pie Tag

CHI SPACCA’S FOCACCIA DI RECCO, OR THE CLOSEST YOU’LL GET TO IT AT HOME

DOLLOPS OF FRESH COW’S MILK CHEESE COCOONING IN BETWEEN TWO PAPER-THIN FILMS OF UNYEASTED DOUGH, AND BAKED INTO A BALLOONED AND BLISTERED PIE WITH CHEESE-FILLED UNDERGROUND CHAMBERS.

What is obsession?  When is it helpful and when does it get silly?

Ever since that episode of Chef’s Table on Nancy Silverton, I’ve been dwelling, not upon, but inside this subject.

The episode, of course, celebrates a chef’s willingness to spend an inexhaustible amount of effort to close that last short climb between what is already a great dish to a conceivably perfect one.  A distance too short and steep no doubt, for most to commit.  But to Silverton, especially when it comes to breads, being obsessed is not a question of should or shouldn’t, but do you have what it takes?  I am, however, at least not today, talking about the theoretical aspect of obsessions.  Instead, I’d like to bring forth the physical one that I was sent into after watching her episode.

During that show, there was about a 30-seconds scene showcasing a flatbread-looking pie, a glowing golden-brown mirage.  Captivated by that glimpse, nothing but a glimpse, without even knowing what “it” actually was, I plunged into a months-long pursuit from grasping what I saw to realizing it in my own kitchen.   First, it took me a considerable amount of Googling to find out what I initially thought was a “thin double-sided pizza stuffed with mozzarella?”, to be something actually called focaccia di recco from her restaurant Chi Spacca, an extremely crispy-edged, flatbread-like creature that has nothing to do with either pizza nor mozzarella, or the typical focaccia for that matter.  The dish is essentially dollops of fresh cow’s milk cheese cocooning in between two stretched, unyeasted, paper-thin films of dough, and baked into a ballooned and blistered pie with cheese-filled underground chambers.  Mostly cracker-like crispy, partially soft and stretchy, all in all and bona fide gastronomic wonder unlike anything I have ever seen.

It, allegedly, took her two whole years to perfect.

Since then, I bled over bringing it into my reality.  I don’t have anything else to elaborate other than the every words already written in the instructions, each summarizing hours and hours of theorizing, testings, failings, staring, and re-testings, presented to you, as shortly and concisely as I think what a normal human being has patience for.  The result rewarded and justified every last drop of sweat and tears spent, and whatever difference there may be from the real deal, I confide in my belief to be a result of hardware issues (commercial oven VS. home electric oven).  Except, maybe, whatever experience I cannot transcribe through words.  And if so, then that my friend, is where only your obsession can take you.  But it’s worth it, let me tell you.  It’s all worth it.

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SICHUAN PEPPERCORN BLUEBERRY OATMEAL PIE

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A SERIOUSLY FLAKEY PIE

WITH BLUEBERRIES SCENTED WITH FLORAL SICHUAN PEPPERCORNS, MYSTERIOUS AND SUBTLE, AND CREAMY OATMEAL ON THE BOTTOM TO SOAK IT ALL UP

Easy as pie.  I’m sorry.  Was that supposed to be funny?

Pies are anything but easy.  In fact, it took me two years of really, really, humiliatingly sucking at it; and another three years of total denials and nightmarish phobias; and then another year to pick up the pieces of my self-esteem to try again; and then, finally then, last week, before landing on something that I feel happy enough to share with behind closed door.  And today, six years plus a couple tweaks later, to talk about it openly on the internet.  This recipe is my collected wisdoms on pie-making from years of failures and heartbreaks (think those pies as a house presented with a giant sink hole, sewage flooding and electrical fire, all at the same time).

