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Jurassic Pie Party complete with Dinosaur-Sized Wine

29 Oct

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Do you ever have a lot of things just sort of serendipitously collide at the right time?
I did not have a lot of these things happen but for name-related reasons I was absurdly pleased to receive wine from Modern House Wines to try. One of them was a GIANT bottle called, quite cheekily, “Go Big”. The name pleased me because I got this wine right before the next installment of Pie Party I was throwing with my friends Alice and Joel: Jurassic Pie.

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Dinosaurs are big. So was this wine. It was meant to be! More about the vino in a bit but…this party. You guyssssss, this party!

This was a Jurassic Pie Party, so-themed because I had dinosaur cookie cutters I really wanted to use. I decided that gingerbread dinosaurs would be exceptional parading across a pumpkin pie. I was so very right. Jungle-ish attire was suggested-I only rummaged up some leopard print but that’s okay.

We were also going to have a velociraptor dance contest. Somehow large amounts of pie(s), gingerbread cookies, Manhattans, and wine got in the way of that. But I’m sure there would have been some priceless velociraptor action if we actually got around to it.

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This was the infamous high-brow/low-brow dual crusted Frito-crusted pie, partially responsible for lack of ability to dance.

I had cookie cutters for a t-rex, a velociraptor, a triceratops, a brontosaurus, a pterodactyl and my personal favorite, the stegosaurus. Since the upscale frito-crusted pie I’ve been perfecting is sort of tex-mex we re-christened the t-rex as a T-Mex. He listens to Ice-T. This pie was demolished rapidly, and the pumpkin pies and apple tart fell almost as fast.

Joel and I were pitting a couple of different pumpkin pies against each other. His was a classic condensed milk recipe and mine involved evaporated milk and sugar. We ended up agreeing one wasn’t necessarily better than the other because they are two different breeds of pie. Mine had a lot more spices and his was a bit lighter, I thought, and tasted more purely of pumpkin. So it all depends what you are after.

The biggest winner(s) of the night though were the gingerbread cookies. I usually have good luck with Baking Illustrated and seeing as their classic gingerbread is my favorite gingerbread, I figured they would not let me down in the gingerbread cookie department. Good lord did they not.

Another important thing learned was that if you want to give your stegosaurus candy corn spikes then you need to freeze the candy corn before baking so it does not melt and spread.

The dealio on the vino. They are made for Target. Oprah likes them. I like that vintner behind them, Alexis Swanson Traina is female. That is rare, being as the booze-world in general seems to be largely a boys club. That may just be my perspective, I dunno, but if you have proof that the ratio of women vintners to male is equal, I would like to see it.

These wines are the wine equivalent of shopping at Target: Too easily done and you will end up consuming more than you planned. All of which is to say I enjoyed the wine. Really, very pleasant wines. Juicy. Not very dinosaur-y. But that is okay. Sometimes it is about size.

The normally-sized bottle I received is called Help is Here: light bodied, some spice, berries, makes me think of eating fluffy gingerbread on a hill. Enjoyable. Mildly vegetal in a good way. Smooth. Sweet.

Both pair well with these wondrous cookies. This recipe makes a decent amount of them but they were devoured practically before the party started. Dinosaurs are not as filling as one would think.

Gingerbread Cookies adapted from Baking Illustrated from the folks behind America’s Test Kitchen
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (measured by stirring the flour then dipping the measuring cup in then leveling the top)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (the book say to use dark but light is all I had)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still cool, sliced up
3/4 cup molasses (pro tip:grease your measuring cup first and it will m=be much easier to get all the molasses out)
2 Tbsp. milk (I used almond)
In a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt just to blend. Strew the butter pats over and process until it looks sandy, around 15 seconds. With machine running, pour in the molasses and milk slowly and process until evenly moistened and forming mass.
Scrape it out and divide in two. Roll out each part between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 of an inch (I did some thinner to make them crisp enough to stand up) then put them on a sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes until firmed up.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment. Take out your first section of dough. Remove top parchment paper then replace. Flip it over and flip and discard that parchment. Cut yer cookies and bake ten-ish minutes give or take. They will be set and if you stick a finger in one the impression will remain. But DO NOT over bake. Molasses is horrible when burnt.Let them cool on the sheet a couple of minutes then carefully transfer to racks. They will firm up more as they cool. Repeat over and over with the rest of the dough. Every time I rerolled scraps I had to stick them in the freezer again for a while so this is a process but it is worth it. I cooked these one sheet a a time. If you want to decorate with candy corn freeze the candy corn first or you will have a sugary melty mess. It will still taste good, if you are into straight up sugar which obviously I am since I like candy corn, but it will not retain the shape. So freeze it up. Bake it up. Do the dinosaur.

