On the Hogwarts Express: Pumpkin Pasties
Because I’m in the process of moving across the country, cooking has been the farthest thing from my mind. I eat odd things at odd hours of the day and spend the rest of the time searching for things I’ve lost in one box or another, lamenting my less-than-stellar eating habits to anyone who will listen, and sleeping. Before I left, my aunts gave me a going-away present: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory–More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike by Dinah Bucholz. Because I’d planned my move around the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie, it was the perfect time to get out my wand (or, as my father so adorably called it, my “wizard stick”) and drown my sadness in some Harry Potter treats.
I spent my non-driving hours during the car ride from Boston to Michigan perusing the book and planning a Harry Potter lunch of epic proportions before the midnight showing. As the day got closer, I started to get unreasonably anxious. I often get anxious before large-scale events that have nothing to do with me (Spartan football games, Broadway musicals, and apparently midnight showings). It’s probably some sort of misplaced excitement, but as stupid as it sounds, the end of the Harry Potter franchise was a big moment for me. I’m only repeating what’s been said by anyone my age who started reading the series when they were the same age as the characters. (I was 12, and still young enough to believe that Hogwarts just might be real and my letter had just gotten lost. Yes, it probably wasn’t real. But maybe it could be.) As someone who reads every day, I still believe that I’ll never enjoy reading a book as much as I enjoyed reading the last Harry Potter book.
It may be that my quitting my job and moving from one coast to another coincided with what I’ll go ahead and call The Unofficial End of my Childhood, but I started to get more and more anxious about my big planned lunch. After weighing my options, I decided to downgrade to a snack, so that my epic lunch didn’t make me rushed and late for the movie. I chose to make some Pumpkin Pasties and pretend it was September 1 on the Hogwarts Express, partly because my dad already had most of the ingredients but mostly because the train has all sorts of adorable significance.
When I got to the grocery store, I had a sudden flash of panic. Why had I chosen pumpkin, of all things? It’s not like it’s an ingredient that’s filling the shelves in July. When I asked a worker, she took me over to the aisle and pointed at the small yellow sign: Due to a small crop, canned pumpkin will not be available until the fall. I tried not to have a full-scale meltdown. Apparently I’d attached much more significance to making this dessert than I’d realized.
“What are you making?” the woman asked. Even though I was wearing my Gryffindor scarf, I had moment of shyness and, instead of telling her the truth, I said simply, “A pastry.” “Well,” she said, “can’t you replace it with something? Maybe apple?” I tried very delicately not to lose my shit while I explained to her that it HAS TO BE PUMPKIN AND WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE. She made sure to tell me several times that all the stores in the area were out, and maybe I could just make something else. I said, “No, I really can’t.”
Instead of believing that twit, I went to Meijer. Lo and behold, they had plenty of cans of pumpkin. My adrenaline was pumping and I had a moment of instability where I wanted to go back to Kroger and shove the can of pumpkin in that woman’s face, or perhaps turn her into a bouncing ferret. But I figured my time would be better spent making pastries.
I mixed the butter, shortening, and flour together in the blender, since I had no food processor. The mixture was nothing like the light, fluffy texture it was supposed to be, but I thought I smelled the blender’s metal parts smoking, so I decided to just mix it together by hand and hope for the best. When I was done, the dough didn’t seem as doughy as it should have been, but the recipe specifically said it was better to be too wet than too dry. I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.
Next, for the filling, I stirred the godforsaken pumpkin together with cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg. At this point, I realized that I didn’t really have any idea what pasties were (and I knew I wouldn’t be using them in a burlesque show.) Thankfully, my friend Anna came over to partake and had done her research. The pasties should end up looking something like pierogi, filled with the pumpkin, folded over, and pinched on their sides.
I got the dough from the fridge and shaped it into small circles with my hands, since it was too sticky for a rolling pin. I dredged up some old knowledge from making homemade pierogi and started folding. I got too overzealous with the pumpkin filling and had to spoon some out of each pasty before it could close. I poked holes in the top of each to aerate them, and stuck them in the oven.
Anna and I passed the time watching Harry Potter-related videos (I recommend this one, this one, this one, and this one). I decided to check on the pasties two minutes before their 30 were up, and was glad I did, because the thin edges were burnt. The inside, however, was perfect. The pastry was flaky but not dry, and the pumpkin was hot but didn’t burn. They were sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. They weren’t the prettiest, but they went well with my Gryffindor scarf and were a perfect appetizer to tear-soaked popcorn while I realized that I might be a Muggle after all.