Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Success and Failure for Mother's Day

Well, you can't win 'em all...and in my case, you can't make two great desserts in one day. Apparently, only one will be a success and one will fail miserably

Let's start with the success. And I consider it a success primarily because my nephew, Cameron, said it tasted just like Granny's cobbler, which is his favorite dessert of all time. So for this reason alone, the cobbler passed the test. I personally think that the top crust was too thick and the filling was a little too buttery, but I achieved the perfect balance between sweet and tart, though, which was my biggest triumph—I've had this cobbler when the rhubarb was so sour, we all sat around puckered and squinting. I'll take the small victories.

For both recipes, I made the crust from "perfect every time" pie crust recipe found in the vintage Crisco Favorite Family Foods Cookbook, the one my mother uses and, in fact, she does make perfect crust every time. It was pretty easy [of course, not as easy as opening the wrapper on a store-bought crust, am I right??!] I made it the night before and then rolled it out with the greatest of ease in the morning, feeling the satisfaction of having done something from scratch...and letting that store-bought crust sit another day in my freezer. See the end of this post for the recipe.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
1 large bag of frozen whole strawberries (fresh berries tend to get too mushy)
6-8 stalks of fresh rhubarb
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour (or cornstarch)
1 tsp. salt
1 stick butter

Defrost the strawberries and cut in quarters. Peel the rhubarb (like celery) and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Mix sugar, flour, and salt thoroughly and then add to the fruit. Stir until all dry ingredients are liquified. Pour fruit mixture into the pyrex dish on top of the pastry crust. Cut butter in small pieces and place around on top of the fruit (the recipe actually called for 2 sticks of butter, but I cut it to 1 and still found it too buttery). Then place the other pastry (very thinly rolled out) on top of the fruit. Sprinkle the top with sugar. Place pyrex dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 375. Then continue cooking at 350 until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes on the top rack.

The result was really beautiful, bubbly and browned on top, and that gorgeous shade of red oozing out the sides. It looked and tasted pretty good. Success.

Now let's move on to the failure...

Note to self: just because a recipe looks easy on the card, it still has the potential to turn into a complete failure. I thought I had done it right, even gauging the very vague instruction, "stirring constantly until 'right thickness,'" to be the thickness that I remembered seeing my mother achieve when she had made it before. But things started to get shaky when I poured the perfectly thick chocolatey goodness into the 9" pie crust and realized I was probably supposed to double the recipe for a 9" pie pan. I went through the machinations in my brain that I usually go through when I hit a snag with one of my mom's recipes: should I make another batch? should I double the meringue? should I just follow the recipe and let the cards fall where they may? I went with option 3 and made the meringue...that only covered about 1/3 of the chocolate filling. So I'll just make more meringue...but realized I had no more eggs. The disaster was gaining steam. My husband was going to the store for other items in a few minutes, so add eggs to the list, dear, your wife is creating a monster.

In the end, with a sorry batch of pitiful wilting meringue on top, the pie cooked, and turned golden brown on top, and I thought, well maybe it pulled itself together. Maybe. Not so much. I cut into it and the meringue gave way to a pool of liquified chocolate. The slice I was able to get on the plate was essentially crust and meringue with what amounted to chocolate sauce. Okay then.

My mom was horrified, not at my "creation" but because she didn't give me good instructions. She was apologizing profusely, while my sister kept assuring me that it actually tasted pretty good...what she could slurp up into her spoon, that is.

Anyway, no pictures of this one, thank you. Just the recipe that I WILL MASTER SOMEDAY. Try it and if you have more success, please send pictures so I'll have something to aspire to.

Chocolate Meringue Pie (a.k.a. Mother's Favorite Chocolate Pie)
IMPORTANT: If you are using a 9" pie pan, double the chocolate and meringue.

2 eggs yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue; add more if you want a really tall pie)
2/3 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp flour
dash of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp butter
cooked pie crust
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Mix cocoa, flour, and salt in a nonstick skillet. Beat egg yolks and add sugar and milk. Use a whisk to mix liquid ingredients with dry ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly until "right thickness." Add butter and vanilla; continue stirring. Don't boil. Pour into cooked pie crust. Make meringue: beat egg whites (2 or 4 depending) with 2 Tbsp sugar and cream of tartar until you get stiff peaks. Spoon the meringue on top of the chocolate and seal it to the edges of the crust. Bake until golden brown on top at 300, approximately 20 minutes.

Crisco Pastry Crust
Single Crust:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Crisco
3 Tbsp cold water

Double Crust:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cups Crisco
1/4 cup cold water

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in Crisco (I think this means cut the Crisco in little pieces and mix it into the flour) until mixture is uniform; mixture should be fairly coarse. Sprinkle with water, a little at a time, and keep adding the water until you can form a ball.(If you've made the double crust, cut the dough ball in half.) Put dough on floured board and using rolling pin to roll pastry to "right" thickness (maybe about an 1/8", but not really sure). Place pastry in pie pan, 8" or 9", trim one-half inch beyond edge of pan. Crimp edges. If you are making the cobbler, place the pastry in the bottom of an 8 x 10 or 13 x 9 pyrex pan, then cover the fruit with the other half of the dough; you don't have to seal it, but cut slits in the pastry to allow for air and for a little fruit syrup to bubble through. If you are making the Chocolate Meringue Pie, you'll need to prick the pastry with a fork and then bake it at 375 for about 10 minutes, then fill with the chocolate filling and meringue.


  1. I'm having trouble getting my head around the idea of something being "too buttery"! How can it be?!

  2. We have found that using the "new" Crisco which has had its fat content reduced does not brown as well as the Crisco from years back. Have you found this to be true?

  3. I don't think I've had enough experience with Crisco to be able to tell the different, Alice. But I'll watch out for this in the future. I have noticed my pastries taking much longer to brown than the recommended time in a recipe. But I just thought it was my oven. Maybe this new-fangled Crisco is the culprit!


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