Christmas is just around the corner and my mother in law would like to know what I want. She knows me so well that she only asked “which cookbook do you want?” It’s hard to choose! So many beauteous cookbooks both new and old offer staple recipes, delicious stories, and drool-worthy photos. I was searching through my Facebook feed when I saw an interview with Zoe Nathan, the owner/baker at the popular Huckleberry Bakery in Santa Monica (and now a cookbook author). Eater L.A. interviewed Nathan about her new Huckleberry Bakery cookbook and her point of view on baking and entertaining is simply refreshing.
This cookbook had been blowing up on my Pinterest but I wasn’t sure if it was the right one for me. I’m not really a Martha’s Circle kind of girl. I curse: I don’t say things like “darn-tootin” or “mother father.” I fuck up my recipes. And I own those facts. So what use would I have for yet another book that makes it seem like “domestic life” is effortless and beautiful and “a good thing.”
Zoe Nathan had this to say about her new book:
“I didn’t want another bakery book with girls in cute aprons who look really attractive. I wanted people to understand that we get burnt just as much as anyone else in the kitchen and we work hard and we get paid just as little. I wanted it to be real. I think there’s this fairy dust image of bakeries and women and being the hostess — and it’s not me and it’s kind of shitty and I wanted to make a book that was the real deal. ‘Hey! Make this stuff! You’re going to learn about your oven. And you’re going to learn about yourself. Make it messy. Make it fun.’ I wanted to bring that idea into people’s homes. People are always pointing at photographs of things in magazines or cookbooks and saying ‘My cake doesn’t look like that!’ And I wasn’t going to add another book to that pile.”
Yes. Hell yes.
Her point of view struck a chord with me this morning because I made pumpkin pie and deep dish apple pie last night for Thanksgiving. They did NOT turn out like I wanted. As the photos show, the crusts would do a better job of protecting me from a hail storm than complementing their delicious fillings. But I followed the recipes exactly. What happened?
I had never used a convection oven before. I always wondered “what’s the difference between a convection and a conventional oven?” The answer never seemed important because I’d never used one. And my dumb ass didn’t think it mattered all that much when I was using a convection oven for the first time last night.
For those of you who do know the difference: please, let your laughter at my folly begin. For those of you who don’t know the difference: convection ovens have a fan in the back which blows hot air through the oven, making it heat up very quickly and maintain heat evenly. It also helps your food cook MUCH faster than a conventional oven. But this extra power means that the heat and cooking times will be less than that needed in a conventional oven.
My problem in making these pies was not that I failed to follow the recipe. It was that I failed to account for the convection oven’s extra power. Had I known this, I would have salvaged these fabulous pies! Lesson learned. I’d suggest using this convection conversion calculator and reading up on the subject before you use a convection oven. But more importantly, you should read your oven’s manufacturer instructions to guide you in differences between convection and conventional features.
While I’m disappointed that my pies didn’t turn out as I’d wanted, I am glad that my mistake can be your teaching moment! It’s a great way to ring in the baking season. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!