Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Virtual Chanukah: We're coming to a close but I'm still not done

I am slow and apparently not great at daily posts, so we are now at the penultimate one...please do bare with me. It seems I'm going to out-Chanukah Chanukah. Dads are hard to get presents for (assuming they aren't the power tool-liking type, which mine is, um, not. We're Jews, remember? Jews who want to keep their limbs intact don't buy power tools.) Mine likes to watch the Blues Brothers and drink chocolate soy milk, then argue with my brother about Bayesian statistics (believe it or not, I am not actually the biggest nerd in my family).

Nut of the month club (the edible kind, not the Republican primaries), for snacking

Elbow patch sweater, because all professors need one (and because it's been way too long since he had a herringbone jacket)
Salt book, for someone who loves history and told me 10,000 times to read Guns, Germs and Steel 

 Electric violin, for the person who has had the same well-worn violin since he was 12, to occasionally have another option and to impress the younger guys with  

Da Ali G Show Compleet Seereez, because what's funnier than a fake white rapper interviewing Donald Trump (hint: nothing)

Cachaça minas: for someone who likes to sip whiskey, slivovitz, or grappa (no joke) in the evenings, cachaça minas is like the good bourbon version of cheap whiskey; the cachaça that most people know (if they know it at all) is the cheap kind that's used to make caipirinhas, but cachaça minas (cachaça from the state of Minas Gerais, next to Rio de Janeiro) is really nice to drink slowly and unadulterated, relaxing with friends or with a book  

Turntable than converts records into mp3s, for obvious reasons

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lessons learned

As is fairly obvious around here, I'm Jewish. Chinese food on Christmas Jewish. The first Christmas celebration I ever went to was in Colombia 3 years ago; I've still never been to a Christmas dinner/lunch in the states. This year, we were invited to two Christmas Eve things, one at the house of some Colombian friends, and the other at our Brazilian roommate's mother's house. Let's just say I learned some things, which I plan on remembering if anyone ever decides to invite me again to their Christmas.

Things Not To Do On Christmas, or Reasons You Should Not Involve Me In Your Christmas Celebration

-Do not decide to make two involved things for two different parties (and definitely don't try to do them the same day). We very casually decided that we would bring buñuelos and natilla to the first dinner and a Yule Log to the second, and we started working at 2 pm the 24th. Ha. Ha. Ha. Guess who arrived super late?

-Do not decide to make a Yule Log without an electric mixer: spongecake, buttercream and meringue. Ask Felipe how his arm is today. I dare you. 
-Oh, and don't decide to make something you've never made before (buttercream?), especially when you don't have the right equipment to do it (thermometer? jelly roll pan? oven that you can control the temperature?)
-Do not try to carry the Yule Log 20 minutes downhill on cobblestones to the subway (especially not with an extra-heavy upside down stock pot "protecting" the log).
-Do not let your 19-year-old art student roommate roll out the gingerbread cookies. Ha, or just make sure to separate the adult-appropriate ones from the kids ones, and try not to act like 12-year-olds when it comes time to decide who eats which.

Chez Panisse gingersnaps...but probably not the way Alice Waters had in mind.
-Do not publicly tell off another guest at your friend's party, no matter how obnoxious or inappropriate he is being (and no, we did not bring the above cookies to that party). Want someone to kill your Christmas celebration? Invite me.
-Do not lose your purse with your camera in it on the way to the second dinner (the dinner picture below is courtesy of another of the guests. I love the decorations.)

In spite of all these things (and the very awkward hour after the fight I caused at our friend's house), we had a good time, and the yule log turned out really delicious (we actually had a lot of fun putting it together, and coffee buttercream is amazing). Both dinners we went to had an enormous amount of great food: the Brazilian family had a turkey, a ham, bacalhau (salted cod, a traditional Christmas food here), a bazillion sides and 4 desserts; our Colombian friends made tamales, a huge undertaking, with plantain leaves picked from their neighbor's tree, along with hojaldres and flan, and people were very friendly and happy. The Brazilian family gave us all presents, which we felt bad about because we didn't know it was coming, but now Felipe has a very Brazilian-looking turquoise sleeveless shirt that is perfect for the humid sauna we have been living in, which he is quite pleased about.