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Yet MORE Pie

4 Aug

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I can’t stop. I just keep posting pie. I am on a crust quest. Both for the perfect basic crust and the perfect frito crust.

It is very important to have ambitions.

Some of my acting goals are getting met at the moment-I start on a web series this week (playing a heroin addict!) and a short I wrote and am acting in is getting produced. So I feel as the metaphorical dessert for my acting repast, I can give pie a sliver of brain space.

They say it is important to not make grand sweeping goals without the accompanying actions you must take to achieve them. So, “win kcrw pie contest” is not a good goal. “Have intercourse with Trent Reznor” is not a good goal either, but for other reasons.

“Get together with pie fanatics to taste-test new crust recipes” is a good goal. It is achievable and gives a concrete course of action. I did that recently. I now have a new base recipe and a couple ideas of tweaks for the next round of crust. That taste-test get-together was just that: a small get-together. What was NOT small was the last pie event I held with my co-hosts Alice and Joel.

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Indulge me as I regale you with tales of the last pie party. Joel HAS achieved the “win kcrw pie contest” goal. He won for best savory pie. Of course now he wants to win both the savory and crust categories so he can have a shot at the coveted “Best in Show”. He offered to help host, since he has a whole dang house with ample parking. Alice and I gladly took him up on that. So as not to step on my pie glory he contributed an apple tart. Then he decided to make a tortilla español. And to use his grill to make paella too. Alice made a cherry-ginger sangria, and one involving bell peppers that was bloody delicious.

I made another version of my southwest purple potato pie, and the first stab at a dual-crusted upscale frito pie. And then just cause I’m nutty decided I really wanted to make the this recipe I had been ogling for some time.

I was quite scared of how things would pan out for the frito pie. It was really only the second time I have concocted a pie all on my own. This monstrosity has a regular bottom crust, a spicy black bean and mushroom filling, and a top crust with involving Fritos that have been ground up, as well as regular and corn flour and butter. In an ideal world I would have gotten my hands on some huitlacoche but I’ve yet to locate any. If anyone has a source for corn smut, I want to know! So I’m still working on the frito pie. It’s a dang tasty thing though. And a lot of folks cited it as their favorite of the night.

And a lot of folks there were! Our pie parties have grown from tiny, to a group of five learning about crust, to having more teaching plus a matching cocktail, to having two matching cocktails, to having a dark side and a large group, to this July’s MASSIVE pie, paella, and sangria FEAST, with around 30 guests.

It was an epic night. It was a beautiful night. It was a filling night.

When I finally perfect the frito pie I will tell you more about it. Same with the purple potato pie. In the meantime, the cherry streusel one was already perfection, compliments of those wacky people at Bon Appetit.

And in case all this is not enough pie for you, check out what I am proud to say is my most popular Hello Giggles column yet. I am particularly happy because I was writing about Greg‘s amazing Savory Pies cookbook and the potato-crusted macaroni and cheese pie.

But first, dessert!

Cherry Streusel Pie adapted from July 2005 Bon Appetit
Crust: I made a butter rendition, but as I mentioned I am still tweaking it. Here is a very basic, reliable, and (I think) tasty crust recipe I frequently use. You can also read there why I sometimes think a shortening crust is preferred.
Filling:
1 scant cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 14.5 oz. cans sour cherries. Most of the liquid strained.
dash almond extract (my addition)

Streusel:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 Tbsp. packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the rack in the middle. Place a baking sheet lined with foil below this rack, if you fear spills. As you should.

Line your pie pan with your crust and put it in the freezer. Mix the first four filling ingredients. Add cherries and almond extract and stir. Allow to sit ten minutes.

