A recent trip to visit my granddaughter coincided with a United In Food bookclub meeting. The book was Sweet Land of Liberty: a History of America Through Pies by Rossi Anastopoulo. Our bookclub format generally entails making various dishes whose recipes are found in the book or are inspired by the book. Everyone feasts and then discusses the book. It’s a great format! Pies? Sign me up! But, I was in a different country, cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen with an oven whose idiosyncrasies were also unknown to me. An added hurdle: the food avoidances and allergies of my family. Taking all of this into account, I decided to make an all-American apple pie while in Canada.
First, we needed a pie crust that accommodated the food allergies and avoidances; the ingredients would need to be procured and I would either learn how to make a gluten-free pie crust or purchase one. Victoria is blessed with Origins Bakery that cranks out truly amazing gluten-free baked goodies. Always a great place to visit! They whipped up a GF double pie crust in no time at all and we were halfway there. We raided a family member’s refrigerator for crisp, Granny Smith apples for the filling. (This recipe called for using Granny Smiths, which turned out to be an excellent variety for this pie.)
The morning of the bookclub, I got up early and started the pie. I was not going to attend in person but I would Zoom into the meeting; with a three-hour time difference, I needed to get rolling! I envisioned my son and his family awakening to the scent of apple pie bubbling in the oven and I would be ready for the bookclub. First, I needed to find the essential equipment: pie plate and rolling pin. I was cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen, so I quietly opened every drawer and cabinet – multiple times – without finding these. OK, time to improvise: I could use a wine bottle as a rolling pin and make a galette instead. I gave one last look in a pantry and found a rolling pin and a spring-form pan. This would be a deep-dish apple pie!
I rolled out the dough, made extra filling for the deeper dish and checked the spring-form pan to make sure it was tightly clamped before building the pie. Then I lovingly carved my granddaughter’s name into the top crust to act as a vent before popping it into the pre-heated oven. After thirty minutes, I cracked open the oven door to check because it was an unfamiliar oven to me and I was unsure if it ran hot. Instead of releasing the heady scent of apple pie, I unleashed a torrent of black smoke! I quickly turned on the hood fan and cracked open the kitchen window but it was too late: the fire alarm started screeching – not something the parents of a newborn are thrilled to hear in the morning.
Frantic, I grabbed a kitchen towel and flapped it towards the smoke detector. (Truth be told, this was not the first time my cooking had set off a smoke alarm!) I waved it for a few minutes until my arms tired. Meanwhile, my son stumbled into the kitchen to assess whether to call the fire department and evacuate his family. We opened additional doors and used fans to dissipate the smoke. But, I knew I would need to open the door at least one more time to extricate the pie. Sure enough, more smoke billowed out and we frantically fanned the smoke detector to prevent more alarms.
After this ordeal, my nerves were shot. The house reeked of burnt sugar. My newborn granddaughter’s morning routine was disrupted – never a good thing. But the pie was perfect! It looked and tasted great; I enjoyed a piece during the bookclub meeting and my family enjoyed it all week. I was too rattled to dive into the book discussion but truly enjoyed listening to others discuss the book and their pie creations. Still, in the back of my mind, I kept mulling over the morning, trying to figure out what had gone so terribly wrong. There were no drippings on the side of the pan, so the only explanation was seepage from the bottom. I guess I had not adequately checked the seal of spring-form pan – a rooky mistake made by someone who had used these pans for many a pie. I also knew that a reckoning was in store for me: cleaning the oven of burnt sugar. Nothing like scrubbing an oven!
During our next shopping foray, I purchased a nice, new pie plate for my son and daughter-in-law, as well as bread pans to make chocolate-chip banana bread. We were all relieved when the banana bread did not bubble over. Eventually, the house’s normal scent reasserted itself over the burnt sugar stench and the oven no longer smoked. I’m sure they’ll hide the spring-form pan for future visits from Nana!
4 Comments Add yours
Love this amusing, totally relatable account. Glad all turned out well.
Thank you! It was a great pie!
Nothing quite like filling the house with smoke first thing in the morning, I am amazed with your grace then again, I always have been.
Thank you for your message, and we totally agree re house / smoke /first thing in the a.m.! Thanks for reaching out, much appreciated.