I say in spite of the fight, but I'm not sure that's true. It was pretty much a lose-lose-lose-lose situation: our hosts, who are extremely warm, welcoming people, were upset that the party had turned into a big argument, I felt awful that I had killed any fun that was being had, the girl who was being harassed felt like she had caused the problem, and the guy was so uncomfortable that he left immediately afterwards. Although it certainly would have been much less disruptive to pull the guy aside and say something, I'm not sure it would have worked without other people getting involved. I'm female, I'm not Colombian, and the guy, who is from a part of the country known for being extremely machista, was harassing a girl who doesn't speak Spanish, so it wasn't exactly a level playing field. I can tell you that I won't be doing what I did again, though: starting an argument in someone else's house is not cool, no matter what the cause, especially not during their Christmas. As I said, lesson learned.

I would definitely break up the making of the Yule Log into two or even three days. At a minimum, make the meringues the day before. I'd say to make the spongecake the day before, too, but I haven't tried that and I don't know how much it would dry out, making it difficult to roll.

Yule Log
     adapted from here and here

For the spongecake:
3 eggs
3 yolks
pinch of salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cake flour (I used all-purpose because it's what I had around)
1/4 c. cornstarch

Butter and line with parchment paper a 10 x 15 in. jelly roll pan, then butter it again. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400F.
Whisk the eggs, yolk, salt and sugar together in a heat-proof bowl, then place over a bowl of simmering water and whisk until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch. Whip (with a whisk or egg beaters on med-high speed) until the mixture has cooled and tripled in volume. It will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back into the mixture if you lift the whisk/beaters.
In another bowl, stir together the flour and cornstarch. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the eggs, then fold in the flour gently with a spatula, making sure to scrape around the sides and the bottom. Fold in another third of the flour mixture until there are no lumps, then fold in the remaining flour. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. 
Bake for about 10 minutes, until it is golden and springs back if you press it gently. Do not overbake. Let it cool in the pan.

For the coffee buttercream:
1 egg
1/2 c. white sugar
3 Tbsp. water
6 oz. salted butter
1-2 Tbsp. strong coffee (room temperature)

Whisk the egg to break it up in a large bowl. Boil the sugar and water together until it registers 240F on a candy thermometer (I completely guessed, and the first time I let the syrup boil too long and it 100% failed. The second time I let it boil for less time, and it worked, but....use a thermometer.) Whisk the egg until it's frothy, and begin to add the sugar syrup slowly, whisking constantly, and then whisk until the mixture is cool. Beat in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, then add in the coffee. Beat until the mixture is thick and glossy. Store in the fridge, covered, if you're not going to use it immediately.

For the chocolate ganache:
 7 oz. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. strong coffee 
3.5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

Heat the cream and coffee in a small saucepan just until they come to a boil, turn off the heat and add in the chocolate without stirring. After 5 minutes, whisk until the mixture is completely smooth, then leave to cool and thicken up (but not solidify), covered, in the fridge. Right before using, take it out of the fridge, and beat it to soft peaks.

To assemble:
I used the Serious Eats recipe for meringue mushrooms, which cracked given the high temperature of the oven (which I couldn't regulate) and probably because I was distracted and poured all the sugar in at once into the unbeaten egg whites, which I highly do not recommend. Despite all this, they still came out pretty and tasty, though not as photogenic as the originals.
Turn the cooled spongecake out onto a piece of parchment paper, then spread it evenly with the chocolate ganache. Carefully roll the spongecake up, trying to avoid cracking (ours did, we lived). Put the roll in the fridge, covered, for a couple of hours to chill.
Take the roll out of the fridge, and cut (diagonally looks better I think) a slice 3-4 inches wide off one side. Cozy it up to one side of the log so the cut side is sticking out of the log like a large branch. Ice the log with the buttercream, filling in any cracks, and then use the tines of a fork to make grooves so it looks like a log. Trim the uncut side of the roll if it looks a bit rough (I cut a very small slice off and it looked much better). Arrange the meringue mushrooms. That's it! It's really pretty, right? If you're going to serve it much later, refrigerate it, very carefully covered.

