Sunday, January 26, 2020

Weeknight Focaccia? Why not?

Note: for a follow-up on last week's Vinegar Pie, check out the bottom of this post.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote and talked about a Focaccia recipe I'd found on the Smitten Kitchen website. It's a really good recipe - but it takes some time to make. I mean... even in the "quick" version it takes a few hours. And I really don't want to wait that long most weeknights after work.

But we needed something to take to an event this week, and since we took cookies the last time we thought it would be good to change things up with something savory. And - for some reason - I thought "maybe focaccia would be good."

For those of you who prefer video, allow me to explain what's going on:

Wait. I skipped a few steps. Here are the ingredients:

4 cups (520 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups lukewarm water, made by mixing 1/2 cup boiling water with 1 1/2 cups cold water
4 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt

For the record, the olive oil I'm using is a garlic oil from a local olive oil purveyor.
Prior to showing off the bowl in the video, above, the ingredients looked like this:

A quick stir turned it into:

And then, just before filming, I covered it with a homemade beeswax-coated cloth:

And then I went to bed.

In the morning, I moved to the next step:

Post-stirring, it's a rather sad looking blend.

So, once again, the cover went on...

And this time I set it on top of the fridge to do its thing for the day while I went to work and did my thing for the day.

And it did its thing quite well over the course of the day, so that it looked like this at the end of the day:

A little garlic olive oil on the pan...

A little Play-doh time with the dough...

And after the "normal" stretching, I went a little off the rails and went at the dough with a bench scraper to make this batch into breadsticks.

Prior to baking, as I was sprinkling salt on them, they looked like this:

Post-bake, they looked like this:

How were they? Pretty much as good as you'd think. Not a single one of them came back home with us. And I really want to make more so I can eat the full pan...

Wouldn't you?

Lots of people checked out last week's Vinegar Pie, and one of them was actually someone who grew up with Vinegar Pie. As I had guessed, his recollection of the reason behind it was to replace lemon when it wasn't readily available. As such, it pretty much did its job. 

Also - weird thing - it didn't do well over time. A couple days later when I went in for a final slice, the flavor had "turned" a bit. It was still edible, it just wasn't enjoyable - the flavor had gotten less bright, and more sour. 

But I'm still very glad I made it and tried it. I recommend you trying sometime, too. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Novel Food - Vinegar Pie

Wow. It's been a while since I've put up a blog post. So why not start back with some food that seems fairly improbable - but also totally doable with what most people have in their pantries on a cold, snowy winter weekend?

And, come on. Who doesn't like a nice slice of pie?

But... okay... the title of this post says that I made a "vinegar pie" - what the hell is that? And where did I get the idea? I'm so glad you asked...

(By the way... YouTube has seriously updated the way you upload videos in the past few months. We'll see if I take advantage of any of them to class up my videos in the coming months...)

So... Yeah... Vinegar pie was inspired by Farmer Boy - book three of the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder - which I read for my Book Club. There's a scene in the book where Almanzo Wilder (at the time, about 9 years old, I believe) is eating all sorts of food, and "vinegar pie" is one of his favorites. 

This sent me on a quest to find out whether such a thing existed in the 21st century - and whether I could find a workable recipe. (In other words, nothing that talked about brining pork in barrels or making my own vinegar...)

Happily, the recipe I found only needed 5 ingredients (plus an unbaked 9-inch pie shell): 
As you can probably see in those screenshots, the recipe came from
Quick and easy recipe. Good Book Club tie-in. Seemed like the perfect pairing to me!

So I gathered my ingredients (and... well... made a pie crust - but you can totally just use a store-bought one if you'd prefer):
Somehow, knowing that these were the only ingredients didn't make me less nervous about the pie. It did, however, make me re-check the recipe for how much vinegar was going in. 
I started by melting the butter (so that I could cool it a bit and not end up with scrambled eggs).

After that, this is pretty much a dump - mix - bake recipe. 

Eggs and sugar first.

Which gave me this consistency:

Then melted butter, 

for this consistency:

Then vanilla (the brown spot)...
I won't lie. Part of me wanted to stop here with just a nice vanilla custard kind of thing going on.
 ...and vinegar,
This made me more nervous than I thought it would.
and I was happy to see that it didn't really cause this all to fall apart.
"Happy" and also very relieved.
Into the pie shell:
At this point, yes, I'm realizing that this was a really easy recipe and the photos are probably really boring. Thank you for staying with me to see how it turns out.
I started out checking it on my finger to see what the consistency was like. It held together pretty well - not too loose, but not glue-y, either.

There's only one problem with getting it on my finger: That meant I really had to taste it. But I couldn't do that without sharing the results, right? (Even though the pie had just gone into the oven.)

(REMINDER: Eating raw eggs and uncooked flour is potentially hazardous to your health. Don't do it.) (And, if you do, at least remember that I warned you.)

Somewhere around mid-bake, I looked in the toaster oven and saw it looking like this: 
Yes, I opened the oven door to take this photo. I know... I know... You keep telling me not to do that...
I was a little freaked out by how dark the top was, but I realize that that was probably due to baking it too high (too close to the top heating elements, etc.) in the toaster oven - not a fault of the pie. At this point, it was actually still obviously liquid under the dark top, so I slid it back in and walked away and trusted in the recipe. 

When I took it out at the end of 50 minutes, it had a slightly domed top as I set it on the rack to cool. 
Hmm... you can probably see the dome better in the toaster oven photo above.
And it almost immediately started to deflate. 
I tried to get a photo of the steam escaping from a crack in the dome, but it didn't turn out. 
By the time it had cooled, it was looking a bit sad, I have to admit. 

Though not as sad as the pup, who apparently felt that the pie smelled like something she should have been sharing.

I left the pie to cool and wait for Book Club. Which got postponed due to... well... due to it being January in Minnesota. But I still wanted to try the pie, obviously. 

It had a really good consistency - and the custardy filling didn't break or weep at all when I took out the first piece (considering how liquid-y the center had looked halfway through the bake time, I was a little worried about that). 
The crust issues were all on me - not the fault of the recipe, obviously.
The flavor wasn't quite as "lemon bar" as it had seemed to me when I tasted the batter before it baked. It was definitely more sweet-vanilla-forward, with the tang of the vinegar just kind of cutting through some of that sweetness.

I ate the whole piece, though, and went back for another one.

Christopher agreed to try a bite of the second one (I guess it seemed safe since I'd already eaten a piece), and he deemed it to be "not bad" - but something he would probably not be asking for more of.

Will I make it again? Probably for whenever my Book Club actually reconvenes to talk about the Little House books.

Would I make it outside of that arena? I'm not sure. I suspect - as you'll see if you read through the recipe comments - this is something that you love if you grew up with it, but might take some work to become an acquired taste if you didn't.

Even so, it does take a relatively attractive photo.

I know that at the end of most blog posts, I ask for your comments, suggestions, and discussion topics. But as I mentioned in the opening video, the amount of weird in the world has been on my mind a lot lately. 

So this week, in response to the devastating Australian wildfires, here's a link to an article in USAToday that lists a whole bunch of relief organizations - some for people, some for animals - if you're so inclined, making a donation to one (or many) of them might be a nice thing to do: