Friday, December 17, 2010

Lumpy Vanilla Extract Pie

I've been on a cooking kick lately. This happens in cycles. I'll cook dinner for a few months before losing the mojo, get lazy and stop cooking. Inevitably through these cooking phases, I attempt to "bake" something. And without fail, I am reminded that not only is there a difference between baking and cooking, I am not a good baker.

I had a Christmas volunteer luncheon to attend today and I found what I thought was going to be an easy chocolate peanut butter pie recipe. So I thought I'd contribute to the luncheon with this pie.

I usually walk away with a valuable lesson after one of my baking disasters and this incident was no exception. I will preempt this in telling you that I try my best to buy organic food items. Organic fruits, vegetables, jams, cereals etc. While shopping for the ingredients, I was happy to find organic peanut butter. I noticed all of the jars had at least 2 inches of oil at the top. Upon examination, I found the statement Oil separation occurs naturally. To prevent, stir and refrigerate or freeze

"Ok", I thought, "Not a problem. I can do that."


I went home with my ingredients and began to bake. Everything about the pie was made from the scratch, the crust, the filling, everything. I knew the crust was going to be a failure. I know few people who can successfully make a crumb pie crust. What I wasn't prepared for however, was the difficulty in making the filling.

The directions said to whisk the milk, corn starch, eggs and a few other ingredients together over medium heat. Does that mean I dump it all in at once and then whisk? Or gradually add each ingredient as I'm whisking away? I opted for the later and whisked until completely blended.

Then the recipe directed me to begin stirring to prevent lumps once the mix took on a pudding consistency. I peered at my bubbling concoction uncertainly before looking at my whisk. Did I stir with the whisk, or grab a spoon? And how would I know for sure when the mix turned from liquid to pudding?

In the time it took me to grab a spoon, the liquid did turn into pudding and the lumps began to form. I furiously stirred but the lumps multiplied and I couldn't keep up with the multitude of lumps that suddenly appeared in the pot. When the pudding began to boil and I was scraping pudding from the bottom of the pot, I gave up and figured the pie wouldn't LOOK pretty.

Then the recipe called for the addition of a few ingredients, one of which was 1 tablespoon of Vanilla Extract. That seemed like a lot of Vanilla Extract, so I double checked the list, but there was no misreading 1 tablespoon. Maybe that's not an unreasonable amount of Vanilla Extract, I don't know. Again, I don't bake very often.

Anyways, the second inkling of disaster began to dawn when I had to divide the lumpy filling into 2 bowls and add the peanut butter to one of the bowls. I had the unpleasant experience of peanut oil running down my hands when I opened the jar and the horror of finding more oil sloshing around in the jar. I dumped the oil and half the peanut butter into a different bowl and went for the last half of the jar, hoping that took care of the oil problem. There was still a bit of oil swimming amongst the peanut butter, but I could work with it. The consistency and taste of the organic peanut butter was different as well. The peanut butter was extremely thick and wasn't as sweet but the jar did say no sugar was added, and it wasn't a bad taste, just different.

After thoroughly mixing the respective chocolate and peanut butter bowls, I taste tested each one. The peanut butter filling was actually pretty good but the chocolate filling had a strong aftertaste of vanilla extract. It competed with and almost overtook the rich chocolaty taste. Danno offered the thought that perhaps the chocolate filling would taste better once it was combined with the peanut butter filling. Hoping he was right, I went ahead and finished the recipe. The pie looked terrible. Very lumpy and unlike the picture of the pie in the cookbook, which was firm and neat.

I refrigerated the pie overnight and pulled it out this morning for a small sample. Yes, there was a small bit of oil on top of the pie (sigh) but the worst was when I couldn't even cut a slice. The pie sloshed around the knife and I couldn't pull out the perfect pie piece. Instead I had to glop lumps of it on to my plate. The pie still had the vanilla extract after taste, but it wasn't nearly as strong as it was the previous night.

I decided to save myself the humiliation and left the pie at home. But if you want the Lumpy Vanilla Extract pie recipe, let me know.


  1. Oh noes! I feel your pain. I had a cheesecake incident a few months back when I switched out my old, time-tested recipe for a new, snazzier-looking model. It was disaster! The outside and the crust burned black, but the inside was pretty much raw. Made me so mad!

    Long story short: I blamed the recipe, and you should, too. That always makes me feel better. :)

  2. I think I am just not meant to bake. I can do simple things, such a bake brownies or a cake from a box, or cookies from a tube, but that's it. I have at least 5 Christmas cookie bake offs and a dozen failed misc baking recipes such as the pie to back me up on this.

    That's ok. I have you and Sarah to make my cookies ;)