I stress bake. I don’t even usually realize I’m stressed when I start, but by the time I’ve spent hours researching the perfect recipe, the thought does dawn on me. At first I thought I was just mourning my lack of midwestern pie. Living here, people don’t vary their pie. I don’t understand. They are missing the goodness of pie. When I was a kid we’d go to Tippins, which had about 75 different pies. It was pie heaven.
I decided I should make something that I love, but never find fresh in a store. And also something I would never have time to make during the school year. Coconut custard with meringue it was. I hunted down the closest recipe that covers what I loved and grew up with–not chewy, not eggy, but creamy custard with chewy coconut flakes. And a meringue. It had to have a meringue, not some whipped cream la dee da.
At this point I realize I have some deep psychological issue I need to come to terms with. (You don’t want to know how bad it was the time I made honey caramels infused with espresso and topped with sea salt). I realized I was upset about summer ending and going back to school. I have a month of summer left, but that first month went by in such a rush of house cleaning, bill sorting and general crap that I feel like I’ve missed out. I haven’t gone anywhere, either. I have no money, my husband has no time off, and I feel like a big loser because I can’t even take a roadtrip. If people ask what my summer highlight has been, my answer will be “painting the fireplace.” Ugh.
I don’t know what to do with my general dissatisfaction. So I measure and bake. It seems so simple, so lovely, so precise with directions that you never get in life. It’s why I bake. And I was so excited about my coconut pie. But damned that meringue, that manic inducing meringue, that teasing sugar slut meringue. Lemme sum up.
1. I whisk and cook the custard, let it cool.
2. I make a brilliant crust that doesn’t slide down the pan for a change. Huzzah.
3. I separate my eggs expertly. I am please.
4. I whisk away and make nice stiff peaks. I am thrilled. So thrilled I let puppy lick the spoon instead of just washing it. (I don’t reuse the licked spoon, folks. That’d be nasty.)
5. I place the meringue edge to edge like I’m supposed to. It’s so pretty I take a picture. I am excited. I feel like a grown up baking grown up food. My grandma would be proud.
6. I bake the meringue until golden like I’m supposed to. I take it out of the oven, and it begins to drip. My excitement sours. My grandma in heaven is disappointed in me.
7. It continues to drip. Sugar water is making part of the crust soggy. I tip it on the side and more pours out. I am a failure. I am NOT a grown up. My screw-up is so monumental that my grandma is kicked out of heaven and is writhing in the flames of hell.
So much for baking therapy.