Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Here To There

This post is really just a collection of thoughts and anecdotes about baking, relationships, humanity, and a few pictures involving chocolate.

Paying It Forward Dept.

I was using The Google a while ago looking for recipes, and as often happens I followed a trail of links, hopping from one site to the next. (By the way, this isn't procrastination or wasting time; it's research.) At the end of this particular trip through the Interwebs was a recipe book on a blog written by someone who, it turns out, is battling cancer. The blog is filled with her her insights, struggles, adventures, thoughts, and, yes, requests for help. I bought the cookbook, which is actually something that might be good for newer cooks (kids and folks who just haven't really spent much time in the kitchen before), not because I felt sorry for her but because that's just what we're supposed to do in this life. In my opinion, when you can help, even a little, you should. If you feel similar and are so moved, click the link above and share a little kindness.

Not Quite What You Thought Dept.

We can go our whole lives not seeing the different facets of people you see five days a week at the nine-to-five. Talking baking, and baking bread in particular allowed me to see an unexpected side of my supervisor. Last December I shared part of a loaf of challah we got to talking about family recipes and my attempt at baking my Nana's egg custard pie. He told me that he uses a Dutch oven in and attempt to recreate the kind of bread his grandmother used to make. That's a connection I never would have thought I'd ever make with him. It was kind of cool to talk about how neither of our grandmothers passed down recipes to favorite recipes. Once you've discussed baking bread with someone, you can never see them the same way again. And that's probably a good thing.

Repurposed Molds = Chocolate Gold Dept.

You may have gotten the idea from someone, somewhere, that I like molds. No, not the kind that Egon collects. Molds that were originally to be used for chocolate candy making, repurposed for making sugar "cubes." Thanks to my little sister, MonY, I now have ice cube molds that I've repurposed for making chocolate candy! I live such a convoluted kitchen life, yes? The molds in question were appropriate because I'm a geek and Original Trilogy Star Wars is one of my favorite series of movies. Behold the molds:

Solo, so good!

"He should be very well protected...

...if he survived the freezing process."

"You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought!"

"Just you reconsider playing that message for him!"

Live long and eat chocolate.

A plate full of sci-fi.

I sent these to my little brother and my oldest nephew, who are also both huge Star Wars fans, because I knew they'd get a kick out of them.

I still need to greatly improve my chocolate molding/handling skills but these were pretty easy to make. An improvised double-boiler, some decent chocolate, and some time was all I needed. So much fun! Of course, MonY wants some for herself but she wants them to be Nestle Crunch-style – with Rice Krispies. I'll see what I can do.

Currently listening to: Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band - Ante Up




Monday, January 26, 2015

Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Pie!

I love chicken pot pie, as I've said before (here). Maybe not as much as Slow Donnie (from "Just Shoot Me") but they rate pretty high on my list of favorite comfort foods. I love having a full meal that comes in a single container. One dish that you eat everything out of and then recycle. How perfect is that?

When we were kids back in the 60s an 70s, my mother would serve chicken pot pies from time to time. They were usually a store brand and I always picked out the peas. By the time I was done, that little aluminum pie plate was surrounded by pathetic, discarded green spheres. Even as an adult, whenever I have a chicken pot pie, I pick out the peas. I don't think there's a brand on the market that doesn't have peas. Trust me; they're all chock-full of peas.

An Aside On My Relationship With Peas: I really don't like peas. That's not quite accurate. What I really don't like are garden peas. There's something about their consistency and taste that bugs me. Grainy, mushy, with husks that just don't seem to ever go down easy. Snow peas? Love them! Chickpeas? Yeah, I can do those. Garden peas? Bleah! No way. And don't come near me with split pea soup because I'll split the scene in a New York Minute. 

An Aside On My Relationship With Peas Ends.

A few years ago, I went on a sampling spree of the available brands of pot pies to find one that I liked – and wasn't a health risk. Swanson's was disgusting, and these days only has a top crust. Hungry Man just couldn't be trusted. Marie Callender's was too weird because they add broccoli to the filling, and as much as I love broccoli it just changes the flavor and consistency too much for my tastes. I settled on Stouffer's because they were a decent size, both the chicken and turkey varieties were pretty tasty, and the crust wasn't half-bad.

