Culinary Adventures with Maggie and Suzanne

Where cheesiness is next to godliness

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pie Weekend, Day 2

Pie Day 2 started with leftover quiche. It also started with opening a bottle of wine at 7:30 in the morning. Why on earth would we open up a bottle of wine at 7:30 in the morning, do you ask? Because Jen Lancaster mentioned it somewhere in her blog, and being both 1) Jen Lancaster fans and 2) lovers of wine, we thought this sounded like a stellar idea.

You know what's not a stellar idea? Drinking wine on an empty stomach when you have a whole day of pie-making ahead of you.

Our stomachs weren't empty for long - we finished off the quiche (an empty pie plate is a successful pie plate). It was even better warmed up than it was the night before because the swiss next to the crust got all melty and amazing.

The next thing we did was finish off the Berry Cheesecake Pie by adding the berry mixture to the top of the completely cooled cheesecake. The verdict:

1. Beautiful pie, both in the pan and on the plate, topped with Cool Whip.
2. Greasy crust, as we suspected that it would be. It may be easy, but that greasy a texture could only hold up to a very firm pie (like a cheesecake) or a custardy pie. It was a very sturdy crust, though, which is useful when the pie is this heavy.

3. As far as cheesecake goes, this was a mid-level difficulty with a top-level taste. A friend of mine used to spend thirteen hours making cheesecake, and it was delicious, but this was almost as good with only a two-hour (okay, and an overnight refrigeration) work/bake time.
4. Let's just look how pretty it is one more time. Go ahead. Bask in the pretty of this pie. Ignore the empty wine glass in the picture (maybe it made us loopy because we drank it so quickly?).

Having finished up the pie we started the night before, the next pie we made was French Silk Pie. Alas, in my sugar high and possible tipsy state, I neglected to take a picture of it. But it was pretty. It was easier to make than I anticipated. It was also much, much richer than any French Silk pie I have ever had. It was not my favorite, but when guests came over, I noticed that we didn't have any trouble getting rid of it.

The last pie of the morning was the Coconut Custard Pie. Of the custard/cream pies, coconut is my favorite, so this was the one I was anticipating the most on Day Two. And it did not disappoint. The piece you see in the picture was when it was still warm from the oven. Heaven. Even people who claim not to like coconut liked this pie. Because the recipe called for a pre-baked pie crust, I used it as an opportunity to try a different one, so I rolled out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and used his basic flaky pie crust recipe. I believe this is going to be my go-to crust. It was just right.

The only thing I would do differently with this pie is to use a slightly shorter time to pre-bake the crust. By the time the pie itself finished baking, it was a little brown for my taste.

At this point, we transferred all the pies that we had made to Maggie's house for a little change of scenery (and to give my oven a break), where we made the next two pies.
The first pie we made at Maggie's house was Momofuku's Crack Pie. Yes, it was chosen for its name. As you can see, it did not turn out pretty. In fact, it looked pretty weird all throughout the process, from the oatmeal cookie crust (which involves first baking a large oatmeal cookie and then pounding it into bits and buttering it back together to make a crust) to the batter before we poured it into the crust, all the way to the finished product. It tasted okay, though. In fact, it was Michelle's favorite of all the ones she tried. It was super sweet. It tasted like a cross between maple candy and a pecan-less pecan pie.

The next pie we made was a Cream Grape Pie. This was an intriguing concept to me, so I just couldn't resist. Again, I forgot to take a picture of it, and I'm so sad about that, because it was pretty. That was the best thing about it. It never set. We picked at it - turns out that cooked grapes have a similar texture to cooked cherries - but I was never able to get a piece of pie that looked like pie out of it. I may try just a plain cream pie recipe and add grapes to it at some point in the future to see how it would taste.

For dinner that night, we went back over to my house. We had a full guest list - several people were already in town for Max's funeral, so they just came over for pie afterward. Pie and alcohol, apparently. Funny how gatherings at my house seem to go that way.

Dinner was Deep Dish Pizza (what? It's a pie!). We made three of these - one with spinach, one with mushrooms, and one with roasted peppers. I ended up using Natalie's basic pizza crust (which I can't remember off the top of my head, but it was super simple - just mix and let it rise while you make the sauce). Once again, there are no pictures to prove it, but it was awesome. The only thing I would change about it is that I would pre-bake the crust, as it was a little doughy at the bottom for my taste.

Then people stayed over for what seemed like forever. Maybe I was just tired. It had been a full day.

