Pie 22.0

Pie 22.0

Key Lime to Happiness Pie was constructed last month for St. Patrick’s Day with the helping hands of my daughter.

With all of these crushed cookie crusts, butter is the binder but the particle size of the crushed solids determines the texture of the base of the pie. We used pretzel sticks and, compared to graham crackers or shortbread cookies, they were very hard to pulverize and resulted in a crust that didn’t stay bound together. Next time, grind in blender and add extra butter.

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The filling was easy and used lime juice from a bottle for “consistent taste.” My helper snuck food coloring in and adjusted the green color with some yellow because she is artsy like that.

The whipped topping was also easy and piped on with a specified tip. We added some grated lime rind instead of the lemon rind called for by the recipe.

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We sprinkled on some coarse salt to make Pie 22.0 taste like a margarita and brought her to a parpy.

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I will try to get back to my bread habit, but pies are so tasty. Pie 23.0 traveled to my daughter’s house yesterday to be the prize after a 10K. I’ll try to write the bacon and blueberry concoction up after I compose my final exams. April is crazy.

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Pie 21.0

Disclaimer: this pie is a cake.

Pie 21.0 was not made from scratch. Nor was she made from a recipe in a book. She was a Boston Cream Pie, my favorite cake, and she qualified for a blog post in the Pie Series due only to her name. Oh, and she came out really pretty. Not only was she misnamed, but she looked like a donut, and tasted like an eclair.

I baked the yellow cake mix in a bundt pan that always reminds me of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mother of the groom bride thinks she should put a plant in the hole. I made the vanilla pudding (also from a box) and let it set in the fridge while the cake baked and cooled.

I used a long bread knife to slice the bundt cake horizontally, spread on the pudding, and put the cake back together.

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The chocolate glaze is best when it is melted and drizzled on, but it is tricky. It could come out too thin and all just drip off, onto the counter and the fridge where you hide it to cool and (hopefully) set. That’s what happened years ago by another baker I know. Now I’m a pro. Do it this way: Scoop half of the frosting into a cup and put the rest in the microwave for about 20 seconds at a time. It will warm and get soupy. Then stir in the thick still-cool frosting a bit at a time. It will melt as the hot part cools (heat transfer, basic thermodynamics), and with luck the mix will reach a glossy, pourable yet settable viscosity. Without luck, it will need to be microwaved again, or will remain soupy and need a nap in the fridge. Mine came out a bit thick, but pourable.

I did a combination of pour and spread, making sure some dripped down the edges and into the plant hole because each delectable bite of Boston Cream Pie needs cake and vanilla pudding and chocolate glaze.

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Pie 21.0 added about 5 pounds to my person because I ate a piece of this pie/cake/donut/├ęclair (at least) twice a day for 5 days–both with my coffee each morning, and either for dessert or in a quick grab with a fork from the plate in the fridge as I passed by stealth like a shadow. I’ve been informed by people in the know that the last two pieces are hidden in the freezer. I’m currently contemplating how long I could thaw a piece in the micro without messing up the glaze.

Anyway, here she is. Go make one. It is so simple and you can lose those same 5 pounds next year.

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Bread 3.0

Bread 3.0

A sweet bread with my coffee–that’s what I needed. I found one in Beard on Bread made with sour cream and milk and butter and eggs, all baked up in a bundt pan. It had raisins and chopped nuts, cinnamon and a vanilla glaze. It came out delicious. Finally a good one. And on this Wednesday of the tenth week of the semester, that’s all I have time to say about it. Here are some pictures. Hasta la vista.

Bread 2.0 (and 2.1)

Three days after I wrote about Bread 1.0, I began Bread 2.0. That was more than a month ago. Making bread ain’t a sprint, kids.

Between the mixing and kneading and proofing and waiting and punching down and restarting–well–it’s a good thing bread smells and tastes so good or nobody’d ever bother.

Bread 2.0, from page 70 of James Beard’s book, is simply called “Sourdough Bread.” It begins with a note from the head baker and author decrying the popularity of what he deems an “overrated” bread that is “difficult to perfect at home.” (No kidding.) Sourdough bread is one of my favorites. I have tried many times with many recipes to make it because if it tastes so wonderful from the store, imagine how delightful it will be warm from my oven. Spoiler alert: Beard’s recipe isn’t so great. It isn’t even good. So just save your pennies dollars and buy Publix sourdough and live an easy life.

I promised to tell my journey, so after that grumpy intro, let’s see if you keep reading to see the pictures.

I made the sourdough starter for 13 days. For the first nine days it sat on my counter wreaking like death. I mixed and stirred and checked and remoistened the cloth cover. Finally I capped it and stored it in the fridge until I found time to make the actual loaf of bread (a 2-day process.) Here’s the starter. I had to hold my breath while I held my camera so close for you to peek in.