The crust. Always comes back to crust. I'll admit it: I'm a pastry crust lover. When I eat a pot pie, I work through the filling as quickly as I can (without scorching my tongue) so I can savor the crust. I try to keep it as intact as possible and then eat it from the bottom up. I know. I know. That's a little odd. Look, I never claimed to be completely sane.

At any rate, most store-bought pot pies have lousy crusts, probably because they're frozen, so the crusts have all been through ice hell and back by the time you're ready to eat them. And pot pies on the menus in restaurants, upscale NYC groceries with hot food counters, etc., are a travesty. None of them have bottom crusts and are generally made in a large baking pan. The top crust is usually a poorly made pastry, or something like biscuits layered on top of the filling. The worst is when they try to palm-off mashed potatoes as the top crust. Excuse me? Biscuit crust? Mashed potatoes? Top crust only? I'm sorry; that's not a pot pie, that's a "pot cobbler". And that just sounds nasty.

Obviously, there was only one thing for me to do: make my own pot pies. I went through a couple of recipes, some using cream-of-something soups and others that were more stew-like. None of my versions had peas in them. So there. Eventually, I happened up on this recipe from Allrecipes.com. It proved to be hearty, easy to make, and flexible enough to accommodate  whatever I wanted to take the place of the ever-present peas.

For the all-important crust, though, I modified my regular pie crust recipe by removing the sugar and replacing it with whatever herbs and salts suit my fancy at the time. I've mixed in thyme, curry, and tarragon to great success. Black salt, pink salt, kosher salt...all of these have added subtle tastes to the crusts. At some point, I might using one of my hot salts but that will be a pot pie that I'll keep to myself.

I've mostly used twelve-ounce porcelain ramekins for my pot pies. The difficult part is making the bottom crust, because the cylindrical shape is a bit steep to just lay the crust in it like I would with a regular pie. I'll do a blog to illustrate my procedure for that at another time. I didn't have the time to take pictures this time around because I was making them for dinner and time was running short. Suffice it to say, it's brilliant.

Here are the results of my labors:

Twelve ounces (x2) of chicken goodness!

These were the best chicken pot pies I've ever made. And mine was the best chicken pot pie I've ever eaten. the crust was perfection and I ate ever single last bit. Michele pronounced hers as "pretty good" (which is high compliment from someone who prefers turkey to chicken).

Can't ask for more than that.

Currently listening to: Amanda Ghost - Silver Lining

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mini-Mousse! (Mini-mice? Mini-meese?)

One of the things that I've realized about myself as a baker is that sometimes I get a little...obsessed with making certain dishes. I feel the need to make them several more times after I've served them up to a group of friends. I see something in my technique that I should improve, or find a different ingredient to use that will make the recipe better, or I'm just having way too much fun making it. (I'll tell you about my adventures in challah baking soon.) Such was my experience with the triple-chocolate mousse cake.

I've always adored this cake, as I think I mentioned when I posted about adding it to Michele's Birthday Mini-Big Dinner. It's a challenging and delicious showstopper and it's become something I want to get better at making. Because you never know who your wife will invite over for tea!

The secondary part of this project was to satisfy the desire to use some of my smaller springform pans. I have two six-inch pans and three four-inch pans and they don't get much use. From the two previous times I've made the mousse recipe, I had a feeling I could translate it from to any combination of the smaller springforms.

Sidebar on Pan Size Translations: To quote Rocket J. Squirrel: "Again! That trick never works!" For the most part, that's the truth; I've botched more cake projects trying to make smaller versions using the regular recipes. Either I've used the wrong pans, gotten the cooking times wrong, screwed up the baking temperature, or any made any number of other disastrous mistakes. My inspiration, though, is Bullwinkle J. Moose: "This time for sure!" And I keep trying.

