Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mastering Chocolate Pie

(Note: This is a very picture heavy post).

Throughout my baking career, one of the things I've had the toughest time mastering is the custard pie. Whether it be lemon, coconut, or chocolate, custard pies are an exact--and very fragile--science.

My grandmother has a great chocolate pie recipe, and my dad and brother absolutely love it. They request one for every holiday, so it was pretty imperative that I get a handle on it.

As I've practiced making custard pies over the years, I've had several successes--but I've also had several failures. I think baking can be a really intimidating concept for someone who isn't familiar with it, but trust me--even though I worked in a bakery for several months and have been cooking for as long as I can remember, I still make lots and lots of mistakes.

Some of my favorite "big fails" have included:
1. While making a custard pie, I was supposed to pre-bake the crust. I only remembered that fact after pouring the cooked custard into the crust, and topping it perfectly with meringue. There was no going back.

2. While attempting to 'lightly toast' the meringue, I turned the broiler on and left it for just a tidge too long--and it caught on fire. This has actually happened twice...maybe even three times.

3. Similarly, while baking a pumpkin pie with walnut streusal topping (I blogged about the recipe a few months ago), I forgot to turn the oven down midway through the baking process. This resulted in blackened walnuts, and a pretty dark crust. Oops!

I feel like it's absolutely important to be honest about my failures as a baker, because it happens to everyone. I think baking can be extremely intimidating, and it's important to own up to the fact that even 'good bakers' screw up. That said, screwing up is no fun, and I've decided once and for all that I will master the chocolate pie.

So, I started out with a recipe of my grandmother's. Here's what you'll need:

First, bake up the crust (don't forget to do this). I used a store bought crust for this pie. Ohhh, scandalous.

When baking a one crust pie, you can either use pie weights (my favorite method) or poke a bunch of holes in the crust to avoid major puffiness while baking. It looks kind of like constellations, yes?

While the crust is baking, mix the sugar, cocoa, and flour in a large saucepan.

Add the milk and stir constantly over low heat until the mixture thickens. Stirring constantly is extremely important, as milk scorches very easily (yes I have scorched milk, many, many times).

I have always found this part of custard pie making the hardest. What is thick? How long will it take? Is it taking too long? Did I ruin it? Will anyone want to eat my pies again? I'm telling you, it can get trying. I timed this pie, and it took around 16 minutes to get to satisfactory thickness (cooked over low-medium heat). So hopefully that will help you avoid the emotional roller coaster mentioned above.

Meanwhile, separate three egg yolks and set them aside in a medium bowl.

After the mixture is sufficiently thickened (see picture just below), add the egg yolks.

Instead of adding the yolks directly to the hot mixture (which would most likely result in scrambled eggs floating around in your chocolate pie), beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, then pour a few tablespoons of the hot filling into the yolks, beating constantly to avoid scrambling.

This process is called tempering.

Once you've mixed the yolks and chocolate substantially, pour the yolks into the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Cook the mixture for a few more minutes--say 2 to 5--stirring constantly. Then, remove it from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter is melted.

Finally, pour the chocolate filling into the baked crust.

I know it seems weird, but you'll want to immediately cover the filling with plastic wrap. This will keep that disgusting custard pie slime from forming (if you've made a custard pie before, or even eaten one, you probably know what I'm talking about) as the pie cools.

I broke away from what I normally do with this pie by topping it with whipped cream instead of meringue. I'm not a huge fan of meringue, so I decided to give whipped cream a chance.

After I finished beating up the cream, I took the pie out of the fridge and peeled away the saran wrap. I was quite pleased to see NO film!

Then, I piled the whipped cream on top, and spread it all out. I'll admit, I may have made a bit too much whipped cream.

A few mini-chocolate chips for garnish, and wahlah!