Galletas Crocantes de Jengibre  (para Muñuequitos de Jengibre)
     de Alice Waters

280 g. de harina de trigo
1½ cucharitas bicarbonato de soda
½ cucharita de sal
2 cucharitas de canela molida
1 ½ cucharitas de jengibre molido
½ cucharita de pimienta negra
150 g. de mantequilla
130 g. de azúcar
½ cucharita de extracto de vainilla
80 g. (¼ taza) de melado espeso
1 huevo, temperatura ambiente

Mezclar todos los ingredientes secos juntos.  En un bol grande, bate la mantequilla hasta que esté más liviana, agrega el azúcar y bate hasta que esté suave y bien incorporado. Agregale la vainilla, melado y huevo. Echa los ingredientes secos a la mezcla de mantequilla hasta que estén incorporados. Envuelve la masa en plástico y metela en la nevera un par de horas. Tambien se puede formar rollitos para despues cortar tajadas para tener galletas redondas. Envuelvelas en plastico y metelas en la nevera igual. Precalienta el horno a 180C. Con un rodillo o una botella de vino, estira la masa sobre un superficie enharinado. Corta en las formas que desees, sacalas y voltealas en un plato con azucar solo por el lado que va hacia arriba-- azucar por debajo se quemaria en el horno (grueso si la tenes. Azucar moreno en Colombia seria genial aqui). Si la masa se pone muy blanda devuelvela a la nevera hasta que se endurezca otra vez. Translada las formas a una bandeja y hornea hasta que esten bien doraditas, 12-15 minutos.

Happy Virtual Chanukah: Day 6

Virtual Chanukah continues around here, albeit a bit less frequently than I had planned on (more on that later!), today with my younger sister, who is currently bundled up at my parents' house in Minneapolis when she could be at the beach, here, with me. Cough.
Gorgeous black dress, because you're only 20 once.

Solid, basic cookbook, for someone beginning to really cook on her own (and in California, no less)

Leather belt, because it's always nice to have a good one

Double wall glass mug, which keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, all the way looking very pretty

Hababi, a graphic novel that has gotten great reviews for addressing really complex (and difficult) subjects with an enormous amount of artistic virtuosity

Chambray shirt, for someone who shares my general sense of dread at having to get dressed in the morning, because it goes with almost everything

Like and dislike stamps, for obvious reasons

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Virtual Chanukah: Day 4

I missed Virtual Chanukah Day 3, due to a combination of factors (wonky internet, salsa, teaching, poor planning), but here we are now, which is (hopefully) what counts. Today is dedicated to my grandmother, who is about 10,000 times better traveled, better read, and at 82, in better shape, than I am.

Glass and silicon water bottle (the space or julep one), because it's safer and prettier than the plastic bottles that we've all used forever

Blue blazerbecause it would look great on her.
Clarice Lispector was a young Jewish immigrant who turned into one of Brazil's most well-known literary figures. Her short essays, for when she has lots of broken-up free time.

Super comfortable shearling-lined shoes, for Colorado winters.

Ancient Grains cookbook, because she has been eating wild rice and tofu since way before it was trendy (not to mention an enormous amount of Grape Nuts in the 90´s!)
Baltic amber lamp, for warm reading light.

Ice cream soda glasses, because I've eaten more ice cream sodas with my grandmother than with everyone else combined. A nice way to make them at home (and so that we can make them when I visit!)

And last but not least, a massage gift card, because people who spend all of their time taking care of others need to be taken care of too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Virtual Chanukah: Day 2

Chanukah day 2: I spent the afternoon at the beach. Then we left because Felipe was burning. I don't know how it's possible that pale Jewish skin withstands far more sun than mestizo, please-give-me-shit-at-U.S.-immigration skin, but let me tell you, Felipe is currently a lovely early summer red, and I continue to match the (white) wall. Virtual chanukah day 2 is dedicated to my equally pale brother, Max. If I was in the states right now, we'd probably be in my mother's kitchen, setting off the fire alarm.
 Flannel shirt, because it looks nice and is comfortable and warm.
Kit Kat Clock, to get to class/work on time, and because it's amusing and "classic" (the eyes and tail move back and forth!)

