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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
|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.