Sidebar on Pan Size Translations ends.

The reason for my experimenting with the mousse was the fact that Michele and I were having two friends over for tea, coffee and dessert and I'd promised to supply scones and some kind of dessert, so I was rifling through my Swiss cheese of a memory for something appropriate when Michele reminded me that one of our guests was gluten free. I've gone around about this with myself in the past – about how I didn't know how to bake gluten free and so forth. But you know what? I can do this. I've done it before to great success. Shut up and start baking, kid! (I made sure to use my inside voice, though. No reason to spook my wife with my true decision-making process.) Once I'd calmed down, I knew the mousse would be the perfect thing to make.

The thing I was most interested in, though, was doing a better job on the bottom layer. The last time I made the mousse, the bottom layer pulled away from the edge of the springform, leaving a gap that the second layer filled. This meant that the the three-layer effect couldn't be seen until we cut the cake. I wasn't sure exactly why this happened, so I decided to change one ingredient: the chocolate. I used Ghiradelli Extra Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, with 72% cacao content. I've noticed when using this for frosting and such, that it tends to be rather oily, so perhaps that was the difference, since the recipe actually only called for bittersweet (which is a 60% cacao content).

Tasty but oily.

I bought a bunch of the bittersweet bars, since I didn't have time to search for chips. I prefer chips because they save a lot of work in the chocolate chopping department. If anyone knows of a technique for this chore, one that doesn't involve buying, or using, an electric gadget, please let me know. It seems as though I'm going to be doing more with chocolate in the future and I don't want to be bogged down with a lot of chopping. (Consider that last sentence an example of "foreshadowing". Just warning you.)

Now. Where was I? Right. The bottom layer of the mousse cake. For the most part, splitting the recipe between the six-inch and the four-inch pans wasn't much of a problem, but it was a little difficult to gauge the appropriate amounts. Next time I'll use both of my six-inch springforms or  get three more four-inch springforms. Lesson learned.

I did my best not to alter the baking time and temperature from the original recipe and, unfortunately, the result was the same as the last time I baked the full-sized cake: the layer pulled away from the edges of the pans as it cooled. On the four-inch layers, I cheated a little and pressed them down a bit before they cooled completely, which seemed to help a little. It's obvious that I'm going to have to work on this.

The other two layers went without incident and I'm finally starting to get a good feel for working with the gelatin required in the third layer. I grated some dark chocolate over the tops to add a bit of visual appeal. Et voila! Triple chocolat Gâteau mousse!

Three layers in four inches times three equals deliciousness! (My baking math.)

Stacked up pretty nicely, I think.

We ended up serving the six-inch version. Two of the other three went to some friends (one of whom said he was going to have it for breakfast) and the last one found its way to the desk of one of my co-workers, who pronounced it "triple-snap in 'Z' formation" good.  So, I guess I did a pretty good job with these.

Comparative sizing.

Happy as I am with how these turned out, I know they can be better. So I'll be sharing another attempt soon. This time for sure! I'll also find a linkable recipe and post it.

Currently listening to: Delilah - Shades Of Grey (SpectraSoul Remix)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Of Shapes and Sugar and Suggestions for Sisters

As promised, here's another installment of "Carlton's Crazy Obsession With Candy Molds Used For Sugar". I can tell I'm going to have to work on that title; it doesn't roll off the tongue so easily.

What does roll off the tongue easily is a big thank you to my little sister, Miss Kee, for suggesting something that should have been obvious to me from the beginning of my little metal mold adventure. I was talking with her one day about my process for creating my not so cuboid sugar cubes, telling her that my meat tenderizing mallet made a lot of noise when used it to force the sugar out of the molds. Metal-on-metal. It sounded like I was back  in high school Auto Body Shop class.

Begin Flashback Recollection: "Just bang out that dent, slap some bondo on it, paint it up, and it'll be good as new!" Granted, I never took auto shop; I was the student assistant for the auto shop teacher. I still heard plenty of dent pounding though. I even learned what bondo was! Ah...the 70s!