After my brother visited us in Argentina, he became minorly obsessed with Ruben Blades, and has been singing "Plástico" to me over Skype, American accent be damned, ever since. Timba is what salsa has evolved into in Cuba. I love it. Isaac Delgado is a great place to start.

Yellow submarine tea strainer, for long nights in the lab.

 Cashmere hoodie, to live in all winter.

Mortar and pestle, to grind up anything and everything (and impress girls with).

I have never seen a more perfect present for someone who spends so much of his time playing air guitar. You can play the t-shirt!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Virtual Chanukah: Day 1

Although Chanukah is the most well known Jewish holiday among non-Jewish Americans, it´s really pretty minor as far as Jewish festivals go. In my family we light candles, attempt to sing a couple of songs in Hebrew that no one knows the words to, eat latkes, and then my mom gives us all ugly socks (she tries to outdo herself every year-- I have received socks with a crocheted Little Bo Peep on the big toe and glued on sheep on each toe. Apparently Kohl's is a good resource for these kind of things.) We all exchange presents, but generally nothing too fancy. This year, being on the other side of the planet, I´m obviously not going to participate in the festivities, minimal as they may be. I decided that I'd like to exert my presence virtually, in a far more high-rolling way than I ever do in life, for the 8 days of Chanukah, starting today with my mom, who says she never wants anything.

Grow your own mushroom kit, because it's super cool, and to accompany the garden. 

"Happiness branch" earrings: goofy name, but I like the simplicity of the design for her.

Beautiful depression glass pitcher.

My mother is the scrabble queen of the world. How we didn't have refrigerator scrabble growing up I have no idea.

Cashmere sweater which she would never buy for herself (and 'cause it has "batwings").

Though she makes Amish-style quilts that are way on the other side of the quilting spectrum (let's pretend that exists), I couldn't help but be reminded of her with this "Naked in my dreams again" quilt (classic my mother). 

A Kiva loan in her name, because finding ways to help people help themselves is way cooler than donating money.

As Tina Fey says, "you're no one until someone calls you bossy." My mom, whether she realizes it or not, has taught me a lot about how the world receives professional women. Although she hasn't watched SNL regularly in years, I think she and Tina Fey would have a lot to talk about.

Chag sameach everybody! I wish I was there to not remember the words to Maotzur with you, but I'll just have to force latkes upon a bunch of unsuspecting South Americans instead. Beijos!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Que voltean solos

As I mentioned last week, December in Colombia involves some very specific foods that certain people around here are particularly nostalgic for. Once we had tackled the natilla, we figured, why not try buñuelos? Buñuelos are springy fried cheese-cornstarch balls. I know that sounds bizarre, we don't really have anything like them in the U.S. They are addictively sweet-salty (Felipe claims they are straight-up salty, but the recipe calls for sugar, so I disagree), and they are ever-present in Colombia this time of year.

Let me tell you, there are actually a good number of reasons for us not to try to make buñuelos. For example: 
1. Brazil doesn't have the kind of cheese that is normally used in buñuelos, which is key to their success.
2. People in Colombia normally use a box mix for buñuelos. Even Felipe's mom, who is known for her buñuelos, uses the box, meaning that it's hard to find a reliable recipe that doesn't start with "take the box mix and..."
3. Even with the box, buñuelos are known for being tricky to get right. 
4. I'm no expert at deep frying, and we tried to make buñuelos once in Colombia with the box and the right cheese, and they came out looking like cancer growths. 
Colombian grandmothers say it takes years of experience to get the heat just right-- too hot, and the perfect balls explode into weird hollow shapes; too cold, the buñuelos get oily, don't expand well, and develop an unpleasantly thick skin. You know the heat is right when the buñuelos begin to rotate by themselves. Colombians, when they are bullshitting around (per their usual) and trying to decide on what to do, have a saying, "Que hacemos, empanadas que es lo que mas se venden, o buñuelos que se voltean solos?" (What should we do, empanadas which sell the most, or buñuelos that turn over by themselves?) They also say, give me 10 buñuelos for 1,000 pesos (.50 cents) and let's call it breakfast along with a mug of cafe con leche, which is about when my American stomach takes a rain check and wanders off to look for an arepa and some fruit.

