Whenever we’d hit a glitch in a youth event, back in the days when I was acting as youth advisor at many UU teen conferences, my co-advisor, Lucky, would always say “Don’t worry. The universe is abundant.” She was always right, and it always worked out. Perhaps differently than planned, but always in a good way.
I still harken to that quote when things get tough, but more often these days I am just plain grateful for the abundance that is breaking out all over for Wilson and me. I just got off the phone with K & J. They are happy, celebrating the holiday with B and his parents and residency friends, cooking together, laughing together. I don’t think anything makes me happier than knowing my daughters are happy.
It is K’s first family Thanksgiving to host, and we agreed it was good she start with B’s family so it is really truly hers, not hers with me looking over her shoulder. (You know I’d try not to. You know I’d fail.) I know it will be wonderful, despite the 15 lb heritage free-range turkey she’d ordered turning out to be 26 lbs and crowding everything else out of the oven. I was able to contribute by suggesting she break into her buddy’s apartment across the street to bake the other side dishes.
Cooking and baking are happening here, of course, as we prepare to head to Becky and Michael’s for the big meal. There will be 6 of us, so we need 3 pies. And 5 vegetable sides, in addition to the potatoes and turkey that Becky and Michael are prepping.
Pies have gotten more interesting since Becky was diagnosed as having celiac disease. The store-bought gluten-free (GF) crust I bought last year was, quite honestly, awful. Undeterred, I set out to discover a decent crust.
I bought 3 GF baking mixes, two from a small local firm that were intended to be bread mixes, one with almond flour and one without, and one that was intended to be a general baking mix, sold by a large company who shall remain nameless because I happen to work for them. I made up mini batches of crust last night (much careful weighing of small amounts), following Alton Brown’s recipe and method from I’m Only Here for More Food.
Results - nutless bread mix gave a flaky, flavorful crust, bread mix with nuts was far too oily and fell to bits, and the general purpose mix was tasty but not pie crust-like. It would make awesome crackers, though, perhaps with a bit less fat. (The fat, by the way, included lard. I was pulling out all the stops to make a decent crust here. All I have to say is lard tastes really good.) All were too salty - I really should have used unsalted butter, or a higher lard ratio. (When in doubt, add more lard.) Sweet fillings should modulate that, so I’m not too worried and pressed forward this morning with the nutless bread mix.
Working with this crust is dicey - it isn’t very cohesive before baking. I used the method Alton describes in his book for handling delicate crusts, which was so slick I’ll describe it here. Follow the pictures. Roll out between sheets of parchment (Alton uses a plastic bag). Lay the crust, parchment and all, on top of a pie pan, centering it. Place another pie tin on top, push down and snug everything up, then flip. Remove the first pie tin, peel off the paper, and replace tin. Flip again, remove the 2nd tin and the other paper and voila - you have a crust-lined pan.
I used this crust to make a pecan (shown) and a pumpkin pie. I’ll report back on whether the crowd thinks it was successful or not. The last pie was cherry cat, made with real cats (on quality control duty). It looked prettier baked, but I forgot to capture that before packing up to head to Becky’s, which we will do in a few minutes. Edited Friday morning to add: the pies were a big hit.
P.S. In the abundance that we celebrate on this day, we are reminded to give back what we can. One of the tasks for the remainder of the weekend is sending contributions to causes we love - among them Heifer International, UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, HRC, Nature Conservancy and many more. I encourage all to give what they can to the charities that speak to their hearts, that we may help those weaker than ourselves.
P.P.S. A disclaimer - the opinions expressed in the blog post about lard are solely my own and do not represent the opinions of my employer, undisclosed though they may be.