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The recipe requires a sponge made the night before the loaf. I made a half batch on my first try. The next morning the dough is made with yeast and more flour. My favorite part (kneading) went well and the dough felt stiff as directed.

The dough rose nicely in the bowl.

I formed the loaf and placed her in a buttered pan to rise. It was getting late, so I only let it rise for an hour. I think I should have waited three hours. I boiled water and poured it in the pan on the bottom shelf of the preheated oven. This is for development of a crusty crust. I baked her forever (35 minutes). During the bake, she continued to rise, seemingly in competition with her developing crust, until she burst through that armor crust. I don’t normally care if bread looks ridiculous, as long as it tastes amazing. Here she is.

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The crumb was dense and almost tasteless. Disappointed but determined, a week later I tried again. This time I made a full batch. The sponge and subsequent dough seemed fine.

The kneading went well. The recipe says it should be a stiff dough and in Bread 2.0 it was. For Bread 2.1 I didn’t add as much flour and let the dough stay a bit softer.

She rose like a champ in the bowl.

I formed a huge loaf and decided to let her bake on a flat pan this time, unconstrained by a loaf pan. I was a little concerned how flat she looked on that flat pan. But I persevered. Boiled water. Baked forever. Endured DH’s comments about 1. how it looked, and 2. how it didn’t smell great while baking. You’d think for sourdough bread a not-so-great odor during the bake could be laughed off–hey, it’s supposed to smell sour. It didn’t even smell like sourdough bread. It just smelled bad. Anyway, she baked up pretty.

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Bread 2.1 came out much softer inside than Bread 2.0, and had a nice crust. Despite her lovely appearance, the aroma and taste were not sufficiently sour and required a lot of butter, not quite salty enough for me. I try and I try. I follow directions (mostly). I tossed away half the loaf a week later. That’s a bad sign: homemade bread is never discarded at my house. My friend says I should wait and try a different sourdough recipe in July when it’s good and steamy outside. I’ll take advice from anyone who ever succeeded with sourdough bread. And somehow someday I’ll make a good one. Until then, there’s Publix bread.

Disappointed, I flipped in the book, desperately seeking hope, and I found a coffee cake to try. Stay tuned for Bread 3.0. Early predictions are that it’ll take 10 hours to make this next concoction. In light of the more than 20 days to make Bread 2.0-2.1, it’ll feel like lightning.

Bread 1.0

Bread 1.0

More than three decades ago, I started making homemade bread. Before breadmakers and cell phones, I learned the feel of the dough that marked the end of the kneading process. I fell in love with the smell of bread baking and the taste of the first steamy slice slathered in butter. All of this followed months of failed attempts where I made bricks, and I even sliced and tasted them. The best lessons are learned by failing. I repeatedly killed the yeast with too-hot water to produce those bricks. I recall making half a dozen bricks, at least, before accepting that I needed help.

At the local park I met a mom of two little blond boys. My red-haired daughter caught the eye of the red-haired mom and helped me make one of my first adult friends. The other mom and I got to know each other and one day at the apartment complex pool I told her the funny story of my bread bricks. She didn’t laugh like everyone else. She invited me over the next day to teach me to make bread.

She taught me to proof the yeast with some sugar in a small bowl with the perfect temperature of water. She actually taught me the feel of the water by showing me what was too hot and too cold and just right under the tap.

She taught me to knead, from the raggedy mess of the starting mixture to the smooth and elastic ready-to-rise dough.

She taught me to form loaves and how long to bake them, and to melt butter on the baked crust by rubbing it with a partly peeled stick of cold butter to make the crust delectable.

She saved me from my path to one hundred bricks.

For Christmas this year, my daughter (who has given up on gifting me novels anymore because she said my writing hobby has ruined me as a reader) gave me a bread cookbook call BEARD ON BREAD, first published on Mole Day in 1973. Unlike my pie habit from last year with glorious heaps of meringue and brightly colored fruits, my bread blog entries might be bland and pale and tan, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Last weekend I made the first recipe in the book, called “Basic White Bread” on page 22. Unlike my memorized recipe, this loaf called for no butter or milk, and a flipped ratio of sugar to salt. I followed along like a neophyte.

I proofed the yeast.

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I mixed and kneaded the dough.

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I let the first rise occur in a buttered and covered bowl until doubled in bulk.

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I formed a loaf and let it rise again.

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I baked for twice as long as I’ve ever baked a loaf, and even preheated the oven for half an hour and left my pizza stone in there. I tapped the loaf to hear its hollowness and set it on the oven rack sans pan for a few extra minutes to finish the bottom crust.

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Then I served it with pasta. It smelled right and looked beautiful and tasted so bland and basic. It made me miss my memorized recipe.

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Next time I’ll try a sour dough recipe since I have never had success in that arena and I must learn some new tricks in 2019.