Improving on “Classic” Recipes
Posted: 25 June 2008 12:01 AM   [ Ignore ]
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This was inspired by the following Post.

StartfromScratch - 16 June 2008 06:44 AM

My fiance loves pecan pie and I used to hate it before I met him. Since it is his favorite, I made it every year and have discovered that it does not have to be gummy and cloyingly sweet.

Today marks the first time I have made Rose’s version in the Pie and Pastry Bible because I only recently got a tart pan and she does not have a recipe for pecan pie in a regular pie pan. (She must not be the biggest fan of pecan pie either….)

It turned out wonderfully and I had to share it with you all. The chocolate ganache topping is a fabulous match (I used Valhrona so it would have tasted good to me on shoe leather!) for the filling and the crust comes out perfectly crisp. I love the cream cheese crust ~ it is my fave.

There’s a pretty shot zooming in on the beautiful crust http://flickr.com/photos/rachelino/2583311084/ (way too big to post to the forum).

So glad I tried it….

I’ve never made Rose’s Pecan Pie.  I do know that my biggest beef with Pecan Pie is that most versions are sugar pies with Pecans on top.  I know that this is what it is to some folks, but I’m in it for the nuts.  I pack pecan halves into the pie until they are just covered by the filling.  The result is a buttery sweet crunchy PECAN Pie.  Pecan halves held together with the filling.  Not filling with a topping of pecans. I don’t make them that often, but when I do . . .

Sometimes you just have to be exposed to other versions of the so-called classics.  I never liked blueberry pie.  Never touched it, until I moved to Maine.  If you have never had a blueberry pie made with wild Maine blueberries (fresh or frozen), you haven’t had blueberry pie.  Look for them in your freezer section.  Wyman’s is a good brand that, I believe, may be distributed farther afield.

Does anyone want to weigh in on their “Eureka!” moments with classic recipes?  Tradition is not always the best thing.  Just because it’s always been that way, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.  I don’t mean jalepeno, cayenne, ultra-bittersweet chocolate pecan pie extreme makeover recipes.  I mean, the thing that transformed your favorite or feared receipe from traditional to fabulous.  Maybe the fruitcake that people actually looked forward to eating. (I have one that we made, and although it was good, its twin is still in the downstairs fridge some two years later.) 

Thoughts?

JennyBee

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Posted: 25 June 2008 01:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m with you on pecan pie—more nuts, less sweet goopy stuff!

One of my great childhood memories is picking wild blueberries in Maine, then eating the pie my aunt made with them. You’re so right, wild blueberries are the best!

I’ll have to post about my husband Jim’s wonderful fruitcake. I think the main secret to good fruitcake is to use really good-quality dried fruit. None of that overly sweet, funny-tasting, strange-colored stuff they sell at the supermarket! The other secret is to figure out your fruitcake preferences. Tons of fruit, or just a scattering? Lots of different kinds of fruit & nuts, or a more simple, restrained mixture? Lots of brown sugar and spices, or a lighter cake? We come down heavily on the “dark fruitcake, lots of all kinds of fruit & nuts” side ourselves but you have to make it to suit YOUR tastes!

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Posted: 25 June 2008 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Slightly off topic. But isn’t Maine just a special place? One of my fondest memories is raking cranberries on a cool fall morning on “Happytown Road” near Ellsworth.

My biggest Eureka doesn’t involve baking. I watched Julia Child in my teens and one of my favorite recipes of hers was boeuf bourguignon. What a revelation that stew was to a teenage boy in the 70’s. I dreamt about it. My other passion has always been chili. For years I tried the usual ingredients. Adding more of this and that weird thing trying desperately to achieve full bodied flavor. I used to put celery in my chili! Then one day as I was frying cubes of meat in bacon fat for another Boeuf I thought “Why not try this with chili?” Next batch of chili I ground simple fresh spices bay cumin oregano chilis then I mixed in a little flour and I coated cubes of bottom round and fried it in oil just like Julia taught me on our old black and white TV. When I tasted it for the first time I done gone and went to heaven. That was 20 years ago and I still remember that first taste. Ahhh

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“This pizza is a symphony of flavors”

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Posted: 25 June 2008 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The controversy with pecan pies is that the filling is sweet and when presented thick in a traditional pie mold, it is overwhelming.  Therefore, Rose decided to make the same pie on a tart pan, so there is less filling.  Furthermore, the light butterscotch flavor of the Lyle’s refiners syrup further masks the sweet.  And ultimately, the bitter chocolate lace, take the last sweet complain away.  Rose also likes to add bitter chocolate to sweet cakes, like angel food cake.  Rose’s pecan pie in a tart pan is such extraordinary trick that everyone will love you for, it is an “Eureka” moment you get with really minimal effort.