Chocolate Pie
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
4 Tablespoons flour
2 c. milk
3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whipped cream

Bake the crust, following the directions for a one crust pie. Then, mix the sugar, cocoa, and flour in a large sauce pan. Add the milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (about 16 minutes). Temper the egg yolks, then add them to the mixture and cook 2-5 more minutes. Remove the filling from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter is melted. Pour the filling into the crust, then cover it with saran wrap and allow it to cool completely. Refrigerate for a few hours, then top with whipped cream or meringue.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pug Time

I snapped this picture a few weeks ago during a regular iChat session with my parents. During the conversation, my dad started the nightly 'pug time' ritual he has with the girls (basically, he throws gold fish to them and--if everything goes as planned--they catch them in their mouths). 

Jack used to participate in pug time, and he's missed it a lot since the move. On this particular night, he actually payed attention while my dad called him and threw gold fish on the other side of the screen, giving me a perfect opportunity to snap a picture.

I don't know about you, but nothing makes me smile like a pair of pugs.


Monday, January 23, 2012

We eat a lot.

Hey there!

I do apologize for my absence during the later part of last week--things have been busy around here, as usual. This week we went out several times, and have lots of food pictures to show for it!

Thursday we had a work dinner at Maggiano's and even got to close up shop early.

Dinner was served family style, and unfortunately I was too hungry to pause for pictures. Luckily, by the time dessert came around, I was stuffed enough to wait.

Then, on Saturday, we went to dinner with friends at Flip Burger. We've been to Flip several times, and this time I decided to try a new [to me] entree, the turkey burger. I did stick with my usual side, onion rings, and I wasn't disappointed.

Thomas, ever the adventurous one, had the banh mi burger and fries.

Then, on Sunday, we used a Groupon (thanks to my brother's excellent Christmas gifting skills) and headed to Little Azio for dinner.

The meal included a caesar salad,

Two entrees: (I chose fettucini alfredo, Thomas chose a Napoletana pizza).

 And beverages. Look at this adorable mini carafe!

Overall, the weekend was full of relaxation, food, and friends. What else is a weekend supposed to be?


Monday, January 16, 2012

Tail Wars

Below is a scene from a completely regular Monday night at the Mahan house. It all starts with a game of tail wars.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

One small step for man...

This weekend was a big one for us as we joined the rest of the world and had a DVR installed!

It's something we've wanted to do for months now, but couldn't justify spending wise. Fortunately we got some Christmas money this year that--instead of spending it right away--we deposited into our bank account as a "this will cover the DVR upgrade for the next 12 months" kind of thing. As an added bonus, we upgraded to the U-200 package (we have U-Verse), which got us around 70 more channels and a DVR for only $10 more per month!

One of our favorite new channels is the Cooking channel. We absolutely love the show Two Fat Ladies, mostly because the fat ladies remind us of Jack and Charlotte (or how we think they would be if they could talk). Here's an excerpt, if you haven't seen the show:

Funnily enough, now that we have a DVR, we keep forgetting to use it. As soon as the commercials start, Thomas will revert to his usual habit of flipping channels and a few seconds will go by before the lightbulb of "oh wait we have a DVR now" comes on. Nevertheless, I'm sure we'll end up wondering how we ever lived without it for so long.

I hope you're having an excellent Sunday--here are some cute animal photos to tide you over until next week.


Monday, January 9, 2012

A Magical Mouse: The Fairy Tale

You know you're a nerd when your husband gives you a Magic Mouse as a late Christmas gift and, upon opening it, you squeal with delight about how it's "probably the best gift you've ever given me!"

In my defense, the Magic Mouse is, well, just that--magic.

Its sleek surface is for one thing, beautiful, but also quite functional. The Magic Mouse works just like a laptop trackpad, but is substantially easier to use. Click, swipe, or scroll, the last year and a half I've spent using my trackpad exclusively seems like a waste.

I won't keep rambling on about how awesome I feel sitting on my couch and clicking wirelessly, but I will leave you with this image, because I can.

