Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vinegar Chess and the Last Pumpkin

I finally used up the last of our pureed garden pumpkin from the freezer. The resulting pie went to the couple who babysat my son while my husband and I dined at the Belgian mussel bar in honor of Valentine's Day. After some strong, flavorful beer, foie gras, duck, and mussels, we were invited to have a slice of the pie with the babysitters. It was a sweet end to a hearty pumpkin pie season. In summary, I made 10 pumpkin pies with the pumpkins my husband and I grew in 2010. I probably could have made two more to round out an even dozen if I had portioned the puree better before freezing.

I also finally succumbed to trying out the Vinegar Chess Pie recipe from ReadyMade. I've made this style of pie once or twice before when I was in high school. I remember my dad liking it. This variation of the recipe is superb. The cream in particular really enriches and mellows the flavor and texture. Utter deliciousness and a perfect pie for a time of year when little fresh produce is available. I should also mention that I used yellow cornmeal instead of white, since that's what I had in the cupboard. I doubt it made much of a difference.

I made the Vinegar Chess Pie for a small, impromptu dinner party over the weekend. The guests were pleasantly surprised by the tastiness of a pie made with vinegar and one suggested that I look up the origins of such a strange pie. According to wikipedia.org, chess-style pie has no connection to the actual game of chess and hails from England. Chess pie recipes are very sweet (usually comprising eggs, sugar, butter, cornmeal, and vanilla) and have historically been common desserts in both New England and Virginia in the U.S. Vinegar Chess Pie is simply a chess pie that's had some vinegar added to bring the sweetness down a notch.

Current Pie Tally: 47

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Holiday Cookies, by Request

One of my beloved blog followers asked to see some of the holiday cookies I made, so here's a shot of my gingerbread cookies. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Men (makes about 2 dozen)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. molasses (or sorghum)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1.5 t. Penzey's cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground clove
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat sugar, butter, and molasses in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients. Mix at low speed until blended. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Roll out dough on floured surface and cut out desired shapes. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 min at 350 F. Allow to cool completely on wire racks, then decorate.

Current Pie Tally: 45

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snowed-In Pumpkin

I made this little delight in the calm before the first big Midwestern blizzard of 2011. It was supposed to be bartered in exchange for a night of babysitting while my husband and I enjoyed dinner out and a Baptism prep session. My husband and I ended up having to eat it ourselves since we got snowed in. Pity we couldn't try out the European mussel bar, but at least we got some delicious pie out of it. I used the Perfect Pumpkin Pie recipe again to make this one, except that I used 1.25 c. half and half and 1/4 c. milk instead of the proportions of heavy cream and milk called for in the recipe. I had quite a bit of half and half leftover from house guests that I needed to use up.

After about 48 min at 350, the pie came out marvelously as usual, which makes me wonder if my pie calling is to make pumpkin pie. Pumpkin and rhubarb medleys are definitely the top contenders right now. Though my husband says my pecan should be in the running too. Somehow I can't rationalize that one, since pecans grow nowhere near the great state of Wisconsin. Maybe I could make a version that uses local walnuts? Would it taste as fabulous, though?

In other pie news, I have been digging on the holiday issue of ReadyMade magazine. The pie spread in there is very inspirational. I'm particularly smitten with the Bittersweet Chocolate Cherry and Vinegar Chess. The Vinegar Chess Pie is a perfect "hunger gap" dessert, so I see that one getting made in the near future. The Dark Chocolate Cherry, on the other hand, is very festive and a bit more involved. Perhaps I'll treat myself for my birthday at the end of March.

Current Pie Tally: 45