If this doesn't look like breakfast to you, you are clearly not Colombian.

Being American, I prefer to substitute years of experience with gadgets, and I would have used a thermometer if mine hadn't broken back in Colombia. We got lucky this time-- our front burner set on low was the perfect temperature, and the buñuelos did indeed voltean solos, at which time I proceeded to jump around the kitchen and yell mira amor mira! Felipe would claim that he was duly impressed, though I maintain that he was way too nonchalant. Then we ate almost the whole batch between the two of us. I'd say that I don't want any more for at least another year, but it's likely we'll make them later this week, too, and I will eat a good 5 or 10, along with an ungodly amount of latkes. Happy middle of December, guys.

3.5 oz. (100 g.) queso costeño, or other semi-hard, crumbly, salty cheese, finely grated (can be done in the food processor or with a microplane grater, which is what I used)
3.5 oz. (100 g.) cornstarch
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tsp. tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 small egg (or use half a large one-- ~35 g.)
salt (if you aren't using queso costeño, which is so salty it's not eaten by itself, add a good pinch)
2-3 Tbsp. whole milk

Oil for frying, canola, sunflower or soy work just fine-- make sure you use fresh oil for these, buñuelos will suck up any off flavors or odors in used oil

Using your fingers, rub all the dry ingredients together with the cheese, then rub in the egg. Add the milk little by little until you have a smooth, pliable dough that you can form balls from. Taste for salt-- the mixture should have a notably salty taste. Roll balls 1 in. in diameter-- I find it easiest to pinch the dough into a more or less square shape, then roll it to smooth it out.
Heat a small pot with several inches of oil over medium heat. You need enough oil so that the buñuelos can float (and voltear solos).  If you have a thermometer, you want to get the oil to around 300-350F. Once the oil is hot, drop the buñuelos one at a time into the pot. You can fry quite a lot at once, but you need to give the oil a couple of seconds each time to come back to temperature after adding each buñuelo. They should slowly begin to expand, and if you have the heat right, turn over by themselves. Take them out with a slotted spatula when they are a nice golden brown, and transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve hot, or at room temperature, the same day. If you have any left over, know that they will be unpleasantly hard the next day; Colombians crumble them into their morning hot chocolate, a practice that I can't say I've taken to. Makes ~ 20 small buñuelos.

Buñuelos colombianos

100 g. de queso costeño, o queso semi-duro (en Brasil usamos queijo coalho), rallado fino
100 g. de Maizena (almidón de maíz)
1 cucharada pequeña de azúcar
1 1/2 cucharita de almidón de yuca
1 1/2 cucharita de polvo de hornear
1 huevo pequeño (~35 g., o usa la mitad de uno grande)
sal (si es otro queso que no sea costeño que es menos salado-- para el queijo coalho, eché 1/2 cucharita de sal)
2-3 cucharadas de leche entera

Aceite para fritar-- hay que usar aceite fresco para estos, los buñuelos cogerán cualquier mal olor o sabor de aceite usado 

