Friday, October 15, 2010

First try at blueberry pie

Today I made two blueberry pies. Yum. It was my first try at blueberry pie and I had a few ideas that I wanted to try out.

First, I wanted to use sage infused sugar for the sweetening agent. I bought some fresh sage and then placed some sprigs in plastic bag with some sugar. The trick is to rub the sugar with the sage leaves to get pull the natural oils out and into the sugar. Sage has a subtle flavor to it that I thought might go well with the tartness of the fruit.

Second, I wanted to use a different acid source than the typical lemon juice that most pies call for. Last week, I purchased two bottles of red wine – one that I enjoyed and the other, not so much. The kind of wine I enjoyed escapes me, but the second was a petite sirah. It was really acidic. There was quite a bite packed in there. A splash of water would have fixed that, I just opted to use it for cooking versus drinking. Since it was so acidic I figured I could use it in the pie.

Third, I want wanted to make a crumble for this pie instead of using a second crust. The textures of the blueberries is much different those of the apples and parsnips. I also wanted to use the sage sugar in the crumb topping.

On a last-minute decision, I decided to use some plums and an overripe nectarine in the pie as well. The other night, I decided to soak some aging plums in the petite sirah and was planning on eating them up after dinner that evening. Things didn't happen that way so they ended up soaking up the wine for an extra night. I tested a piece of plum this morning when I was preparing to hit the local H-E-B for groceries, and was delighted how the plums had mellowed out the wine. I had a bruised and overripe nectarine on my dinner table, that I wasn't going to eat – a texture thing, it was too soft for my liking – so I through in the wine bath. As Emeril Lagasse would say, they would be getting happy... or is that Mario Batalli. I can't remember, I haven't watched the boob in a few months.

I added the drunken stone fruit to the blueberry mix and they provided some extra body and some contrasting flavors. Yum. I also added a chiffonade of sage to the blueberries to add an additional hint of the herb. It was a success. Everyone in the newsroom enjoyed it. I even served it with the cinnamon whipped cream I made for the apple and parsnip pie.

While I was making this set of pies, I started thinking that it may be nice to open a small dessert bakery with early hours and closing at 1 p.m. so that I can go to work. Maybe I can open my sandwich shop here for a trial run. Then a few other options started to weave their way into the thicket of my thoughts and the daydreams began to develop just as the edges of the crusts were browning.

Another option would be to open a catering business. I could maybe even rent the kitchen here at the Advocate to prepare pies for people that wanted them. However, if I decide to go that route, I have to get a certified to handle and sell food. I can do that at the local college if I really wanted to pursue that. I have a friend, Marc, who wants to open up a pizza in the near future. I could see if he'll let me bake some pies and make some desserts for him. I can make some awesome sweets, let him try them out and see if he would like to give them a try at his pizza eatery. That could be exciting. If only he would let me do that I would be thrilled. Right now, I just have to keep practicing and perfecting my recipes.

In retrospect, I think I may have used a bit too much wine in the first pie or at least I think I could have omitted the lemon juice. The pie was little more runny than the second pie. The first pie was a little more saturated in sugar than the second, which I ended up adding some reserve berries too when I realized there wasn't enough berries in the mix. Also, I think that the crumble could have crunchier. I added some store bought granola to it, it added some texture like I wanted. Next time, I think I'll add some slivered almonds, crushed walnuts, or some oats. That might be nice.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Apple and Parsnip Pie

Hurrah! It was a hit. It was something that I had been wanting to test for a while, and I finally had a chance to make it before work. I'm so glad. I brought it into work for some feedback and to feed my co-workers – journalists love free eats, I told you that didn't I? They enjoyed it so much, I didn't even get a chance to taste it. I'm excited about perfecting it. Or at least getting the texture down. I think that I need to try some different apples next time. I don't think that they Gala apples have enough pectin in them to produce the nice gelatinous consistency found in those Blue-ribbon winners.

I know that I can add some gelatin to the apple mixture, but I would love to be able to rely solely on the apple's natural integrity. I didn't add a lot of other ingredients to it, since I didn't want to adulterate the flavors too much. though I think that the parsnips hold more moisture than they look like they do, or at least they don't contain any pectin to provide body for the filling..

I even made a cinnamon whipped cream to go with it, but I forgot it at home. When I got home though, I tried it and realized I put too much sugar in the container, however, I now have some cinnamon frosting to use for cookies or cupcakes. I think a Chai pumpkin pie will be in the works coming up..

Last Thanksgiving I made a simply, scrumptious pumpkin pie with an almond cookie crust and a Chai ice cream. I think that would be perfect for the whipped cream, if I can salvage it. I don't know if adding more cream will transform the frosting into a whipped cream. I'll let you know how the cookies, or cupcakes, or possibly, pies come out.