July 4, 2011

Untimely and Timely as It Can Get

Just About to Feast ...

Boy, am I glad I didn’t have to celebrate the Fourth this year alone, literally, or what.

Hello, Pei-Lin. You’re Malaysian — not American!

I know. If you’ve been following my blog, by now you should be able to tell I’m a downright frank gal. And I may be one of the most stubborn persistent fellas you’ve ever come across, because I’ve not had qualms with anyone uttering that sort of remark about me. In fact, even though it’s been almost two years since my return from the States, I’m still celebrating the Fourth — but virtually, and literally alone — if you can recall the lengthy post I wrote on here a year ago.

Alongside Thanksgiving and Christmas (the latter is more of a secular deal for me, of course), the Fourth of July has got to be one of my favorite holidays in America.

Politics aside, I love the Fourth of July for the summer, food, and people — the nice people I got to know there, my American family and close friends, with whom I’ve formed eternal bonds. At this time of year, it’s especially hard for me not to think of them and the sweet memories they’d left behind.

One of the coolest things about celebrating the Fourth in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes — or more, actually.

I’m in Malaysia now, and for once I thought my American connection was coming to an end — until I met Gary, the husband to Veronica (she’s the brains behind Quay Po Cooks). It was through Veronica that I got to know this Oklahoma-born Californian. By spending time with Gary and his family, I can, on this side of the Pacific, feel closer to a beautiful country I once called home for about three years.

How unpredictable life can be.

A lot of times my inner self feels like it’s suspended between the conservative Chinese and the much-more-liberal American values. It’s tough, when I’m adamant about clinging onto my own set of beliefs and values. (One of the greatest tragedies in life, I think, has got to be the loss of one’s own identity, and I can see that’s happening around me, amid the rat race I’ve been a part of.) It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, when I can spend hours with Gary and Veronica, and am almost always mentally stimulated and challenged just by exchanging views with them. All this reminds me of my days in the States.

Remembering the promise I had made a couple of months ago, that I’d visit with them once in June, before things start to get crazy-busy for me (I shall fill you in, slowly, in the next posts), I figured that my late-June schedule needed to be sorted out immediately. After a few tweets, phone calls, and text messages, we finally settled on having a lunch together at Gary and Veronica’s last Tuesday, and I, Pei-Lin, decided it’d be an early Fourth celebration, since I could already foresee myself slogging away in the office on the Big Day itself.

Veron's Xarém (Portuguese Corn, Pork, and Clam Mash)

For the main course, Veronica prepared xarém, a deliciously hearty Portuguese corn mash with pork and clams (you’ve been warned!). I, on the other hand, baked a pumpkin pie for dessert. (Ugh, another pie post?!)

It’s summer! HELLO. Where’s the cherry pie? Blueberry pie? Raspberry pie?

Sour-Cream Pumpkin Pie

I know it’s not even fall. It’s not even Thanksgiving and Christmas yet. But knowing there were two cups of pumpkin purée in the freezer, I couldn’t help. Miss Pumpkin Pie is as American as she can be. And she was calling my name.

When it comes to baking pies, I much prefer a custard one to a fruit one, because unlike the latter, the crust of a custard pie — pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, key lime pie — almost always stays crunchy and flaky and has a greater resistance to soddenness. Of its kind, a plain ol’ pumpkin pie served with whipped cream works nicely on my taste buds. But when sour cream and dark rum come into play, we’re giving this girl next door a little makeover.

“As all pumpkin pies should be, this one is slip-through-your-teeth smooth and lavishly rich and creamy, and it is also spiced like eggnog and spiked with dark rum.”

I was utterly convinced the moment I stumbled upon these words in Baking: From My Home to Yours, a dessert bible by Dorie Greenspan, the well-established American chef and cookbook writer.

Sour-Cream Pumpkin Pie

The pictures I’ve taken here may not do the pie justice, and for that, I apologize. But the good news is, all of us here who have tried it can attest to Dorie’s words; Gary, Veronica, my brother, and I are sold on the pie. It’s decadent. It’s glorious. It beams with an elegant shade of gold.

