How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Thursday, March 14, 2013


(This is co-written by Pam and James, using the royal "we" throughout, even though we each took the lead in both baking and writing different parts; sorry if that causes confusion!)

We awoke this morning with the zymurgy doing the real work -- Barolo fermenting profusely in the parlor and ginger-wheat beer just getting started in the conservatory. After a bit of FTO Colombian (already fermented at a wet mill somewhere in the Andean foothills), we decided to take on the day. Pi Day, that is.

(The digits used above extend to 27 in honor of Pam's upcoming birthday (that's the date, not the age!); you can get all the digits you need at Pi Day.)

A little math was in order. Our Pumpkin Cookbook (purchased at a genuine clearance sale at a funky old book store in Stoughton a few years ago) calls for six ounces of ginger snaps in the crust of the cheese cake we are making. (See Pam's Eggnog Pumpkin Pie post for more from this little volume.)

Our first inclination was to guesstimate, because this did not seem like a job for which it would be worth going to campus to get a precision coffee scale. But then we decided to honor math day by figuring this out. we said we would need three-fifths of the 10-ounce bag of cookies, so we simply counted them into bowls -- two in the small bowl for every three in the big bowl. Broken cookies ended up in both bowls, resulting in minimal, offsetting errors that are presumed to be within the tolerance limits of this recipe. We are building a pie, after all, rather than a watch.

After sampling a couple from the small bowl for safety and efficacy, we returned them to the bag for future use. Each being round, we may use them to calculate circumferences if things get really crazy later in the day. (Pi Day never ends, after all!) The other small bowl contains raisins soaking in Triple Sec. The half stick of butter is the other half of a stick that was melting in the plate warmer at the time of the photo. That other half is still half a stick in a mathematical sense, but not a stick at all in appearance.

A great thing about this recipe is that we got to use some kitchen instruments that don't get very much employ (Bill Murray fans contain yourselves; this is a family blog) -- starting with our marble gourmet rolling pin (and we know it is gourmet because it is labeled as such).  The pin was used to crush the ginger snaps which were placed in a large ziploc bag first. The crumbled snaps were then mixed in a bowl with the melted butter and then used for the crust at the bottom of a springform pan (another seldom used item). The recipe called for the pan to be oiled. The decision of which oil to use could not be taken lightly, of course. After careful consideration, we settled on the blood orange olive oil.
The main supporting actors in today's blog.
Once the pan was ready, it was time to start on the filling. We started with 1 lb. of cottage cheese which was put in the blender and mixed until smoooooth. Then 1 can of pumpkin was added, along with the last bit of ginger syrup leftover from our Valentine's day ginger cake. When all of this was well blended we added two eggs, 1/2 c. of light cream, and 1/3 c. of sugar, and blended some more. Finally the juice of half an orange was added, giving us the chance to use our manual juicer. When all of this was completely mixed, the nicely plumped raisins were sprinkled on top of the ginger snap crust, and the pumpkin mix was poured over.  We worried a bit when we saw the pan leaking, but once we placed it onto a cookie sheet, and into the oven it was fine. We love our convection oven, but as with everything we bake, the baking time in the recipe had no bearing on reality. Forty minutes turned into about 70 minutes.

Pie for Real Men

Back in the 1980s Bruce Feirstein wrote a book called Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, though in our house we know that quiche is usually made by the resident man- he will make his quiche, and eat it too.

Quiche -- a savory, eggish pie -- is the perfect meal to complement the pumpkin dream described above. We made a standard crust from Deborah Madison, using 1-1/2 cups white flour (plus a dusting of wheat for the counter), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, one stick of butter, and ice water added by small spoons until the dough would just form. The only departure from this standard recipe was the addition of a bit of Old Bay with the dry ingredients.

The filling was made with eight eggs (it is an egg dish, after all) from the happily husbanded hens of Hanson farm, two miles from our house, about a cup of light cream, a dash of Tabasco, and a splash of sherry. This was prepared while the crust crisped in the oven. About 2/3 of a pound of Swiss cheese was cut into small slivers, and a half pound of lobster from Kyler's Catch in New Bedford was cut into chunks and tossed with ... of course ... more Old Bay.

This was all baked at 425 for 40 minutes, which made it beautiful but not quite done. Another 20 minutes at 350 (with paper atop to prevent burning) made it perfect!

Between the morning and afternoon baking sessions, we visited New Bedford, where nautical interests are drawing us with greater frequency. There we had lunch at a tapas bar -- James' first visit to one -- but had no tapas. Rather, at Cork Wine and Tapas on the waterfront, Pam had a delightful sangria and James a leggy, complex Malbec. We shared a flat bread with pear, arugula and goat cheese; and a chicken and cabbage empanada. That's right: meat pie. The highlight, though, was the dish that had caused our daughter to recommend the place: a heaping pile of fries prepared with herbs and truffle oil that might be the best fries on this planet. Just go and find out.

Pi Day Film Festival
We began our preparations for Pi Day by moving the film Humble Pie to the top of our Netflix queue so that it would be here in time. The producers of Napolean Dynamite have created a similarly enigmatic film centered around a young man who seems uncomfortable in his own skin. The connections to food were uncomfortable as well, as the protagonist's eating disorder plays out between his dysfunctional household and the grocery store that is his professional world.

And, although it will not be released on Netflix until next month, Life of Pi was cleverly made available at the cash/warp for an impulse purchase at Target on this auspicious day. Our usual steely sales resistance was quickly overcome, and we are the proud new owners of the DVD.

To summarize the day: Our enjoyment of two pies was sandwiched (as it were, between two pi/pie films, all of which followed a lovely trip to New Bedford and one incidental meat pie.

Beverage pairings, by the way, were a nice Chardonnay from just about as far away as wine can be brought and an OFT decaf from Chiapas. Both were lovely.

Piem (See if you can figure out the formula for writing your own).

Pie I made: a round sweetness of squash purée.
The slab's triangle perfectly adheres;
Sensually it's on the pleasure spot, giving us ...
Hmmmmm, good pie.

The lagniappe has us: AUREOLE.

No comments:

Post a Comment