End Flashback Recollection

Not that I didn't enjoy making a connection to my high school days, mind you, but I was running the risk of putting dents in my antique metal molds with every mallet whack. Not two seconds after I made that observation to my little sister, she asked: "Why don't you use a rubber mallet? You have one of those, don't you?" Time for some double-embarrassment. First, I was embarrassed because I didn't think of this rather obvious solution. Second, I was embarrassed because I didn't own a rubber mallet. How could I have failed to equip our home with such a basic and important tool? Egads!

Once I was over my mortification, I procured a rubber mallet from a nearby hardware store and put it through it's paces on a new batch of sugar. My genius little sister was right: dull thunks instead of reverberating pinging was much better! And the molds didn't seem to suffer in the least!

Something else I've learned is that I need to avoid packing the sugar into most of these molds too tightly, otherwise even the rubber mallet won't budge them and I'll lose a substantial amount of sugar.

Below are a few samples of recent acquisitions.

I'm sure these two were once one at some point.

Sweet "Bs" anyone?

Sugar wafers...

...with sunburst and another "B"!

Larger medallions.

I think this is "AHP". I love the script design.

See? "AHP"!

One of my favorites...

...because: "B"!

I've yet to be able to ascertain the provenance of most of my molds. The sellers don't usually know, either. So if anyone reading has information on any of the molds I've posted so far, please feel free to contact me and educate me. I'll post what I learn.

Currently listening to: Robinella And The CC String Band - Man Over

Monday, December 29, 2014

Birthday Mini Big Dinner

Introductory Note:

So. I've always known I'm a little crazy when it comes to event meal planning. Nothing proved that to me more than the dinner I put together for Michele in celebration of her birthday. Why crazy? Please read on.

Introductory Note Ends.

Michele's birthday was in July and we had a get together dinner at a Malaysian restaurant, Nyonya, downtown. It was a lovely gathering of old and new friends and delicious food. Though she received many gifts that day, mine was not among them. The reason for this was I really couldn't figure out anything tangible to give her because my mind had already settled on the dinner party. Actually, it was more that the irrational, thrill-seeking part of my brain won the battle with my practical, level-headed part of my brain. It went something like this: "Yes, yes, yes

I wanted to give her something special, something that only I would be crazy enough to attempt: a multiple-course dinner, which I would plan, shop for, prep, cook and serve on my own – for us and a group of friends. I've mentioned in this blog that I've done similar dinners before in my past. The seven-course "Big Dinner" was a yearly event for almost a decade, and I arranged a five-course meal for Michele's 50th birthday, which turned into our engagement dinner (and was held on my mother's birthday – quite auspicious). She was four-square for it so I was off to the races.

The guest list went from six to ten and finally settled at eight (including Michele and me). That wasn't going to be the biggest challenge for me, though. The biggest challenge was going to be preparing and serving this meal in our apartment. The kitchen is a bit small and we really have to go through some gyrations to seat that many people. With the help of one of our guests, we came up with enough seats for people, and I figured out my staging for the prep, plating and serving, setups.

Actually, I take that back. The biggest challenge was going to be deciding on a menu. I always obsess over menus but this one needed to be extra-special. First because it was for Michele and second because all of our guests were foodies of one flavor or another (see what I did there?), and several of them are excellent cooks. No pressure. Right? No! It took me two months to decide on a menu...and only three days (right before the dinner) to rip it to shreds and make a new one.

Crazy as that seems, I've learned over many, many years of doing these kinds of dinners that I should trust my instincts. I may not be the most creative culinary chef, but I can plan a menu in which the courses compliment and foreshadow each other so that everything, no matter how odd, creates an experience of tastes and aromas that will leave my guests sated and pleased.

A Word About My Culinary Experience: I follow a recipe pretty danged well, and can even make subtle changes on the fly, but I'm not a "throw a bunch of stuff together and create a delicious meal" kind of cook. I'm "re-creative" as opposed to "creative" when it comes to non-dessert cooking and I don't consider that a negative. I have fun with what I'm doing, feed people good food, and end up happy at the end of the night. What more could I ask for?