Things I learned:

1. Wine at 7:30 in the morning? Not as great an idea as it sounds. Unless, of course, that is all you plan to do that day, and then by all means, godspeed.
2. Quiche makes for amazing leftovers.
3. Pre-cooking texture can tell you everything you need to know about post-cooking outcome.
4. Coconut is manna from Heaven. Who am I kidding? I already knew this.
5. It doesn't matter to most people how it looks as long as it tastes like sugar.
6. I'm a shit hostess when I'm in the middle of a task. Or task weekend, as it were. But even when I'm not a good hostess, the party is still good if there's food and drink.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pie Weekend - Friday Night

After buying all the supplies and getting the room to a bearable temperature, we started Pie Weekend with dinner - a broccoli quiche. What drew me to this recipe of all the others was that it claimed to have "the perfect crust." As I am a fan of good crust - it can make or break a pie for me - I had to test it.

It was a nice crust. I wouldn't say "perfect," but it was nice. It was flaky and buttery. As you can see in the picture, I didn't spend a lot of time making it pretty, but in my defense, we were hungry. Ugly crust tastes just as good as pretty crust. As far as the egg portion of the pie, I will probably go with more egg and less milk/cream next time, but it was good nonetheless. Dish number one = success.

Our second pie was featured in The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner), written by one my southern heroes, Jill Conner Browne. It's called It's a Miracle! Pie because it makes its own crust. It tasted similar to chess pie or a buttermilk pie; it definitely had that same custard-y feel. As I am not particularly a fan of chess pie or buttermilk pie, particularly as a texture, this pie was not my favorite. It was, however, easy to make (not much more involved in the process than blending some ingredients and dumping them into the pie plate), and it was really pretty on top (behold the picture).

Our third and final pie of the evening was a Berry Cheesecake Pie. Well, at least the cheesecake part. It had to cool before we could add the berries (something to look forward to on Pie Day 2). I used the crust listed with the recipe, because it was a no-roll crust, and I found this intriguing. You simply mix the ingredients and press the crust into a pan. The dough had a very oily texture, but that also made it easy to work with, which, as the person working with it, I consider to be a hell of a mark in its favor. We baked the cheesecake and let it sit in the fridge overnight to cool.

What I learned on the first day of Pie Weekend:

1. When making quiche, I am of the "More is more" philosophy when it comes to number of eggs.

2. A clever name cannot trick me into liking chess/buttermilk pie.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pie Weekend, the Preliminaries

Friday was the start of Pie Weekend, which is the first of many gluttonous weekends to come. Cookie weekend will be next, followed by Soup Weekend, Casserole Weekend, and ABC Weekend, but Pie Weekend started it all.

Friday, Maggie and I kicked off the weekend. We went to the gym (because, um, weekend of eating pie) and went shopping for supplies. The plan was to make eight sweet pies and four savory ones. Then we came to my apartment.

Where it was hot.

Not a good start for a weekend where one (or two, in this case) will be using the oven repeatedly.

This was Part 5 of an ongoing saga that I've been having with the apartment managers regarding my not-properly-working air conditioner. The first three times I reported it, they came over and filled the freon. A rational person might conclude that if you need to fill the freon up that much, perhaps you should look for a leak rather than just keep doing it. Such a person might also reason that, if adding more freon the first time didn't fix the problem, it probably won't fix the problem the second and third time.

Rational is clearly not a term useful for describing the persons who have come out to fix my air conditioner.

The fourth time, it was merely decided that 80 degrees was just as cool as it was going to get. Apparently it was also decided on this visit that there was no need to leave me any note indicating that someone had been in my apartment.

So Friday was Attempt Number Five at getting my A/C fixed. One of the young technicians showed up first. He looked in the closet and said that nothing looked wrong. When Maggie pointed out that the wall by the unit was hot, he responded with, "Well, there's nothing in here that would make it hot." Um...clearly there is something making it hot if it's HOT. Which is essentially what Maggie said. He accused her of "getting smart."

I guess smart is an uncomfortable concept for him.

He went outside to tool around with the outside unit a bit and returned with the other young technician. Then they both came back and looked some more. Finally, the senior maintenance guy showed up and started to give me the "It's doing all it can - it's just too hot outside for it to cool properly" spiel that I would believe if this were a) my first apartment ever or b) my first summer in this very apartment. Unfortunately for him and the lady at the office who had given me the same runaround, I know what this unit can do in this space when it is working properly.

He kept talking about how hot the attic was and how that was probably a factor. He told me about the new vents that they put in the attic to give it some air flow and cool it off a little. Then he opened the A/C closet and said, "Yeah, I can see a little daylight from the vents now. It's not so dark. Hey, maybe that's why it's so hot."

You mean, because there's a HOLE IN THE APARTMENT CEILING THAT GOES DIRECTLY TO THE ATTIC? You think that MAYBE that could be it?

So he told me that he'd have the others patch that hole up for me (they'll have to un-patch it in winter for exhaust purposes). He also offered to bring in a window unit to help the regular unit out a bit. I declined at first, but then accepted when he offered a second time.

So now my apartment is outfitted with two separate air conditioners, but at least it's staying cooler and no one died during Pie Weekend.

Up next - Day One