Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Cow Cookies!

When we last saw beef fat, it was holding together a pie crust for a mysteriously resilient pink pie. Jana from Time Travel Kitchen noted that if we put our beef fat in hot water, we will wash away the various things suspended in it and therefore it will last far longer. But you really should see what we got when we first upended the cup that held the fat and the random pan juices that came out with it. We had this after letting the fat harden in the refrigerator:

And when we upturned the cup to release its contents (and did some prying and cutting around the edges), we had a perfect freestanding beef gelatin.

Rather than going down the drain, the gelatinized beef juice got frozen until the next soup night.


I know I said that despite my hatred of food waste, I wasn't going to look for ways to better integrate beef fat into our diet. But I also got a little bit obsessed with beef fat in desserts. I previously thought that the beef-fat-crusted pie was the end of my explorations of bovine sweets, but then I thought to myself "Maybe the artificial strawberry flavor concealed the beef fat too much! Maybe we were all too distracted by the ballistic-gelatin-like pie filling to notice what a bad idea this was!"

So I had to try the cow-derived dessert idea again. I know it seems like I've gone nuts in quarantine, and maybe I have. But a lot of people outside America swear by using hog lard in their cookies and pastries. All we're doing here is swapping species.

Beef Shortbread Cookies
½ c beef fat
A little milk
¼ c sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1¼ c flour

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a cookie sheet well.
Thoroughly beat the sugar, fat, and vanilla. Then mix in the flour. Add the milk, a tiny half-teaspoon at a time, until it comes together into a cookie dough. Stir the dough as little as possible to keep it from going tough.
Roll into 1-inch balls, and then flatten them with your hands. Or, roll the dough out into a sheet and cut them. Place on the cookie sheet.
Bake until slightly golden at the edge and cooked through. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours after shaping into cookies for a more shortbread-like texture.

I picked this recipe for two reasons. First, it's a very plain recipe. I didn't want to cover any meat-related flavor problems with spices or molasses. Second, since this recipe uses no eggs, we can easily cut it down to a very tiny amount. In the likely event that this turns out to be a bad idea, we won't have wasted a lot of flour or sugar in this. Yes, one can subdivide eggs (which I did on our adventure into our great-grandmother's forgotten kitchen), but it is a very irksome task that I did not want to do again.

I thought about doing a cake instead of cookies, but I wanted to cut this recipe down a lot in case it was terrible. Therefore a cake was not suitable. If you bake too small of a cake, your tiny puddle of cake batter will just dry out in the pan instead of baking properly. But you can cut a cookie recipe down to a thirty-secondth of its original quantity, and the one or two resulting cookies will turn out fine. You might think I should have just made 6 or so cupcakes, but I didn't think of that until the oven was hot and the cookies were mixed.

I'm partially trying this to see how we can economize better than we already do. But mostly, I thought it would be a hoot to make beef-based sweets. Everyone else in the house has by now just let me expend a moderate amount of dry goods in these experiments, especially since nothing to date has been worse than the ham-cherry pie. When I told everyone I was making cow cookies, by now they knew me too well to think I meant cookies iced with a novelty splotch-pattern black-and-white decoration. When they saw the tiny amount of cookie dough forming in the smallest mixing bowl in the drawer, everyone's objections melted into curiosity-motivated "Let me know when they're done."

Figuring that we'd definitely notice undesirable beefiness when we had only beef fat and sugar beaten together, I tried a tiny amount on the tip of a spoon. It tasted... fine. Nothing thrilling, but it was fine. Basically it tasted like if you accidentally used granulated instead of powdered sugar in your cake frosting. It seemed like using beef fat instead of butter would make no difference. However, upon mixing in the flour, we got sand instead of ready-to-bake cookie dough.

At first I wondered if I should just press and smush the floury fat-gravel into cookie shapes and hope for the best. But then I realized: a stick of butter contains at least a spoonful of water. That's why butter boils a little bit when you melt it. So I added milk by the teaspoon until we had cookie dough.

As aforementioned, I cut this recipe down by a lot. These are all of the cookies we got. If the cow cookies are a success, I reasoned, we can actually make a full batch of the things.

They got a little puffy in the oven, and smelled unexpectedly normal.

To my surprise, these cookies are just fine. It's true that they have no buttery flavor (nor any butter), but no one would taste one, look at it suspiciously, and ask "What's in this?" They tasted like perfectly normal baked sweets. I would like to emphasize that I used the plainest, most unadorned, if-something-was-fishy-or-beefy-we-would-notice-it recipe.

