Week 5 Showstopper: 3-Tiered Pies

In true showstopper fashion, the final challenge was to build a three-tiered self-supporting structure of three pies all with a central theme. Luis picked the four seasons. Nancy made three pies with some variation of apple. Some bakers chose watercrust pastry for savory pies and then stacked them all on top of each other. Some used a type of display which depended on the pie for structure.

I’ve decided to skip the “tiered” aspect. Instead, I’ll be baking three pie under a common theme. This is a lot of food and I don’t want to waste it by making all three pies at once. I doubt my small family would be able to eat enough to make it worth it.

The Plan

The first job is to pick the theme and number of pies. I’m sticking with three. That’s already SO many pies!! As for the theme, I tried to come up with options but I kept going back to the same idea: boozy pies. I wanted to bake pies inspired by cocktails. My goal is to utilize different alcohols, so that I avoid a one-note underlying flavor in these pies.

Pie #1: Mint Julep

The mint julep is a classic cocktail made of bourbon and mint simple syrup. This pie uses a chocolate wafer crust, a mint julep filling, and whipped cream.

1. Crust

I know I cheated because I used Famous Chocolate Wafers for the crust. Everyone knows I can bake cookies already.

2. The Custard

This was my first time making a custard with gelatin. I see the bakers on GBBBO use gelatin but I was a bit nervous. I had access to the powder rather than gelatin sheets. Making this made me so nervous. Sticking my measuring cup in boiling water.

3. Whipped Cream

I made whipped cream with mint simple syrup a few days ahead. Unfortunately by the time I made the pie it tasted rotten! Tub of Cool Whip to the rescue!

4. Bake

This was a quick bake with all of the filling ingredients followed by a long freeze.

5. Final Thoughts

This tasted like a grasshopper pie, so it tasted good. I caught some of the bourbon in some of the bites, but overall it didn’t remind me of a mint julep. However, the filling is like a cross between a popsicle and ice cream. I really enjoyed the texture.

Pie #2: Rum Old-Fashioned

Featuring rum and bitters (spirits infused with fruit, spices, leaves, bark, roots, and herbs), this pie is a play on a lattice peach pie.

  1. The Crust

I’ve made pie crust a million times at this point. It came together nicely with a good moisture level. Chilled it as a disc in saran wrap. Rolled it out, pricked the base with a fork, then chilled again.

2. The Peaches

I actually bought fresh peaches, sliced them, and then froze them. Probably not the best idea because they wouldn’t thaw. They got a little ugly after defrosting but they were still good.

3. The Filling

I was fiddling with the pie crust instead of paying attention to my pan. I combined the juice and alcohol from the macerated peaches with cornstarch. It thickened while I wasn’t paying attention and nearly stuck to the pan and burned.

4. The Assembly

I had never thought of braiding the lattice before! I gave it a shot and it looked nice. I’ll have to think the rest of the lattice through next time.

5. The Bake

The edges of the crust caught a little bit. I put the crust shields on a little too late. The inside seemed baked, but it looked like some of it congealed more (possibly because I overcooked the filling?).

Final Thoughts

The crust held together and did not get soggy. When you cut into the pie the filling stayed intact. You could definitely taste the booze, but I may adjust the bitters if I ever make this again.

Pie #3: Margarita Pie

Margaritas (not the frozen kind) are made with lime, tequila, and an orange liquer called triple sec. I switched out triple sec for Cointreau in this baked then chilled pie.

  1. The Crust

I’ll admit I cheated a bit. I did not want to bake my own graham crackers for this crust. This crust is made of crushed graham cracker crumbs with salt and butter, then baked for a short time before filled and baked again.

2. The Filling

There’s is soooo much lime juice in this. I now need to buy a juicer to prevent my poor husband from struggling against them ever again.

3. Bake & Chill

I use a pizza stone for my pies (as per the pie queen herself- Erin McDowell). It helps evenly distribute heat.

4. The Decorations

I piped whipped cream onto the cooled custard then topped with salted limes – like a margarita!

5. Final Thoughts

So much lime! You get hit with lime then the bitter bite of tequila. It was set nicely and didn’t slop over or leak when sliced. It was also quite pretty. I only worried that perhaps I didn’t mix it enough because I could see swirls of egg yolk in places.

The End Result

I think i would have been disqualified after this round. Pre-made biscuits and a tub of Cool-Whip weren’t exactly in the rules… However, this challenge has been the bottleneck for this whole bake-through. I’m just glad it’s over!

Cork Dork Takes Me on a Wine-Fueled Adventure

Image result for cork dork

I finally got around to reading a book that has been on my to-read list for a while- Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste. In this enrapturing true-story, the author Bianca Bosker quits her job as a journalist to pursue a single-minded journey of becoming a sommelier. For those of you who have never heard of a sommelier, they are the wine experts of high-end restaurants. Their role in the dining room is to help guests choose wine, then serve it to then. Part salesperson- part oenophile, they learn to distinguish wines based on smell and taste alone. They study the long process of making wines, the histories of certain wines, and the quality of certain producers.

Mrs. Bosker took her journey a step further, combining her new passion for wine with scientific study. She travels the world to meet experts in neuroscience, olfaction, and cognition. She attends conferences, watches human dissections, and even undergoes testing in an fMRI to analyze her brain activity during wine tasting.

To wholeheartedly commit your life to a passion is admirable. What makes the author’s journey so much more is that she spent the journey determining what she wanted out of being a sommelier. She questioned conventional practice, the tendencies of the Masters, and found her own place. Her greatest joy is in sharing the experience that great wine (like great food) changes a person, even if only for a moment. Our sensory experience of wine transports us to memories and moments.

If reading this book has done anything, it made wine a more approachable beverage. I like wine. I drink it, but I don’t know much about it. I considered my Malbecs to be pretty fancy (until the author called it “cougar crack”). So I decided I would go try to pick out some wines and learn a bit for myself.

I started with a book that is recommended reading for all sommelier’s – “The Wine Bible.” I also looked online. The best way to begin the journey toward being a oenophile seemed to be by expanding my horizons. This meant trying something other than my usual Riesling, Malbec, or Moscato.

While in Las Vegas, I tried two similar white wines. Chablis is a crisp, citrus-y wine. I described it as the “watered-down drunk girl in Vegas.” I could barely taste any alcohol, possibly due to the acidity. I followed this with a glass of Sancerre. Though there was a similar taste, the alcohol was more apparent. I was most intrigued by the color, as it appeared nearly clear in the glass.

I’ve purchased two bottles of wine since – a Cote du Rhone and a Paso Robles. Though I haven’t tried them yet, I’m looking forward to opening those bottles! Maybe in the meantime I’ll keep reading up on flavors. I’m really enjoying the journey of expanding my palate and exploring new flavors.