Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pie Futures

No, this isn't going to be investing advice. Although, why not invest in pie? It's probably worth about as much as anything else right now.

This is about the future of this blog.

I'm having too much fun to quit. I said I wanted to make a pie a week until the end of the year. Which I did. But I need more. More pie, more desserts, more reasons to bake.

So, here goes. Announcing:

Thank God It's Pie-day
Old-Fashioned Baking Made NEW

Not only do I have a new tagline, but I also have my own domain name: www.thankgoditspieday.com (no dash). It's connected through my blogger address, so you're actually there now. But, it's a much easier address to remember and to tell your friends about! I'm so proud.

I need to thank my dear husband here. He makes it possible for me to take on silly projects like this by being my 24-hour technical support, dishwasher extraordinaire, webmaster, taste-tester, and general household go-fer while I'm occupied in the kitchen. Thank You, mr! Without you, there would be no pie-day.

This year
, I'll be taking on all sorts of baking challenges (not just pie!), but they'll be old-fashioned in nature. None of these new-fangled cupcakes that have become so trendy. No, I'm baking things our grandmothers would have baked. Mincemeat Pie. Red Velvet Cake. Shoo-Fly Pie. Homemade bread. Pound cake. (Your suggestions are always welcome!) What's more, I'm going to do it as close to the old-fashioned way as possible. From scratch. No mixes. No breadmaker. Organic and/or local ingredients, wherever possible. Each week, I'll take on an unfamiliar (or alter a familiar) recipe for a baked dessert (or non-dessert, I may even try Beef Wellington!--don't scoff, there's pastry involved) and blog about the process and results. I'll also blog about other baking projects. I'd like to say here that if we're eating baked goods in my home, they'll be baked by me. But I'm also realistic enough to know that if I start working or am in the middle of a show, it will be challenging enough to find time to bake a dessert once a week, let alone keep my children in sandwich bread and cookies, let alone bagels.

I hope to rediscover and possibly modernize recipes that are thought of as old-fashioned (for whatever reason). And to become a better (or at least more experienced) baker in the process.

Here's to baking in 2009!

First up this week: Chicken Pot Pie

Friday, December 26, 2008

Candy Cane Fudge Part 2: X-Mousse

Now, that is a Candy Cane pie. So simple. So good. Everybody agrees (at least at my house). Rich, chocolate-y mousse. Peppermint bite. Airy marshmallows. Yum. I used this recipe and this one. Sort of a recipe mashup. With my own alterations for taste, etc.

Here's the recipe:

Candy Cane X-Mousse Pie *click here for printable version*

30 chocolate cookies (such as oreos, with filling) crushed
1/2 c. butter, melted
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
3-3/4 c. chilled whipping cream, divided
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. mini marshmallows
1 c. candy canes or peppermint candy, finely crushed (plus more for sprinkling)

Combine crushed cookies and melted butter. Press into 9 inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Combine chocolate, vanilla, and salt in food processor. Bring 1 c. whipping cream to a boil. With food processor running, gradually pour hot cream through feed tube and process until chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Beat 2 c. whipping cream and sugar to stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture along with marshmallows and crushed candy canes. Pour mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set (about 6 hours).

Beat 3/4 c. whipping cream to firm peaks. Pipe rosettes around edge of pie. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over whole pie for garnish.

Pie Rating--Candy Cane X-Mousse--X-MAS KEEPER

P. to the S. Re: the crust, in Part 1 I took the cookie fillings out. Clearly, I haven't made enough chocolate cookie crusts in my time. I didn't know that you leave the fillings in. It was fine, but totally unnecessary.

Next up: I set out in early September (week 36 of 52) to make a pie a week through the end of the year. This was pie number 17. Mission accomplished. BUT, in the next few days, I'll post news about this blog! I know, too much excitement, try to control yourselves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Guest Blog: Christmas Donuts

Both Santa Claus and the Donut Maker were entirely too good to me this year. Witness:

What this means for you is more beautiful kitchen-y goodness. And my own domain name! (More on that in another post). I am left utterly speechless. So I leave you in the capable hands of today's Guest Blogger--my husband--the Donut Maker.


