Bake if you love America

Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie 1

I have a confession to make.

Almost a year ago, I had a heated political conversation with a friend. We were at Verve, so there may have been wine involved. We’d both just come from our local Democratic caucus.

She’d been for Obama from the start. I’d flipflopped a few times between our now president-elect and Hillary Clinton, curling myself around a couch pillow for hours the night before the caucus, talking to folks who’d met Obama in person, and people writing policy for the Hillary campaign.

In the end, I caucused for Hillary – primarily (and you’ll laugh at this, but c’mon, try to keep it down) because I was absolutely certain I’d have another chance to vote for Obama.

At Verve, the friend gave me her best Obama spiel. I had no reason to disagree with her on any one subject. We didn’t talk politics at all throughout the spring or summer, because neither of us is particularly obsessed. I was thrilled to see Obama accept the nomination.

Then, in September, with our normal banter, I forwarded her some leftist link about Sarah Palin. She wrote back instantly, but not with the reply I’d expected. She’d decided to vote for John McCain, for reasons she clearly outlined in her email. I didn’t understand how her opinions could change so quickly, but she was firm. We curtly agreed to disagree.

But something inside me panicked. How could she just defect?

I have Republican friends from childhood. I have real, adult friends I’ve made fully knowing they’re Republican. Dammit, I’m related to a few Republicans. I am not that judgmental, am I?

The thing is, I was. Or – I guess – I am. I must be, because somehow I trusted her less, after that day. I judged her just for the way she planned to vote.

And when Barack Obama left the stage in Grant Park on Tuesday night, I felt it. I would never vote for a person because of the color of their skin. But distrusting my friend – thinking less of her, which is what I did admittedly do, just because of her political beliefs – made me as un-American as someone who would.

They were right, both of those boys, on Tuesday night. We need change, and we need to make it together. I knew that a long time ago.

What I didn’t feel, until I heard Obama’s acceptance speech, is that it must start with me.

I will listen for calls for sacrifice, when the time comes. (Goodness knows my IRA has already suffered.)

But before then, I’ll need to start reaching across the aisle. Because if I don’t, on my own strictly personal level – on my miniscule, invisible scale – how can I plausibly expect Congress to do the same?

Canned pumpkin pie

Last week, the same friend asked me if I was horrified by the idea of using canned pumpkin pie filling. (The answer is no.) She adores pumpkin pie. She wanted a good, easy recipe. She has arthritis, too, so she needed something that would be easier on her hand joints than traditional pie crust.

Today, I took her a “deep dish” pumpkin pie, to apologize and admit my guilt. To recognize that although I like to think of myself as an open, unbiased American who avoids stereotyping on all levels, I have my own changes to make. To be a proud American, for possibly the first time in my life, and do something kind for another one, regardless of her beliefs.

(Of course, I tried to transfer it to a sexier plate before it was cool, and the plate was too small, and it sort of buckled. Perhaps a timely indication that patience will be needed in all things?)

buckled deep dish pumpkin pie

Here’s a challenge for you: Bake if you love America. Just one thing. For change, starting with yourself.

You’ve just read my story. I’m not talking about single-handedly changing the world. I’m talking about the tiniest thing, of the most personal significance. Take banana bread to the neighbor who just had surgery. (Yes, the cranky one who knocked down your yard sign.) Use a plate of brownies as an excuse to make your belated introductions to the new folks across the street, if you’ve avoided them because they’re somehow different.

Course, goodness knows this country doesn’t need more calories. A handshake should do the trick just as well.

Let me know what you do.

I think it feels good to be proud to be an American. Now it’s my turn to become a better one.

deep dish pie, before the tragedy

Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie with Whole Wheat-Walnut Crust (PDF)

Sure, I’ve made a few great pies with real, live produce. But nothing beats the convenience of canned pumpkin. This recipe puts a bit of a twist on the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie: The filling has honey, ginger, and cardamom, and the crust is made with 100% whole wheat flour and walnuts – for a bit more flavor, and a texture like a cheesecake crust. The best part? No rolling pin required. You just pat it into place in a springform pan, give it a quick rest in the freezer, and bake away.

If you’re going local for Thanksgiving, like many people in the Seattle area, look for Stone-Buhr’s whole wheat flour and Stahlbush Island Farms‘ canned pumpkin.

TIME: 35 minutes active time, plus freezing and baking
MAKES: 10 servings

For the crust:

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, plus more for greasing pan
3/4 cup toasted, chopped (and thoroughly cooled) walnut halves
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)

For the filling:
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, make the crust: Grease the bottom and sides of a 9” springform pan generously with butter, and set aside.

Pulse the nuts in the work bowl of a food processor until very finely chopped, about 20 times. Add the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse until blended. Add the butter, and pulse about 20 more times, until the butter is pea-sized.

While pulsing the motor (not running it), add the ice water one tablespoon at time. The dough will build up on the sides of the food processor, but won’t form a ball like regular pie dough.

pressing crust into springform

Scoop a lightly packed 1/2 cup of the dough out and set side. Dump the remaining dough into the prepared pan. (It should look very crumbly.) Using your hands, spread the dough out over the pan, leaving lots of extra at the edges, and press the dough into the bottom of the pan and about 1 1/2” up the sides of the pan. Freeze for 15 minutes.

cut leaves for pie top

Optional step: Pack the reserved dough into a small ball, and roll out on a floured board. Using a small, sharp knife, or a cookie cutter, cut out a few leaf shapes. Transfer leaves to a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush lightly with heavy cream, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just brown. Set aside to cool.

Make the filling: Whisk all the filling ingredients together in a mixing bowl until smooth. (I did this in the food processor, without cleaning the bowl.) Pour into the chilled crust, up to 1/4” below the edge (you may have a bit extra) and bake for about 60 minutes, or until the filling is set in the center. Cool pie completely.

(If using leaves, add leaves after the pie has cooled for 15 minutes.)

Refrigerate pie in the pan overnight, then bring to room temperature before serving.


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