A Word About My Culinary Experience ends. 

So here's the menu that I ended up shopping for and cooking. I'll post links to the recipes whenever I can.

Appetizer Course Part 1 - Rosemary and Thyme Bread Sticks

Homemade Sticks of Bread
I got the recipe for these from an amazing book gifted by by a friend who works for Penguin books. In Search Of The Perfect Loaf - A Home Baker's Odyssey, by Samuel Fromartz, has been inspiring me to roll up my sleeves and get back to baking bread. It's given me a historical perspective, and a deeper appreciation, of bread baking and its importance to the development of human society. I highly recommend it. I've never made bread sticks before and these could have done with a bit more trial and error testing but they weren't bad for a first time.

Appetizer Course Part 2 - Smoked Trout Fish Cakes with Horseradish Cream 

Fish cakes ahoy!

They look even better up-close.
I'm not usually a fan of trout, or river fish in general. Not quite sure why that is but I just have more of a taste for salt water fish. Shrug. What about salmon, you ask? I only like it half the time. That being said, when I saw this recipe while searching for an appetizer, I just couldn't get it out of my head. I knew the horseradish would provide a link to the meat course I had planned. This turned out to be a wise choice because they were delicious! They certainly beat the salmon croquettes (which were actually made with mackerel) our high school cafeteria served on Fridays.

First Main Course - Individual Turkey Pot Pies

One pie to serve them all.
I love chicken pot pies and thought since I have a bunch of little ramekins, it would be great to fill them with said pot pies! The only snag in that plan was that Michele prefers turkey over chicken. Not only that but she loves dark meat turkey most of all. Guess what is impossible to find in a skinless, boneless form. If you said "dark meat turkey", you get the No-Prize! Guess who was skinning and de-boning several pounds of dark meat turkey parts the day before the dinner. If you guessed it was me, then I commend you for paying attention. Dammit, Jim! I'm a baker, not a butcher! It wasn't easy but I muddled through and got enough meat for the pies. Well-worth the effort, though, or so our guests, and my Guest of Honor, said.

I made a savory version of my pie crust, adding a little bit of curry and some rosemary and thyme to give the whole dish an interesting aromatic flair. And, yes, the pies were double-crusts because no chicken pot pie is truly a pie if it just has a top crust. That's a chicken pot cobbler in my book. And that just doesn't sound right.

Second Main Course - Garlic-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Sauteed Asparagus

Still Life with Tenderloin and Asparagus

I don't cook beef very often. I enjoy chicken and pork more but when I saw this recipe in "Cook's Illustrated," I just couldn't resist it. The horseradish, I knew, would go over well with all the guests (having been foreshadowed by the fish cakes sauce), and the garlic crust would bowl them over. I decided I'd take the chance and stretch my cooking skills more than

There was only one place I trusted to buy the meat, though: Schaller & Weber, the same place I get my lard. One of the butchers showed me what they already had available but it didn't meet my weight requirement. He told me to wait for a bit and disappeared into their gigantic refrigerator room. About ten minutes later, he returned with an amazing tenderloin cut. I love having an excellent butcher in my neighborhood again!

An Aside Regarding The Neighborhood Butcher: When I was a kid growing up on the East Side of San Antonio, TX, we lived one door down from a little grocery store, East Lawn Food Center. It was owned by a German, Mr. Ulrich, a friendly barrel-bodied man with a good smile, thinning gray hair and a touch of a German accent. The back of the store was where the meat counter was and he employed a couple of butchers. I'd watch from time to time as they ground up the beef for hamburger meat and made perfectly cut port chops, among other things. Never a bad cut or an "off" selection came from his meat counter. Compared to the memory of that little store (which, sadly no longer exists), even the finest grocery store in New York City pales. 

Except for Schaller & Weber. I feel as though I've come home every time I shop there.

An Aside Regarding The Neighborhood Butcher ends. 

