Monday, January 28, 2013

Impossible Pie

Ok, I know you are going to look at the title of this post and say "Egads, another failure?"  But no, no, this week was good!

Well, at least the pie was good.  I, personally, was not feeling so good.  I came down with the flu this week- which led me to wonder why I got a flu shot this year, since I got flu symptoms the weekend after getting the shot and then actually got the flu now.

My kids, however, must have superhuman immunity since they came out unscathed.  Except for the fact that they watched a lot of TV and I fed them like they were zoo animals this week (I basically threw slices of  meat and cheese at them so as not to breath on them or their food.)  But they usually act like zoo animals at meal time so I think we're all even.

Since I was still moving slow this weekend,  I took the opportunity to try out a type of pie I'd never even heard of before this project.  They're called "impossible pies".  According to the book I got the recipe from, an impossible pie uses Bisquick to form a "crust" rather than making a traditional pie crust.  The recipe I used isn't quite authentic since no Bisquick is harmed in the making of this pie.

And a week off from making crust is pretty awesome.  This pie is definitely easy, easy, easy. And incredibly tasty.  If you like coconut custard, but don't want to be bothered making pie crust, it is well worth it.  I will definitely be making this again since both my husband and I are crazy for anything coconut.

One note, the recipe calls for "self-rising flour".  After buying a whole bag of Aunt Jemima, I noticed it says right on the bag how to make your own.  Seriously Aunt Jemima, you're literally giving away your trade secret.  It's basically one cup all purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Virginia's Almost Impossible Coconut Pie
Adapted from Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies
Mrs Rowes Little Book of Southern Pies on Amazon

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup self rising flour
1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease pie plate.

Stir the eggs and milk together, then add sugar, flour, and coconut.  Add the butter and the vanilla and mix well.

Pour mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and bake for about 35 minutes, until set and golden brown.  The filling will wobble a bit in the center if you jiggle the pan- that's OK.

Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour and then dig in.

Doesn't look like much, but it was yummy


Look ma, no crust.  BTW, Mrs, Rowe's book is pretty awesome...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week 3- Fudge it...

As I thought about a pie for this week, I realized my older daughter  still hadn't tried one of our pies yet.  She doesn't really like lemons and she wasn't digging the idea of a maple pie.  I asked her what she would eat and she said "Chocolate".

So I found this Fudge Pie recipe online and it looked easy.  I showed the Big One pictures of the pie and she gave her assent so fudge pie it was.

Now this week was one of those weeks filled with mild nuisances. To give you an idea:
1. We had a confirmed case of lice in my daughter's class.  Luckily, it wasn't my daughter but it was close enough proximity  to make me buy every lice prevention product on the market.  She now walks around in a cloud of tea tree oil and lavender.

2. Unexpected snow day on Wednesday (which should have been a delayed opening).  And you all know my love of winter.  Good thing I still had enough maple syrup left over to eat with a fantastic batch of pancakes for our unexpected, leisurely breakfast at home. 

3. After we packed the whole family up in the car to run errands yesterday, our car wouldn't start.  And by not start, it wasn't the battery or anything.  The actual key wouldn't turn.  Dealing with that took the greater part of the day.  And I still had a pie to make.

To say, the pie was a rush job was an understatement.  But the recipe was straightforward.  We made a shortening crust superfast.  It's definitely getting easier for us.  I've also learned some things about making pie in this kitchen.  First I think our kitchen is pretty warm, so I've learned to chill everything thoroughly- even going so far as to put ice water and the bowl in the fridge for a while before making my crust.  This time, I stuck the pie crust in the fridge before baking it.

Secondly, although I know technically that glass pie plates are better, crusts in the metal plates seem to work better in my oven.  I've also learned to put my oven rack at the bottom 1/3 of the oven to keep the crusts from browning too much.  And it worked, the crust was delicious this time.

Not so the filling.  I had high hopes since it was really easy to make.  Just eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, chocolate, vanilla extract and a dash of salt. 

I got everything ready and popped the pie in the oven.  The recipe calls for a vague 30-40 minute cook time.  Usually my oven is on the low end for estimated cook times so I always use the shortest time and then keep checking from there.  At 30 minutes I had a nice crust and a lovely chocolately coating to the pie, but when I pulled the pan out I could see that there was some liquid movement underneath.  I put it back in for another 3 minutes.  Still not firm, so I put it back in for 3 minutes.  At the 36 minute point, I could tell the crust was going to be too brown and the filling was going to be too dark on top so I took it out.

