Monday, November 5, 2007

Potluck and Black-Bottom Blackberry Pie

I finally made it to one of Cristen and Miguel's potlucks at the invitation of a friend. I love vegan potlucks, especially if they're themed. This theme happened to be pie, which seems to continually have a big presence in my life. I'm kind of known for the pecan pies I make, and so I usually make those when I want to make pie, but I wanted to try something different and maybe a little usual. I decided to make a blackberry pie using frozen blackberries. When I looked in my baking cabinet, I found some high quality dark chocolate from when I was making truffles, and black-bottom blackberry pie sounded yummy so I got to work.

Last year during peak strawberry season, when I went to the farmer's market, the strawberry farmers would give me a few extra baskets of berries, so I had much more than I knew what to do with. I ended up making strawberry sauces, strawberry pies, and freezing the berries for later use or for frozen fruit slush. My favorite experiment from that time was a free form black bottom strawberry tart, made with phyllo dough, dark chocolate, strawberries and I think a little turbinado sugar. The flavors worked well together, but they are very separate and distinct, which kept them very intense. The technique was also extremely easy. On a baking sheet, I'd lay down one sheet of phyllo and brush it with safflower oil, then lay another sheet, that I'd turned 45° and brushed with oil, repeating and occasionally sprinkling or drizzling some sweetener over the last sheet. After laying down 25 sheets, I'd place broken chocolate or chocolate chunks in the center of the phyllo star in a circle approximately 7 inches in diameter. Then I'd lay 1 or 2 more sheets over the chocolate and strawberries that had been macerated in sweetener with a touch of lemon juice/zest. If the berries were particularly juicy, I'd add some powdered kuzu, then mound the berries in the center of the phyllo, where I'd previously placed the chocolate. Next, I'd fold the edges of the dough in to the center, leaving a large part of the strawberries exposed. If I used turbinado sugar, it would have been to sprinkle over the top of the dough for a sparkly, crunchy, sweet crust. I'd bake it for about 25 minutes at 350°F. When it cooled, the chocolate would get hard again, and the texture of hard dark chocolate with juicy soft berries and crisp phyllo always made me happy.

Since I had done that many times before, and it always came out beautiful and delicious, I thought I could use the same approach for a pie. Looking back I see my error. The pie was beautiful, but the blackberries and chocolate ended up co-mingling and being really rich. In addition, I served it hot, which amplified the richness. It's much better at room temperature. No recipe as this definitely needs tweaking.

The potluck was fun, and everyone was really sweet. We ate around a big bonfire, where Cristen and Miguel made hobo pies. The fire made me think about how we need to use our chiminea more often. I also got to see Vegan*asm, who I originally met at a different potluck, and it seems, I've narrowly missed before. She made super cute mini pecan pie bites, that kind of reminded me of baklava in that they were small and one was totally satisfying due to their sweetness and richness. As for me, I've learned that I cannot eat pie exclusively without becoming completely dehydrated.

I saw a few people taking pictures of my pie, but ironically enough, I didn't take a picture of the final product, so you'll have to be content with a pre-baked picture. Just imagine a more golden crust, and more blackberry juice oozing through the stars.

I mentioned that pie seemed to have a big presence in my life, so I wanted to share a few non-food pie-related tidbits:

-The gold box edition of Twin Peaks was recently released on DVD, and I really want it. I have a big crush on Special Agent Dale Cooper. If you haven't seen it, this is a great opportunity to buy it, add it to your Netflix queue, or check it out from your local video place. This is the first time the pilot has been available on DVD in the US, and the first time the original US version has been available. David Lynch made a deal with international markets to distribute the two hour pilot as a stand alone movie, which was how he was able to fund the series, so the international version has extra footage, including the identity of the Laura Palmer's murderer. This is why it wasn't the best introduction to a series based on the question, "Who killed Laura Palmer?"
Also, make sure to wait until after you see the series to attempt watching Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, or you'll be confused as all get out.

-Pushing Daisies is my favorite show. I don't watch much TV, and most of what I do watch is online, but this is definitely a show that I'll watch on TV. It's a wonderful show full of heart. It's extremely cinematic, with beautiful long shots and close ups. It has a magic reminiscent of Amelie and other Jeunet movies, and a dark whimsy often seen in Tim Burton's work, especially Beetlejuice. The main character is often referred to as The Piemaker, and most of the action revolves around his eatery, The Piehole and his pie making business. I've never liked the term piehole as in "shut your piehole", since it always seemed uncouth and crass, but for some reason, I adore that they used that word as the name for the shop. The cast has three great Broadway actresses, and it seems that they will be utilizing their singing voices. Recently, they've sung snippets of "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Birdhouse in Your Soul". It always bothers me that heartless, soulless, misogynistic shows like Two and a Half Men or King of Queens can stay on the air for 9 seasons, but shows with wit, originality or charm rarely last more than a season.

-I didn't remember my third tidbit, until I saw Megan the Vegan's post about Waitress, which comes out on DVD later this month. I've yet to see it, as it had a pretty limited run at local theaters, but R saw it and said I'd love it, it seems completely up my alley, and I love the writer, director and actor, Adrienne Shelly. Waitress is a movie about a young women in an abusive marriage who falls in love with another man. She works at a diner and makes pies based on her emotions, like I-Hate-My-Husband Pie, and Falling-in-Love-Chocolate-Mouse Pie. It's apparently a very charming movie, with a lot of sweetness and quirk.

Adrienne wrote, directed and starred in one of my favorite movies, Sudden Manhattan, and starred in another favorite, Hal Hartley's Trust. She was tragically murdered a year ago by one of the men renovating her building, when she complained about the noise. You may recall the news stories about the investigation of her death which was staged to look like a suicide. A foundation has been set up in her honor to help young women pursue their film making dreams.


Corrie said...

Hey! I found your blog link on the PPK blog. I'm doing VeganMoFo, too, and I'm trying to get as many MoFo blogs as possible on my RSS feed).

Glad to see the Twin Peaks love! I preordered the Gold Edition TP for my birthday... last March. I still haven't watched any of it yet though because once I start I have to watch all of it. I can't wait to sit down with some cherry pie and coffee and relive the whole series!!

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

Vegyogini said...

I just found your blog through the PPK VeganMoFo entry. Pushing Daisies is one of my favorite new series this season, too. So glad you're enjoying it! I've never seen Twin Peaks, but I just might give it a shot. :)