Holiday

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie: A Ridiculous Rhyme and A Legacy Recipe

First, a poem I composed while drinking wine and packing for my Thanksgiving flight up north.

‘Twas the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house
The scent of ground cinnamon saturated my hair and my blouse;
My apron and sweater hung forgotten in the corner;
My prep list was making me wish I were a foreigner;
A disposable pie tin nestled all snug in its plastic,
While visions of burnt crust made my task unenthusiastic;
With Jay-Z, Cher, and Blink-182 on shuffle,
I was ready to settle for buying a Godiva truffle (or twelve);
When out in the living room there arose such a sound,
It was my cell phone – as always – bringing me something profound;
An e-mail from my mother pops up with a flash,
Calming me just before my teeth started to gnash;
The recipe for my late Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie,
Was enough to make me heave a relieved sigh;
Losing her this year is still raw and I miss her so dearly,
Maybe by making her pie – my favorite growing up – I’ll be able to feel her presence clearly;
It’s simple enough – nothing strange or profound,
And all my holiday memories are full of me eating slices by the pound;
More rapid than eagles my inspiration came about,
Enough to rid my mind of any shadow of a doubt;
It’s pie crust, and filling, and a meringue, to boot,
The directions so simple, there couldn’t be a more clear route.

For my Grandmother, who laughed at my foolishness and never complained.

 

I apologize for the ridiculous rhyme. It’s my first Thanksgiving without my maternal Grandmother, the classic iteration of a Japanese-American farm matriarch, and I’m not quite ready or certain about what to write. The fact that I’m making the pie always associated with her – she made it last year, with the exception of the crust, since the arthritis in her hands made her unable to roll out the dough – hasn’t fully absorbed yet.

I’m tearing up, and I haven’t even written the recipe yet. Just know that this is copied almost directly from an ancient edition (1950s or earlier) of a Betty Crocker/Better Homes and Gardens/equivalent recipe book. The pie crust recipe is a combination of various experiments, and doesn’t include directions for a food-processor, since my Grandmother couldn’t afford one.

This is the lightest pumpkin pie I have ever had, and probably have yet to have.

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

For The Crust (9″):

Don’t freak out at the weight measurements! Those proportions come from the incomparable pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, who believes measuring cups are for sandcastles when it comes to baking. (Buy his shirt at Flavour Gallery if you agree.)

  • 1 and 1/4 cup (200 g) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 g) Cold Unsalted Butter – Cut in Cubes
  • 3 tablespoons Ice Water

Combine the dry ingredients with the cold butter – use your hands, get dirty – until it becomes the size of small peas/coarse meal. Add the ice water and knead lightly until the dough becomes a ball. Pat the dough into a round disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for 1 hour.

Once the dough is chilled, roll out to your liking. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

For the Pie Filling:

  • 1 envelope Unflavored Gelatin
  • 2/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/4 cup Pumpkin (use Libby’s. Make life easier on yourself. Besides, any other variety will use a lower quality squash and not actual pumpkin.)
  • 3 Eggs – Whites and Yolks Separated and Saved
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 3/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • 1/2 cup Sugar

In a saucepan, combine the gelatin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin, egg yolks, and milk over Medium Heat until it just starts to boil. Let cool.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy, then beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is stiff and glossy. (You’ll feel it get difficult to mix.)

Fold the egg white mixture into the pumpkin mixture and pour into the baked pie crust. Cool for at least three hours.

No whipped cream necessary for enjoyment.

Pumpkin Pie

“Bark” Desserts Aren’t Only for Cold Weather

I grew up in Northern California, and consequently have huge appreciation for Ghiradelli and Scharffen Berger chocolate. I’ve toured the factories, looked up the histories of their processes, and always buy their respective peppermint barks when bagged versions hit stores in Los Angeles for the winter holiday season.

I’m not entirely certain who I was trying to fool with that above sentence, but the truth is, I eat peppermint and mint ice cream/frozen yogurt as often as I can get it all year. So why not peppermint bark? Why not orange bark? It’s delicious, and ridiculously easy to make.

