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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pie Crust Ratings

People keep asking, so here are my thoughts on the crust recipes I tried.

Least fussy: Butter Pie Dough, Fine Cooking #54.
The pros:
1) You can throw it together with out any freezing of ingredients or silly mixing instructions and you roll it right away, without chilling first.
2) Taste matters, and this crust is all-butter and all-delicious.
3) It was flaky and crisp.
The cons:
1) It did shrink some. Not terribly, but enough that I give it a few demerits.

Nearly guaranteed results
: Cook's Illustrated Fool Proof Pie Dough
The pros:
1) Fool Proof
2) Little to no shrinkage
3) Using vodka is fun
4) Great texture, very good taste
The cons:
1) Shortening. Even though I used "good" shortening, shortening is kinda gross.
2) Fussy.

Least favorite: Basic Flaky Pie Crust, The Pie & Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
The pros:
1) I love Rose.
2) Her recipes give me confidence to try things I'm scared to try.
3) Very good taste
The cons:
1) Shrinkage!

Those are the three about which I figured most people would be most curious. I tried several other recipes, and while none of them was particularly bad, none was particularly good either.

Other things I learned:
  • I didn't find as much difference in the results whether I used glass, ceramic or metal pie pans.
  • To get a crisp crust, preheat a heavy-duty (restaurant quality) sheet pan while you preheat the oven. Bake the crust in its pie pan directly on the hot sheet pan.
  • Don't underbake. The deliciousness comes from the carmelization. Pale skin is good. Pale pie crust is not. Use a shield if necessary. I love this one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pixie Pie

I don't know if I achieved my stated objective, but I'm pretty comfortable with pie crust these days. Gary not only eats it but also says he likes it. I'm ready to move on. Before I do, I just had to bake one more.

As I mentioned last year, I've been collecting a series of books, The Good Cook: Techniques & Recipes that were published by Time Life in the late 1970's. I currently own eighteen of them, with the most recent acquisition being, of course, Pies & Pastries.

As I read through my new book, one recipe in particular caught my eye. I didn't know what a Pixie Pie might be, and frankly didn't care. I wanted to make it because of the name.

Turns out it's chocolate and what's not to like about chocolate? Well, in my case, it's the gelatin. I don't have anything against gelatin from a vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian perspective. In fact, I think the gelatinous qualities of homemade chicken stock are one of the main reasons to make your own.

But when I was a kid, our family didn't have fruit suspended in jello for dessert. We didn't eat much jello at all, and when we did, I didn't care for the texture. I have memories (ah! now we're getting to something!) of being in the hospital and there being gelatin on the dreaded meal tray. Gag.

So. Pixie Pie is unlikely to be a repeat recipe. Which is sad, really. "Pixie" is a such a cute name.

[edit: Jean requested the recipe, so I may as well put it here, in case anyone else wants it]

Pixie Pie

1 fully baked pie shell (I used the Butter Pie Dough from Fine Cooking #54)

2 T. unflavored powdered gelatin
2/3 c. sugar, divided use
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. light cream
3/4 c. water
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
3 eggs, separated, yolks lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
whipped cream to serve

In a saucepan, thoroughly mix together the gelatin, 1/3 c. sugar, and the salt. Add the light cream, water, and chocolate. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate is melted and the gelatin dissolved; do not boil.

Stirring constantly, slowly pour the mixture over the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan, cook, and stir until thickened (about three minutes). Cool for 15 minutes.

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, beating to stiff peaks. Blend in the chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla extract. Spoon the filling into the cool pie shell. Chill until firm. Garnish with whipped cream.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Banana Cream Pie

Pies are a frickin' pain in the ass.

Sorry Mom. Sorry Dad. At least you didn't actually hear me scream it across the kitchen like Gary did.

They've all been good, this one went over particularly well, and there's one more pie on my immediate to-do list. But then I swear I'm back to bread, cakes, cookies, anything but pies, for a while.

Banana Cream Pie, The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Applesauce Muffins

Another healthy-ish muffin. They are moist, tender and mildly fragrant. I think the spices could be increased and I think the recipe needs about 1/4 tsp. salt. If you try them, please let me know what you think.

In a large bowl, stir together
1 1/4 c. applesauce
1 egg
2 T. oil
1/4 c. honey

In a separate bowl, whisk together
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine only until just moistened. Briefly stir in 3/4 c. raisins.

Divide the batter amongst 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees until a pick inserted in the middle comes out clean, approximately 15 minutes.

Applesauce Muffins
, adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Book