The pie looked good, so I figured if we let it cool the filling would settle down.  We sat down to dinner and the Big One was so excited.  She couldn't wait for the pie!  I made her wait 2 hours for the pie to fully cool and then we decided to cut it.

You should have seen the sad look on her face when she saw the filling ooze out.  It was definitely cooked on the bottom and the top, but the middle had never set.  I've seen friend's pictures of the lava at the Hawaiian Volcanoes Park and that's pretty much what this filling looked like. She wouldn't touch it. 

I did try it and in spite of the ooze it was yummy.  More like milk chocolate than fudge- and in my case it was like eating a chocolate bar that you left in the car on a summer day.  And the kicker was the crust.  It was fantastic! Perfect, flaky crust. 

Perfect, flaky crust with a melted candy bar inside!  HA!

I was really upset and ready to throw in the towel on this whole pie project.  I've actually made pie before and while not great pies, they were much better than the last three weeks.  And of course, I decided to write a blog thinking this project would be "easy as pie".  So I called a couple of friends who basically advised me to lie on the blog. Say the pie came out good.

I love you guys but "Hello Lance Armstrong"?  Failure is sort of a fact of life.  It sucks and it doesn't feel good- but it happens. So fudge that idea...

And you know who was my biggest cheerleader?  The kid who's pie I ruined.  When I told her I was thinking of quitting, she told me I couldn't.  She said my blog needed me and there were still so many pies to make.  She told me that even though she hadn't eaten one slice of pie, she was having fun. 

I decided to listen to the advice of a 4 year old and carry on.  I mean if Jennifer Lopez can get through three failed marriages, surely I can make it through 3 failed pies. (Or 52 as the case may be :)

Fudge Pie
Adapted from jodiemo's recipe on Tasty Kitchen
Link to printable Fudge Pie recipe

2 oz semisweet chocolate (I used Ghiardelli)
1 stick butter, cubed
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dash salt
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 9 inch pie shell, unbaked

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat.

Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and corn syrup together in a separate bowl.  (On this step I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, which my husband contends in the reason the filling wouldn't set.  I'm not sure if that was true, but I would definitely whisk it together if I were to do it again.)

Combine the chocolate and egg mixture, mixing well.

Pour into the pie shell and bake 30-40 minutes in a 375 oven.  (I baked it 36 minutes which was definitely hitting the edge of too long from the color of the crust.)

Ready for the ugly pie of the week?

It doesn't look too bad, right?

Until you see the ooze...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Week 2- Cure for the Winter Doldrums

I know as a mother I should never say "I hate" anything in front of my kids.  But I have to say "I hate winter." I hate spending 25 minutes getting the girls dressed in winter gear only to have them strip everything off in the car.  I hate freezing my butt off while they play outside because I know they need fresh air.  I hate itchy wool coats, scratchy scarves and wet socks.

But I didn't always hate winter.  In fact, I used to love it.  I loved it so much I spent many years of my life in places that were cold and wintry- and my warm weather friends would say "Why do you do that to yourself?"  I'm not exactly sure when I transitioned over to the winter hating camp, but it definitely happened. 

My kids, however, are split on this.  The Big One thinks snow and cold are fantastic.  The Little One usually hides in the garage when we're supposed to be outside (Ironically she is the one born in the winter.)

The Big One enjoying snow

Cocoa, flannel pajamas, sledding- there's lots to love.  And back in the days when  I lived in northern New England, I  learned about the winter phenomena of maple tapping and sugar making.  And I love maple in any form- syrup, sugar, candy.

The Little One's artistic renderings on the bottle

To cure my winter doldrums, I decided to make a maple pie- which  requires maple syrup and maple extract.

But apparently maple extract is a hard thing to find.  I called local supermarkets, Whole Foods, Fairways, cooking stores I used to go to in NJ.  No dice.  I looked online and could get it from Amazon, but it would take a while to get it.  Finally I called the local natural foods store.  Yup, 2 miles from my house and they had it.  I opened it up to see what it smelled like.  This stuff is a little jar of heaven- I cracked it open at least 50 times before I made this pie.  And I had serious pancake cravings for days.

Goodness knows I needed something to calm me down after last week's pie crust nightmare.  (BTW, this week's crust was delicious, but trust me it looks awful as you'll see far below.  Hopefully by the end of the year I'll be able to make a crust that looks good.)

