Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Maryellen, Chris' Cold Pie & the Winner of Our Anniversary Sweepstakes!

A pie from the happiest place on Earth, which turned out to be a bit of a disaster!

Hello again, everyone! Thanks to everyone who entered our anniversary sweepstakes and provided feedback for what they'd like to see in the coming year. I really appreciate my readers and always like to hear your thoughts about where to go next. It sounds like most people are really looking forward to a horrible savory gelatin! I'll have to see what I can dig up to make that happen.

But for Maryellen's first official post, I turned to a different source of inspiration. 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of Disneyland opening! And while this event isn't referenced in Maryellen's books - much to my disappointment - I'm a big enough Disney geek that I wanted to not just showcase Maryellen, but also pay tribute to the opening of the park that revolutionized the theme park industry, along with many other aspects of American pop culture, business, technology and society. What better way to do so than to make Walt Disney's favorite dessert?

Unfortunately, the pie didn't really turn out the way we wanted it to, but that's okay! Hopefully, it'll at least make an interesting story. And don't forget to read on to find out who won the sweepstakes!

We all know Disneyland. I think a lot of us know the so called "secret history" of Disneyland, so I'll try to keep my gushing to a bit of a minimum. I could go on forever about this if given the time and opportunity.

Walt Disney was a pioneer of many things. One could see this as just the mark of a good businessman, but the truth is, Walt wasn't really the business savvy side of the company. Although he was brilliant, he really didn't care much about how much something would cost or how long it would take to perfect it, which drove his brother Roy (the money man of the two brothers) pretty insane. He liked to innovate for the sake of innovation, and also because he often found himself getting bored with projects once he felt like he'd taken them as far as he could go. Once he got inspired to start working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he lost interest in the cartoons that started the company. Once he felt like he'd done all he personally could with animated features, he turned to television and live action movies. And then, eventually, he turned to Disneyland, one of the most ambitious projects ever taken by the company. By any company, in some estimations.

Walt said his inspiration came from the time he spent with his two daughters. When the girls were younger, he liked to take them out on special daddy and daughter excursions to things like merry-go-rounds, and he always felt like it was a little frustrating that many of the fun attractions that appealed to kids couldn't also be enjoyed by adults. He also went through a phase of being obsessed with miniatures and toy trains, as well as an interest in creating an almost utopian society he could have almost total control over. Disneyland scratched all those interests - a fantasy land that appealed to adults and children where the troubles of the outside world didn't come into play.

As crazy as it is to think of today, many people thought Disney was out of his mind for wanting to open his own theme park. The company had to be sneaky about buying land, creating fake identities and companies snooping around land so as not to raise the alarm that Disney was knocking on the door and thus the prices of land could be raised astronomically. When the park first opened its doors on July 17, 1955, the pavement hadn't fully set and was so soft, it took people's shoes off. Parts of the park hadn't been fully paved, attractions broke down, and everything was generally kind of disorganized.

But people loved it, and kept coming back. Disneyland became the template for all modern amusement parks, and it and the other Disney parks remain a pillar of technological advancement, family entertainment, and general ingenuity even sixty years later.

Today, we're working with Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs again. The book features recipes from Disneyland, Disney World, their respective resorts and the Disney Cruise Line. One of the recipes featured for Disneyland is a dish called Chris' Cold Pie, which guests can apparently enjoy at several restaurants in Disneyland, including the Carnation Cafe. Despite having visited Disneyland several times, I can't say I've ever tried this or had it recommended to me by any other guests. So, why are we doing it?

Because it was Walt's favorite dessert! Chris' Cold Pie is actually a lemon chiffon pie, and is named after Walt's first grandchild. Funnily enough, Christopher Disney Miller didn't actually like the dessert - it was apparently too cold for his taste! - but the recipe in Cooking with Mickey appeared in Five-Star Recipes from Friends of Mamie and Ike Eisenhower, submitted by Lillian Disney herself!

I was pretty intimidated by this recipe, even if it seems simple enough at first glance. I've never made a chiffon pie before, and there are a couple elements that require careful timing, patience and gentleness in combining to make the perfect pie. Also, I was raised by a parent who made me a little terrified of eating raw eggs, and this recipe has quite a bit of raw eggs...

I'm going to say right off the bat that things did not turn out great. Or even edible! But some of Walt's most quotable quotes have to do with accepting failure as a part of life and moving on from it as a learning experience, so I figured the story was worth telling anyway.

You start by taking four egg yolks (save the whites!), a 1/2 cup of water and a half cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. This all gets mixed together in a bowl.

