Saturday, December 27, 2014

Second-Stab Saturday: Orange Pie whether the recipe wants to work or not!

Happy day after Boxing Day! And greetings from my parents' kitchen (which explains why suddenly I have multiple bowls and such)! I must say, the advertising this Christmas seemed a bit less intense. Last year I had so much forced, saccharine Christmas cheer that I had the most depressing music and movies I could find playing on repeat on my computer. It was very cathartic. This year, it seemed like the retail people and the advertisers turned it down a bit. The worst annoyance this year was hearing five renditions of "Jingle Bells" and two people wailing/yodeling their way through "Oh Holy Night" per hour. I easily combatted this by putting on random songs I liked (many of which weren't depressing this year!) while I was cooking.
Having fewer people trying to bust into my nonexistent funds by shouting Christmas cheer into my ears left me able to step back and decide that you know what? It's kind of nice. I gave myself a big present: a successful recipe!

Orange Pie
1 tbsp. butter
1 c sugar
3 tbsp flour
3 eggs, separated
Juice of 3 oranges
⅔ c powdered sugar
1 baked pie crust

Stir together flour and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan. Thoroughly beat in the egg yolks. Add the orange juice, beat well. Drop in the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Pour into pie crust.
Beat the egg whites stiff but not dry. Add the powdered sugar in 2 or 3 additions, scattering it across the top rather than dumping it all in one place. Beat until stiff peaks form, then spoon it in various places on top of the pie. Carefully spread it even, being sure to make it touch the edge in all places.
Brown in a 350° oven.

This does not make a lot of filling, so if you like a deep pie, you'll want to use a smaller pan.

Some of you may remember a recipe for orange pie I made a while ago. A commenter pointed out that I had made a crucial omission to the recipe:
Also, dear Gods I wish I wrote like that!

And so, on baking night, once the other things we had agreed to make were done, we stared at the recipe and swore we would succeed. Having watched Delia Smith show us how to do a pie crust, we were off to an auspicious start. Look at this thing! It's beautiful! It's nearly round! It's all in one piece!
You know, I never thought I'd be glad my parents have a flat-top stove until all the Christmas baking took over the counterspace.

Seriously, I was practically dancing around the kitchen. Not only did my pie crust stay in one piece, but it rolled up around my rolling pin!
Holy snizzbat, it worked!
I've heard legend that you can do this, but I've never ever done it. My pie crusts usually end up like the time I did florentines. Instead of muttering to myself that it tastes better than store-bought ones while patching a bunch of tiny pieces into a pie pan, we had a beautiful single-piece-of-dough pie crust! I wanted to stop baking right there and make everyone on Christmas day behold this pan of pie crust.
So it got a fault line while baking. It's still beautiful.

The orange pie had failed last time, but we'd left out the cornstarch. Besides, it had tasted good until we boiled the heck out of it hoping for it to get at least a little thicker. Anyway, Mom bought a big bag of oranges which no one was eating, so I didn't feel at all bad juicing three of them for this (I picked out the ones that were starting to get a little spotty). They were so juicy I had to empty out the reamer midway through squeezing each orange half.

We got a lot of juice out of these 3 oranges. I had to get out one of the larger bowls.
Yes, I deliberately got out one of the prettier ones. What's the point of having nice things if you never use them?

 One of the nicer things about being at home is I don't have to carry everything downstairs that I'll be using while cooking. This came in really handy when I needed a tiny bowl to crack each egg white into (in case of yolk breakage, you only lose the one instead of losing all of them if you crack them all into the big bowl),  a bigger bowl to hold the other egg whites, a third to hold the egg yolks, and a fourth for the business of creaming the butter and sugar.
Since it's Christmas, I got over having to wash all of them. What else was I going to do while the rolls were rising?

And so, we mixed up the filling, carefully including everything written in the recipe. The cornstarch amount seemed seriously low, especially after cross-checking with some lemon meringue pie recipes. So I upped it from one teaspoon to three tablespoons.

However, we lack a double boiler. Fortunately, for some reason my mother has a whole cabinet of mixing bowls. I don't know how many I had out from the various Christmas things I had going, yet there were still more to choose from to make up for the double boiler deficiency.
Even if it is a little oversized for the recipe at hand.

Since we had a lot of pulp in the orange juice and I didn't feel like straining it out, it looked like we were attempting an omelet.

And so we set it on the stove and stirred... and stirred... and stirred. After fifteen minutes, we had this.
Well, shit.