My helpers
So far, so good

This pie was really easy to make and left my kitchen smelling incredible.  And seriously the filling is so sweet and creamy- I think Canadian angels go to sleep at night in this stuff.

Both my husband and I enjoyed it- and the Little One did too! 

One weird thing- and I'm not sure how to correct it- is that since the filling is so light and fluffy, the walnuts sink to the bottom.  It's not a bad thing but it is very noticeable.

Maple Walnut Cream Pie
Adapted from a Crisco recipe

Prebaked crust (I used a shortening based crust)

1 1/4 cups maple syrup- I used Grade B but I'm not sure that's necessary
1/2 cup milk- I use whole when baking
3 eggs, separated
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon pure maple extract
1 cup whipped cream- I made my own from scratch with heavy cream and sugar
3/4 chopped walnuts

For the filling, combine maple syrup and milk in the saucepan.  Add beaten egg yolks to the pan (and thank you recipe for not leaving me with extraneous egg parts.)  Cook and stir two minutes on medium heat.

Dissolve gelatin in water.  Remove saucepan from heat and stir in dissolved gelatin and maple extract. (This is where the heavenly smell develops.)  The recipe says to refrigerated 30-45 minutes but I would suggest at least an hour for it to set properly.

Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold in whipped cream.  Stir this into the maple filling. Stir in nuts.  Spoon into baked pie shell and then refrigerate until firm. 

And that's it!  Ready for Week 2 of ugly pie?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lemon Chiffon Recipe

 A few people have asked me to post the recipes I have tried.  I had originally planned to only post the recipes I would recommend, but from the feedback I've gotten, I've decided to post them all.

Following is the recipe for Pie #1-Lemon Chiffon Pie
Adapted from Perfect Pies by Michele Stuart
Perfect Pies

1 prebaked 9-inch piecrust shell

1 teaspoon water at room temp
1 teaspoon gelatin
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice (I used 4 lemons to get this amount)
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup Meringue (see below)

2 cups whipped cream

-Mix the gelatin with 1 teaspoon of water to soften. Note: I don't think I've ever used gelatin before in a recipe, but when I did this step, I just got a clumpy mess.  Once I added this to the filling listed below it mixed in well, so I'm not sure why you need to go through this step (perhaps a serious baker can let me know why you need to do this.)
-Whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the cornstarch and the salt.  Mix in the lemon juice, hot water, butter and lemon zest. 
-Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Whisk continuously until the mixture becomes bubbly and thick. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the gelatin.
-Now here's the tricky part.  The meringue.  The cookbook refers to a meringue recipe on another page and here's the ingredients:

4 large egg whites at room temp
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I basically mixed the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer until they became foamy.  You add the cream of tartar and the salt until you get peaks. The you add the sugar one tablespoon at a time.  Once all the sugar is in, you add the vanilla and beat for 30 more seconds.  Having watched a LOT of Food Network shows, I knew my meringue was done right.  The one problem is the lemon chiffon recipe calls for only 1 cup of meringue.  This recipe makes a lot more.  I failed to measure it before putting it into my filling, so be careful about how much you add (although I think the filling would have been too sour with just 1 cup.)

-You then fold the meringue into the filling.  Pour it all into the pie crust and let chill for at least 2 hours.
-When you are ready to serve top with whipped cream and there you have it- lemon chiffon pie!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Week 1-An Attempted Homage to My Mother

Happy New Year!

Just like everyone else I was looking forward to my New Year's Resolution- baking pie all year long.  For about a month, I debated what pie to make first.  Surely it should be apple.  After all that is probably the most ubiquitous pie, right?  And it also fits with the name of this blog. And I've made apple pie a bunch of times so it should have been a softball week.

But I, of course, decided to make this harder than it needs to be.  And I wanted to give a little love to my mother.  So I asked her what her favorite pie was.  Here's how the e-mail conversation went:

Jennifer- "What's your favorite pie?"
Mom- "I'm not fussy.  Will eat whatever."
Jennifer- "The real reason I'm asking is it's for my pie project.  The first pie is for you"
Mom- "Well OK- lemon meringue"

To which I picked up the phone and called her and told her lemon meringue was too hard to make as a first pie so I was just going to make whatever I wanted anyway.

And that interaction pretty much sums up what my poor mother has dealt with my entire life.  I ask her exactly what she wants and then I do exactly what I want.  Seriously, she must have had a thousand laughs when she realized I have two daughters EXACTLY like me with which to spend the rest of my life.