I am not a huge fan of changing recipes with new ingredients.  Really, not.  I am a big fan of re-discovering authentic and traditional recipes or today’s everyday foods.  For example, strawberry pies and strawberry shortcakes are in season and found at every bakery, but only a few are great and done the “real” way.  The same for an excellent butter cake and an excellent buttercream, indeed.

I think my biggest Eureka is to feed IMBC or SMBC, and people say “wow, this is the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever had.”  Also, when I make CR strawberry conserve, and serve it alone or mixed in cake filling, I get the same reaction… to a point that one will never ever want to eat fresh strawberries (unless picked from the wild).  Rose’s pizza crust recipe is another hit, people just can’t believe that one is capable of making such excellent crust at home, the prove is that there isn’t anyone who dumps the crust edges.  You know I can go on more on this.

Another of my Eureka moments, is to find the true ingredients a recipe was designed for.  It is a huge challenge and not always very cost effective, but I do it because otherwise why go thru the trouble of making it at home when you can just buy it?  For example, when I make Tiramisu, I use true mascarpone cheese imported from Italy, and also true espresso coffee.  When I make bolognese sauce (pasta tomato sauce), I use imported san marzano tomatoes from Italy.  When I make Peruvian roast turkey or chicken, I use cumin from Peru (the USA cumin has a different flavor profile).  My ultimate Eureka, not yet published, is to brew my own soy sauce, extra virgin; my Mom used to do it, and it is the ultimate flavor enhancer for ALL foods.

Eureka to all, this blog and bloggers are Eurekas alone.

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Posted: 26 June 2008 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I love pecan pie, even the cheap ones sold for 1.00 wrapped in celophane. The best pecan pie around Cincinnati is at Frisch’s restauarants.  I’ve never tried to make one, but I would probably load up the pecans as well.

My eureka moment would probably be when my father-in-law lived with us.  He was an avid baker, always trying something new.  He made pizza crust from scratch and I was amazed. I had a bread machine and only used boxed mixes that were pre-measured.  I always thought…“whoa, bread from scratch is WAY too complicated!”....

Well…a few months after he started razzing me on how easy it was…I got hooked. I still use my bread machine, but I buy different flours and yeasts…I experiment with gluten, garlic, and butters/oils.  Now he razzes me that I let the machine bake it and don’t transfer it the oven and a bread pan.  My mom tried to get me to keep an Amish roll starter…and I scoffed at the complexity of that.  Perhaps someday I will venture into having a starter as well. 

I often kid my students that I keep an “icing starter”...since in class we use all shortening/powedered sugar and water icing.  I often mix whatever I have left in the fridge from previous classes to demonstrate with.  They probably think that’s a bit disgusting…but seriously…Crisco and sugar have a shelf life longer than Methusela.

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Posted: 28 June 2008 10:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Honestly, I love the classic pecan pie. Transparent custards are my favorites! Chess, pecan, I love these pies! Yummy!

I really didn’t ‘get’ the idea that things could be ‘too sweet’ until a few years ago, I guess my palette just loves sugar. smile

I’m not saying that Rose’s take on pecan pie is bad, it’s not, it’s delicious, but it’s not what I consider ‘Pecan pie.’ smile

My favorite pecan pie recipe (so far) has a lot of butter in it, and maybe some of it is browned first? It’s been a few years since I’ve made a pecan pie. (I’m the only one in the house that likes the stuff, in any variation, so if I make it, I wind up eating the whole thing. Not great for the figure.)

I do like making flavor and textural improvements on ‘classic’ recipes in general, though, using the techniques I’ve learned from all my reading to give flavor boosts to just about everything. So many of the old recipes seem a bit flat when made the way I used to cook.

BTW, I love Lisa Yockelson’s Baking by Flavor, it’s got LOTS of great advice on giving a flavor boost to just about everything you might want to bake.

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