Terror for a food editor comes in the form of a phone call or e-mail. Whether it begins timidly, as in “I think there’s a mistake in one of your recipes,” or launches swiftly into an irate tirade, “Don’t you proof these recipes?” your body wastes no time jumping into action. Your stomach grinds your innards like a food processor, while your hands quiver like a barely-set panna cotta.
I went through the agony late last week when, thanks to a reader’s call, I learned of a mistake in the latest Gourmet Holiday Special Edition. And of all the recipes for it to occur in, my luck would have it appear in one of the most popular ones: Caramel Pumpkin Pie.
How did this happen? It’s a story of food styling trumping convenience, the space limitations of print media, my passion for making recipes as user-friendly as possible, and simple human error.
Did you notice how high the fluted crust is on the gorgeous pie above? That’s because it’s baked in a 10-inch metal quiche pan with 2-inch high sides. Do you have one of those in your kitchen? Me neither! The food stylist and art director knew the pan would make a stunner of a pie, but for many of us that pan is the “Oh, sh*!” part of the recipe. If you don’t have it, and there’s no alternative, you’ll turn the page.
The Gourmet Holiday Special Edition gave me an opportunity to revisit the pie and make it more accessible to readers by figuring out how many regular 9-inch pies the filling makes: Two. But don’t double the pie dough in the recipe; it’s been specially formulated for the quiche pan. Instead, use a double recipe of our regular pastry dough to make two single-crust pie shells. Sadly, this helpful information didn’t make it into Gourmet Holiday. Not enough space on the printed page.
When I was caramelizing the sugar in my retest of the filling, I incorporated a trick I’d recently figured out for making caramel blend and dissolve into cream more easily. Instead of pouring in chilled cream right out of the fridge, and watching the caramel seize up and harden, heat the cream first. It will amalgamate smoothly into the caramel in no time.
This nifty tip added three lines of text, which meant that in the limited space of print media, I had to subtract three lines from elsewhere in the recipe. So I changed the caramel from a wet one to a dry one (fewer words needed to explain how in the directions), but forgot to remove the water from the ingredient list! Arrgghh! And when you heat the cream for the caramel, you only need to heat 1 cup of it. Double arrgghh!
Four different pairs of eyes read over this recipe at least 12 times and they all missed it. Why? It’s a constant problem with text, whether on paper or online. Read something closely several times, and you don’t really “see” it anymore. Joseph Hallinan explains the syndrome well in Why We Make Mistakes. The more copy editors and proofreaders with fresh eyes, the better.
I sincerely hope that neither my mistake, nor the lack of a 10-inch quiche pan, will stop you from making this sublime pumpkin pie. Just remember: If you are following the recipe I revised in the hard copy version of Gourmet Holiday Special Edition, delete the water from the ingredient list for the filling, and only heat 1 cup of cream for the caramel.
Through the miracle of digital media, the error was corrected in a nanosecond, just in time for the imminent arrival of the Gourmet Holiday app for the Microsoft Surface. For the original version—free of mistakes, but lacking my helpful cream trick—go to gourmet.com or Epicurious.com.