Usando los dedos, amasa todos los ingredientes juntos con el queso, después echa el huevo y amasa para que esté distribuido uniformamente. Echa la leche de a poquitos hasta que tengas una masa suave de la cual puedes formar bolitas. Fijate que está bien de sal. Haz bolitas de 2.5 cm. de diametro-- a mi me parece más facil apretar la masa a un cubito y después rollarla entre las manos para darle más la forma redonda.
Calienta una ollita con 4-5 cm. de aceite a fuego medio. Necesitas suficiente aceite para que los buñuelos puedan flotar y voltear.  Si tienes un termometro, quieres que el aceite esté entre 150-180ºC.  Cuando el aceite esté caliente, echale los buñuelos uno por uno a la olla. Puedes fritar varios juntos, pero tienes que dar el aceite un par de segundos para subir de temperatura de nuevo después de echar cada bolita. Deberían empezar a crecer lentamente, y si el calor está bien, voltear solos. Cuando estén bien bronceaditos, sacalos con una espatula y colocalos sobre un plato con papel de cocina para absorber el aceite en exceso. Servilos caliente, o a temperatura ambiente. Si te sobran para el día siguiente, ten en cuenta que se ponen duros. Los colombianos típicamente echan los buñuelos que sobran al día siguiente en pedazos a su chocolate en el desayuno. Rinde ~ 20 buñuelos pequeños.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

La natilla

In spite of being, you know, Jewish, I am seriously missing the endless Christmas cookies implicit in any December in the U.S. Sooner or later something will have to be done to rectify that situation; I´m thinking gingersnaps and rugelach. Felipe on his end has been a bit nostalgic for Colombian December which always involves consuming massive amounts of natilla, buñuelos and fruit conserves. Natilla in Colombia is often made from a box mix, but the homemade version is incredibly easy to make. It's very similar to a cornstarch-based stovetop pudding, but it has a far higher percentage of cornstarch, so much so that it can be cut into slices when cool. Despite the hot weather, December in Colombia tends to involve an abundance of warming spices-- cinnamon, cloves, star anise. Natilla primarily tastes of panela, with its warm cane sugar taste, and of cinnamon, and although I wasn't an instant convert (the texture threw me for a loop-- I think we don't have anything quite like it in the states), I soon learned that it is amazing to snack on. I carve off sliver after sliver, cup of coffee in hand. It's not heavy in the same way that many American holiday desserts are so you don't feel it in, and then without noticing you've eaten half the dish. Some people make natilla in fancy flan molds, but most families just use plain baking dishes, which is what we did. I highly recommend it.


4 c. whole milk
8.8 oz. panela, grated (panela or piloncillo can be found in Latin markets; to be honest, I had to replace about a 1/4 of the panela with muscovado sugar because I ran out of panela and we didn't notice any difference in taste)
1 1/2 c. (6.4 oz.) cornstarch (Maizena)
zest of 1 lime
1 vanilla bean left over from some other recipe (the seeds already scraped out), completely optional

ground cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Have a clean flan mold or medium-sized baking dish ready. (The size doesn't matter all that much, but an 8 in x 8 in. brownie pan should be just fine.) Whisk all of the ingredients together in a large, heavy bottom pot.  Turn on the heat to medium and continue to whisk, making sure to scrape the bottom well. The mixture will begin to thicken as it heats, and you just want to continue whisking. Lumps will start to form; continue whisking, they will smooth out at the end. When the mixture gets very thick so that it's almost hard to stir, and you can see the bottom of the pan when you pass a spoon through the mixture, the natilla is done. (Remove the vanilla bean if you used it.) Immediately pour the mixture into the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and let cool completely, either on the counter or in the fridge (it cools fairly quickly; it shouldn't take more than 15-30 min.) Cut into slices and serve. 


1 litro de leche entera
1 1/2 taza (180 g.) de almidón de maíz (Maizena)
250 g. de panela rallada (para ser honesta, solo tenía 190 g. de panela y tuve que echar 60 g. de azúcar moscovado, pero no notamos la diferencia)
cascara de 1 limón (verde) rallada
1 vaina de vainilla, ya raspada de otro uso, totalmente opcional

canela molida para salpicar encima

Ten un molde o una bandeja mediana lista para echar la natilla. Bate todos los ingredientes en una olla grande de fondo grueso. Prende una hornalla al fuego medio y sigue batiendo, teniendo cuidado de raspar el fondo bien. La mezcla va a ir espesando mientras se calienta, y quieres seguir batiendo sin parar, raspando el fondo. Grumos van a empezar a formar; sigue batiendo, se van a desaparecer al final. Cuando la mezcla esté tan espesa que está casi difícil revolver y puedes ver el fondo de la olla al pasar una cucharada por la mezcla, la natilla está lista. (Saca la vaina de vainilla si la echaste.) Inmediatamente echa la mezcla al molde o la bandeja. Salpica con canela y dejala enfriar, al aire o en la nevera (se enfria bastante rápida; no debería demorar más que 15-30 min.) Corta en tajadas y sirve.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


