Tag Archives: Pics or it Didn’t Happen

Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Sour Cream and Raisin Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

Back in December 2010, I baked a raisin pie and commented on its usage as a “funeral pie.” Upon some further research into a variation, the sour cream and raisin pie, I found that it also originated among Mennonites settling in the Great Plains, quickly spreading to other local communities. Funerals in the mid to late nineteenth century were opportunities for the community to gather and express hospitality. This hospitality often arrived as edibles, and especially as dessert. Guests and relatives would bring food to show their sympathy and condolences. A funeral staple was the raisin pie (and other improvised variations) , a dessert that could be quickly made out of readily available ingredients.

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Key Lime Pie… with Gingerbread Crust

Zach Bell, Yale University

Traditionally thought of as a summer dessert, in my opinion key lime pie can be served at any time of the year. In order to make the pie a little more appropriate for the temperature though (despite an unusually warm December in St. Louis), I put the filling in a gingerbread crust.

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Lemon Meringue Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

A staple of American dessert culture is the lemon meringue pie. Although lemon flavored desserts and custards have been in use since medieval times, the lemon meringue pie as we know it did not emerge until the nineteenth century. For my lemon pie, I used a recipe that originated a bit more recently. My recipe came from my great-grandmother’s cookbook, dating from the early to mid- twentieth century. Although I only have vague memories of her, and none of her lemon pie, I hear stories of her baking virtuosity. So I decided to test out her recipe and see if I inherited some of her baking genes.

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Chicken Pot Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

Savory food isn’t really my thing. When it come to meals, I’m pretty much exclusively the dessert chef/procurer. Yet, in my exploration of pie it was inevitable that I would one day have to face the meat pie. Meat pies have a long history, tracing back millenia, with many theories about its various uses. Scholars believe that medieval meat pies were more like casseroles, with a much thicker pastry acting as the cooking container and preserving mechanism. From the Greeks to the Romans to the Middle Ages, the pastry was not meant to be eaten. Over time, the crust grew lighter and flakier until today when the historically “inedible” crust separates a pot pie from a meat stew.

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Linzer Torte Fail

Zach Bell, Yale University

Failure is hard to swallow in any context, but for a baker, this translates literally… a failure is actually difficult to choke down. A few days ago, I failed to bake an edible Linzer Torte. What should have been a buttery raspberry pastry ended with a texture best described as bizarre. Although many a mentor has told me, “Do not be afraid to fail!”, I cannot deny my totally rational fear of that monstrous Linzer Torte.

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Chocolate Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

One year ago, my Mom requested a chocolate pie for her birthday. This year, she wanted a repeat performance. I used the same recipe (although with a pastry crust instead of graham cracker), but the process went much more smoothly this time. After a year more of baking experience, I whisked the  custard with ease and confidence, trusting in the process. Check out chocolate pie 2.0:

Also, check out this “how-to” video on whipped cream:

 

In the end, practice is key to a polished pie.

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Shaker Lemon Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

Shaker Lemon Pie:


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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Watermelon Chiffon Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

Watermelon speaks of summer barbecues and the Fourth of July, the Stars and Stripes and the the Red White and Blue. Watermelon is the red stripe in the flag, yet, in a pie, the red fades to pink. Returning from New York, my brother requested a watermelon chiffon pie, from a recipe found in Ken Haedrich’s book “Pie” (this book comes highly recommended). Although I take pride in my willingness to try any food that comes my way, I was skeptical about including watermelon in a pie, considering that a watermelon obviously contains mostly water.

The recipe called for a graham cracker crust, filled with a mixture of whipped egg whites, whipped cream, and gelatinous watermelon juice, all blended together.  First, I made the graham cracker crust, crushing whole crackers with my fingers in lieu of readymade crumbs or a heavy mashing device. I find the irregular sized pieces from hand crumbling adds textural variety to the crust.

Next, I savagely hacked open a watermelon and chucked its flesh unceremoniously into a metal bowl. I mashed the fruit down with a wimpy plastic potato masher that I thought would snap right in half considering the unnecessarily powerful downward force I applied over and over again to juice the watermelon. Eventually I reduced the fruit to a bloody pulp and strained the juice into a saucepan.

A series of annoying measurements ensued, including the requirement of two and three quarters cups of juice. Packets of gelatin emptied into one of the reserved quarter cups, then the steaming hot half cup, then the rest and into the fridge it went to gelatinize. I whipped the egg whites, then made some standard whipped cream and soon enough I had three bowls in front of me.

The recipe indicated that I should add a quarter of the whipped cream first, then the eggs, then the rest of the cream and stir to combine, but not too harshly, wouldn’t want to disturb its fragile equilibrium. I followed all of these steps, poured it into the waiting shell, and prayed that this pie would be edible after it came out of the fridge.

In fact, this chiffon pie garnered positive reactions, much to our surprise. It was light, not too terribly sweet, and held its shape well. I think the critical step regarding its consistency was the blending of the three components. Too little blending and the texture would have been uneven, whipped cream melting before the watermelon gelatin. Too much, or too vigorous stirring, and the structure created during whipping would break down, leading to a floppy, soggy filling.

Although not quite as American as apple pie, watermelon chiffon pie takes an unlikely ingredient and transforms it into a summer dessert that can cool down even the hottest July evening.

 

 

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Buttermilk Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

When my Dad requested a buttermilk pie, I was immediately skeptical. Buttermilk, a fermented version of cow milk, is thicker because the acid content (which also gives it a sour taste) denatures, or unravels the milk proteins (mostly casein). I used cultured buttermilk, made with lactic acid bacteria, for more thickness. For a smoother texture, I creamed the butter and mixed in the sugar.

With the addition of egg yolks and flour… Continue reading

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Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Butterscotch Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

I made a butterscotch pie using the standard egg custard as the base and adding brown sugar and butter, the base ingredients of butterscotch flavor. The egg custard flavor was immediately evident, so I did not get the “Hershey’s” style butterscotch, the cloying, saccharine, sticky butterscotch. Instead, the butterscotch flavor emerged from the background, more of a rich aftertaste than an anvil of flavor falling from the sky.
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