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Thanksgiving Means My First Sort of Pumpkin Pie

My brother making buccatini and throwing down the cooking gauntlet.

OK. It’s not my very first pie.  More than a few years back I made a mess of a blueberry pie.  Once I made a reasonably successful lemon pie, but I made the lemon curd from scratch and all I remember is straining and re-straining the creme anglaise to get the lemon curd just so. The crust, well, it was vague and that’s a problem for me because to me the crust is the point of pie. And crust is hard.

Given this, and my success in other baking arenas, you’d think I’d steer clear of pie. But not this Thanksgiving.

Maybe because I know my family is tired of my chocolate chip cookie fetish, or maybe because my brother is always throwing down the “I can cook that” gauntlet, I boldly offered pie.  And so, armed with my favorite cookbook, pie is what I’m making for our Thanksgiving feast. “Un-Pumpkin Pie (carmelized butternut squash pie with brandy)” to be exact.I don’t know when, exactly, this pie is going to get made.  My son is home sick for the third day in a row and the cream the recipe calls for has been in my fridge for so long that I’m highly dependent on the powers of pasteurization to keep cream from curdling for any kind of pie filling success.  But my real issue, as you know, is the crust.

The truth is, I tend to be a bit….what’s the word….neurotic when it comes to baking.  It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, exactly, it’s just that I like to feel like I need a bit more control than I do when it comes to crusts.  Recipes always say things like “mix the butter and flour into pea-sized bits” and “mix until a ball forms,” followed by, “don’t overmix!”  But I was never sure about any of those instructions. If a ball has formed, have I over-mixed? And how, big, exactly, is the pea size I’m shooting for? Even when pregnancy books said my wee embryos resembled peas, I wasn’t sure what to make of that or why, if they were so small (there were two of them), I had to eat so much to feed them.

Luckily, there’s a video up on the New York Times web site up showing me just how to make the crust. Full disclosure: Melissa Clark, who makes the crust in the video and wrote my favorite cookbook is a friend. Objectively speaking, though, and confirmed by many, her recipes rock (that’s the technical term).  So, here I go.  Sick kid on the couch, butter chilling in the fridge, ready to pick up the Thanksgiving baking challenge and make my pie.  Sometime.  It might be at midnight, but I’m going to do it and I’m going to show up at my brother’s house armed with both my pie and recipes for leftovers (check them out in Family Kitchen here.) Wish me luck!

What will you make for Thanksgiving?  Will you try out any new Thanksgiving recipes?

photo credit: Ami Becker Aronson

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