Can we do it? Yes, pecan!

Dear Annes,

To address the issues in your  most recent letter:

1. Car accident?! Why didn’t you tell me sooner!? I would have sent cookies.  (I still might.) Also, I’m glad your car is fine and you are relatively unscathed.

2. Jobs New and Old: You quitting your old job is probably a damn good thing because I know how much you didn’t like it. Also, what is your new job? You leave me with such cliffhangers? I’ve decided you’ve joined a knit-bombing team, and that’s your new job.

3. I’m glad you approve of Wesley, because I certainly do.  I think the two of you would get along swimmingly. Hopefully, you’ll be able to meet at some point.

4. Soups are the best. It’s getting colder up here in the hinterland, which mean soups galore.  I’m definitely going to have to try that chicken and wild rice soup.  You’re not the only one who likes a thick soup, and has a tendency to not be able to make a thinner soup.  Fortunately, most of the soups I’ve made in the past couple months have been curry based, so I can easily turn them into sauces.

5. Pumpkin bars?! I do not recall pumpkin bars being in my life. I’ll definitely have to make those as well.  Who can say no to pumpkin? No one.

Okay, so for Thanksgiving, I headed to Chicago to spend some quality time with my real parents aunt and uncle.  I was asked if I had ever made a pecan pie, which I had not.  So, I decided to experiment with pecan pies last weekend.  I did some research on pecan pies, and discovered they are traditionally made with corn syrup.  While I really appreciate a good ear of Iowa corn, I’m a little apprehensive about using corn syrup.  It’s just so controversial these days, and frankly I was not willing to serve controversy pie.  I did a little more research to see if there are like minded individuals in the world.  As it turns out, one can make a pie sans scorn syrup.  My game plan:  make 1 pie with corn syrup and make 1 pie without.  Thankfully, I had a ready and willing group of friends to taste test these pies.  Full disclosure, in the interest of time, I used pre-made pie crust.  Normally, I would have made my own.

Pie 1: Scorn Syrup

Pecan Pie
I don’t always take food pictures, but when I do, I try to make them artistic.

I used The Pioneer Woman’s pecan pie recipe.  I’ve always been a big fan of her recipes.  She’s on Food Network now, which could be interesting; I’ve not yet watched her show.  Anyway, the Pioneer Woman crushes/chops her pecans, which I did not do because I am more in favor of a beautiful pie rather than one that is more easily cut.  This pie says to bake for 50 minutes, the first 30 covered with foil, and the second 20 without.  I found that it took about 70-75 minutes to bake, but the Pioneer Woman did mention the baking time depended on the oven.  Due to some brunch reservations and some poor time management, the pie was undercooked by about 5 minutes, which meant the filling wasn’t as solid as I would have liked.  Overall, still pretty good.

Pie 2: Maple Syrup

Pecan Pie
Oh, so artistic.

For the second pie, I used Delightful Repast’s recipe.  This recipe calls for maple syrup instead of corn syrup.  This is something I could get behind.  This pie should have only been baked for 50 minutes, but I got a little concerned and ended up baking it for about 5 minutes too long.  Still good.

Let’s compare and contrast.  Pie 1 was sweeter and creamier than Pie 2.  However, Pie 2 highlighted the pecan flavor better.  Both pies were good, but the general consensus was the texture of Pie 1 was better, but the flavor of Pie 2 was preferable.  So, next time I will try to marry the two.

When my aunt and I started cooking for Thanksgiving, she already had a pecan pie recipe picked out from Cooking Light.  It appeared my research was rendered mostly useless.  However, I was able to explain to my uncle why the pecans are put on the bottom of the pie dish and how they make it to the top.  Scientific & Knowledgeable Carolyne was scientific and knowledgeable.  This recipe used brown rice syrup and maple syrup.  I was not a fan.  I could still taste the brown rice syrup after baking, and I’m not a big rice fan.  However, everyone else liked it, so that’s good.

Anne, can I tell you a story about my bread mishap at the Thanksgiving?  Okay, so on Thanksgiving my aunt and I realized we didn’t have any bread for the meal later that afternoon.  I suggested we make ciabatta bread since it’s relatively easy to make, and it’s delicious.  This is one of those “mostly in my head” recipes, but I have the actual recipe on hand, just in case.  Seeing as how I was in Chicago, and not the good old Coop, I had to rely on my memory and then call my mom to double check.  Well, my mother was eating Thanksgiving with my family because they wanted to celebrate before Kelsey went to work, meaning my mother did not answer, leaving me on my own.  So, I did what I thought was right, which turned out to be wrong (yay me).  I didn’t have enough water, so I thought I could fix it by adding the amount of water I needed.  Wrong again.  I ended up with a soupy mess and a bruised ego.   Fortunately, we had enough of the ingredients to start over.  My aunt rightfully did not trust me to do this correctly this time, so she hovered around to make sure we had the proper consistency.  On a positive note, the bread turned out perfectly, and my aunt made me a sandwich with the bread for the plane ride bake to New York.   I will leave you with the ciabatta recipe.

Ciabatta Bread

Yields 2 loaves

Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 packet of yeast

pinch of sugar/honey for yeast

2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Dissolve packet of yeast in water with sugar.  Wait 5-ish minutes.

2.  Mix flour and salt in big bowl.  (Make sure to actually mix the salt into the flour.  Salt kills yeast. Learned that from the aunt this weekend.)

3. Add oil and water to flour mixture.  Mix for 10-ish minutes. (Dough should be very sticky, but not soupy.)

4. Let rise for 30 minutes.

5. Flop. (aka scrape dough onto a board, fold one side to the other, fold once more)

6. Put dough back in the bowl. Let rise another 30 minutes.

7. Flop again.

8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

9. Cut dough in half.  Form two loaves. Place loaves onto cookie tray(s).  Let rise while oven preheats.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bread is golden brown on top.  Bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Love and Giblets,

Carolyne

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