The cookies formed this sort of extra crisp layer on the outside that was almost like an ultra-thin glaze-- rather like how brownies form their own separate top layer. The inside of them was crispy and then melted in your mouth like one of those Mexican wedding cookies that people put in powdered sugar. As someone else put it, they were "delightfully crumbly. Everything you make with beef fat has been delightfully crumbly." I'm not going to start fanatically putting the fat we drain out of various frying pans of beef back into our daily diet, but this happened barely two weeks later:

One of them did not fit.

That's right, we made a full batch of cow cookies-- and others in the house were excited about them. Have a look at how light and crisp they are on the inside.

And so, in conclusion, you can put beef fat anywhere butter would have gone. Next time you drain off a frying pan of ground beef, put the fat into your refrigerator and then pick the recipe of your dreams.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Fun with Fudge Frosting

 When last we saw the nun brownies, we had made the brownies themselves twice but never tried the fudge frosting that came with the recipe. We at A Book of Cookrye were nevertheless curious about whether this boiled concoction would be any good. Furthermore, we wondered if it would actually improve the brownies. I've found that brownies, being very rich and sweet already, usually don't need any post-oven improvement. But this brownie recipe came with an icing recipe, so in theory they would perfectly complement each other.

Fudge Frosting for Brownies
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp cream (or half-and-half)
1 tbsp butter

Combine in a saucepan and cook until it boils around the side of the pan. Remove from heat and beat until it is thick enough to spread. It sets quickly when it's ready, so wait until you're ready to spread it on your brownies before making it. Covers one small batch.

Dominican Sisters (Oxford, Michigan), Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book, First Catholic Slovak Ladies' Union, 1952

I usually don't bother sifting powdered sugar that is going to be boiled because any lumps always disappear in the bubbling heat, but I didn't want to argue with a convent's worth of nuns. 

As an recipe note, we don't have cream in the house, and I wasn't about to get a carton just to use a single spoon of it. However, someone else in the house has taken to using half-and-half in coffee, which seemed close enough for today's endeavor.

I don't think those nuns were kidding when they said to boil it only until it bubbles up around the edge of the pot. The overcooked fudge icing turned a bit crumbly when we tried to get it onto the brownies. 

Also, this recipe makes exactly enough to cover this one small pan. It's like God meant for this icing to go with only this brownie recipe.

We all tried the frosting-crowned brownies and were delighted. It's basically a brownie with boiled fudge on top. As aforesaid, I usually don't think brownies need icing on top, but this really did improve on perfection.We all ate the entire pan with embarrassing speed.

I know that a lot of boiled icings exist in the homemade world, but I've never done one until now. I began to think about how we might vary and play with the recipe. My first thought was this: when you first take the icing off the stove it's still very runny, and you stir it hard to pass the time while it cools and thickens. We thought to ourselves, what if we poured it out as soon as we took it off the stove? Would we get a lovely thin layer of glaze that turned into a delicate shell of fudge?

For those of you cooking along with us at home, this is the cookie recipe from the back of the Reese's chips bag-- except this time we used white chocolate chips instead. As you can see, we did not get the thin glaze we hoped for when we dumped the still boiling-hot icing on top of them. The icing separated out and just wasn't as nice as it could have been if I'd waited until it had cooled (stirring the whole time of course). However, the icing did cool off enough to keep itself together by the time we got to the last cookies in the batch.

Both the cookies we iced in premature haste and the ones that we iced properly tasted just fine, even though the first ones didn't look right. But we started to wonder... if we separated the icing recipe from the brownies it came with, did we have a quick in-a-pinch recipe for fudge? We gave the icing yet another go (we've made it thrice so far,for those of you who are counting), with a new ingredient:

I thought we'd get delicious fudge-coconut clusters, but this really is a frosting recipe. They look cute, but they tasted like coconut and icing. The chocolate part did have a nice praline-ish texture, though. They weren't bad, but they weren't what I hoped for either.

We ate all of these, but they weren't worth making again. But chocolate and coconut swirled in my mind after my previous attempt to unite them until I had a vision. I imagined the brownies filled with a generous amount of coconut because I like coconut a lot. I even had the perfect recipe which I had saved from Mid-Century menu a long time ago and periodically made when I thought my then-significant other deserved it. (Seriously, it's really good.)

Source: Mid-Century Menu (read about her adventures making this recipe!)

This would be the perfect coconut filling for the brownie delight of my dreams- it tastes amazing, but it has never (no matter how many times I made it) set enough to serve as candy. This shortcoming never mattered since we always just ate it out of the pan with one spatula per person.

Here is a cross-section of what I imagined:

And here is what happened when the brownies fell apart when I attempted to stack them.

