Baking is a salve for the soul, right? Well, in Ash & Thorn, it’s a salve against eldritch monsters that want to eat the entire world, too.
Ash & Thorn #5 is the thrilling end to a charming series about a little old lady who would rather be in the kitchen baking tea cakes than living up to her magical destiny to save the world. But she’s come so far since issue #1 and the Lottie we see here, at the very end of days, is the confident Champion that she never thought she’d be at the beginning. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it really resonated with me. At the end of a crisis, do you really want things to go back to the way they used to be? Or could it be a chance to rebuild, better?
With these heavy thoughts on my mind, I turned back to my baking! The recipe I decided to tackle was Mini Pumpkin Crumble Pies “for The End of the World” — because who has time to make a crust from scratch when you’re dealing with the apocalypse, right? I figured this was the perfect recipe for me. I love pumpkin, I don’t like rolling out dough, and I feel like I’m dealing with the apocalypse every single day.
I’m a little bit out of practice with baking and I found that I had to make some gametime decisions about how to interpret the recipe. On the Great British Bakeoff, they often speak of baker’s instinct, which it turns out I don’t think I have, but in a doomsday situation, it’s important to make quick, confident decisions so I wanted to embody that kind of energy. It called for “1 large can of pumpkin puree”—I used two 15 ounce cans, which seemed right. I wasn’t sure if I should add flour to the pie batter or not, and the consistency seemed runny without it, so I decided to go ahead and add a cup of flour. (This, in retrospect, was likely a mistake. More on that later.) The recipe said to grease the muffin pan and put the batter straight in, but I opted to use muffin tins. They would have looked like nicer perfect little pies without them, but I could foresee a possible disaster in my future when I tried to pop them out, and I don’t need any more disasters when I’m already at the end of the world, so I made the safe call.
At this point, I had strayed away enough from the recipe that I really wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. The batter was denser than I expected, but it smelled good and tasted reasonably good, so I filled up my muffin tins and added the crumble on top. (The crumble I did follow the recipe for, and the hardest part was not just eating it all straight because it was so tasty!) They smelled amazing while they were baking and they didn’t rise, which would have been a disaster with how alarmingly full I filled the cups, so I felt like I was on the right track.
The results? Certainly not a disaster! They looked great, but I realized that the flour in the batter was probably a lapse in judgement on the very first bite. The consistency was a little more cakey than I’d normally expect pies to be, and the taste was not quite as sweet as you’d usually want in a dessert. But once I had tried the first one and knew what to expect, I enjoyed the rest! The crumble adds a little bit of extra sweetness and they leave a really nice pumpkin aftertaste in the mouth too. I think they’d be great for someone who doesn’t like desserts that are too sweet. Following the recipe better would probably be great too. But even with my mistakes, if I ate these pies in the middle of the apocalypse, well, I would definitely be more upset about the apocalypse than the pies.