It wasn't the double boiler, as I'd just made a pecan pie in it which was in the oven as I stared possible failure in its orange-flavored face. Was it leaving out the egg whites? No, I've done lemon pies that similarly put the yolks in the filling and the whites in the meringue, and they worked. Was it the one tablespoon of butter? Had I under-cornstarched the whole thing despite putting in nine times the written amount?
Since the last one was the only thing I could correct, I spooned out some filling, put it in a shallow bowl to cool, and stirred in a lot more cornstarch once it wouldn't get heat-fused into lumps. I'd thought I'd stir the slurry back into the rest and end up with a thickened pie.
If it stays runny now, there's no excuse!

And so, after another fifteen minutes' cooking (bringing us to a total of somewhere over forty) brought no real change, we took the bowl off the pot of water and put it directly on the burner. After it had boiled for a minute or so, we had....

Well, that's a little better.... I guess......... Ah hell. This ain't gonna work and it tastes overcooked like the last time. I took it off the stove and frantically tore apart the cabinets hoping to find some gelatin or something else to force this damn thing set. There was nothing! That's it, this is going in the disposal!
We were muttering angrily about this, pacing angrily up and down the kitchen as Mom's Christmas clock announced it was now 3AM by chirping out "Angels We Have Heard on High." We wanted this thing to work, and it hadn't! We speculatively eyed the ignored, overflowing basket of oranges, then we put on some ranchera music because shit in this kitchen was about to get real.
We may have overjuiced the oranges a little bit.

Borrowing from the pecan pie recipe we had just succeeded with this very evening, we used flour instead of cornstarch. Also, being fed up with superfluous steps in recipes that kept not working, we didn't bother creaming in any butter. We just dropped in and figured it would all melt together anyway.
Our latest attempt had more promise. While in the double boiler, it clearly was thickening, but it was taking its sweet time doing so. We transferred it to the small frying pan sitting empty from earlier and within seconds, we had this!
Looka that! Not runny at all!

The pie was a bit thin in the pan, but I was too happy at this actually (so far) succeeding finally to care.

Being not a little leery of this pie's history of failing us, we put it in the oven to further set. Then we noticed how firm what was still in the frying pan had gotten once the pan cooled and decided this was unnecessary.
The main part of the pie was ready to go (and very tasty). We now got to take out our frustration at spending over an hour on this on some unsuspecting egg whites!

At this point, we reached for the sugar and realized we'd run through the sugar. I'd have started swearing, but no one wants to wake up the house in the first hours of Christmas Eve with cussing. I furiously tore through the cabinets hoping for a forgotten sugar sack, and the best I came up with was powdered sugar. It would have to do.

The meringue mixed up in about a fifth the time it would have taken with granulated sugar, but it had an unnerving cornstarch taste. Curse you cornstarch! Why do you keep trying to ruin my pie!
Anyway, there wasn't much meringue.
I blame the cornstarch in the powdered sugar.
We gamely spread it across top of the pie. An attempt to pull up peaks just made it look sad, so we let it look like icing and shoved it in the oven.

It got promisingly puffy in the oven (keep in mind how much of the pan is empty crust since filling's so shallow), and I thought it might actually end up like a proper meringue.

However, it returned to its original size when it cooled and sweated out little beads. What the heck are these? Every meringue I leave out for a day or so does this.

At any rate, the cornstarch taste went away in baking, and the meringue tasted just fine. And so, Christmas came. Here are everyone's reactions:

"An orange pie?"

"As in, oranges?"

"Where'd you find a recipe for an orange pie?"

I had no idea an orange pie would be so mystifying. It seemed so straightforward. However, once people tried this surprisingly surprising pie, everyone liked it. The meringue was actually better for being so thin- it was a nice fluffy topping rather than this massive mound of foam. This is a really good pie, and I recommend it most enthusiastically now that the recipe actually works.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Christmas from A Book of Cookrye!

...or whatever you celebrate. Every culture has some winter holiday or another, so whatever yours is, I hope it's going well.
We at A Book of Cookrye have had a long night before Christmas Eve cooking for Christmas Day. We made 2 pies and a batch of Elizabeth's Rolls with sweet potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes (seriously, try this, it's amazing and delicious). I've always liked to take the last dough scraps too small to roll out and cut, twist them into weird shapes, and then let them rise with the rest. This time I stayed tame since we'll have company and just made rings, but they came out looking oddly... puckered.

We also had the surprisingly hard task of watching the cherry pie Mom left in the oven before she went to bed. For some reason, the top crust refused to stop being raw. Ten, twenty, fifty minutes went by. Eventually, we pulled it out of the oven. It boiled over a tiny bit. The boiled-over cherry syrup had burnt and glued the pie to the pizza pan. I cut my hand on shards of burnt syrup while forcing the pie off. Then I got a good look at the pan.

Oh.... dear.....

This not being the first extensively burnt pan I've cleaned, I worried not. Then I cursorily examined the pie itself.