This was the course that required the most prep. The garlic crust is done with panko bread crumbs and shredded, fried potatoes. There's work with gelatin as well. Then there was our recalcitrant oven, which made cooking this a little difficult but the guests assured me it was good. I'll definitely make it again at some point in the future, though, to get it 100% right. And maybe I'll use a with pork loin. Or not.

Salad Course - Mixed Greens Salad with Broccoli and Plums

Palette-cleanser with bits of summer.
When I began cooking these Big Dinners, I decided to go with serving salad as the last course before dessert because it's a perfect way to prepare the taste buds for the show stopper. Since the stone fruit was so good this summer, the plums I got were still amazing and added just the right touch. And now that there are affordable pre-packaged lettuces, it's easier to prepare. Sometimes I love the modern life!

Dessert Course - Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake


Still needs some work but it's amazing!
This is another recipe from "Cooks Illustrated." One issue of provided recipes for two courses. Actually, I shouldn't be surprised because that same issue has provided me with no fewer than four amazing recipes. Perhaps I should consider a subscription.

Uh...gone!
Despite the bottom layer not setting up quite right, it was a hit. I've made this before but I still need to work on that bottom layer; it's pulling away from the sides of the pan as it cools I think I need to change the kind of chocolate I use for it. Still, the mousse is light and airy and served as a perfect ending to what was a wonderful afternoon-into-night.

Antique samovars at work!
Also? I made the coffee in two of my antique percolators (samovars). They've never let me down! I know a lot of coffee loves eschew percolated coffee but I don't really care. I adore the taste, the aroma, and the process of percolated coffee. And when it's served from such cool appliances, what's not to like?

I prepped, cooked and served each course but I was also able to sit and eat with the guests. I always try to set things up so that I have almost all of my prep work done before the guests arrive and each dish just needs some some minimal work before I cook it, so there isn't a lot of "down time" between each course. It would be less fun for me if I couldn't join in on the conversation and enjoy the fruits of my labors.

That being said, I would like to pull a Babette's Feast sometime, and stay in the kitchen preparing, arranging, and sending out each course to the expectant guests. That would actually require me to have "staff", who could serve and clear (and eavesdrop) for me. Hard to come by for such an intimate gathering. One day....

Currently listening to: B-Complex - Beautiful Lies VIP

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summer Saved!

Someone saved my summer right at its official "end". I didn't actually know my summer needed saving but on Labor Day, it was salvaged nonetheless. Here's the skinny:

Last May my Oster blender, the one I've had for about twenty three years, finally gave up the ghost. It served me well and had a very good, long life but I finally burned out the motor. Right at the beginning of proper milkshake season. Of course I had to get another blender but the question of what kind (another full-sized one, one that was more of a single-serving drink maker, or maybe an immersion style) was a bit insurmountable and it dragged on. We eventually got used to having a little extra counter space with the blender gone, so footprint became another factor to take into account. Weeks of consideration, on-line research, and stopping into kitchen wares stores from time-to-time, stretched into months. Nothing seemed quite right, though, and the summer months ticked by one after another. And milkshake season drew closer and closer to its end.

A Brief Word About Milkshake Season: This is a completely arbitrary designation on my part. Actually, I should call it "Prime Milkshake Weather Season" but that just adds two more words to say. Basically, it just means that I enjoy drinking milkshakes more during the months of June through August than I do at other times during the year. That's not to say that I don't drink milkshakes in the winter, spring, or fall; if I talk about having a milkshake in deep December, you cannot sue me.  

A Brief Word About Milkshake Season ends.

I made several kinds of ice cream this summer but none of them was the straight vanilla that is my favorite for milkshakes. Thus, the impetus for deciding on the new blender was lessened. Actually one of the main reasons I didn't make a decision was that the available options, within my price range, were just plain ugly! I mean, lots of plastic, several unappealing pastel colors, and shapes that weren't pleasing to look at. I just couldn't imagine myself crafting a milkshake using any of the machines I was looking at. Also, the more expensive models (out of my immediate reach) were just too danged powerful and much too big.