What it is, is a seriously flakey pie, like no-kiddingly flakey, with blueberries scented with a mysterious, floral tone from sichuan peppercorns that is subtle but distinct, and a bed of creamy oatmeals to soak it all up.  The sichuan peppercorns are not gonna make you go “Chinese food!“, ok?, it won’t.  It just perfumes the pie.  And the oatmeals not only prevents the whole “sewage flooding” issue, but is also texturally more superior than gloppy, cornstarch-thickened mess.  In fact, from now on whenever you bake a fruit pie, I suggest you blanket a layer of this on the bottom.  It is thirsty for the collapse of your fruits.

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Now, as a general rule of thumb…  For those people who were born with mutated abilities to make perfect pies since birth, this may not be a big deal.  But I gather that there are also those out there like me with this specific genetic defect, that they might appreciate some tips.  And my tips on How To Not Fuck Up A Pie is – Go Gollum.  A certain conversation amongst “ourselves” should take place inside our head, to remind us every step of the way that, forget one, it all goes to shit.  And my conversation goes like this:

  1.  We wants the butter cold.  We needs the butter cold.
  2.  No “peas”.  Hate peas.  Big, flat diskses of butter created by hands resembling thick coins, are the precious to a super flakey dough.
  3.  Vinegar.  Yes, vinegar works.  Yes.
  4.  Cold.  Liquid, cold.  Everything cold.
  5.  Don’t knead the dough.  It’s better to use plastic-wraps to bring it into disks!  Tricksy.
  6.  The dough.  Cold.  Before doing anything stupid.  Cold
  7.  Cooked fruits are just fruitses but less good.  And mushy.  Whenever we can, add flavors.
  8.  I don’t know where you come from, Smeagol, but “soup” is not a friend of pie.  You want fruit soup, go juice.  This is a pie.  Soak it up.
  9.  Do not bake until the entire pie is COLD!  Motherfucking cold.  Don’t make me.
  10.  Finally, did we do all this for soggy lower crust?  No, no we did not.  Bottom of the oven, 15 min.

Taken that these kind of schizophrenic talks are not always the most well-composed, I’ve detailed every single steps in the recipe-instructions to help you out a bit.  I hope it serves you well.

Happy go pie.

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SICHUAN PEPPERCORN BLUEBERRY OATMEAL PIE

Ingredients

    PIE CRUST: adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
  • 2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp (15 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) water
  • 3 tbsp (45 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • SICHUAN PEPPERCORN BLUEBERRY OATMEAL FILLING:
  • 3 cups (460 grams) blueberry
  • 5 tbsp (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 cup (95 grams) quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tbsp (28 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (26 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) whole milk
  • TO BAKE:
  • 1 egg wash
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. PREPARE PIE CRUST: You can make the pie crust with food-processor, pastry-cutter, or stand-mixer. But I find that the most flakey crust results from the FLAT pieces of butter created by hands. So. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, light brown sugar and salt. Cut unsalted butter into large pieces, add into the bowl and coat each evenly with flour. With your fingers, create large, flat pieces of butter by rubbing them off of the large chunks. Each time you rub, coat the butter with lots of flour, and the largest pieces should be about the size of large, THICK coins, until you have something that looks like the first photo.
  2. Mix water, apple cider vinegar and ice cubes in a bowl. Scatter 8 tbsp of the liquid into the flour-mixture while fluffing with a fork, then bring the dough together by gently folding and pressing it with your hands. It should be very shaggy, and quite dry with lots of loose crumbs. But if the dough has difficulty coming together (very "sandy"), add 1~2 tbsp more liquid.
  3. Now, don't further knead the dough to try to bring the tiny loose crumbs together (and making it tough). Instead, lay a large piece of plastic-wrap on the counter. Transfer 2/5 of the dough-mixture onto the center of wrap, then bring the sides together until you have a tightly wrapped ball. Press down until it's flattened into a thick disk, then set aside in the fridge. Repeat with the remaining 3/5 of the dough. Let the dough hydrate/chill for at least 30 min, or it can be made the day ahead.
  4. PREPARE FILLING: In one bowl, toss together blueberry, granulated sugar, lemon juice and ground sichuan peppercorns. In another bowl, mix quick oats, dark brown and granulated sugar until even. Transfer 1/4 cup of the oatmeal-mixture into the blueberry and toss evenly. Then add whole milk to the remaining oatmeal-mixture and mix until resembling wet sand. Set both aside.
  5. MAKE/BAKE PIE: Take the larger disk of dough out of the fridge and leave the other chilled. Transfer onto a floured surface and roll it out into a slightly thinner than 1/4" (0.5 cm) sheet. Drape the sheet over your rolling pin, then transfer into a pie pan. Gently press it to fit the pan, then cut off the excess dough around the edge. Scatter the oatmeal-mixture on the bottom in a single layer, then top with the blueberry-mixture. Take the smaller disk out of the fridge, onto a floured surface, then roll it out into the same thickness (you can now do cutouts or patterns that you like). Brush the rim of the lower pie crust with egg wash, then drape the top crust over and gently pinch the edges to seal.
  6. Now CHILL YOUR PIE IN THE FREEZER FOR AT LEAST 30 MIN!!. Start preheating the oven AFTER you form the pie, so it forces you to wait for the pie to chill properly, which is paramount. Now, preheat the oven on 365 F/185 C.
  7. Brush the entire pie surface with egg wash then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake in the middle rack for 25 min, then move the pie to sit right at the very bottom of the oven and bake for another 15 min (this gives you that nice crispy bottom-crust instead of soggy one).
  8. Let cool for 15 min, then serve with scoops of ice creams (blueberry!).

