Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Pie's The Thing... (with apologies to W. Shakespear) - 3

If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that you have to bake while the oven is hot.

Yes, I went there!

Corny twists of phrases aside, I thought it would be best if I didn't wait too long for the next egg custard pie attempt because I wanted to serve it for dessert at Christmas dinner with Michele's family. So, as soon as the pie plate was drying in the rack, I assembled ingredients for version 2.0. Monique (a.k.a. Mony, a.k.a. Monica, a.k.a. My Beloved Little Sister) told me she thought the milk needed to be "condensed" instead of whole. This was going to cause me to adjust the amount of sugar, because condensed milk is sweet! I also found another recipe on-line that gave me a couple of useful techniques: coating the inside of the pie crust with egg white, to prevent it from getting soggy, and scalding the milk before adding it to the egg mixture. Wait. Scalding the milk?


Brief explanation: In the days before pasteurization, people would heat milk to the boiling point, about 185ยบ F, to kill harmful bacteria. It was sometimes tricky business because if you didn't pay attention you burned it or, worse, burned it and scorched the inside of your pot to boot. Diligence was the order of the day because who back then could afford to just run out and buy another pot?
Brief explanation ends.


Despite the risk to milk and pot, and ignoring how completely archaic the procedure was, I thought I'd try it anyway because I had a feeling it would help the filling cook and set better. Besides, I really love configuring my Revere Ware pots in double-boiler mode! Besides-besides, I'm a traditionalist – except, of course, when I'm not.

With ingredients and tools assembled, I made my next attempt. Everything went very well, even scalding the condensed milk. Except for some reason I forgot to sprinkle the nutmeg on top before I put the pie in the oven. I'd done the same thing the first time, too. Fortunately for me, I've got a pretty good "hasty add forgotten topping" technique and it came out looking good. But it was way too sweet. Dang you, condensed milk! This overabundance of sweetness didn't deter my chosen group of guinea pigs, Michele's office cohorts, from enjoying the pie, though. They've been so appreciative of everything I've sent their way that I've designated them as my primary taste "focus group".

So. Egg Custard Pie v2.0 was a bust for recreating Nana's pie. It was, however, a success in three other ways: 1) the egg white prevented the crust from getting soggy, 2) adding scalded milk did indeed help the filling cook and set much better, and c) I had a grand time scalding the milk! I love learning a new baking technique!

I had to get serious, though, because time and Christmas dinner wait for no baker. Another phone conference with my little sister yielded a correction on the milk: "unsweetened condensed milk." I'm going to have to ask her where she got that term because it took me a bit of digging through cookbooks and the Internet to learn that "unsweetened condensed milk" is plain-old evaporated milk. I use it in my sweet potato pie. My mother often put it in her coffee. My Hispanic friends back in high school called it "leche Pet". Nothing exotic about it at all. And it turned out to be the ingredient that turned the corner for me on this pie.

Version 3.0, turned out very nicely and was devoured at Christmas dinner. Version 3.1, pictured below, helped me refine my crust technique and my popping-into-oven technique (splash potential for this pie is through the roof).

Egg Custard Pie, Version 3.1
Version 3.1 with appropriate companion beverage!
Please note that I still forgot to sprinkle the nutmeg before popping it into the oven. Arrgh! What's that all about? I mean, the pattern looks cool but the nutmeg is supposed to be sprinkled evenly. Oh, well. It still tasted great!

Believe it or not, I did one more round of this pie last month. I'd promised a friend who was visiting with us I'd bake it for her birthday. Instead, baked two simultaneously because I wanted to test a version using one less egg. That one, I'll call it Version 3.1.2, actually had a texture that was more like what I remember of Nana's pies, but it was, again, overly sweet. Having that extra egg seems to work best with the amount of sugar in the recipe, and it delivers what I'll now consider the taste I'm going for.

I'm finished tweaking this recipe, for now. What I've discovered is that this isn't my grandmother's egg custard pie and it never will be. I'm going to stop trying to recreate what she did. My memory of the pies Nana lovingly baked for us will suffice and bring many smiles to my face when I think back on them. Those were her pies. This pie is mine, with a heaping helping of inspiration from my her. I'm good with that.

*****

Oh, and how did I present Version 3.1.2 to my friend? Boxed it up with five paper plates, napkins and plastic forks and took it to the showing of The Avengers. The five of us sat there, watching Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and The Hulk defend the very city we were in, while we devoured slices of pie. Now that's the way to see a movie in New York!

Currently listening to: Michael Henderson and Roberta Flack - At The Concert

Reactions:

10 comments:

  1. And then we wall went to a late night schwarma joint, about two blocks from there.

    /end semi inside movie joke that's not really so inside anymore

    It was great pie.

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    1. I am soooo tempted to make this a tradition for movies with friends. Not that pie every time, but some kind of pie or small baked good that's easy to smuggle into the theater. Who needs the concession stand?

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  2. OK, between the pictures of the pies and the late night schwarma joint, I'm about to pass out.

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    1. Well, there's more to come! I'm working on a way to take better food shots. I love my Lumix but I need much better lighting than I have now. I'm thinking a small, diffused photo light (to cut down on the shadows) and a small reflector for even coverage. We'll see.

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  3. Sorry...it is evaporated milk + whole milk...my dear!;)
    MonY

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    1. Yeah...I kind of figured that out, honey. :) But thanks for helping me in my process!

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  4. Love this pun...time and Christmas dinner wait for no baker. teehee!
    MonY

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    1. That's what I'm here for, darlin'! Well, that and the pastry adventure stories.

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  5. Most awesome movie indeed!
    MonY

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    1. Yep! And I think it goes much better with egg custard pie than with shawarma. But shwarma runs a close second. ;)

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