Monday, February 1, 2010

Chocolate and failure

You know, when I started this blog, it was not to be Niki's Baking Triumphs or anything. It was meant to chronicle the ups and downs, the successes and failures, of my baking adventures. I guess I lost sight of that, only wanting to publish my wins and sweep the failures under the rug. I got the impression that people reading might be taking my posts as an endorsement of the recipes I attempted instead of reading through and discovering I found it lacking or ho-hum.

I would be lying if I said I hadn't baked since those little pumpkin pies, way back in October. I've baked plenty. The holidays always bring out the excitement in me so I made my annual peanut butter blossoms, sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving and a bread pudding for my dad visiting. So baking was going on, I simply didn't have the time (or natural lighting of daylight to take pictures thanks to living in this eternal night wasteland called Alaska; DEAR MIDNIGHT SUN SUMMER, WHERE ARE YOU). But I digress. There's been baking but no posting. Which brings me to now.

I got another idea in my head that I couldn't shake. A pie. A chocolate pie. And Julie & Julia was no help; just as Keri Russell's pie maker in Waitress whipped up a dark chocolate pie, so too did Amy Adams in that flick and both immediately inspired me to want one of my own. But this idea was very specific; it was of a dense but soft, almost cheesecake-consistency but not. Something you could cut into but would melt in your mouth with a not too overpowering taste. Almost a flourless chocolate cake but not so strong. Anyway, I went on the hunt.

The first chocolate pie I found was a "grandma's" recipe so I thought, hey, that might work. I don't understand why they're not just called chocolate PUDDING pie because that's what they are. Or is that assumed? I don't know; I've never had someone else's chocolate pie. I imagined something dark and rich and solid and that certainly wasn't. Also, the crust called for oil as the fat and after reading The Best Recipe book, it explains that oil makes for a hard crust because it holds no water that can evaporate during the cooking process and release air that makes crusts usually pocketed and flaky. Yeah, I'm never using oil in pie crust again.

The next I tried was from a friend from work who I often discuss cooking techniques with. She has a wealth of experience and she's an awesome source of help. She gave me a Fudge Pie recipe and I thought, Ooo, that sounds promising! Thick like fudge! I made it and it wasn't quite as thick as fudge. My version was definitely thicker than the pudding pie and it tasted lovely but it was still pretty soft (more like a soft cheese consistency) and not exactly what I was searching for.

Then I started rifling through my mom's old newspaper cut-out recipes and booklets. I found a Fudge Brownie Pie in an old Eagle Brand recipe booklet and figured a thicker, brownie consistency might be just what I'm looking for. Yeah, no. It tasted like a brownie in a completely unnecessary pie crust. Disappointment continued.

Upon talking it over more with my mom, I began to realize I was really in search of one thing: a silk pie. And not a FRENCH silk pie because those seemed to be more airy and light and with whipped cream and such. But a silk pie like the kind we used to get all the time from one business that pulled up stakes and moved out of town: the Alaska Silk Pie Company. Yeah, they're not in Alaska anymore and they charge around $40 to send about a 6" pie here. But their pies are
heavenly. That can't be denied.

So I went looking for silk pie recipes. The thing about silk pies is they're not baked and raw eggs are used. On their cooking channel special, the creator of the Alaska silk pies said she used 'pasteurized eggs'. Well, the only thing we could come up with was Egg Beaters. (I've since discovered techniques for home pasteurizing that are intriguing...) I found a seemingly simple French Silk pie recipe I figured I could weigh down with less beating and went to using Egg Beaters. It curdled up on me about 2/3 of the way through. I freaked out and called Mom for advice. She said throw it in the blender and that did the trick perfectly: it went back to a nice, smooth consistency. It called for refrigeration but when I uncoiled the spring form pan, it barely held together and it was, unfortunately a true French Silk filling; it was meant for a pie crust and meant to be soft. The other thing that bothers me a little is the fact that Egg Beaters is mostly egg whites which have a higher water content than whole eggs. Did that have something to do with the consistency? Perhaps.

So here I am. Four failures in and nothing to show for the quest. My mom caved and ordered an Alaska silk pie just to have a reminder and it was just as good as we remember. I'm afraid I'm going to have to try again because it was just so lovely.

As for posting, I will attempt to keep up here too; even when my kitchen is a den of failure. This blog is to chronicle ALL my adventures. Especially the losses so I won't make the same mistakes. NEVER FORGET.


Bette said...

I once had the most fantistic, dense, rich, choclately pie that a friend made. It was made from tofu, so it had form and substance. She told me that the pie contained blackberry preserves. It did not add a fruity taste to the pie, but complemented the chocolate and enhanced the richness. Ah....But I do not have the recipe. I suppose it is on the 'net somewhere though.

Also, don't try to pasteurize your own eggs. You'll probably cook the eggs, but worse, if you don't get the temperature just right you could encourage bacterial growth. And you don't have any way to test for pathogens.

Niki said...

Bette, that pie sounds amazing and funny enough, my friend JUST told me about tofu as a ~secret~ ingredient in chocolate pies! I will definitely be on the lookout for a recipe that calls for it...

And thank you for the warning about pasteurizing! I had no idea cooking it could possibly INCREASE the chances of bacterial growth. :( I'll definitely find another way!

Steph said...

Maybe try something from Cook's Illustrated?