When I went about making the pie you see above, I had no intention of sharing it here, I just wanted a belated Thanksgiving fix. The recipe is widely modified by a hilarious blog that I adore, Bonappetempt, so this is, ahem, what can barely be called a good-will attempt at a Bonappetempt. Can it still be a good will attempt if I followed almost none of the instructions? Even if it turned out fabulous? Let's just say the inspiration was there, oh-so-inspired by Bonappetempt's attempt. Alrighty?

So, let's see. All I can say is that although I would definitely consider myself a fan of pumpkin pie, it's not the type of thing that I'm compelled to make for myself- or to offer to guests- the rest of the year. The pumpkin pie you see above, however, I plan on making the next chance I get. Why is that, you ask? What makes this pumpkin pie different than all other pumpkin pies (you would ask if you're Jewish)? (Unfortunately, the picture doesn't do the pie justice as it was taken 2 days into its short life-- as I said, I wasn't planning on sharing this; the meringue has started to become less creamy and more egg white-structure-y, and the crust has absorbed a lot of moisture from the filling.)
Now, I would bet that the original recipe makes a damn fine pumpkin pie, and the original has a certain majesty about it that mine certainly lacks. The base is Martha Stewart's pate brisee, which I had heard was perfect in every way but had never actually gotten around to making because I'm so reliant on this one, which is ridiculously easy and delicious. But man, Martha's is really perfect, and I think I just found my new go-to pie crust. As far as the filling, I made several changes (some intentional, some definitely accidental) that I do think contributed to the general specialness of the resultant pie. For starters, as far as I know canned pumpkin doesn't exist in Brazil, so roasting the pumpkin had to come first. But I didn't buy a big enough chunk of pumpkin, so after roasting it I ended up with way less than the recipe called for. I've also never seen evaporated milk here, so I thought I'd give heavy cream a go (it's never led me wrong before), and I had no intention on using up 11 eggs in a pie (the original recipe called for 3 whole eggs and 8 egg whites), so that got "rounded" to 3 whole eggs (I should work for the Treasury)-- 3 yolks for the filling, and 3 yolks for the meringue. And I replaced most of the white sugar with muscovado sugar because I am deeply in love with it these days, and omitted the ginger because I didn't have any. Phew. I sound like one of those people who decides to make ice cream and replaces the heavy cream with skim milk and the sugar with tabasco sauce.

But. Not entirely unsurprisingly given the added fat content, this was the creamiest, most delicate pumpkin pie I have ever eaten. It passed my local Brazilian-Colombian-German test with flying colors, rather critical I think given that pumpkin-based desserts are not something that have most non-Americans jumping for joy. Next time, I'm planning on making it in a tart pan and calling it-- wait for it-- a pumpkin meringue tart. Classy and continental, right? Riiiight. So, here we go-- an unsuccessful attempt at an attempt, which proved to be quite serendipitous indeed.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie
     adapted from Bon Appetempt and Martha Stewart

For the crust:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4.5 oz. (1 stick + 1 Tbsp.) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 c. ice water

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt together. Toss the butter cubes into the mixture and use your fingers to rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. I like to leave some larger pieces of butter, I just pinch them between my fingers to flatten them out a bit. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the ice water evenly over the mixture, and stir with a fork to evenly distribute the moisture. The mixture should hold together when pressed between 2 fingers (dough should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix well with a fork. Gather the dough up unto a disk, wrap in plastic, and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll out the crust on a well-floured board, then fit it into your 9-10 in. pie/tart pan; trim/crimp the edges as desired (make sure you roll the dough out big enough before placing it into the pan-- stretching the dough to fit in the pan will just cause it to bounce back in the oven). Now, Martha says to blind-bake this with beans, but I just baked mine without anything on top (and I forgot to prick the dough, oops), and though mine shrunk a bit I can't say it bothered me. It's up to you. Bake just until the edges start to turn golden, 10-15 min. Let cool.

