A baker of ill-repute, such as myself, looks for signs and omens anywhere she can while engaged in culinary endeavors. So I’m taking this heart to heart this morning as I prepare the ingredients for a single pecan pie for Studly and me to enjoy on Christmas Day. Since I literally put all my eggs into one basket, er pie, I’ll welcome all the good vibes I can get.
May all your baking efforts be similarly blessed this holiday season.
I’m baking not one, but two, pecan pies this afternoon. They’re currently at that stage where they might be done or they might need to cook another few minutes.
That’s my least favorite part of baking—the wondering. In a perfect world. everything would have an exact time limit. For pecan pies the instructions might say, “Cook for 70 minutes at 350° F and voila!”
I tend to err on the side of caution, while Studly Doright errs on the side of, “A little bit too done is just right.” Some years when I’ve allowed him to control the process my pecan pies have ended up with the consistency of a Goodyear tire. But when I’m in charge, the pie often is best eaten with a spoon.
That used to drive me crazy, but nowadays, que sera sera! Whatever will be, will be.
My mother had a good many skills in the kitchen, and while none of her abilities were passed on to me, at least once a year I was tapped to assist in her culinary endeavors. I’m sure I did so under protest because I was such a klutz at cooking and baking and candy making, and Mom was not a patient soul.
She’d cluck and shake her head and give me looks that would’ve withered a lesser soul, but Freida Hall didn’t scare me. Okay, I was scared sh*tless most of the time while working in the kitchen with Mom, but I had no choice if I wanted to continue living under her roof. My brothers both turned out to be quite proficient in preparing food, so maybe the fault was all mine.
What did we make? Martha Washington candies, chocolate covered cherries, and divinity. We baked cranberry bread and pumpkin bread, and banana nut bread. If it was a fruity bread, we baked it. We made a pecan nut roll that defied all of Mom’s attempts at perfection and only turned out divine once in every ten attempts.
Here’s a recipe for Martha Washington candy similar to the one Mom and I used to make. You’ll be a big hit if you take these to a gathering. It’s still the candy I remember most fondly.
At Studly’s request I am making two pecan pies from semi-scratch. I don’t/can’t make my own pie crusts, but everything else in the pies is 100% homemade. As much as such things can be homemade–I mean I didn’t grow the sugar cane, nor did I create the Karo Syrup–Mr. Karo must’ve done that. And I didn’t lay or collect the eggs; I’m kind of afraid of small farm animals, and I still haven’t learned the art of egg laying. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I didn’t mash up the vanilla beans for the extract, or grow and harvest the pecans, either.
I guess we can scratch the word scratch from that first sentence. All I did was assemble the ingredients, and from the smells emanating from my kitchen, I’d say these pies are done.