Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cinnamon Pie: or, Pride goeth before failure

You know, sometimes I think to myself "I'm getting really good at resurrecting old, vague recipes. I can look at one and figure out exactly what someone back in 1852 would have known to do when trying to make something out of this list of ingredients and maybe one sentence of instruction." And of course, that is when I prove myself wrong. Today, we at A Book of Cookrye present... cinnamon pie!
The [Los Angeles] Times Cook Book, no. 2, ca.1905

I found this recipe when I was looking for something to do with fruit. It's on the same page as the seriously delicious Cream of Strawberry pie. At first I thought, "Well, that might be interesting. Cinnamon is delicious, after all. Why not make a whole pie out of it?" We then noted the last line of the recipe: "Filling for two pies." That sold us! This pie is so delicious that you can't just make one!

CINNAMON PIE. Mrs. C.C. Norton, 1407 Girard street, Los Angeles, Cal.--(Original.) Sift together seven tablespoons of sugar, two level tablespoons of flour, four teaspoons of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir into this four cupfuls of sweet milk, butter size of egg* and two eggs beaten well. (Filling for two pies.)

 *Since I had to crack an egg open anyway, I measured its contents before mixing them in. "Butter the size of an egg" is about a quarter cup, give or take.

As a side note, every recipe withholds the contributor's first name in favor of initials that may or may not be her husband's, but gives her address. I hope I'm not the only one who is inclined to look the houses up on Google Street View to see if they're still standing.

This recipe starts out like nearly every custard pie I ever made. Fine, so there are no instructions, but the ingredients look nearly the same. And, to our delight, this recipe uses a lot of cinnamon. Look at that massive cinnamon lump in there!

Most recipes with cinnamon use about a teaspoon or so. This recipe tells us to use two really big spoons of cinnamon (well, the original says four spoons but we're only making one pie), which turned the pie-to-be a promising dark brown.

We then dumped in the pint of milk that one would use for one pie. It looked really pretty, kind of like a cinnamon terrazzo in a mixing bowl.

However, it didn't look nearly so tempting once we mixed it all. This recipe uses so much milk that the whole thing turned a disappointingly pale, un-cinnamon-y shade of cream. You may wonder what it tasted like at this point, now that we had added everything the recipe told us to add. If you ever drank the milk you had poured on your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you can probably get a good idea.

And here is where the pie goes wrong: We did this.

I'm not referring to the only semi-successful attempt at crust crimping- the problem is that the pie is already in it. I've baked a lot of pies like this, and figured this pie would go into the oven until it set. Sure, it was a lot runnier than a lot of other things I've baked, but I've seen unlikelier things turn out right. Then it did this in the oven.

That's not bumps rising in the pie. It is boiling. You may ask why we didn't pull it out long before, but even at this point it had not set. When probed with a probing implement, it was just as runny as when it went into the oven. Maybe it was done when the bubbles died down?

As seen above, this pie had scars from boiling in the oven and the crust was a bit well-done. I tried to convince myself that the pie looked so old-fashioned and homemade because it had burns on it, but do you see those white flecks there? The ones that look like the egg is now scrambled? Would you like to examine them more closely?

Sure enough, when we cut the pie we got this.

There are pies that are meant to separate into layers in baking (usually it's cream cheese or something that floats to the top), but somehow I doubt this is one of them. Maybe there's someone out there wants an omelet embedded in their dessert, but I'm going to hazard the guess that this recipe was meant to be cooked on the stove instead. I did try a piece of the pie, and it tasted like it should have been good. Therefore, this recipe will likely be attempted again.
So remember, sometimes you have a faulty recipe, other times it just might be you! Either that, or try to sell people on a pie-cum-sweetened quiche.

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