Happy Holidays, all! This is Mark, shifting temporarily into Guest Blogger status from my usual role as this blog's Designated Eater.

So. Christmas Donuts. I suppose it falls right in that delicious holiday intersection of Tradition Street, Baking Drive, Family Avenue, and Psychotherapy Lane. And it's as busy an intersection as you might expect.

First a bit of family history: I doubt the word "abandoned" is too strong a word for my father's presence in my life. He was barely around, but I do have a snapshot memory of him making donuts from scratch in the shape of an "M" and a "K" ... my and my sister's initials. I don't know if it had anything to do with Christmas, but when I became a father I decided I'd like to claim it as my own Christmas tradition. Something I could own and pass down to my children, in a way of exorcising a Ghost of Christmas Past.

It's become an integral part of our Christmas celebration along side the tree and eggnog. It's a nice leisurely activity, as everyone looks through presents and I attend the deep fryer, and lets a lazy morning stretch into grazing on crisp donuts throughout the day. I even make Christmas Morning deliveries to the Eagle Mountain branches of the family!

The recipe is not a secret, and I can't claim any skill in donut-crafting. While I cook plenty, this is about the only baking I do in a year, and I forget a lot in the 8760 hours between batches. What really hits the spot in this recipe is the nutmeg and mace, which make it taste very Christmas-y.

It starts on Christmas Eve with shortening, condensed milk, and other fine products, and it chills overnight. It doesn't look much like donuts at this point, or even a dough you could work with, but by the time Santa's come and gone and the first Bailey's and coffee has been imbibed it's ready to flour, roll, cut and fry.

Though the dough is so spiced and flavorful no topping is needed, I do a few in powdered sugar and some in a chocolate glaze. This year, we had leftover crushed candy cane from Seconda's pie request and she suggested some candy cane donuts, which I happily provided.

It's "good eats", but it's more than that: a chance to spend a few hours on Christmas Morning each year thinking about tradition and family and fatherhood. And I look forward to making Christmas Donuts for years and generations to come.

Christmas Donuts--KEEPER

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 4: My Cheating Heart

#1 I spent an entire day in the kitchen and did not make a pie. Or even anything pie-esque. Cookies and candy. By the pound.

#2 My fruitcake is damn good (IMHO). Rivals the best I've had.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Candy Cane Fudge (?) Part 1

I don't know exactly where the fudge is here. A chocolate cookie crust (which, incidentally, I did wrong, more on that in Part 2)? Does that count as fudge? Somebody has a different idea of fudge than I have, but, okay.

I was pretty skeptical of this recipe going in. It's from a completely unknown source. It sounds pretty white trash. But. Seconda wanted a candy cane pie and I aim to serve. Literally. I made the pie for a party last night and it went over okay. But I will definitely tweak it a little (or a lot) and make a second one for Christmas Eve.

Since the recipe itself has a white trash bent, I decided to prepare it white trash style. With at least one step. Double boiler my...eye! Why bother when I have a microwave?

Marshmallows melt into milk just as easily in a microwave as they do on the stove. With a lot less heat to my face. So. Homemade marshmallow creme? I don't know. Kind of.

One of my favorite dessert-making sounds is the sound of hard candy being diminished to fine dust.

Mix the "marshmallow creme" with whipped cream, crushed candy canes, and more marshmallows:

et voilĂ :

Candy Cane Fudge pie.

The marshmallow-y stuff is actually a little gritty, I think. But, other than that, it's alright. We'll see what Seconda thinks of it at dinner tonight. What this pie really needs is...more chocolate (betcha couldn't see that one coming). Tweaking for the next version will probably include making chocolate mousse and folding the marshmallows and crushed candy canes into that. That would be Candy Cane Fudge pie. In my book. And this is my book, after all.

