Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Good Pie Gene

Yes, there is a pie gene. What is so difficult about a flaky crust, people?
Here's the secret - it isn't the recipe, it's the technique. A heavy hand, a bad attitude, inattention to the 'now' of the dough... if you aren't committed to the pie, it won't be good. (She said in her Mr. Miyagi voice.)

The pie gene can be transmitted to others. Then they can help you in the kitchen. Especially useful on those bad attitude days. I've passed the gene to Herb and Herb Jr. so we're covered.

What is truly amazing is that Pat and Tony are just now beginning to sound like they are becoming interested in cooking - THANK YOU FOOD CHANNEL!

After a lifetime of pie making, it really does make pie making more fun when one does the filling and the other does the pastry. And having passed the baton to Herb for the pastry end of the project, I'm happy to do fillings when needed.

What brings on this pie reverie? We just finished our third pumpkin pie in two weeks. The first, to adjust the recipe for the 2007 pumpkin filling (every year the pumpkin filling is slightly different.) The second, for company on the holiday itself (along with a Northern Spy apple and a Detroit blueberry). And the third we just made to have another pumpkin pie to go with leftover turkey - it was so good this year.
I'd better quit now, I feel an emoticon coming on:)

So why am I talking about the pie gene? I thought last year I'd lost it! My pumpkin pie filling last year was overspiced and heavy. (No one said so, but a cook doesn't need folks to tell you when something isn't up to par.) Looking back I figure my fresh spices were stronger than I'd been used to... I'm usually heavy on the spice, and I'd purchased some really nice strong ground cinnamon from Frontier where you select from cinnamons determined by country of origin and percent of oil. So this year I measured more carefully, adjusting for the strong cinnamon.
But the heaviness was the question. I like a light but still creamy pumpkin filling. This year what worked was to make sure I beat the eggs before stirring in the rest of the ingredients, and then making sure to whisk the filling one last time before filling the crust and immediately slipping it into the 425 degree oven to start before turning it down to 350 to finish.
Technique, paying attention, what did I say.

People who sit there and tell you about the great deal they got on a five dollar pumpkin pie at the grocery store have no taste buds, you might as well give them a Mickey Dee and call it a day.
Along the same vein, I hear paint by number paintings from the 60's are collectible now.

Anyway I though I'd share my tips for flavoring pumpkin pie filling. Do the regular recipe whichever way you make it - my mom used evaporated milk and I use Eagle Brand, either way is good. Use two eggs and add a swig of vanilla extract. And finally, add a solid dollop of molasses, which gives the cooked pumpkin a deeper flavor.

Always looking for a new technique is what keeps cooking fun, so next year when I go to roast my pumpkins, I'm thinking I'll drizzle them with a bit of molasses at that stage, just to see what the difference will be.

I'm one of those old school people who loves Thanksgiving - family, food and peace. The stores were shoving aside the garden merch for the Christmas merch back in September, so I'm yearly becoming more curmudgeonly about The Halloween-Christmas convergence. Thanksgiving is the non-commercial holiday. A last look at the past year. Tomorrow, December first turns the page and for me that means a turn of season. Please don't be sucked in with the commercialization of a meaningful passage of time. It's all about your time, folks, and how you spend it.

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