Pie Crust, Humble Pie, and Mea Culpa

by Jeanne on November 21, 2010

This was not my week to shine, I will tell you that. I taught my gluten-free pie crust class. I’ve taught it before and things have gone fine. It’s usually fun and students are proud of themselves for actually rolling a pie crust that looks and tastes good. We make a full pie and then many smaller hand pies (what I call Toaster Tarts instead of Pop Tarts).

This time was different.

I arrived early to set up.  I chatted with my assistants. This was a new teaching space for me and it is beautiful–but it is huge! The lone fridge is at one end and the ovens are 15 ft away at the other end.  Since there were going to be about 9 students, we decided to set up at one end of the long counter so we could all talk to and help each other.  I didn’t think it through and we randomly chose an end–the end we chose was next to the ovens and next to the industrial strength dishwashers.  As it turned out, the dishwashers were running and venting steam the whole time I was teaching.

This was going to be a hands on class, so I had pre-measured bags of dry ingredients for the students and set them at each spot. It had been a busy day, so I had been driving around for a few hours with the  ingredients in my car, which meant they were not as cold as they usually are. On top of everything, I incorrectly wrote the recipe I was handing out to the students and it was 1 oz off on my flour (about 2.5 TBL). And I measured the student bags according to this incorrect recipe. Sigh. So many mistakes that I made in one setting. I’m surprised that lightning didn’t strike me.

As you know, making pie crust is a delicate balance of using and mixing cold ingredients for the dough, warming up the resulting dough a tiny bit to be at the correct rolling temperature, then cooling it down a bit before baking, and then placing it  into a hot oven where it almost magically becomes flaky and delicious.

Well, nothing of this delicate balancing act was present on my class night.  I had failed to plan for so many environmental issues and conditions, it was kind of ridiculous.  The space was warm and humid (thanks to the dishwashers and the rainy day).  The many overhead lights were hot.  The rolling counter was kind of warm.  And the mis-measured amount of flour wasn’t that bad, but it was enough to throw the whole thing over the edge into disaster.

Truly, you couldn’t purposefully have designed a worse class.  The dough didn’t respond well to mixing (it was too hot and humid in the kitchen), the countertop was too warm to roll it on with out it sticking and staying, no matter how much we floured it.  The fridge was too far away from me to use gracefully, and I ended up running back and forth from it like a chicken with my head cut off in a desperate attempt to keep the ingredients cool.  These assistants had never seen me teach before and I’m sure they secretly wondered what the heck I was doing in the teaching position.  Seriously.  Nothing worked.

Towards the end, the students and I did manage roll out and bake some nice toaster tarts that tasted good (although I burned the tops of some of them by putting them on a too-high rack in the oven–sigh).  Several students took  non-burned extras home and later wrote to me that their family members loved them.  And I got amazingly high marks on the comment sheets.  I’m guessing they were being kind.

I usually welcome small things to go wrong in class–they allow me to point out what went wrong, why, and how to handle them.  And it helps the students to see that things are never perfect.  But this was over-the-top wrong things.  And I felt so badly that the students really didn’t get a chance to see and experience how fun and truly easy gluten-free pie crust can be to make.

The next day I called the class coordinator for the teaching space and asked if she would mind if I contacted each student and offered each one of them a private pie crust tutorial.  She said that would be fine.  And that’s what I will do.  It’s the least I can do for folks who paid good money for a class that should have been much better than it was.

Also, that night I went home and combed through the pie crust recipe on this site to make sure it was OK–where I found that I had incorrect gram measurements for the flour and the butter.  The ounce and volume measurements are fine.  I have corrected the gram measurements.  If you are one of my international readers who uses the gram measurements, please accept my apologies for the the incorrect measurements.

Wow.  The good thing about all of this is that I’m sure a class of mine will never go as badly as this one did (at least, I hope this is the case).  And I want to apologize to my students and to anyone who used my recipe with the incorrect gram measurements and had bad pie crust.  My mouth is full of humble pie–although I can tell you that the crust is great!


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