Sunday, October 16, 2011


The sub title for this post is Why don't you live here??
There is a pie contest the last Saturday in October. Since I wasn't able to do my bike race and since I can't even ride a bike for another week, there was a vacuum and you know how nature feels about that. I've set my sights on the pie contest and I've started to train. Really, that just means I make a lot of pies.
From my experience in the chiffon cake contest, I've learned that looks matter. If your entry isn't attractive, you will not win, no matter how ambrosial and otherworldly (in a good) it is. Given that, and the fact that I can't make an attractive roll-out pie crust--mine are always misshapen, sagging off one side of the pan while retreating from the other, uneven, irregular and goiterish--I have to make a pie that can take a cookie crust or at least a press-in-the-pan (PITP) crust.
I started with a brown butter butterscotch pie. It very nearly made me give it all up as a misbegotten whim. The recipe called for a lot of corn starch and the resulting custard was the consistency of wallpaper paste that had been left too long with its lid askew. But the flavor was amazing, so I rallied and persevered.

Note the sad crust.

I decided to see if I could work a little more on the coconut cream pie, the project we started 3 years ago when you visited me after I had back surgery, coconut having magic healing properties. The last time I made the version we had settled on, I thought it lacked a distinct coconut flavor. I thought I could try reducing the coconut milk, the way we do for the coconut birthday cake, and then using that as a base for the custard. Sounds like a good idea. There's a reason no one else has come up with it. The custard was not only way too thick, the oil separated as I heated the custard and it was like a large ball of slimy wet leather rolling around in some off colored grease. Also, the 2 cups of coconut was too much and only added to the hopeless thickness of it all. I chilled the results and then scraped off the hardened fat, spread it in the crust (which had its own issues*) and then topped it with whipped cream. I had a piece and threw the rest away. Not even worth eating. Not even when the only other dessert was a handful of raisins and some old chocolate that was 82% and had bloomed.
* I had made a PITP crust and added some coconut to the dough. When I prebaked the crust, the coconut overcooked and imparted a bitter, scorched flavor. This would have been more disappointing, except next to the disgustingness of the filling, it was a mild flaw.
I thought about the pudding that I like so much and it only has eggs to thicken it. I read recipes for pastry cream, and they all use flour. I read recipes for custard pie and they all use corn starch. I tried to read recipes for cream pie and all that comes up on a Google search are x-rated sites. Who knew?
I tried a recipe that uses a very small amount of cake flour, (flour and cornstarch, why didn't I think of that?). I reduced a can of Lite coconut milk from 14 oz to about a cup and then I used another cup of half and half. I used 4 egg yolks and one egg. I added one cup of coconut. There is some sugar in there too. It was creamy and light with a distinct, but not pronounced, coconut flavor. The PITP crust was fine. Next time I'm going to leave out the whole egg and use only yolks. And maybe you can walk me through a roll-out crust. We'll see if I can make something that doesn't look like it grew out of a tree.

Then, because I have a lot of time on my hands, (is this what people who don't bike do with their week-ends?) I made a lemon cream pie.

This was entirely my invention. Start with a PITP crust. Make a lemon curd, I used Martha Stewart's recipe. Make Bell's lemon souffle. Take 1 cup of heavy cream and boil it with a TB of lemon zest and let it cool overnight. Pour the curd in the prebaked crust, top with the lemon souffle and let that set up overnight. Then whip your lemon cream and spread that on top.
Pretty good. I made 1/3 of a recipe for the lemon souffle. It calls for 3 eggs, so halving it was beyond the abilities of my small brain and clumsy fingers. Next time I'll make 2/3 of the recipe and just top it with plain sweetened whipped cream. The lemon cream is too close in flavor and color to the souffle and I wanted 3 distinct layers. But it is worth working with.

Back to the contest. I am concerned that I'll get points off if my entry isn't "seasonal." The announcement doesn't specify seasonal, but judges are only human (very often blind humans with the taste buds of a radish) and at a fall festival they might just feel more partial to a fall pie. I'm going to try again with the butterscotch, at least it is a fall color.

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