Oh, well. It’s not fall, and it’s not even Thanksgiving or Christmas now. But when pumpkin gets in the way, no one can stop it. This sour-cream pumpkin pie makes for an untimely dessert for a timely feast in the name of the Fourth, in the name of a country that gave birth to the many wonderful people — my American family and friends, including Gary — and the pumpkin pie. For all that, I love America.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sour-Cream Pumpkin Pie

Sour-Cream Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, and Joy of Baking.com

This pumpkin pie filling recipe of Dorie’s wins, hands down. But to utilize what I had on hand, I tweaked it slightly. I subbed regular evaporated milk for heavy cream. (In fact, most traditional pumpkin pie fillings are made with evaporated milk. Even my first pumpkin pie, made more than three years ago when I was in the States, contained evaporated milk but not sour cream and heavy cream.) On top of that, I threw in ¼ teaspoon of allspice in place of the ground cloves and freshly ground nutmeg — a pinch of each of the latter two at Dorie’s suggestion.

For the pâte brisée:

700 grams all-purpose flour
60 grams granulated or caster sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt

226 grams shortening, cut into one-inch chunks and kept chilled
226 grams unsalted butter, cut into one-inch chunks and kept chilled

120 to 240 milliliters ice-cold water, or adjust as necessary
Milk and Demerara sugar

For the pie filling:

425 grams unsweetened pumpkin purée
3 large eggs, at room temperature
200 grams light brown sugar
28 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
237 milliliters regular evaporated milk (don’t use evaporated filled milk for this!)
196 milliliters regular sour cream
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
Pinch of sea salt
44 milliliters (3 tablespoons) dark rum
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To make the pâte brisée, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together (A). Then, cut in (B) with a pastry blender or fork or dull knife — working fast while the fats are still cold, especially on a hot day — until the mixture resembles coarse meals. Slowly pour in ice-cold water, work in just enough until the mixture holds together to form a dough that’s neither too sticky nor crumbly. Divide the dough in half. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours. I always prepare mine the night before, so that the dough gets to relax and chill overnight.

After resting and chilling the dough, get a 23-centimeter (nine-inch) pie plate at the ready. Retrieve a portion of the dough from the fridge for the pie crust and keep the other half refrigerated — with the excess filling, you’re going to need more dough later to make more pie. Unwrap and lightly flour the dough, and then, on a well-floured work surface, with a floured rolling pin and floured hands, roll the dough out to a 0.5 centimeter-thick, 28-centimeter round — as long as it’s slightly larger than the pie plate, you’ll be fine. Make sure the dough, work surface, rolling pin, and your hands are well floured at all times. Now, gently fold the dough into quarters, and gingerly transfer it into the pie plate. Carefully unfold the dough, so that it’s now lining the pie plate. Brush off any excess flour. Trim, fold, and crimp the edges of the dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest and chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Repeat the above steps with the remaining dough in another 23-centimeter pie plate.

Here, I’ll be baking one pie at a time. But all this depends on the capacity of your oven and some other variables, so please attune the following steps to the situation in hand. After an hour, remove one of the pie plates from the fridge, unwrap, and set it on a baking sheet for easy transport. Dock the dough with a fork and brush it with milk and sprinkle all over with Demerara sugar. Partially bake it in an oven preheated to 200°C, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a light shade of golden brown. Remove the partially cooked dough from the oven and set it aside to cool completely. I personally don’t use, say, dried beans to weigh the puffing dough down during baking; I just let the dough puff — that’s how slack I am! However, if you, unlike me, want to properly bake the dough, simply line it with aluminum foil and weigh it down with dried beans before baking. Repeat with the remainder.

To prepare the filling, in a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together (C), and rap the mixing bowl against the counter to burst any surface bubbles. When stored in an airtight container and kept refrigerated, the filling can actually keep for two days. Now, with the pie plate still sitting on the baking sheet, pour the filling mixture into the cooled pie shell and bake it in an oven preheated to 230°C for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 150°C and continue to bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted close to the center comes out clean. Alternatively, if you do not want to mar the pie’s surface, try tapping the pie plate gently — if it doesn’t jiggle, or jiggles a wee bit in the very center, it’s done. Remove from the oven and transfer the pie to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature before serving. Repeat with the remainder.

Sour-Cream Pumpkin Pie Baking in the Oven
When the crust is browning too much, cover it with aluminum foil.

Just like all pumpkin pies, this one is best enjoyed with dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream — though, it’s just as toothsome sans the cream.

Note on storing: When wrapped in plastic wrap or sealed in a huge Ziploc bag, the pie keeps for up to three days in the refrigerator. Just reheat it in the microwave before serving.


Quay Po Cooks said...

Pei-Lin, Happy Independence day to you! It was fun last Tuesday catching with you during lunch and have a early 4th July celebration. From now on, you are not alone celebrating any American holidays. You got us!

