There was nothing more exciting, relaxing, and perhaps a bit mystifying than the idea of spending an entire three week course dedicated to the idea of baking pies. I wanted this to be a time to explore flavor combinations and build on the classics. With this in mind, Grace and I chose a green chili chocolate pie, a pear ginger pie, and a grapefruit meringue.
This green chili chocolate pie was taken from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie cookbook. For the pie, the jalapeño and ginger were simmered in milk and cream in order to give a spicy kick to the chocolate. This cream mixture was later strained and poured into the chocolate in order to melt it. We found this idea intriguing, but in reality the spice was too overpowering. The jalapeño pepper outside of the actual spicy taste was a bit too prominent and the chocolate was too dark to be sweet. This made the pie savory and spicy If I were to try this recipe again, I would have added more sugar and perhaps a whipped cream topping as well. There was also cardamom in the recipe, but I couldn’t taste it in the final pie. We partially baked the crust beforehand using beans in order to weigh the crust down and keep the pastry from puffing up with air bubbles. This was the first time I had partially baked the crust using this technique.
The pear ginger pie was an adaptation from a fresh pear pie in our course packet. It called for crystallized ginger and apricot jam which were twists from the typical pear pie. It was interesting to try and overall quite good. The pears themselves ended up a little undercooked, probably as a product of being under ripe. Additionally, the filling was a little on the runny side. The recipe called for cornstarch or tapioca to thicken the filling and we tried cornstarch, but it would have been interesting to see if there was any substantial difference with using tapioca. The crystallized ginger was a good idea, but I would have liked a little more to make the flavor a bit more prominent. In order to combat the under ripe pears, it might have been good to cook them in a saucepan with the ginger and all the spices before putting the filling in the pie. I’ve done this with apple pie, and it has worked pretty well.
We found the recipe for the grapefruit meringue on a cooking blog called Sweet and Savory. I was intrigued by this because lemon meringue is one of my favorite pies and this was an interesting substitution. I was a little hesitant because grapefruit has the tendency to be quite bitter, but this recipe was surprisingly successful. The filling was boiled on the oven and it thickened surprisingly well and quickly, so it was important to have beaten the meringue topping earlier rather than later. One small tweak I would have made is to add some lemon or lime juice to the recipe. I found it to be a little too sweet especially with the addition of the sweet meringue topping. When the pie came out of the oven, it was gorgeous, but as it cooled, the meringue shrunk from the topping. This could have been because we put it in the refrigerator before it completely cooled and there was a large drop in temperature.
Overall, I had an amazing week, loved working with Grace, and was excited to try some interesting and weird pies, even with some mixed results. There’s definitely a lot to learn, and it is almost sad to move on so quickly. However, I’m still looking forward to another week of baking and enjoying the savory side to pies!