Remember, this is coming from someone who believes she is genetically conditioned against making dessert. Below is an accurate visual reference of what usually occurs when I consider baking.

This week, peppermint bark has turned my heart into a melted puddle of unicorn rainbow joy.

My Dad is a big on dark chocolate/orange things. Mr. Right (or rather, his entire family) enjoys the peppermint bark that mixes white and semi-sweet chocolate. So this one goes out to all the badass men in my life who make it seem like the holiday season year-round.

FYI: Writing this post was also a great excuse to create a Pandora Holiday station.

Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate – if you buy a baking bar, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Peppermint Extract
  • 1 pound white chocolate – once again, cut into 1/2-inch pieces if you buy a baking bar
  • Candy Canes or Peppermint Candies (Crushed) OR your grocery store may sell peppermint pieces by the jar…but this takes away from the therapeutic nature of smashing this ingredient yourself

Line a baking sheet with foil – shiny side up.

Time to make the classic chocolate-melting double-boiler: Heat one inch of water in a saucepan until steaming and make sure whatever bowl you’re going to melt the chocolate in is nonreactive (i.e. glass) and can wedge in the top of the saucepan without the bottom of the bowl touching the water. – DON’T let any water get into the chocolate. I’m serious. This will kill the flavor of the chocolate, and that’s a buzz-kill party foul.

I now provide you with a guide to tempering chocolate that’s so easy to accomplish that my fears of working with chocolate have become permanently alleviated.

Sydney, what the f**k does tempering chocolate mean?

I’m so glad you asked.

Tempered chocolate is what non-pastry-chef earthlings like me inadvertently associate with professional chocolate products and desserts. Chocolate that has gone through the tempering process has a smooth texture and look, with a shiny finish. When you break it into pieces, it snaps crisply and cleanly. In other words – you eat with your eyes first, and tempered chocolate provides that.

Back to your recipe – it’s time to melt (and temper) the chocolate you’re working with.

Separate about 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate. Place the rest into the nonreactive/heatproof bowl you’ll be melting the chocolate in. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water and stir until about one-third of the chocolate in the bowl melts.

Now, remove the bowl from the heat. The bowl has already heated enough to melt all of the chocolate. Stir in the reserved chocolate until melty goodness is achieved. If you need to, return the bowl to above the saucepan of steaming water for more heat power (but I doubt you’ll need to.)

Your chocolate is melted and tempered! Does it look shiny and pretty? Good. If not, you’ll get it next time.

Stir 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract into the chocolate and pour onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Spread it out evenly with a spatula or back of a spoon. Tap the sheet on your countertop a few times to get rid of any bubbles. Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes (i.e. while you’re preparing the white chocolate.)

Put aside about 1 cup of the white chocolate, then dump the rest into a new nonreactive bowl (or be lazy about dishes like me and wash/dry the bowl you just used to melt the semisweet chocolate.) Repeat same melting process used above. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract once fully melted, tempered, and pretty.

Pour the melted white chocolate over the semisweet chocolate and spread around evenly. (Some mixing of colors will probably occur here – don’t stress. It looks marbled and lovely.) Sprinkle with crushed peppermint.

Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, lift out of the foil and break into pieces.

Tidings of comfort and joy. No, really. I was actually unable to be sarcastic for a full hour after consuming this.

I realize I also promised you Orange Bark. I wanted to let you know that most dark chocolate is vegan….i.e. the Awesome Former Roommate and all your other vegan friends can consume this one with glee. Plus, dark chocolate is an antioxidant. So eat it and get happy, damn it.

To make orange bark:

Melt 1 and 1/2 pounds of dark chocolate using the double-boiler method described above. Set aside about 1 and 1/4 cups of the chocolate to stir in as described. Stir in 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of orange extract. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil shiny side up, spread evenly, and tap to get rid of any bubbles. Zest 1 orange over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Break into pieces when ready to serve.

It’s enough to make me emotional.