And so, around 2 in the morning of what was to be Christmas Eve, our cooking plans were drastically interrupted and we ended up putting our sweat and blood (see the aforementioned cut hand) into a desperate cleaning effort while hoping no one woke up to see what we had done. A lot of books, newspaper columns, and websites have lovely, clear instructions for removing the stubbornest of stuck-on food from your pans. However, no one ever says how to remove burnt-on food from pans with food still in them. And so, like delivering babies back in the 1800s, a lot of boiling water got involved. We ended up putting the pie in a frying pan full of boiling water and praying to all the gods that the stuff would melt off.
Can I please have a Christmas miracle a day or two early?

I'm going to add electric kettles to the list of things to be fervently grateful for. I am so glad Mom decided she really wanted one a couple years ago. Our stove is pathetically slow to boil water, and we had to come up with enough to repeatedly fill a pizza pan and a frying pan.
I'm so glad you're here....

The pizza pan was easy enough to fill, but the water bath for the pie was unnerving. You see, we couldn't just put the pie into the frying pan and pour the water around it without dumping water all over the top of it. So we had to fill the frying pan, guess how much water was probably about right, drop the pie into scalding water, and fervently mentally shout please dear Gods don't let the top of the pie get wet! as we watched it sink into the water. Our method seemed to be working, as each time we changed out the cooled water for some freshly heated, the pan looked disgusting.
As the schoolchildren say towards the end of every Magic School Bus episode: "It's working! It's working!"

We also found that what didn't dissolve on its own gradually softened over the course of many waters and we could wipe it off with paper towels. We had a lot of splats all over the kitchen that made it look like we finally learned how to change our own oil and for some reason drove right through the kitchen wall to do it.

Proving that every now and then the gods will let a lot of bad behavior slide when doling out Christmas miracles, we eventually had... this!

Merry Christmas everybody, and to all a good time!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Second-Stab Saturday: attempting an edible Crocus Carrot Cake

Merry Christmas from all of us at A Book of Cookrye! To encourage gift-giving, we would like to share what we got our Mom. She really likes nativities, so we gave her one.
I used her printer to make it.

My parents also have one of these on the table. I'm not sure why since you can get your nuts shelled in our modern time.

We started to think "What might one do with so many almonds? Sure, there's this recipe which was absolutely delicious, but what is life if you already know if you're getting a happy ending? We wanted to re-attempt this carrot cake instead.

Crocus Carrot Cake
Rub four good sized cooked carrots through a sieve. Add two tablesoons ground almonds, three tablespoons sugar, the grated rind and strained juice of half a lemon, the well beaten yolks four eggs, three tablespoonfuls melted butter and the whites of the eggs beaten stiff with a pinch of salt. Pour into a small baking tin lined with pastry. Bake in a hot oven until ready and serve hot or cold, cut in square.
"Woman's Page: How to Fight the High Cost of Living," Odgen Standard [Ogden UT], June 11, 1913 (p. 7) Source

As you can see, we removed one critical word from the recipe this time. Since the carrots were overcooked and tasteless last time, this time we would only cook them once. Also, we were going to use the almonds, but it turns out it takes a lot of them to make up a tablespoon once you've unshelled them. Instead, we dumped in a heck of a lot of almond extract. We also dumped in lemon extract because lemons are tedious to rind and juice.
From a business standpoint, I can see the appeal of nuts sold in the shell.

In the spirit of the original column, we decided to fight the high cost of living when we realized we lacked graham crackers for the crust and raid the box of Ritz crackers that I think were meant for some party tray or another.

Speaking of fighting the high cost of living, someone got some Depression glass molds and is selling bowls at the Dollar Tree.

We made it as you would a graham cracker crust. However, they salt Ritz crackers a lot more than my store-brand-buying self remembers them doing. The result did not taste good going into the oven to toast a little bit. Fortunately, it turns out no one had to eat it. You see, we have real potholders at my parents'. After having so long used folded newspapers to extract things from the oven, it was a bit too much of an adjustment.

This was probably for the best. We tasted one of the bigger surviving pieces and it tasted unnervingly like microwave popcorn. Do they put diacetyl in Ritz crackers? At any rate, we remade the crust with some significantly less salty saltines. It survived the second time.
Having remembered how thin and sad the crocus carrot cake was last time we made it, we used a smaller pan. Surprisingly, this did look to work to our advantage. Then we realized "They have spare pans around here!" and decided to put a foil-covered pizza pan under it and hope for the best.

The batter tasted like almond, lemon, and raw carrot shards. That didn't bother us. Having racked up some experience in carrot cake making, we no longer worry when the batter tastes like raw carrot. The crocus carrot cake did not spill over, but if it had I wouldn't have had to do any scouring.

Look at it! It's so pretty and swirly!

It looked even better sliced.