Also, add this to my Christmas list for next year.


Chester the Garm-ester

Last week was quite the long and stressful one. I'm so glad it's behind me, and I have to say, 2012 can only get better.

Thomas finished up his internship this Friday, and will now be looking for full-time work. He has been searching, but finding a job in his industry in this economy is tough. Fortunately we have amazing connections, and I know he'll find something soon. He is going to do some freelance work for the studio where he's been interning, and he's super excited to be doing 'real audio guy stuff.'

One exciting development this week was the delivery of my new Garmin Nüvi. I always thought the idea of having a GPS was kind of pointless (I mean, I have an iPhone, duh) but having moved to Atlanta and gotten lost while trying to get on the highway/look at a tiny iPhone screen one too many times, I decided that--for the safety of myself and the city at large--I would much rather have a device that yells directions at me.

So, Chester the Garmin was born. I searched for him over the holiday while Thomas' dad was here (we have the same passion for bargain hunting, but he has more experience) and found a great deal on Amazon. I decided on the Nüvi 1350LMT, which comes with lifetime maps and traffic updates (hence the LMT at the end--that one took me a while to figure out). The 1350LMT model is regularly priced at $209, but I got it for a mere $118! BONUS.

I have to say, even though it's been less than a week, I already know that my favorite feature on this particular model is the lane-assist capability. I think one of the hardest things about driving in an unfamiliar place is figuring out after making a left turn what you'll be doing next, and changing lanes accordingly. With Chester, it's easy! He's like "turn left here, then turn right" and I'm all "Got it. THANKS CHESTER!"

I've used Chester to find my way around all weekend, and I'm proud to say that I haven't gotten lost once! One important thing to mention is that I'm actually using the "Jill" aka female voice to yell directions, but Chester seemed like a fitting name anyway. Here we are on our first ride together:

Here are a few other fun pictures from this week:

Charlotte's typical morning antics. She's a dirty beggar.

A big ol' couch full of girls. Here we are posing before heading out to celebrate Julie's birthday. 

Addy, Julie, and I at the Koo Koo Room in Midtown. [See if you can spot B-Spears in the background.]

The brunch of champions--Thomas and I shared the chili cheese slaw dog at Home Grown and met up with some friends visiting from Lubbock.

I hope that you all have an excellent week and that the new year isn't getting the best of you just yet.

-T, K, J, & C

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Santa Doggie

On the first night Thomas' family was here, we had a Christmas present palooza! They got us a ton of great gifts, some of our favorites being:

Some deliciously warm house booties.

A really fun helicopter (quite difficult to fly, but Jacker loves chasing it).

A beautiful leaf wrap ring from Sundance (also, if you're wondering, the nail polish in this photo is Glitzerland by OPI).

And some adorable matching pajamas (as well as other clothing I'm sure you'll see in future pictures).

I have to say, though, one of the most fun gifts was Jack's present--an adorable Santa suit! Last night when I attempted to take pictures of the suit, Jack wasn't cooperating. As a bribe, Thomas took the opportunity to give him his heartworm pill (in a hearty spoonful of peanut butter of course). Here are the antics that ensued:

(Please notice Charlotte creepin behind the tree).

Another amazing gift was the stocking Thomas' mom made for me. She collected birds from his dad's baby blanket when they were first married, and has saved them since then to make custom stockings for each child and their future spouse. I have to say that this stocking is one of the most beautiful and thoughtful gifts I've ever received. I love it! Fiiiine, I'll stop yammering on and just show you already.

Here is Thomas' as well. Isn't it cute?! I love the star theme.

Well, this marks the last Christmas/New Years/family visit post. We're sad to see the holiday season go, but we are looking forward to what's the come in the new year and getting back into our now familiar routine. We have lots going on this week and weekend, but I hope to keep up with posting as much as possible. If I don't though, what can I say? I'm probably just sitting around photographing my dog in a Santa suit.

-T, K, J, & C