Notes

The sweetness level of this pie lands on the mild side, as how I like it. If you want sweeter pie, add more sugar to the blueberries in Step 4.

https://ladyandpups.com/2016/09/07/sichuan-peppercorn-blueberry-oatmeal-pie/

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peach mascarpone pot pie + ginger molasses cookie lid

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Had I anticipated enough courage to pick up the topic of peach and mascarpone again this summer, I probably wouldn’t have cashed that sob-story so early.  After that horrendous disaster of a pie, if that pile of slumpy menace could still be called that…, I was determined to quit peach forever, total rehab.  After all, they quit me first.  You see, that’s the other side of the story.  Years ago, peaches decided to join the alliance of fruits that were waging an allergy campaign against me by inducing itchy mouth every time I tried to reach out a friendly lick.  As I was addicted to rejection, every summer since was a struggling anniversary of our separation.  Even after more than a decade… that day when I picked them out of the mascarpone-puddle-of-death and ate them, the peaches still made damn well sure that I was reminded.  I saved them from the fate of the eternal dumpster and they repaid me with crawly esophagus… lil fuckers.

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almond byproduct tart

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If you hoard much.  You know, unable to let go trunks of junks that’s jamming your life, and aren’t quite sure what the normal reaction is when you look down on a shampoo bottle where the shampoo is long gone (hi Jen) , or that your loved ones take great pleasure to be on a reality show as the world watches you being eaten away by your own shame.  Yeah, hoarders.  You keep everything.  It’s a disease and I’m your new BFF.  Because I let go of possessions beautifully.  I trash donate things with a clean swift cut-throat almost artful peeerfection (someone needs this cheetah-print denim more than I do).  And I extend my virtue to touch those in need around me – may or may not be with consent – by trashing donating their shit for them, too.  They’re welcome.

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To Roll, or Not To Roll

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Like standing in the DMV queue and being asked (judged simultaneously too) if I wanted to be an organ donor.  Or whether to leave my BJ apartment on a PM2.5 hazardous day for groceries or starve with cheese crackers.  Or whether to spend the last scrap of my monthly budget on the air purifier we really do NEED versus the new iPhone I really do WANT.  Nobody said being an adult is easy.

So years of life-defining choices as such have boiled down to this moment – I find myself standing in the kitchen in BJ (how the hell did I end up here…?), deciding which is the better way to form an Asian meat pie.

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