However, despite spending about 50 minutes baking before it was done through, you know what it tasted like? Lemon and almond and raw carrot shards. The first time I make this, the carrots come out overcooked. The second time they come out uncooked despite having nearly an hour to bake. I hereby declare Crocus Carrot Cake a failure of a recipe. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Coffee Cheesecake, or This Semester's Over!

Mazel tov to us at A Book of Cookrye, for we have survived finals! Today, we shall celebrate by making something absolutely divoon- cheesecake!

Coffee Cheesecake
3 tbsp butter
¼ c sugar, divided
¼ c cocoa
½ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp instant coffee
3 tbsp powdered milk
½ c (scant) boiling water
32 oz cream cheese or Neufchâtel
2¼ c sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp cornstarch

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 9" springform with foil and grease it lightly.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. When mixed, add the egg yolk. (You may find it easiest to just mix this with your hand.) Press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
Dissolve the coffee in the water, then the milk. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese soft. Beat in the sugar thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each in thoroughly. Stir in the cornstarch. When mixed, add the coffee. Beat until well-mixed and pour into the pan.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until it pulls away from the sides of the pan. The center still won't look set. Cool, then refrigerate.

I copied this recipe out of the instruction manual for a mixer I got for a friend. Despite having never actually made it, I glued it into my little recipe book. It's bothered me for years that I have a recipe in my personal recipe book that I've never actually made. But cream cheese tends to burn up one's grocery budget. Or at least, it usually does.
Lacking anything else to cut it with, I had to hack off butter pieces with a beater until I had enough.

However, the other week I had nothing left to make for supper. Like a lot of people who need food tend to do, I went to the store which had unexpectedly closed early. Maybe I shouldn't put off groceries until midnight, but since I sleep all day, there you have it. Anyway, I've heard rumors that grocery stores tend to throw things out well before they're expired because people are just that picky. Being extremely hungry, it seemed like a decent time to personally verify or disprove this. And.... holy snizzbat are they right! Among other things like bagged vegetables and such for supper and frozen breakfast stuff with an expiry date 9 months in the future, there was a lot of cream cheese in there. Hence, cheesecake!
Why just the yolk? What was wrong with the rest of the egg, you picky snots?

At this point, I realized that I was missing a 9" springform pan. My parents have them, but I don't. Besides, what do you use a springform pan for besides cheesecake? The only other time I've ever used one was when I made a "screw it, I'm home by myself" pizza on the bottom part of one.  It wasn't very good. We at A Book of Cookrye, using what was available, gave our pot a tinfoil hat.

Now, when I first decided to make this, I just thought it sounded tasty. I was too tired to even think about what I was doing. I would like to show you the exact moment I seriously reconsidered what I was perpetrating.

Why no, I didn't rinse the bowl after making the crust.

This thing calls for four bricks of cream cheese. That's two pounds of the stuff. Please, look at this again.

Usually I use that Neufchâtel stuff because it's not straight fat but you can't tell the difference once it's baked. However, since they weren't chucking any out the night I was scavenging, this is all full-fat cream cheese. All nearly-a-kilo of it.
Adding a third of a dozen eggs is not helping.

But you know what'll make this all better? Over a pound of sugar!
The Diabetes Fairy just took out her book and put a triple-underlined mark next to my name.

At this point the original recipe says I'm supposed to mix my instant espresso, by which they clearly meant dollar-store coffee granules (we used double quantity because it's kinda weak), with half-and-half. What the ever-loving... All right, at this point they're just screwing with us. Maybe they hope all the people who bought their mixer will die of heart attacks before the mixers fail and they file complaints. We decided to use milk instead. Then we got a whiff of the milk in the refrigerator and got out the milk powder.
I had nothing else to mix it all together with.

And so, we dumped the reconstituted coffee and reconstituted milk onto the diabetic heart attack in the mixing bowl.

Awww, look at the cute cream cheese heart!
A reminder of which part of you will give up upon eating this.

This is the most batter I've ever tried to fit in my mixing bowl for a single cake. I think they might have accidentally doubled the filling ingredients when they typed up the recipe.

Anyway, we indeed made a lovely cheesecake. It took two people, but we got it lifted out of the pot. It went into the freezer for an hour, at which point patience ran out. My friends and I didn't care that it still hadn't cooled enough to set in the middle, we wanted to try it now. And so, we unpeeled the foil to reveal...

All right, we failed presentation. It looked even worse when we cut it open and the center started barfing cream cheese goo onto the foil. But I would be lying if I said it wasn't absolutely amazing and delicious. The crust was too thin- I'd have doubled it so there'd be lots of chocolaty goodness at the bottom. Nevertheless, I was swarmed with sad people who were also dazed from finals and one person seeking a hangover cure. Everyone left sated and happy. But dear God, either cut the filling in half or double the crust and make it in a 9x13 pan.