Mix all dry ingredients for the streusel. Add the butter and vanilla and use your fingers to get a nice pebble-like consistence.

Pour the filling into the crust. Top with the streusel. Put it on the middle oven rack and bake about 20 minutes then tent foil over the top to keep the streusel from burning. Bake until the streusel is golden and and the filling bubbly, around 10 more minutes. Cool on a rack.

Snicker at me. Please.

7 Mar

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I made these cookies for my improv group who wigged out on how much they liked them. These are hefty cookies, and thank god I kept a few at home because the group ate them up. One group member stated that they are like a cookie form of cinnamon toast crunch. I say that is true, but they are even better. Although now I want to crumble them into a bowl with milk.

I am going to ply you with more comedy whiz-nit for a minute, but stay tuned for some thoughts on Snickerdoodles, as a thing, below.

My improv team of which I speak and I strive to make people laugh a lot, at least once a week. I am always doing comedy. I can tell you confidently that whether it is a sitcom or Shakespeare, comedy is harder. Than anything. Why did I hate it when people laughed at me as a kid? It’s all I want now.

I intend to inspire a wee bit of laughter and/or tears this weekend:
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I am rather terrified, as my story may be too serious for this crowd? It is sort of sad and funny. Screw it. It’s gonna be great. Come see the show! Even if I suck, the Hello Giggles shows at UCB always rock. Tickets here. Woot!

Now for what I had to say about Snickerdoodles. I noticed in the last year or two lots of people making any old recipe, adding cinnamon and calling it a Snickerdoodle-flavored. Someone even wrote on their blog that the only difference between Snickerdoodles and sugar cookies was the cinnamon. WRONG! SO WRONG! A Snickerdoodle has a very, very specific taste that comes largely from the introduction of an acid, usually in the form of cream of tartar. So there.

I like a good good biting flavor in a cookie. And a good biting wit.

That was lame. Oh, well. Make cookies, come see me and laugh, and all shall be well my pretties.

Snickerdoodles adapted from Baking Illustrated
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. Sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. shortening
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. Sugar mixed with Tbsp. Cinnamon

Heat yer oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking trays with parchment. Parchment is perfection. Whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter, sugar and shortening at medium speed until well combined. Add the eggy-weggs and beat until mixed in. Add the dry ingredients and beat in at low speed. Take big tablespoons of dough and make 1 1/2 ing balls. Roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Put them quite far apart on the tray. These be big cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes rotating halfway. Cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to totally cool.

Not a winner but lost nothing

12 Sep

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I entered the kcrw(Los Angeles’ NPR station) pie contest. With my pie. The pie.

There were 285 entries this year and I think most were in the fruit pie category. Next year maybe I’ll enter the art-based category.

Everyone made one pie for the public, whom we served ourselves, and one for the judges.

I got to taste the fare of the people I was serving next to: a caramelized onion and Roquefort tart(need that recipe), a cherry pie with a chocolate crust(adore the concept but the crust was sort of like mediocre chocolate cake, not crust, a sweet and sour cherry pie(solid), and a shoo-fly pie that was not like the types I’d seen recipes for. It seemed more like a pecan pie without pecans but better texture. I’m getting her recipe. I’ll blog that shit up, yo.

I met Joy the Baker! She was one of the judges. Super nice, super humble that Joy.

But I did not win. I am not sure how the judges narrowed down the hundreds of pies but they did and I was not one of the chosen ones, which is too bad because I always have said I make the best pie.

After it all, when we contestants went to collect the pies we’d sent to the judges, we tasted more of each other’s wares but by that time I’d been in the sun and heat for two hours, and eaten nothing but sugar and coffee and nothing I tasted stood out. And I just was feeling loser-ish.

But.

At the end of the day. I
got home, tired and sweaty and started eating the remains of my pie and had a revelation:
Hot DAMN. I make amazing pie.

Possibly the best.

Balls. Too late.

5 Sep

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Gosh durnit to heck. I made this for a party weeks ago. And put off posting it. Then suddenly everyone has been posting balls and non-cook things and I feel like I am just hopping on the bandwagon. Like when I spent a year waffling things then a couple weeks before my waffle week waffles were everywhere. Fortunately I had this pumpkin waffle entry written way back when I conceived the idea to prove I did it first. I mean good golly, I admit it when I decide to be a joiner.

