Fermented Friday: recipes featuring yeast, wine, beer or some form of fermentation.
So...I had a few...adventures...in the kitchen yesterday. Apparently cooking split peas in wine is not the greatest way to use either your wine or your split peas. On the first attempt I replaced about 1/3 of the liquid with white wine and set the pot to simmer over the stove. After the appropriate boiling time the peas were still quite hard. I continued boiling away but the peas just wouldn't soften. Had I needed firm split peas for a salad, I'm quite sure they would have turned to mush in half the time. It was just one of those days. The wine added a nice depth of flavor, but my split pea "soup" was nowhere near soup consistency. Continued boiling and plenty of extra liquid were of little help.
With a little problem solving I decided to go for a second attempt. Perhaps the bag of split peas I used was old (though I'm pretty sure they weren't). I almost always use a slow cooker when making split pea soup so I decided to do just that on this second batch. In theory cooking in a slow cooker should also help prevent the peas from drying out as the lid traps any evaporating moisture. Lifting the lid of your slow cooker while cooking can add hours to the cooking time. Knowing this, I resisted the urge to check on or stir the soup, I didn't even peek. When it was finally time to lift the lid I was in for a surprise. The soup had boiled dry. Once again I was left with hard dry split peas, only this time they were also nicely burnt to the side of the slow cooker. Apparently it is possible to boil soup dry. Yes, soup....boiled dry....in a slow cooker. Yikes.
With no time or desire for a third batch I attempted a desperate rescue. More liquid and cooking resulted in slightly softer split peas still a far cry from their usual texture. I finally gave up and figured I throw them in the blender anyway. If soup can boil dry maybe blenders can cook miracles. (A freezer can burn, but can it bake?) I had to add quite a bit more liquid to puree those ugly little peas. Since a few of them were rather close to burnt, the final color was even more unappetizing. And the texture? Well, let's just say I don't have a miracle cooking blender. Nope, it tasted just like what it was, dry overcooked split peas. Wouldn't you know that's exactly what I woke up craving this morning? Except not. If you woke up this morning craving dry overcooked split peas then please come over for lunch, it's on me. Thank goodness the blender didn't explode or it really would be on me.
Apparently my brain turned to mush instead of the peas. I did the next logical thing and tried a new pie recipe. Pie crust tends to frustrate me and I'm still looking for a fail-proof recipe. I'm fairly certain it's my technique that needs more help than the recipe. When cutting in the butter I never quite know when to stop and usually end up going too far. Using just the right amount of ice water so that the dough sticks together with without being crumbly or wet is also key. I over worked the pie crust I made earlier this week, resulting in too much gluten formation and thus a tough dough.
Practice makes perfect, the perfect excuse to try a new recipe.. This time around everything was going fairly well. The recipe included vinegar, which helps prevent too much gluten formation. The dough was very pliable and I had no issues with it cracking and tearing or sticking to the counter or rolling pin. The bottom crust rolled out beautifully and eased into the pan with little effort. Then in went the filling; pears, apples and candied ginger. The top crust looked even better. I laid it over the filling and began to crimp and flute the edges. After firmly sealing and shaping I turned around and realized I forgot to dot the top with butter before placing the top crust over the filling. Now this isn't a huge deal, in fact I forget to do this more often than not. But this time I had specifically thought to myself, I will not forget that butter! I had it all ready and waiting, determined not to leave it out. For a brief second I considered an attempt to remove the carefully sealed top crust and add that solitary tablespoon of hard, pale-yellow cream sitting on my counter. I knew that was asking for disaster and wasn't willing to risk it. Apparently I hadn't sealed the crust as well as I thought. After an hour in the oven the hot bubbling fruit had boiled right out of the pie. Luckily I had the pie on a baking sheet and only have a sticky pan to clean not an entire oven.
If you feel the need to use something fermented this Friday, go with vinegar in your pie crust, not wine in your split pea soup.
Food for thought: "Learn form the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -Eleanor Roosevelt