I enjoyed the trip to the Empire Subang with you shopping together. Oh, Thanks again for the pumpkin pie and I still have about 2 servings in the freezer. We loves it and we are going to eat them for dessert tonight and will be thinking of you:D

Kayla said...

Happy July 4th, and greetings from NY! I'm spending my first ever July 4th in US, but I don't have any programmes lined up yet. It might turn out to be a lonely day for me.

I'm so glad you got to celebrate the Forth with Veronica and Gary, and got to embrace the American in you. The pie looks really good too. I'd love a slice of that!! Hope that things have been well:)

Janine said...

Like you, it's been some time since I stayed in Europe but I always refer to it and part of me feels like Europe, or European values speak to me :) So you're not alone there! Glad you also found a newfound American friend to exchange views with - that's always a joy!

Anyway I tried pumpkin pie myself not too long ago using the same recipe as yours and YUMMY :D

Pei-Lin said...

@Veron and Gary: Thanks for the Independence Day wishes! Glad I got to spend sometime with you guys. Thanks for the xarem! It was VERY filling indeed. Yes, from now on, I'll pop by your place for a little Fourth-of-July gathering each year! Yea. You see, one of the consequences of shopping with you is bagging home a RM500 Dutch oven/cocotte! My purse just shrunk again. *LOL* As for that surprise for Gary, I'll let you know via text message later this week. Been very busy at work, and I leave home at 6-ish a.m. and reach home at 8-ish p.m. every day so far. Okay, enjoy the pumpkin pie. I'm having mine, too! I made loads of Rice Krispies bars with your Rice Krispies, by the way.

Pei-Lin said...

@Kayla: Hey, there! Oh, so good to hear from you, my friend. Hope you've seen my tweet for you. I didn't know you're in NYC. Why are you there, anyway? Well, just play thing by ear, and enjoy your stay there most importantly. I'm SO gonna visit the States again ... Been missing the country so much. Thank you for the well wishes, my dear. I wish you could have some, too. Perhaps I should make some gluten-free ones for you the next time I get to see you ... Anything gluten-free will do, I know. Take care. I'm trying to survive on this end of the world!

@Janine: Hey. Dorie's pumpkin pie is delish, right? There are two other pumpkin pie recipes in that same book of hers that I haven't tried. Well, not so soon, I guess. You back from Perth now? I didn't know you spent sometime in Europe. I've never been there, though. I hope to do some backpack traveling in France and Italy someday, and as I age and when my savings is big enough, I'll visit some other European countries, too. Thank you for the kind words, I'm definitely feeling better now. Have a wonderful week ahead, yea?

pearlnyc said...

Looks like you went all out to celebrate July 4th. Good for you. Some of us (non-creative/adventurous cooks) merely just barbequed hot dogs, ribs etc but we too celebrated the wonderful spirit behind July 4th.

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Happy belated Independence Day! I think you can celebrate the spirit of the holiday no matter where you are =D. And pumpkin pie is also something I adore and can enjoy any time of year. Yours looks great!

Pei Lin said...

I know America still holds a big part of your heart even though you have been away from the country for two years. Hope your wish to go back there comes soon! :)

Jo said...

What! No cake or cookie decked out in red, white and blue colours! Well a pumpkin pie does say that is is USA ... but isn't it suppose to be served during Thanksgiving. Ok enough with the punt! I really do like the rustic look of this pie. Bet it tasted delish as well. Have a great week ahead.

lena said...

your heart is still very american. I can see that you miss your american family and life back then. i just read your reply that you have plans for a usa trip? that will be very good, your family there must have also miss you a lot! HOw's your job doing? do you still work till 8-9pm? take care, ya!

Pei-Lin said...

Dear All,

I am terribly sorry for this uber-late reply! I have been swamped, with occasional business trips and some other errands in life and at work. All this also explains my absence/inactivity lately...

Thank you SO, SO much, though, for dropping by and giving me all the encouraging words. I really appreciate it.

Take care. Have a gorgeous week ahead! =)

Love lots,

Su-yin said...

I love pumpkin pie! I always have it sans the whipped cream though. ;)

p.s. I always have a can of pumpkin puree in my kitchen... that's not sad, right?

That's Ron said...

nice recipe pei lin!

Pei-Lin said...

Thank you, all, for the kind words and for popping by! So sorry for the uber-late reply. Been busy.

@Su-yin: Hahaha! I sometimes have mine sans whipped cream, too, so don't worry! Nope, there's nothing wrong with having canned pumpkin puree in your pantry. It's pretty handy, come to think about it! =D

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