So I became obsessed with the idea of making this pie the first time I saw it. I have no idea why, I’m not even THAT into pie or butterscotch. I think it was the browned butter and bourbon aspect that got me all excited. Plus, I must admit, I’ve gotten a little cocky in the kitchen since the success of my pumpkin whoopie pies. I thought that if I can make a delicate baked good like that, then I can probably do pretty much anything. I was wrong.
I thought Thanksgiving would be the perfect opportunity to knock everyone’s socks off with this decadent homemade masterpiece. I banked on this pie being so life altering that I didn’t even put much thought into my appetizer (which is usually my strong suit). I was totally hosed by the very idea of it. I read the recipe through several times, because it was clear that making the pudding filling would be a matter of precise measurements and quick action, and I knew I needed to be ready.
Tragedy one came with the crust. I misread the stupid recipe and used only butter, no shortening. Seasoned bakers know that this means your crust shrinks up when baked. Kind of a shitty thing to happen when the filling is going to be liquid. Not to mention the fact that well, it looks like crap too. I shook it off and moved on.
Tragedy two came while I was preparing my ingredients. Since I knew once the butter was browned and the sugar melted I would have to start moving fast, I prepped a finely measured out mise en place (thank you Top Chef). About ¾ of the way through my prep I realized that the recipe called for evaporated milk (which I did not have), not sweetened, condensed milk (which I had). As the kids say these days: fuck my life. This was the day before Thanksgiving at 5 p.m., arguably the worst time to be in the car and/or grocery store and I would rather eat glass before I did either. Not to mention the fact that I already had a pie crust par baking in the oven and a countertop covered with already measured ingredients. You should know that right now my cat Bruce is very interested two things: human food and acting like a dick (read: jumping on the counter whenever my back is turned and trying to eat things out of the sink drain- gag-) so I really would not have put it past him to haul his fat ass up there and nosh down on a stick of butter while unsupervised. I sprinted (Sprinted. Seriously- this has pretty much only happened twice in my life and one time it was because the cops showed up at a party) down to the corner store. Dude working there, smelling my tragic desperation, goes: “can I help you find something?” “evaporated milk?!” (surely my corner convenience store would have this random bomb shelter food, right?) “nah, sorry” (he looked truly apologetic) to which I looked up at the sky and said “fuuuuuuck” and then sprinted back out the door and back to my house. When I got home I googled “substitutions for evaporated milk” and found I could use half and half. I French kissed the internet and dashed back to the store and then back home.
When I got back to my house I decided to get a little Zen about the whole process. Slow down, chill out, focus my attention. This called for a cocktail. I took five deep breaths, made an extremely strong Old Fashioned and headed back into the tenth circle of hell: the pudding circle.
very necessary pause:
feeling slightly hopeful:
Here, I started to get down to the brass tacks of the recipe. The recipe, which would prove to be a filthy lying pirate hooker of a recipe, told me that it would take 10 minutes to brown my butter. I kept it low, I was vigilant, I was careful. Guess what happened? Burned to shit. Heinous, reeked up my kitchen, ruined a pot (guzzles bourbon, cracks knuckles, shakes it off). Stick No. 2 browned without issue. Then I added the brown sugar and things started looking up, then I added the half and half and started to feel like a successful person again and THEN came the part where I had to temper the cornstarch with a half cup of the liquid, stirring viciously the whole time. THEN came the part where I added that mixture back to the pot on the stove and had to stir the whole time but only for a minute! Because apparently after a minute cornstarch starts to LOSE its thickening ability. Perfect. I might as well be on a game show at this point. THEN I had to temper the four egg yolks and then add that mixture back to the pot. Oh just so you have a slight idea of how many pots and bowls were dirtied in the process, here is a photo of my kitchen. Keep in mind I don’t have a dishwasher, so…yeah.
At some point I added the bourbon also, both to the pot and more into my mouth. As I’m stirring the mixture I realize that there are some gnarly gelatinous chunks throughout it. Well, isn’t this just ducky my pudding looks like the gelatinous sacs that the Gremlins birthed themselves out of. I got out my immersion blender because my solution to pretty much anything disagreeable in the kitchen is to puree the shit out of it with an immersion blender. THEN, once cool, I had to strain the whole mess through a mesh strainer. My mesh strainer is for cocktails (of course it is) and holds about two ounces of liquid at a time. As you can imagine the straining process was a total blast considering the size of my strainer relative to the size of the Gremlin chunks of sticky pudding. At some point during this process my friend Michelle had called to confirm our plans for that evening. She cheerily asked how the pie was going to which I lamented to her the ridiculousness of the whole process noting without a hint of irony that “this motherfucking thing better taste like Jesus’ tears for the work I’ve done.” I took a taste of my liquid and felt the slightest whiff of hope, it did taste really good. I dumped the strained pudding liquid into the crust, tossed it into the fridge and put the whole mess behind me as I gassed it over to Michelle’s to drink the pain away. At her house I helped her make her side dishes and appetizers and almost felt human again. When I got home hours later I excitedly checked on the pudding, to see if it had, well, pud. The pie was still decidedly liquid. That’s okay! I thought, my head warm with red wine and hope. By tomorrow that pie is going to be perfect and delicious and it’s going to be the best Thanksgiving ever!
In the morning we packed the car up and headed to my aunts’ house. The pudding had still not pud. I was like a psychotically determined person for whom reason did not apply. When Paul gently suggested that I simply just leave the pie behind I kindly told him in my sweetest voice that this goddamn pie was going to goddamn Thanksgiving with us whether it was solidified or not. As you can probably imagine by the time we arrived at our destination at least two tablespoons of the un-pudded pudding had trickled onto the floor of my car. But that’s fiiiine. I’m sure that cooked half and half, butter and bourbon smells SO good in automobile upholstery. I relayed my tale of woe and un-pudded pudding to my mother and aunts who promptly passed me a pumpkin martini and told me to shake it off. My Aunt Sally told me that it would look fine once I garnished it with whipped cream and reminded me “don’t you know that ‘garnish’ is French for fuck up?” I felt better and still held out hope that perhaps the pie, now in the garage freezer, would solidify by the time dessert rolled around.
Gorgeous, isn't she?
Does this looked pudded to you?
So if you’re still here, congratulations, you probably don’t have ADD, because this is the longest blog post in the history of blog posts. There is a lesson here: if life hands you a shitty pie, drink that bitch. Fin.
PS, I will have a real recipe up ASAP. I just couldn’t resist sharing this tale of failure.