Friday, March 14, 2014

Toasts | in memoriam of Baba, iii


First slice of my homemade malted chocolate pecan pie.

With another year gone by, here I've baked another pecan pie on Pi(e) Day for my father, my 爸爸 (Baba), keeping my own vow to honor the memory of him and his passing on this day with the celebratory consumption of a (pecan) pie, a play on words that still rings with me today. I can't seem to find the right words to express my emotions today as my heart is especially heavier than it has ever been in the past. So I wish to wholly express my grief, my release, my loss, and my memories with this labor of love -- baking a pecan pie from scratch. It is undoubtedly a personal testament to patience and discipline, two humble virtues my father held in a very high regard. Wherever he may be, I hope he is proud of the woman I've become and the person I wish and strive to be, as I'm proud to say I'm his one and only daughter. Miss you and love you always, 爸爸.

Me with my parents at my cousin's wedding, July 1994.


I'm a huge fan of this fantastic bakery in Brooklyn (my personal favorite is the salted caramel apple pie), so when its two sibling owners, Emily and Melissa Elsen, released their cookbook last year, I immediately made sure to get my hands on a copy. It is a fantastic cookbook on mastering the art and techniques of pie making and includes the recipe for the malted chocolate pecan pie that I decided to take a stab at for this dedication.


It was a six-hour operation (not including the crust's overnight preparation), and while the pie isn't a perfect picture, boy was it delicious (especially a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream). Here's to you 爸爸, thank you for all that you taught me, for always supporting me, and for being the bravest man I've ever known.

Please enjoy a slice of pie (or tart!) today in memory of my father on Pi(e) Day! :) Thank you for letting me share this special dedication on this day. Happy Pi(e) Day!

 P. S. I've included the recipe below for those interested! :)

Emily & Melissa Elsen: The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, 2013

"All-Butter Crust" with "Partial Prebaking" (pp. 207, 68)
Single-Crust Pie

The Crust
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½  teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup ice

The Egg White Glaze (for Partial Prebaking)
1 egg white (Note: Save egg yolk for the pie filling!)
1 teaspoon water

pastry blender
bench scraper (or spatula)
pie pan (preferably glass)
pastry brush
pie weights (or beans)
rimmed baking sheet

Prepping the Dough
Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain. a fewer larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix it and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. 

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

Partially Prebaking the Dough
Have your crust rolled, crimped, and rested in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When it's fully chilled, use a fork to price all over the bottom and sides, 15 to 20 times. This step, called docking, helps eliminates the air bubbles that can form when the dough is exposed to heat and also prevents the crust from shrinking. Place the crust in the freezer.

"Malted Chocolate Pecan Pie" (p. 188)
9-inch, Single-Crust Dessert Pie

Excerpt: Barley malts are an unexpected ingredient for pie making. We add barley malt syrup to our pecan pie along with some dark chocolate... Our neighbor Brooklyn Homebrew is a great online source for it. We use their Briess Traditional Dark Liquid Malt Extract.

All-Butter Crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie, partially prebaked

The Filling
1½ cups pecan pieces (Excerpt: We like to use chopped pecans rather than whole; it creates a better balance of nuts to crust and filling. It's also easier to cut and easier to eat.)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (55% cacao)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup barley malt syrup
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

rimmed baking sheets
sauce pan, medium
wire rack

Prepping the Filling
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To toast the pecans, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Bring an inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl large enough to rest on the rim of the saucepan, above the water. Melt the butter and chocolate over this double boiler, whisking occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat. Add the brown sugar, barley malt syrup, salt, cinnamon, and ginger, and stir well. Mix in the sour cream, then the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, stirring briskly after each addition. Stir in the cooled toasted pecan pieces.

Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and pour int he filling. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 52 to 57 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, about 35 minutes through baking. The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is slightly firm to the touch but still has some wobble (like gelatin). Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

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