I should have known that such decadence would have been forbidden by nuns. But since I am not in a convent, I tried to cut the edges even (it didn't work) and make something semi-pretty. The icing certainly looked tempting as I poured it on. Take a good look at the photo below, because that's the last time this looks at all promising.

It's hard to pour out this icing without salivating.

And here we see the tragic results. There was an attempt.

You may be surprised about this, but it fell apart into a sad chocolate coconut mess when you tried to cut yourself a piece.

With that said, while my dream fell apart, all the components of my vision added up really well when you ate it--- except the icing that inspired the whole mess. It was too sweet on top of all the coconut and brownies. The coconut recipe uses unsweetened chocolate, and you should too. Sugary icing on top candy is a bit too much. I should not have defied God's yardstick-wielding enforcement squad by putting the fudge frosting on anything but otherwise-unadorned brownies.

However, the brownies and the coconut were absolutely perfect together. Also, putting the coconut candy on top of brownies solved the problem I always had that I could never serve it up. The coconut candy, no matter how many times I made it, always remained a sticky mess that clung to the spatula until you thwacked it onto your plate like a cafeteria lady slinging mashed potatoes. Treating it like a decadent brownie topping instead of a standalone delight seemed more right. But I definitely overdid it in making a not-majestic tower of chocolate. A single, non-stacked layer of brownies with the coconut on top would have all the deliciousness I envisioned without the structural instability.

In sum, this tower of cocoa and coconut was really good and also so rich that after a very small portion you were done eating it. Everyone will only want a little bit, so you can make dessert for like twenty soon-to-be-sated people without having to get out a second 9x13 pan. To give my attempted artistry some dignity, I want to show you that we did indeed have the layers we dreamed of in the part that remained on the platter after a few days of everyone hacking off a little bit when we needed just a chocolate lift.

Also, the icing is very good and worth making again. If you're making a small batch of brownies, definitely consider pouring it on top.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Pieathlon the Eighth: Osgood Pie, or Osbest Pie?


I can't believe this is the second Pieathlon of the pandemic- after the vaccines came out I thought we'd soon be glad it's over and shudder about how bad it was before science saved us (wear masks and get your shots if you haven't, everybody!). I wonder how many of us would have spent so much time obsessing over how terrible that weird Cats movie was had we known that civilization was about to collapse.

For those of you keeping track of my life based on what kitchen is in the background, I went out to visit friends for a fortnight. That was fifteen months ago. You just never know where life will take you when civilization crashes. One day you're going to cooking school and filling out job applications, the next thing you know you're helping your friends do engine repairs and also filling out job applications.

But enough about me, let's talk about pie! Yinzerella decided we need more pie in our lives! I always appreciate being able to swap recipes with other people who love digging through cookbooks and seeing what recipes everyone thought someone should have electronically dropped in their unsuspecting kitchens. I try to send in a recipe that's a bit weird and unlike anything we would make these days but still pretty good. Oftentimes it turns out I sent a recipe that's not good at all (sorry, Bittersweet Susie and Surly!), but that's the fun of sending and receiving surprise recipes. This year I sent in something called Ozark Pie from a dessert cookbook my grandmother bestowed upon me after one of her recreational thrift-shop treasure hunts. I've been meaning to try it for a while, but never got around to it. Hopefully, Taryn at Retro Food for Modern Times had a good time making it.

In return, The Nostalgic Cook sent in a recipe for something called Osgood Pie, and I have to say it seems she was very kind when choosing a recipe to send in. I've always sent in something strange that I never made before, but she decided to share something that she liked enough to make multiple times already. She writes:

Here is my submission for Osgood Pie from the cookbook, A Taste of Texas by Jane Trahey, 1949. I found it at a thrift store a while back for a dollar and couldn't resist all the cowboy illustrations. Osgood Pie is favorite of my husband's family (and of mine now, too), but the version we make uses a little nutmeg in place of the cloves, if the recipient wants to try that variation.

Osgood Pie
1 unbaked pie shell
3 eggs, beaten
1 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1½ tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped raisins
⅔ c chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°.
Gradually add the sugar to the beaten eggs. Then add the remaining ingredients. Pour into the pie shell and bake 45 minutes.
This is not in the recipe, but it's really good with whipped cream or ice cream.

Source: A Taste of Texas by Jane Trahey, 1949 via The Nostalgic Cook

She's not kidding about the illustrations. I would have bought the book just for those too. Have a look:

And so, let's get to the recipe! It's credited to a Mrs. Byron Nelson from Fairway Ranch in Roanoke, Texas. If you're thinking we got a treasured recipe from a farm wife's kitchen, you may be surprised to find out that Fairway Ranch (most of which is is now a subdivision for expensive people) was the property of someone named Byron Nelson (you'll note that the recipe comes from his wife). Most of the news clippings I found about him made sure to call him "the golfing legend Byron Nelson." Perhaps the name Fairway Ranch should have been a clue. Apparently Byron Nelson was a big deal in Roanoke Texas because he has arterial streets named after him.

But enough about golf. Who cares about chasing tiny balls in an adult-sized Power Wheels car when there's pie? A lot of people like to say that the name Osgood Pie comes from people saying it's "oh so good." Or at least, that's a common folklore explanation, which may be too suspiciously perfect to be true. Osgood is also the name of the man in Some Like It Hot who got a lot of comedy mileage (and some tantalizing hints that bisexuality was allowed in Hollywood scripts) out of the line "Nobody's perfect." 

Sending in a pecan-loaded recipe seems about right for a recipe from Texas. But before we get to what's in the pie, we must attend to the first thing on the ingredient list: "One unbaked pastry shell." Since we're doing the finest foods of Texas today, it seems more appropriate than ever to start the recipe with this:

Yes, after our previous adventures with beef fat, we started saving it after draining instead of discarding it. We also decided to make the pie crust the modern way: with a food processor. This was a bit of a gamble on my part because the dishwasher has unfortunately up and died.

A lot of people I know prattle on about how much they love hand-washing dishes and how satisfying they find it. None of them wanted my sinkloads of happiness.


We went to every store that sold large appliances, failing to find one that wasn't sold out of the good dishwashers that would last longer than two years. After nearly two weeks, we found a store that had our desired model in one of their warehouses and were promised that a new dishwasher would arrive by the next week (in fact, I waited to make this pie until we knew when we would have one again). I made this pie the night before the scheduled delivery. If I won the bet against fate, I'd get the convenience of mixing a pie crust in less than two minutes. If I lost the bet, I'd have to wash all the pieces of a food processor by hand. 

Using a food processor brings out an internal conflict in me. On one hand, I love cooking with nothing but a wooden spoon and a bowl. On the other hand, I love gratuitously using kitchen power tools. Also, it's really neat how when you slowly dribble water into the whirling crumbs, it looks like nothing will change until they suddenly coalesce into a dough ball that bounces around on the blades.

I can't recommend saving your beef fat for pie crusts enough (if you make your own pie crusts). You already have it on hand if you had to drain a frying pan of ground beef, and the crust always comes out so well. I wouldn't go out and buy the stuff, but if you were about to throw it away, why not put beef into your next dessert? The dough handled so well that I only needed to patch it in one place.

After our experience last time when the pie crust tightened like a drum skin due to our failure to let its precious gluten strands relax before baking, we put the pie crust in the refrigerator instead of right in the oven (that and the recipe specifies unbaked anyway). I figured it would have enough time for gluten relaxation if I got the pie crust mess tidied away before I started getting out Osgood Pie ingredients. Remembering previous delicious success when I put cheese on top of the extra pie dough and rolled it out like puff paste, I decided to do that again.

Yes, I put the cheese through the food processor. It had the accidental happy effect of cleaning away the residual pie dough.

In case you're wondering, the cheese has just enough water in it to puff these up just like butter does in real puff paste. However, I forgot to add salt and lovely spices to the cheese, so these were a bit bland. However, if you remember to add a dash of salt and perhaps a bit of paprika to the cheese, these will be as lovely as they look.

Back to the pie! As long as we're already using kitchen power tools, it's time to attend to the cloves. I know that in The Nostalgic Cook's kitchen they like to put in nutmeg, but we already have an entire shaker of whole cloves (the already-powdered cloves were sold out when we needed them) that has gone untouched since the disastrously mediocre Sweet Cherry Ham Bake. I didn't know how many whole cloves would make a teaspoon of ground ones, so I just used a half teaspoon of the whole ones and hoped for the best.

The first time we ground our own cloves, we received a helpful suggestion in the comments to take a bit of sugar from elsewhere in the recipe and put it in the spice grinder with them. It prevents them from getting oily and sticky. Instead of stubborn clumps that won't come off the sides of the machine canister, you get a nice cloud of surprisingly pungent white powder.

Anyway, pie was severely delayed because a desire was expressed in the next room that we should make a frozen pizza (as a reminder, the dishwasher is lying dead in the yard, which has caused a temporary drop in culinary standards). And so, Osgood Pie had to wait for Tomato Pie. While waiting for the pizzas to bake, I decided to chop the raisins.

