Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So... do you remember that one night (just the one) where you got drunk (or...whatever) and you went into the kitchen lookin' for something to snack upon, and... nothing there seemed to fulfill all of your drunken food requirements.

Sure...there were the pretzels with their salty, crunchy goodness, but they didn't hit that sweet tooth at all.

Yes... there were the leftover buffalo wings with the grease-bomb core that would be oh-so-tasty, but you just didn't think you had enough ranch and it made you cry a little.

Of course you had that bag of 2 week old circus peanuts that were certain to make the most colorful puke possible, which of course had a certain appeal, but didn't have the salt your little heart most desired.

So what did you do? You took those wings and put them on a plate. On top of them, you crumbled a bunch of those pretzels, and then you generously portioned out some of the orangest circus peanuts you ever saw right on top. Popped them in the microwave for 100 seconds, and then you chowed the fuck down. Heaven.

Until the next day, of course, when you woke up with a bloody lip and melted peanut remnants on your shirt, and a penis drawn on your face in that ranch you found later in the last place you expected it to be (the refrigerator). That's when your Circus Chicken Nacho Extravaganza (you named the dish and made up a song even, that you can't remember now), doesn't seem like such a good idea. When you can't stand up straight because your stomach is exploding from deep within... you know your drunken experimentations were unwise. And you curse your friends for taking those pictures where you're performing lewd acts on the arm of a chair in your grandparent's basement.

So anyway, that's what happened with my latest Beefy Muchacho Baking Adventure. Except I wasn't drunk. The pie crust was. I was B.U.I.; Baking Under the Influence. And despite my lack of any actual alcohol consumption, I feel that my vodka laden dough was leading me down a dangerous path... Allow me to take you back to the beginning... two weeks ago...

You'll recall I made my second pie in as many weeks, the Mexican Pecan Fiesta Pie (The name keeps getting bigger, doesn't it?), and I vowed to make my own pie crust the next time. I felt like a pretender. A fraud. A glorified Stir-er. So, my aunt, an excellent (near legendary, really) baker sent me a pie crust recipe....

A Vodka Pie Crust.

That's right. A pie crust with vodka in it. Sounds delightful doesn't it? I don't know either, but she claimed that you can't taste the vodka at all, and it merely inhibits the formation of gluten (or some such) and that it makes a more tender crust.

Apparently the vodka also makes me fucking crazy. I went in search of a pie recipe. I wanted to do something simple, because if it was really crazy it would possibly make the crust evaluation more difficult. I found in The Book an apple pie recipe that seemed simple enough, so I headed off to the store with a short list of ingredients (I also made chili, but that's not particularly noteworthy...though I will say that bacon is an interesting addition).

Needless to say, by the time I'd left the store, my plans had grown a bit more complex, and I'm blaming the booze.

Here be the Mise en Place: You'll note a thing or two not typically included in an apple pie recipe. Yep... those are craisins. Yep...that's extra sharp cheddar cheese. Now...don't get me wrong. I'm not in any way equating putting orange circus peanuts on a hot wing with adding craisins or cheese to an apple pie. In fact, I've had an Apple and Cheddar cheese pie before. And really, how much could throwing in some gloried raisins fuck things up? So...maybe it's not that big a deal. Of course, I'm constantly reminded of how delicate a balance you strike while baking.

For example, last weekend, for a party, I baked Lemon Bars. (I know..what's with all the baking Muchacho?). Me being me, I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I added raspberries. I also added about 2 tablespoons more lemon juice than it calls for, because what can I say... I like tart foods. So anyway, it seems that the additional liquid, even what little additional liquid there was, prevented the lemony goodness from setting up quite right, so they were way more gooey than I like in a bar. They were tasty, but gooey.

Anyway, so my point is... I was playing with measurements on things that don't have them. More on that later...

The crust...

I have to admit...this whole crust making process perplexed me. Maybe it's just my tentativeness in doing new things, but little variations throw me (like..the recipe makes several mentions of a food processor, which I didn't have). I used a pastry thingy (likely not it's actual name) to mix the butter, flour, shortening, and sugar. Then I mixed in the water and vodka (ice cold...and by the way, the giant bottle of vodka from the picture was the final remnants of a party from months ago. Someone wanted me to make sure that I mentioned it wasn't just like..the house vodka for the week or something.) The other thing with the recipe is that there are certain descriptors that are completely subjective.... like... what is "tacky" to one may be not "tacky" to another.

My usual guide, the beautiful Tofu Muchacha (pictured here in her costume for the production of Romeo and Juliet we're performing in starting Friday) was super, super busy, so I couldn't have her come into the kitchen every 10 seconds when I started whining about it not being tacky or too crumbly or whatever. It was a truly terrifying experience...

