty confident an hour later when it’s time to roll out the dough. My confidence doesn’t last long, though, as my crust is looking more like the continent of Antarctica than the crust I saw in the video. Sage tells me not to worry, though, and I persist.
Once I roll it out, it is bigger, quite a bit thinner, but still is just a bit larger scale model of Antarctica. I am pretty sure I can see the Amundsen-Scott South Pole base even.
I carefully lift the crust into the pan, still not entirely sure how I’m going to make this look like a pie. Once it’s in I carefully push it down into place. The harbours of Antarctica look ominous. How am I going to make this look like a pie with these massive gaps.
Sage comes to the rescue with more information: I cut the crust into a shape more closely resembling a circle. Instead of the coast falling into the sea making us all worry just a bit more about climate change, I set aside the bigger pieces and then use them to patch up the worst of the gaps. Then it’s time to crimp.
OK, not that kind of crimp. I need to pinch the edges in to make that delicious thick crust at the outer edge. I watch a few more videos, learning that there are several different ways to do the job. I pick one of the easiest looking – just basically pinching the pastry together around the edges.
That wasn’t so bad. It’s not one I’d take to the county fair but I’m happy with it. And then it’s time to make the sugariest thing I’ve ever made in my life. The filling for this pie. It has a cup of corn syrup into which I dissolve another cup of sugar and mix in three eggs. (It’s healthy now – like an omelet!) and finally the pecans.
When I’ve added this there’s an overwhelming smell in the air. Perhaps it’s just the sheer concentration of sugar in the air that I’m getting a contact sugar rush but I’m instantly transported. I’m now several thousand kilometres south of here:
Yes, it smells like a waffle house in here. I am now craving strong cheap coffee, a pecan waffle and hash browns, scattered, smothered, and peppered (with onions and jalapeno peppers).
Once it’s mixed, into the oven it goes.
And then it cooks, the house smelling more and more like a Waffle House as time goes on. Soon, it’s time to take it out.
At first glance I’m pretty disappointed. It’s original inclination toward the south pole has returned. It’s not round and doesn’t look quite right. I go for a bike ride while it cools. When I’m done, Daegan and Sage have already had some and are raving about it. I cut myself a small piece and taste. They’re right. The filling is spot on. It’s delicious and sweet and nutty. As for the crust, it might look misshapen but the thickness, flakiness and texture are great. It’s cooked just right and has a delicious, buttery flavour.
The verdict? Time to move one more thing from the “I could never do” list to the “I could definitely do it well with a little practice.