Then mix together a cup of sugar, a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of unflavored gelatin in the top of a double boiler. Or, you know, a bowl that can sit on top of a pan without touching the few inches of boiling water you've got in the pan. Homemade double boiler!

You add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients on the double boiler and mix well, cooking it over the heat until the gelatin dissolves and the "mixture thickens". Well, mine never really looked like it was thickening, and having never made this before, I just kept stirring and stirring and waiting for it to change until I decided alright, good enough, and took it off the stove to sit in an ice bath for twenty minutes, stirring in a tablespoon of grated lemon rind.

I checked on it several times, stirring occasionally as directed, but after fifteen minutes, I saw that it has seized up pretty badly. That didn't look good...

Having no idea if this was the texture I was supposed to be looking for, but guessing that it definitely was not, I decided to keep moving forward instead of scrapping it, and went to whip up my four egg whites.

It's always impressive to see how much egg whites whip up when you beat them, and I didn't have any problems here. I gradually added a 1/2 cup of sugar to the egg whites, two tablespoons at a time, and then tried to mix in my lemon gelatin mixture. This then gets poured into a premade graham cracker crust.

Mixing it all together is where we ran into problems.

Although the pie probably looks visually okay from these pictures, the texture was wrong, wrong, wrong. Chiffon pies are silky, fluffy and soft, and this was... chunks of overcooked lemon curd floating in egg whites. The lemon curd was way too thick and solid to successfully incorporate into the rest of the mixture

I dusted it with nutmeg to give you an idea of what it's supposed to look like, but honestly? I'll admit this is the first completely inedible thing I've ever made for this blog. What a way to kick off the new year!

I was so grossed out by the texture and flavor of the lemon gelatin that I honestly just could not serve this to anyone. It was hard to cut it out of the pie tin, anyway! Even after chilling for hours, it didn't have enough body to hold up outside of the crust, and between that and my sudden gunshyness about feeding this much raw eggs to anyone for fear of salmonella food poisoning, I ended up throwing the whole thing out.

I'm pretty sure I know where I went wrong: a buddy of mine said it sounded like I'd overcooked the lemon gelatin, and I'm pretty sure she's right. I had no idea what it was supposed to look like or about how long it would take to thicken on the stove, so I think I left it in the double boiler a little too long and it just... got scrambled. When I dropped in to the always awesome bakery Hen and Heifer, and Whang happened to ask me how my blog was going, I told him about it and he said my buddy was probably right. You really can't turn your back on this stuff for a second! Which is definitely good to know.

So overall, although this is a cold pie, it turned into a bit of a hot mess. I might be willing to try it again moving forward, but I wish the cookbook was a little clearer about how long to cook the lemon gelatin mix for on the boiler, and if anyone has tips, I'd be happy to hear them!

But enough about that, it's time to announce our contest winner! I numbered all of our entrants chronologically, fed the number into the Random Number Generator at, and the Random Number Generator says the winner is...

Entrant number one! Congratulations, Sar! I'll be emailing you shortly to confirm and then the gift card will be on its way to you. Hopefully this will come in handy for your future culinary adventures.

Thanks again for helping make this a wonderful year two, everyone! I can't wait to see what year three is going to bring for us.

Hopefully they'll involve more successful attempts at replicating Disney food...


  1. According to Cooking with Dog, raw eggs are fine as long as they are fresh. I've seen eggs fresh from the nest and disagree with that statement. However, pasteurized raw eggs are available for sale, so that could ease your peace of mind.

    As for preventing lemon curd from seizing up, I recommend "cheating" and making it vegan style. Pureed cashew or macadamia nuts make a more user friendly base than custard.

    1. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the only ones that are like, actually definitely safe are pasteurized eggs. I know the odds of getting sick from eggs is still pretty small regardless, but I'm still trying to shake the strictness of my upbringing, haha.

      That's definitely an idea! I'll have to try it out next time. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Congratulations! It has been another fun year of taste testing and suggesting. I'm looking forward to lots of new adventures in cooking.

    As for the pie, these things happen. And as for Walt Disney, THANK YOU for all the wonderful things your legacy has left for so many to enjoy!

    1. Even if your favorite pie is a little hard to make! Haha.

      Thanks for all your help as always, Mom. :)

  3. I decided to give this one a try since we had some lemons hanging around. I was able to pull my custard before it overcooked and it's in the fridge now. Mixing it looked okay, but we'll see tomorrow!

    1. Oh wow, awesome! I hope it turned out well. I'd love to see pictures! :D