And suddenly it was Labor Day and I hadn't had a milkshake all summer. Michele and I spent the day visiting with her father and step-mother. I've mentioned Connie upon more than one occasion here. She has been my gracious benefactor of several beautiful kitchen tools and items that I use frequently. We were talking about ice cream, milkshakes and such when I told her about my blender dilemma. She told me about her Waring blender and how, years ago, she had to take it all the way to Brooklyn to have it serviced. The repair people begged her to sell it to them, which seemed to surprise her. I told her that depending on how old the blender was, and what kind of shape it was in, it could be worth some cash to collectors. It was around fifty years old, she said. Um. Yeah. That's going to be of interest.

Then she asked me the question that saved my summer: "Do you want it?" After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I consulted Michele, whose only caveat was that we maintain a more cleared space on the counter. Mentally, I shifted bottles, salt grinders, and tools until said space shone on the visualized counter. "Yes. I'll take it!" I retrieved the blender from their kitchen counter and immediately realized that all my concerns had just evaporated. It is a thing of beauty! Please to observe:

Seriously, it's beautiful!
Once I got it home and cleaned it off, it fit on the counter exactly as I'd envisioned. Over the next twenty-four hours, I made a batch of double-vanilla ice cream and had my first homemade milkshake at the end of milkshake season and my summer was finally complete!

Chilled milkshake glass at the ready.

Carefully scooping.

Load it up!

Agitate well.

Pour.

Savor.

And Summer is saved!
The only thing I need to do is replace the rubber gasket on it because the current one is old, cracked, and leaks a bit. In looking up parts I discovered that this particular model of Waring Bender is probably from the 40s or 50s (and maybe even the 30s), so it's more likely at least sixty or seventy years old!

I'm proud that Connie has entrusted it to me and I promise to make many milkshakes, and memories, with it.

Currently listening to: Patrick O'Hearn - Homeward Bound

P.S. The above song is rather appropriate because I'll be headed home to San Antonio next month.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Just Add Blueberries!

The summer pie baking continues with more than a few light bulb moments. So far it's been peach pies, peach-nectarine pies, Rainier cherry-peach pies, cherry hand pies, and apple hand pies. I've been unhappy with the full-sized pies, though, because the crust edges have been somewhat more...well done than the rest of the pie crust, despite the silicone crust protector I got to alleviate that very problem. After three pies, my lightning quick baking analytical skills ("Quick! To the Bake Computer!") immediately zeroed in on two problems: 1) I needed to roll the dough to be slightly thicker than is my standard, and 2) I needed to ditch the high-tech protector and go back to tin foil.

Please to observe the result!

Nary a burned bit to be found!
The filling was a new combination, as well: peach-blueberry! That actually came about because we had a friend of ours visiting from Seattle and she brought me a pint of blueberries from her backyard garden as a house gift. They were deliciously tart and I thought (again with the analytical skills) that they'd make a perfect counterpoint to the peaches. Turns out I was right! The above pie traveled with us over to Governor's Island for the Governor's Island Jazz Age Lawn Festival, where we had a lovely picnic with several friends and watched hundreds of people amble about in their best versions of 1920s style.

It didn't take too long before we broke into the pie. Look at the colors! And it tasted amazing!

Jazz Age Pie! (Photo by Michele)
And it looked and tasted amazing a day later, too!

Still colorful. Still delicious.
The next time I do a similar pie, I'll add a little more cornstarch/Sure Gel because the filling was a little sloppy for my taste on the first day. I know the combination won't be quite the same because of the quality of those amazing blueberries but I'll still give it a shot. Peach-blueberry hand pies, anyone?

Michele's Addendum begins: Michele commented below to remind me that several people passed by our little spot on the lawn, did a double-take and had to come back and ask about the pie. "You have pie!" "Where did you get that?" "You made it?" "Wow! It looks fantastic!" Nice to know that some things I do can catch the eye.

Michele's Addendum ends.

Currently listening to: Happy Rhodes - Warpaint