P.S. I know, I say jello and gelatin don't seem like real food, and therefore, marshmallows shouldn't be considered real food either. But, give me a break, it's the holidays. And, I have a weakness for marshmallows.

Pie Rating--Candy Cane Fudge--NEEDS TWEAKING (i.e. chocolate)

Next up: A more chocolate-y attempt at this one

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 3: Cleverness is next to godliness

If I was clever, I would have thought of something like this.

If I was a plagiarizer, I would use "Keep Your Fork. There's Pie!" as my tagline.

I am neither clever, nor a plagiarizer, so I simply give you this for your enjoyment:

Consider it the anthem of Thank God It's Pie-Day!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin

After the last time I made pumpkin pie, Miriam commented with the alterations she makes to the Famous Libby's recipe. Then I had a conversation with my brother, The Piper, about how to deal with the crust in a custard pie so it doesn't get soggy. All this got me thinking, and wanting to take another crack at pumpkin.

You wouldn't think there was that much that could go either wrong or right with pumpkin pie, but there is. And, to my surprise, good pumpkin pie can actually get better.

Here's what I did:

Prebaked the crust (which, honestly didn't turn out that good this week--I thawed frozen dough from my Thanksgiving pies--I don't think I'll be using frozen dough again) for 10 minutes at 425. Then brushed the whole inside of it with egg white. My theory was that between the prebaking and the egg white, the crust would become sort of impervious to the liquid in the filling. I think I was right, at least on first tasting. I'll have to see how it fares during refrigeration. (Pie Queen, you'll have to tell me, because I'm bringing it over this afternoon) I also tried something a little more rustic with the edge of the crust:

It looked better before it baked than after:

I do like the utilitarian nature of it. It screams, "I was made to be eaten, not looked at!" However, I like my food (especially baking projects) to be pretty.

Then I filled it with this (just altered the Libby's recipe in about...9 different ways):

Spiced Pumpkin Pie (with much help from Miriam)--makes two pies
*click here for printable version*

Mix together in small bowl:

3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. freshly ground nutmeg

Beat in large bowl:

4 large eggs

Stir in:

1 29 oz. can Pure Pumpkin
1 T. molasses
1 t. vanilla
spice mixture

Gradually stir in:

24 fl. oz. half and half

Pour into pie shells (that have been prebaked for 10 minutes and brushed with egg white).

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes more, or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

I think only one thing really needs to be said about the delicious-ness of this pie--this one ate her whole piece. This is the only pie I've made where she's done that.

Pie Rating--Spiced Pumpkin--KEEPER

Next up: Seconda ate a piece of Chocolate Candy Cane pie at Village Inn last week. I think it was the best thing that's ever happened to her. So, I'm going to try to make something like that for our annual Christmas Eve dessert-fest (following the family talent show).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chocolate Almond

Lest you think I'm a professional baker, a semi-professional piemaker, or even a somewhat trained person who belongs in the kitchen for any reason, I present to you...this week's pie...


I was getting cocky. Too much success can be a bad thing, apparently. I thought I could just use ground up almonds in place of some of the flour and use the rest of the ingredients as per usual. I thought it would give the dough a delightful crunch and lovely texture. Yeah, right. Um, spiker, almonds have OIL in them. Uh-huh. And a texture that is very different from flour and doesn't really bind together with fats like flour does. Interesting. And yet another reason why I need to take a Food Science class. There was no amount of flour that could have been added to this dough to make it roll out and then allow me to pick it up and move it to the pan. Believe me, I tried.

So I resorted to putting the mound in the pie pan and just pushing and prodding it around until it seemed the right thickness. It looked promising. Then I cooked it for 15 minutes. At which point it started cracking. *shrug* I give.

It's a good crust, IN THEORY. But I think I have to concede that a nut crust should be like a cookie crust--crumbly stuff combined with butter and sugar and pressed into the pan. I guess I'll have to find a recipe like that.

