So I did some baking this past weekend, and I felt a little rusty. It's been a while.
The last thing I baked was the first thing out of the pie book I bought in Boulder way back in March. The Tofu Muchacha, my cousin Abbey, and I combined to make a caramelized pear pie. I really enjoyed it, but damn... that was so effing long ago. I don't even remember blogging about it, and I'm feeling too lazy to go back and check...
Anyway, this past Sunday we had our final Play Reading Committee meeting for our theatre group (The Drama Workshop) . I kind of kicked off the dessert making for the group back in March when I made the Mad Men pie (the pink one with the cherries). Since then we've had 3 other meetings with other folks bringing their baked goods, and they were all very tasty. When the time came to decide who was baking for the final meeting of the year, I volunteered. I viewed it as a good chance to try out a new pie from the pie book...
I spent a while thinking about the type of pie... It's hot as hell here in the Summer, and I didn't want to make an overly sweet pie, or a really dense pie. I wanted something that was light and fresh and Summery.
I decided on, with Tofu Muchacha's urging, an Orange Chiffon Pie with a chocolate crumb crust..
Now let me just get it out of the way... I am NOT a huge fan of fruit and chocolate mixed. I make an exception for raspberries and cherries but that's pretty much it. Possibly my LEAST favorite combination is citrus and chocolate, so... I was thinking I had a challenge on my hands.
Here we go...Pretty standard stuff, really... You got your eggs, milk, graham crackers, butter... all that.
The biggest challenge I had was the gelatin. I'd never used it before, and I don't fully understand how to manipulate it. I'll talk about that later.
So, I think I mentioned this on previous pie blogs, but on all of the crumb crusts I've had in my pies, I had a helper. The Tofu Muchacha is my "Pie Sensei" and she's especially helpful with the crusts... This was my first attempt all on my own, and I think all in all, it was fairly successful in both action and result. I took the advice of the book and used a big plastic bag and a rolling pin, and I found it very effective. I was kind of amazed at how many chocolate graham crackers it took to make 2 cups of crumbs. I'd even venture to say that I could have used slightly more than I ended up with.
Oddly, I really enjoyed the process of pressing the wet, buttery crumbs into the pie plate. That sounds a little dirty (and it kinda was). I also really liked the tip the book gave me to bake the crust for a few minutes to set it or "solidify it". I'm not sure that many cold pies with crumb crusts suggest baking the crust.
First off, it smelled awesome. Second, It made me feel like the integrity of the crust was a little more secure.
The next bit was kind of complicated and so I don't have a ton of pictures...
It involved gelatin.
I sort of didn't really think through the gelatin aspect of the pie at all until I was pretty far along. I had to combine a bunch of ingredients (The orange juice, lemon juice, orange zest, Sugar, milk, egg yolks, and salt) along with gelatin (!) and then I heated it all on the stove to create this sort of creamy, steamy concoction. The book was extremely specific about letting it steam but NOT boil. I assume that has to do with scalding the milk, but maybe someone can shed more light on that. I had to whisk the slurry pretty much non-stop for about 9 minutes.
It was kind of weird... I was told I had to let it cook until it became "foamy", and it didn't happen at all until very suddenly. At which point I poured it into a bowl: and threw it into the fridge:It smelled amazing and citrusy and still had that creamy feel (and even scent) to it.
Then came the most interminable cooking task I've ever had. I now had to whisk this stuff every 10 minutes until the mixture solidified enough to leave a little gloppy mound when dripped with a spoon. I may be paraphrasing a little. The book estimated it would take about 90 minutes.
More like 2 hours.
I think the biggest issue was that the mixture wasn't cooling quickly enough, so I took a big silver bowl and put the mixture bowl inside of it. Then I put ice cubes all around the bowl and put it back in the fridge. Once I'd done this, the process sped up considerably.
When I felt the mixture had about 10 minutes left before being ready, I started whipping cream. I never know exactly when to stop whipping. I was instructed to whip to "stiff peaks" (which sounds a little like a porno version of "Twin Peaks" which itself sounds like a porno version of "Twin Peaks".) The whole stiff peaks thing is so subjective to me, and I always feel like I under-whip. So here's what it ended up looking like before I mixed in the goop: As you can see... not stiff enough. (also... I was, like, fucking DONE with taking pictures so I didn't get the lighting right. Sorry.)
So then I was in the home stretch... This pie has, at this point, taken me 3 hours to bake this damned pie. I think I was maybe a little impatient with the whipped cream. I also really wanted to finish quickly because the kitchen had become really, really humid, and I worried about how the whipped cream and gelatin stuff would hold up in the warm environment.
I folded the whipped cream on the goop together quickly, and poured it into the crust. I wasn't especially pleased with it...I felt like it could have been fluffier. See the picture from the pie book:As you can see, it almost looks like meringue. It has this fluffiness to it that I really coveted.
Here's what my completed pie looked like...Really, it came out pretty well. It wasn't as fluffy as I'd have liked, but people really liked it. The orange flavor was there, but no too overpowering, and the chocolate was pretty subtle too. It may be my favorite pie I've made so far... (I'm not counting the pumpkin cheesecake).
So far, I'm especially pleased with the pie book. It's two for two.
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