Sweeney Todd–The Worst Pies in London
Go ahead. Click on the link. It’s from a delightfully creepy Broadway musical called Sweeney Todd. The story’s quite dark, and eventually, the keeper of the pie shop resorts to some–let’s say “unconventional”–methods for improving her pies. In the meantime though, they’re the worst. Bad enough to sing about.
A significant thing: My forties decided to really welcome me in with thyroid issues, so I’ve been experimenting with different things to feel better (in addition to medication). One of those experiments involved eliminating gluten. It’s a big challenge, to be sure, and I’ve had a little success, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to keep me hanging on, but time will tell. We press on.
I’m sharing this because I want to clarify that what I really believe in is delicious, gluten-y, regular old pie crust. I don’t really want anything else. After folding my arms and stomping my feet about it, a couple of weeks ago, I tried making a gluten-free pie crust. It’s taken me some time to get over it.
My lovely husband ordered a cool cookbook (I love pie cookbooks of any kind) and some gluten-free pie crust mix for me. He is so thoughtful, and I really was eager to try it out. On my first attempt, I got out my food processor and a few supplies, and then I read the bag. I didn’t have everything I needed. I was missing some kind of alternative flour to flour the rolling surface. You can’t just slap the dough on the board. Well, you can, but then it’s stuck.
On attempt number two (a few days later), I used rice flour to flour the surface on which I planned to roll out the dough. I carefully followed the instructions and used my reliable old food processor to mix the dough. It mixed.
As I scraped the dough out of the bowl onto the wooden surface, I came to realize this crucial fact: THIS IS NOT THE SAME DOUGH.
It seemed like a simple idea. The bag of mix told the truth about its contents. I don’t have any reason to believe that an experienced baker of gluten-free pastries couldn’t make this fantastic. I knew gluten had to do something, and I was about to learn what. I kept working, anyway, and tried doing what I’d always done. I tried patting the dough. It felt sweaty. I tried squeezing the dough together. It somehow felt gritty. I tried rolling it…Oh Lord, it was a disaster.
Getting it into the pie plate was like trying to stuff an octopus into a large mesh apple bag. In the dark. With one hand. After 5 glasses of wine. For you AND the octopus. While you’re trying to visualize that, I’ll save you the thought process by telling you: THIS IS NOT THE SAME DOUGH.
While I know there are ways to make this crust similar to the original, it’s never going to be the original. So I gave up on that and smooshed the crust into the dish. Instead of smooth, pretty dough, the pie dish displayed fingerprinted dough with thin spots and lumps. Sigh.
I loaded it up with delicious apple and pear filling and started working on the top crust. And by “working on,” I mean, mashing random-sized hunks of dough on top until I couldn’t see fruit anymore. Then, to make it seem like someone cared (in the same way you’d stick a big pretty hair bow on a bed-headed toddler), I crimped the edges with a fork. Then, after only 19 tries and getting dough stuck in the cutter, I managed to cut out a little apple for the top.
NOT. THE. SAME.
All the while, I’m thinking to myself. Some stuff is just different, and you have to accept it. You can wish all you want. You can try to fight it. You can try denial. You can keep samin’ when you oughta be a changin’. Here’s some different stuff about which I have learned (sometimes–ok, most of the time–the hard way):
–Gluten-free pie crust is NOT regular pie crust.
–Your forties are NOT your thirties. Your body knows this, so go ahead and tell your brain.
–Your second (or third, or fourth) child is NOT your first.
–Decaf coffee is NOT regular coffee.
–Your new friends are NOT your old friends.
–Pepsi is NOT Coke.
–Your new car is NOT your old car (turns out, 10 or 11 years makes a big difference in technology–where ARE those wiper controls?)
–Your goals for now are NOT always your goals from five years ago.
–Leggings are NOT pants.
–Northern drivers are NOT southern drivers.
So the pie baked. It did smell great, which has always been one of my favorite things about baking pies. We had some friends over for dinner, and after many disclaimers and promise of real dessert (strawberries with pound cake) in exchange for their taste-testing services, we all tried a bite or two of the pie.
NOT THE SAME PIE.
It had sort of a shortbread crust feel, and the filling was delicious. It was very, very crumbly, and I desperately wanted some coffee. One friend politely declared that I “had a good thing going.” It was clear that revisions and modifications were needed. We licked our forks and moved on.
I don’t know if it was really the worst pie ever. My son had more than one slice. Also, I distinctly remember hating shoo-fly pie enormously. That stuff is like eating tar on the devil’s back porch.
Anyway, lesson learned. Some things just aren’t the same. Will I make more gluten-free crust? Probably. Will it ever be like gluten-y crust? Nope.
I’m not very good with change. But the truth is this: you can either fight change or keep working with it. Lick your fork and move on. Off to work we go!
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
One thought on “The Worst Pies in London–or at least in Connecticut”
As always I really enjoyed your post.
Sent from Lorraine’s iPhone LorraineHarrison@bellsouth.net 770-289-9621