But back to pie.  I decided to make a lemon chiffon pie for Mom.  But apparently, I didn't read the recipe carefully enough.  I thought it would be easier than a lemon meringue- ironically, it's exactly the same pie except you fold the meringue into the filling. (Reading directions, apparently not a strong point of mine.)

So I was already irritated before I made the pie (and it was purely my own fault.)  But I started the recipe with gusto at 9:30 am.  I had my Michele's Pie book out and started the shortening based crust.  The girls were excited and busily made piles of salt on the counter while I measured flour and shortening.  I chilled the dough and we played games until it was time to roll out the crust.

And I rolled and rolled.  Until I realized this dough was in bad shape.  It crumpled and tore.  I used more flour on the board, I pasted it together with water, I used every pie trouble shooting resource on the internet.  Nothing.  So I threw the dough out and started again.  I made sure everything was super cold, I did everything exactly by the recipe.  No dice, Michele.  You may know how to make your dough but I sure couldn't.  The kids decided to give up on me.

So I cheated a bit.  I pulled out a recipe I've used before from America's Test Kitchen and made the dough. However, since I hadn't planned to use butter I had to pull sticks from the freezer and I'm sure the butter was not thawed enough. By the time it went in the oven it was 6:30 at night and I was frazzled.  And I still had the filling, the meringue and the whipped cream topping to make.  I finally finished the pie by 8 pm and guess what?

It was a PIE WRECK.  The crust had shrunk and the edges were definitely too done.  The recipe for the pie referred to another page for the method for making the meringue.  What they failed to mention was the meringue made four times what I was supposed to put in the pie- which I realized after I dumped most of it into the filling.

And my mother was coming over to try her pie. But my Mom is a wonderful mom.  She ate that nasty slice of pie and said that the taste was spot on. And you know what, she was right.  It looked bad and the crust was all wrong, but it wasn't horrible.  And I loved her even more for it- and perhaps, next time I will listen to what she wants in the first place.

My husband ate it and said "It tastes just like the lemon yogurt you get at the supermarket."  Perfect, I spent $20 making a filling that tasted like a container of Yoplait I could get for a buck.

And to illustrate just how bad this looked, here is the evidence:

(We had other pictures, but the Little One ran amok with the camera today and the memory card is in bad shape.)

And in the words of my mother "Better to have the wreck on the first one."  At least she still has faith in me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Field Trip

I've been  spending a lot of time in the last few weeks researching pie recipes.  I went to the local library and took out all the pie books they had.  Not a difficult task as there were precisely two pie books on shelf.  Either my library doesn't carry pie books or they're in such hot demand that they weren't on the shelf. 

I came across a great little book called "Perfect Pies" by Michele Stuart.  I found several recipes I wanted to try, including my first pie.  After reading through the recipes, I finally read the introduction and realized the author has two pie stores within a half hour drive of my house.

So we packed up the family and headed to her Westport store.  It was a very cute little place with lots of pie and little tables in case you'd like to try your pie right there.  The girls enjoyed pressing their faces up against the glass case where the pies were housed (leaving a lovely collage of fingerprints) and ringing the jingle bells on the door.. for 20 minutes.  I'm sure they loved us.

I, of course, had a hundred questions for the people behind the counter.  Sadly, the pie I plan to make is special order so I couldn't try it.  I had hoped to taste what the real thing was like and see how close (or far off) mine was.

Instead of slices, Michele's Pies sells "little pies" and "big pies".  The little pies are two generous  servings and the big pies are regular sized.  We bought one little coconut cream for ourselves and one big apple raspberry to bring over a friend's house the next day.

According to my husband, the coconut cream was a "d--n good pie."  And it was.  I loved it.  The crust was a little crumbly, but I know from reading the book that it's a Crisco crust.  I've always thought shortening crusts have a weird texture but we'll see if that proves true this year.  Aside from that it was a pretty awesome pie- really creamy and rich with tons of coconut flavor.

The apple raspberry pie was more of a crumb pie and we all really enjoyed it- I definitely preferred the coconut cream, but both were really good.  This bodes well for using her recipe.

In case you are interested, here's the link to Michele's Pies.  Definitely worth a visit if you're in the Westport/Norwalk CT area.

Link to Michele's Pie

BTW, researching pie is possibly one of the most fun things I have ever done.  I highly recommend :)