But that, my friends, was only the beginning. I had the gall to try a new pudding recipe. Barefoot Contessa...I don't know where to start. You have given me one excellent cake recipe that I appreciate (although, the baking temperature wasn't actually printed in the book, but I adapted). Aside from that...*sigh*. In fairness to her and this recipe, I confronted it at the end of a very long day of cooking and other activities that take place at my kitchen counter.

Please witness the fruitcakes and homework in the background of the picture above. I had spent much of the day on various cooking projects (including dinner) and had washed easily 40% of the cookware/tools in my kitchen. I was tired. This is not the state in which one should attempt a new pudding recipe. But, in fairness to me, there are a couple of problems with this recipe. To start with, milk is not thick enough to pour SLOWLY from anything, let alone a saucepan.

What it actually does is dribble down the side of the pan until it's trickling from the bottom directly onto the counter, not into the bowl where you intended for it to end up. In the final cooking directions it says "IF mixture begins to curdle, remove from heat and whisk vigorously" (emphasis mine). There was no IF about it. I was whisking all along. There was no warning that the mixture would suddenly and shockingly congeal into a solid curdled disgusting irretrievable mass in a matter of one second, where in the previous second it was not even a little bit thick. I did remove from heat. I did whisk vigorously (in spite of my fatigue). No help. I added milk hoping to thin the whole thing out a little. No. Added the rest of the ingredients. Now there's just more stuff in the mass. Pudding is not my friend. Even though I have made two pies that involve pudding-esque fillings. With much greater success. This recipe is not my friend.

A chocolate pie should really be simpler than this. But I refuse to use instant pudding. Or gelatin. So, don't suggest them.

Anyway, I thought some toasted almonds in bottom of the pie (between crust and filling) would be delicious. It was just overpowering. I couldn't taste the chocolate in the "pudding" at all. We each ate a few bites and dumped the rest in the disposal. Oh yes, we actually did. It was that bad.

Doubt not, there will be more attempts at an easy chocolate pie. Involving homemade pudding. The trauma of this one may cause me to wait a while before I make one of those attempts, however.

Pie Rating--Chocolate Almond--NO, for the love of god, NO

Next up: Revised Pumpkin--I've gotten a couple of suggestions of ways to alter the original Libby's recipe. I'm going to try some of these (and then hand the pie off to my parents--along with my children--so mr. and I can go to Vegas for the weekend to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary!).

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 2: Family Secrets Edition

#1 I like booze. Especially in my food. Even more so in my desserts. BUT, I come by this penchant honestly. See for reference: the Pie Queen's ode to rum cake. My family is made up of mainly non-drinkers. NOW. A few years ago, my parents moved here to Utah, and in the process of helping the Pie Queen unpack her kitchen I discovered a large number of mini loaf pans. When I inquired about them I was informed that years ago (MANY years ago) before my parents joined the LDS Church and swore off liquor (among other things) they used to make dozens of fruitcakes--BOOZY fruitcakes--to give away at Christmastime. Which brings me to...

#2 I love fruitcake. I know, it's gauche in these days of gourmet cupcakes and whatnot to enjoy something as old school (it really doesn't get more old school than Ancient Rome) as fruitcake. I'm not talking about the fruitcake that has candied Soylent Green in it. I'm talking about the real thing. With real fruits, real nuts, and naturally, real BOOZE. The best fruitcake I've had so far was from the Cheese Board in Berkeley. mr. bought one for me the first Christmas we lived together. Oh, yum. If you live nearby, take advantage (assuming they still make it which, omg, why wouldn't they?). Which brings me to...

#3 I worship Alton Brown. A few years ago, I watched an episode of his show about fruitcake. And that thing looked so good I've wanted, aimed, planned to make it every year since. This year's the year. Today's the day. It's in the oven now. It will spend the next few weeks being lovingly tended to and occasionally (and liberally) basted with more booze.

Just reviving family traditions.