So basically, I was a rudderless baker, playing with drunken dough. I managed to get them balled up and into plastic wrap, where I was instructed to let them cool (like a drunk tank) for 45 minutes or so... I took that time to peel me some apples. My hand is still cramping, since I decided to be a tough guy and peel them all fancy with a paring knife instead of using a peeler. This was a poor, and time consuming choice. Let me tell you. Also, as you'll probably come to find out, I am absolutely terrible at guessing how much of something or other makes a cup. I did it with the peaches before, and I did it with the pie now. My GOD Muchacho! What kind of crazy, giant pie are you making? So... I actually timed it pretty well, because by the time I was done slicing the apples and concocting the rest of the melange of filling (Including cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and lemon juice), the crust had cooled well enough.

This "melange" or "slurry" is where my concern about fucking with ratios and whatnot comes in. I eyeballed about a cup of that sharp cheddar cheese and about a "handful" of craisins. The most scientific measurements possible, basically. You know those weights they (THE GOVERNMENT!!) have locked up that are like the official Gram and the official Ounce? Well... my fist should be locked up too. How do you measure "grate cheese until you're tired of grating cheese" or "an eyeballed amount of craisins"?

Anyway, I mixed those things in too. Here's where it gets a little hairy... Not literally. That would be gross. Did I mention I'd never made a pie crust before? I didn't really know anything about rolling that fucker out. I am kind of taken aback by the total lack of science behind rolling the dough, since there's so MUCH science in creating it. Like... when they suggest liberally applying flour to the rolling pin and board, what does that mean, exactly? I'll tell you what it means. It means liberally, because that dough stuck to just about everything unless I added flour. A lot of it. Of course, this made me paranoid about adding too much flour and thus making it tough or something. I honestly had no idea what it would do, but it just doesn't seem appealing. The Tofu Muchacha has a really handy pastry board that has pre-fab circles on it corresponding with different sizes of pie and crust and whatnot, so I had a nice circular guide. I'll say this... were it not for that, I would have been completely and totally lost, instead of merely lost.
This was my best attempt at getting the crust into the pie plate. I will say that I was pleased that the crust didn't tear or crack in the putting it in. It lifted well and didn't stick. I'll also say that there were parts that were entirely too thin, and conversely other parts that were too thick. It was strangely shaped too. Things to work on the next time, I suppose. I wasn't altogether pleased, but it could have certainly been worse. I'll call this "The Blind Squirrel Correlary".

After that, I piled in all of that delicious topping, I rolled out another dough ball to cover everything, and I sealed and pinched away. I even cut some dainty slits in the top.

Here's where my total inexperience in pie dough rolling shows the most. I didn't give myself enough "lip" on the lower later to sufficiently pinch in all of the places, and there were other places where there's a veritable log of pinched crust. It makes for an ugly pie, for one. It also seems that it could potentially make for uneven baking.

Anyway, I popped it in to the oven at 425 for _____ minutes. I say that, because I set the timer for 45 minutes, but then forgot to start it. Thankfully I take a ton of pictures, and the camera has time stamps, so I had at least some idea of when I'd taken the covered pie picture above. I think I lucked out, overall. It maybe baked for 47 minutes, but that could have been disastrous.

Here's the completed pie: I have to say... really doesn't look to bad, does it? The crust, not being even made for some difficult and messy cutting, but aside from that it looked pretty good.

As for the taste? It tasted like an apple pie with a little too much nutmeg (I'd mis-read the recipe and basically used a quarter teaspoon instead of an eighth.) The cheese didn't add a ton to it, aside from a nice rich aroma layer. The craisins were good, but I could have used more.

The crust, however, was really pretty tasty. Again..there was some uneven baking due to the inconsistent thickness, but I'd definitely call it a success for my first time out. I'd eat it again. I'd eat another piece.

So... Successes, Failures, and Things I'd Do Differently:

- I'd have to say that the crust was pretty good for a first attempt.
- The apples were nice and tart. I like a tart pie.
- I liked the subtext of the cheese...it was at least a good idea.

-Too much nutmeg.
- Uneven and poorly pinched pie dough.

Things I'd Do Differently:
- I'd slice the apples waaaaayyyy thiner. First, they didn't all bake enough, so they had too crunchy a texture in some places. Also, I think they'd be easier to lay in the pie if they were smaller.
- I'd use a stronger cheese, or more cheese or something. As it is, it just sort of strikes me as a throw-away gimmicky thing. Doesn't do much for me one way or the other. Knowing how much I like to mix sweet and spicy, I'm sort of toying with like a hot pepper cheddar. Or something like that. We'll see... that may be too much.
- I'd use more craisins. Probably double what I did use.

All in all a success.

Coming up are my Countdown to Disney Blogs, plus the start of my Disney Trivia Contest. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From your auntie: It looks wonderful. You just need a bit of practice on the rolling part. Maybe baked a bit longer.