Does it matter? What matters is that I made balls and they were tasty so screw it. Here they are. And the entry I wrote ages back when I made these:

Averie loved veggies and yoga. Then she decided she liked dessert more.

Smart woman. Whilst still writing under blog title Loves Veggies and Yoga, she crafted these lovely balls.

I had festivities to contribute to that only had one gluten-free attendee but seeing as she was also host, I thought I better cook in that vein. Vane? Vain? Dictionary.com time…vein.

Too hot to cook. Note made now: it is still too hot to cook, doggonit!
So I scrapped any notion of baking the chocolate bars I had made to woo my Midsummer cast and made the dough balls instead, using brown rice flour instead of regular. And they were good. So there. I’ve got balls too.

Go try em here and say hi to Avery for me.

Brunettes for Bittman

11 Jul

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Cookies? Meh.
Cookie dough?
Yes sir may I have another sir.

This recipe for Blondies from my beloved Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” was the closer to raw dough than any other baked good I’ve experienced.

I made these for a party my new manager was throwing.

I have to say, clearly I picked the right representation.
My agent cooks Japanese feasts that introduce me tithe likes of lotus root and sake cocktails and my manager has a wine-tasting parties. Meow.

Supposedly this recipe was for blondies. But they were a wee bit dark to be thought of as blonde.
More like brunettes.

If the rate at which these disappeared from the dessert table is any indication, I am going to have to say, brunettes have more fun.

Yours truly does. She thinks. Stop talking about yourself in 3rd person, Ellen.

Ok.

Do gentlemen really prefer blondes?
Does Bittman, hence his faulty naming of this cookie?

Discuss, them bake:

Blondies from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
1/2 c. Butter
1 c. Brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Pinch salt
3/4 c. Flour
1/4 c. Whole wheat flour
Melt the buttah. Beat with sugar til smooth, then beat in egg and almond extract. Stir in flours. Bake in a greased 8 inch pan at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. When you take it out depends on how done you like your cookies. So I take it out pretty quickly.

Addicted to love

30 Jun

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I’m actually not addicted to love, but I do become addicted to stuff I love. And when it comes to rehab I say No. No. No.

I am addicted to cooking from kinky-or-not(?)Chocolate Covered Katie’s eponymous blog.
I’ve made more things from her site than any other blog. I’ll give a little rundown at the end of this post.

An actual substance I legitimately love with addictive qualities happens to be cookie dough. So Katie’s Cookie Dough Dip had been on the to-make list for far too long.

I love her, I love dough. What else am I currently in love with? The cast of my play. My trifecta is complete. Crap, I thought trifecta just described a union of three great things but looked it up and found that it is a bet where you bet on the first three winners in exact order. I stand corrected.

Katie, cookie dough and the cast are not a trifecta. They are a triumvirate. That IS correct. A set of three. Specificly they are a triumphal triumvirate. The hat trick of addictive loves.

Katie’s recipe was naturally gluten-free, as are many of my castmates. Geez, these loves were meant to be. And the Midsummer(tickets here!) cast most certainly would need feeding for our sold out Sunday matinee, oui? That is where I served this up.

We are a sordid group, us thespians.
Here’s the green room evidence:

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I think I’m in love with them. Oh yes. Meow.
Perhaps I have kinky-ness to rival that which potentially resides in Katie my chocolate covered vegan blog-writer-love? I do make use of a whip in the play. You make the call.

First make Katie’s Cookie Dough Dip.

I served these with sea salt dusted crackers for the salty-sweet goodness and made mine with peanut butter as the nut butter, brown sugar as the sweetener, and added just a pinch of love. That was cheesy. But it’s the truth.

The Katie round-up. Not obsessed, just in love:

Pumpkin Bread in a Bowl
Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal(boatmeal)
Cookie Dough Balls
Vegan Crustless Quiche
Pumpkin Bars
Singleton Muffin and Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
Cake Batter Ice Cream
Beautiful Blueberry Concoction aka soy-free love potion
Healthy Ranch Dressing