For the filling:
3 yolks
10 oz. pumpkin puree
7 oz. heavy cream
1/3 c. plus 2 Tbsp. muscovado sugar 
3 Tbsp. white sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
rounded 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
scant 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Lower the oven temperature to 325F. In a food processor or in a bowl with a whisk, mix all the ingredients together until completely smooth. Pour mixture into cooled shell. Bake until set but still slightly wobbly in the center, 40-45 min. Let cool on a rack, then cover loosely and let chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Make the meringue just before serving.

For the meringue:
3 egg whites, room temperature
small pinch of salt
3/4 c. sugar

In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg whites with the pinch of salt just to break them up. Over a simmering pot of water, whisk the sugar with egg whites until completely dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot of water and continue to beat the egg whites until they have formed stiff, glossy peaks. (I did this by hand, and I do not recommend it. Oh my god, I'm still recovering.) Dollop the meringue over the pie and spread it decoratively. Brown the meringue with a kitchen torch or in a very hot oven for a couple of minutes (I blasted mine in the oven preheated as high as possible and it worked just fine). This pie keeps in the fridge for several days, but the crust begins to get soggy after the first day (see pic above).

Pie de Zapallo con Merengue

Para la masa:
1 1/4 tazas de harina (tipo 000)
1/2 cucharada de azúcar
1/2 cucharita de sal

130 g. (4.5 oz.) de mantequilla sin sal, muy fria y cortada en cubitos chiquitos
1/4 taza de agua muy fria

En un bol grande, mezcla la harina, azúcar y sal. Echale la mantequilla y utiliza los dedos para combinar la harina con la mantequilla hasta que parezca harina gruesa. A mi me gusta dejar algunos pedazos grandes de mantequilla; los apreto con los dedos para que estén mas delgados y los mezclo con la harina. Salpica la mezcla con 3 cucharadas de agua, entonces revuelve con un tenedor. La masa debería quedarse pegada a si misma al aplastarla entre los dedos (no quieres que la masa esté pegajosa o mojada). Si la masa está muy seca de a poquitos agregale más agua y mezcla bien. Junta toda la masa y las migas juntas y forma un disco. Envuelvelo en plástico y dejalo a reposar en la nevera por 1 hora.
Precalienta el horno a 190ºC. Estirar la masa y colocala en un molde de 23-25 cm. Chuzala con un tenedor por todas partes. Hornea durante 10-15 minutos, hasta que esté doradita por los bordes. Dejala enfriar.

Para el relleno:
3 yemas
280 g. (10 oz.) de pure de zapallo (hornealo, después vuelvelo un puré totalmente suave)
200 g. (7 oz.) de crema de leche
1/3 taza más 2 cucharadas de azúcar moscovado (o azúcar morena)
3 cucharadas de azúcar blanca
2 cucharitas de maizena (almidon de maiz)
1/4 cucharita de sal (llenita)
1/2 cucharita de canela
nuez moscada

Baja la temperature del horno a 160C. En una procesadora o licuadora, o en un bol con cuchara, bate todos los ingredientes hasta que la mezca esté totalmente suave y sin grumos. Echale a la masa ya fria y horneala durante 40-45 minutos, hasta que esté estable pero todavía tiembla un poco en el medio. Dejala enfriar y después metela a la nevera a enfriar bien un par de horas o por la noche. Haz el merengue cuando estés para servir el pie.

Para el merengue:
3 claras
pizquita de sal
3/4 taza de azúcar blanca

En un bol resistente al calor, bate las claras con la pizquita de sal para romperlas un poco. Sobre una olla con agua hirviendo, bate las claras con el azúcar hasta que todo el azúcar esté disuelto. Quita el bol de la olla y bate las claras hasta punto de nieve. Colocala sobre el pie ya frio y broncea el merengue metiendo el pie al horno ya muy caliente.