The dates on the incoming dairy order whisper December, but the gallons of heavy cream towards the front of the fridge indicate it is the third week of November. We are icing sugar cookies that resemble turkeys and drumsticks and pilgrim hats. A strange sense of déjà vu overtakes me and the ringing of the bakery phone sounds suspiciously like the phone that rings in my dreams.
I dream of pie on a regular basis, but this week the dreams have taken on a slightly Hitchcockian quality. Lately, I have been haunted by a recurring dream that is slightly out of focus. The room spins in black and white and a rotary phone rings in the distance. A calendar hangs on the wall declaring, “November” but there are no days of the week, no numbers. The large convection oven has a temperature dial that is blurry and the white tubs of baking powder, baking soda and cornstarch simply say Baking. The only thing that is in blindingly living color is a 5 lb. bag of ice-crusted cranberries. I try to protect my hands from the bitter cold of the bag by wearing oven mitts. The bag has a hole in the bottom and the cranberries are falling through the hole, berry by berry. One thing is crystal clear; I am not wearing a pilgrim hat, I am wearing a brown bandana. A few have suggested these night terrors are anxiety driven, stress related. Begrudgingly, I have to agree.
In real life, the next 7 days are careening towards organized chaos. I am still reeling from this week’s Baker’s Math exam. In an attempt to calculate the correct number of 5 lb. bags of cranberries needed for 75 apple/cranberry pies, I am forced to do conversions. Cups to ounces and ounces back to pounds; a true Baker can do this without benefit of a Smartphone. I’m starting to feel dizzy estimating the number of pecan halves and pieces necessary to fill 100 pie shells. I quietly bow out of the how many cases of eggs/butter/pumpkin equation, busying myself with not answering the incessant phone. I’m distracted by a recipe that is tucked away in the recesses of my brain’s recipe Rolodex. There is a recipe for a Turtle Tart from Slice of Heaven that calls to me on my direct line. The pecan halves and pieces word problem will have to wait.
The original Turtle Tart featured a rich layer of caramel and pecans on top of a shortbread crust, with a dark chocolate ganache glaze. On Tuesday, when the espresso machine was down and out, I was despondently sipping my cup of drip coffee au lait and glancing at an online recipe for Pumpkin Caramel. It seemed to me that Turtle Tart should definitely send Pumpkin Caramel a Friend Request. (This is what happens when your espresso supply is suddenly terminated and you are suffering from Third Week of November Disorder.)
As I count down to next Thursday, Nutty Pumpkin Caramel Pie inches its way towards the Thanksgiving dessert table. The only thing it asks of you is an accurate candy thermometer and a bit of patience. (Vanilla ice cream and a few Honeycrisp apples for garnish will add to the festivities.) Fortunately, this is a pie that can be made a few days in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated. Which frees up some of us for the Herculean pie task at hand. And after that? To sleep. Perchance, not to dream.