Nevertheless, I convinced myself I could bake the two pies for the simple reason that organization paves the way for success.
That nice Keelee had already made the cassava flour pie crusts, so all I had to do was brown them for fifteen minutes or so and then add the pumpkin pie mix. When she shopped for pumpkins at the hippie store, we had agreed that if there were no pumpkins, any yellow winter squash would be fine, except for maybe spaghetti squash. Keelee settled on butternut squash when she could not find pumpkins, and that was just fine. The bottom line is that without the spices, both pumpkin pie and squash pie would be bland but with the spices, regardless of what type of winter squash is used, voila! You have pumpkin pie.
I had peeled, cut up, steamed and mashed the squash earlier so it was ready for action. I had eggs, coconut milk and the honey also measured out and ready to assemble, and honestly, I was feeling pretty stoked. I did not see a flaw in my plan.
I had even cut out both parchment paper and aluminum foil templates to cover the crusts around the edge of the pies to prevent them from cremating. I used to use only foil but now realize that cooking with foil is questionable, due to the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. So I put the parchment paper on the crust first and the foil over that, so there was no contact between foil and crust.
I was glad I did, too, because those pies just baked and baked and baked for two hours, and the longer they baked, the more baked I became. JT had long since hit the road and I was handling my stress by handling the bong. I stuck the icepick into the center of both pies so many times, it was submitting paperwork for overtime pay.
Why would the pies not set? I had used coconut milk before, but had I used honey instead of sugar? Could that be why the pies were not getting firm? They looked fine and even the crust was cooperating by not cremating but frankly, I was not interested in pumpkin soup.
Mindlessly I began to clean the kitchen counter, rinsing both the big silver bowl used to mix all the ingredients, and the big bowl for the squash. I cleaned the smaller dish used for the eggs and honey and rinsed off all of the measuring spoons, spatulas and big wooden spoons used along the way.
As I started to gather all of the recipe ingredients to return to the pantry, I grabbed the zip-loc bag in which the flour was stored. As I did so, I saw to my shock, the measuring cup with the spices and the flour.
Horrified, I connected the dots: The pies were not setting up because there was no flour, and if the flour was missing, so were all of the spices. I had managed to bake two squash pies with the personality of mush. What now? Regardless of where they came from, I needed to produce two pumpkin pies.
Possible solutions enveloped my mind, billowing forth like the smoke from my bong, all equally ephemeral. First, I had enough “pumpkin” to make the mix but it was still in its original form: a butternut squash. To convert it to pumpkin took much time. Second, I did not have cassava flour for two more crusts. Third, whereas I had almond flour to make the crusts, I had been specifically asked to avoid it. Finally, even if I could somehow create two more pies from scratch, they would never cool off in time for dinner.
Just like that, the solution hit me like an oversized cream pie in the kisser: Because the pies had not yet set up, all I had to do was divide the already whisked missing ingredients into two parts, and add them to the two pies, respectively. If I sprinkled the ingredients from the measuring cup evenly over the top of the two pies, and then gently rotated the whisk around and around them, I ought to be able to infuse the requisite pizzaz into these otherwise tasteless attempts at a small boy’s birthday “cake.”
I was washing dishes as the pie was distributed, and I held my breath waiting for the inevitable question, “What happened?” It never came and fortunately, I remembered to start breathing again.
In a perfect world, you want to avoid the circus tent approach to baking, but if you find yourself in the midst of said arena, make like the magician you are, and pull two pumpkin pies out of your hat.