Calling for chopped raisins really dates a recipe. It seems that at some point in the past few decades, we collectively decided that raisins are naturally puny enough and therefore we can just dump them into whatever needed beraisining and move on with our culinary lives. I've always done my raisin chopping with scissors, but my hand got tired from pushing the blades through this big cup of them. Eventually, they turned into some sticky approximation of modeling clay. I then realized that I should have just used the food processor which was already dirty from the pie crust. After all, what's the worst that could have happened from accidentally getting a bit of pie crust into the pie filling? 

The pecans were easier, though. Chopped pecans are cheaper than whole ones anyway, so we merely had to dump them out of the package.

And so, with everything all measured out and ready to become united in a cow-based pie crust, we get to the only part of the recipe that caused any confusion: the "three eggs, beaten" that the recipe calls for. Are we supposed to just bash them about a bit, or are we bringing out our inner Mrs. Goodfellow and having at the eggs with our implement of choice until they turn into a bowl of beige foam? I decided that I was overthinking this (and didn't feel like making one pie with lightly beaten eggs and one made with thoroughly whipped ones just to test this). I decided that by the 1970s, people would explicitly write out to beat the eggs until thoroughly suds-ified if that's what the recipe wanted you to do. (I know that this cookbook is from 1949, but I got mixed up and thought the recipe was from the seventies when I was making it.)

This may be the quickest pie recipe I've ever done. After a brief bit of raisin-chopping and egg-beating, everything just gets dumped into the bowl. The hardest part of this recipe is breaking up that tenaciously cohesive clump of raisins. I felt conflicted at the wonderful pie taking shape in the kitchen. On the one hand, it seemed like it'd be delicious unless something very unexpected happened while it baked. On the other hand, where's the adventure in that?

For those of you cooking along to this recipe at home, you should know that you may not be able to just dump the bowl right into the pie pan and bake it. The brown sugary egg liquid stuff will of course fill the pan, but your pecans and raisins may not spread out without some wooden-spoon intervention. I will also note that you know this recipe's easy when that is the worst inconvenience in making it.

You should also know that the brown spiced pecan sugar stuff was so delicious I deliberately did a bad job of getting all of it out of the bowl and into the pie pan.


When we got it out of the oven, someone else in the house said "It looks like a cookie." Which... it does.

You know how brownies get a sort of top crust? Well, this had the same sort of top layer only even more so. When you cut this, you can hear how crisp the top of it is. But I have to admit, my hopes dropped when I saw what looked like a sticky, almost gloppy cross-section. With that said, you can actually cut this pie and lift out slices. And they taste every bit as good as they look.

Well, I served this out to everyone in the house. When one person ate it, he said nothing for a while. Then, when he remembered where his words went, he simply said "Good." Others eating it thought it tasted like Thanksgiving or Christmas. I have to agree that it does. We demolished two thirds of the pie--- and that's after a more-than-good-sized dinner. The next day, as we were eating what very little remained, someone asked "Does anyone else think this tastes like there's apples in it?" And it kind of does! Seriously, make this pie. You have nothing to lose but what's left of your pre-pandemic figure. It's amazing. But if you want your pie to really reach the highest heights of perfection, you can do one more thing....

I love that America is the country that gave us multiple varieties whipped cream in a spray can. Anyway, for those of you who fear that I may have ended up hand-washing all the parts of a food processor and a whole parade of bowls, measuring cups, and spoons, we have a happy ending!

I was really worried it wouldn't arrive in time. It seems like everything gets a surprise delay these days. But it is here and merrily sparing me the bother of handwashing all the parts of the food processor! 

I have to tell you, I had my suspicions about it because it barely made any noise. Every dishwasher I've had the pleasure of using has been so loud you could hear it across the house, but this one sounded like it was merely dripping a tiny trickle of water over the dishes. I thought that countdown timer on the door was merely telling me how long I had to wait before I opened the machine and found only disappointment and a lot of hand-washing waiting for me. Where was the noise? Where was the grinding, spraying, splashing racket that tells you that magical cleaning is happening? 

But to my ecstasy, at the end of its inaugural cycle I opened the door to find an entire dishwasher full of spotlessly clean dishes! And as you may know, I don't believe in prerinsing-- if you're going to pre-rinse your dishes, I think you may as well squirt some dish soap on them and leave the machine alone. It will take me a while to get used to a dishwasher that doesn't make any reassuring noise, but once again I can put every crusty, batter-and-dough spattered bowl and plate onto a rack and let the machine do the work. You can find me putting lotion on my hands to make up for the handwashing I had to do until tonight and trying not to eat the rest of this oh-so-good Osgood Pie.

I hope you enjoyed this delicious pie adventure! Be sure to see what everyone else made!