We should have discussed this pie a looong time ago. My apologies. Usually, the summer months are what bring people outdoors, dipping toes in the sand and splashing in the water. But outdoor fun is all about the fall months for me. So I've been trapsing about the area, hunting for the best apples, driving 2 hours to obtain thick bratwursts (the kind whose casings buckle under your teeth) and German beer at a local Oktoberfest.
But I digress, I came to talk about pie and hot chocolate. In an attempt to bring in fall the proper way and have a reason to return to the bloggosphere, I baked a pumpkin pie for some coworkers a few weeks back.
This pumpkin pie recipe is not only from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook, it was developed by a former White House chef, Ronald Mesnier. (Doesn't he look like he knows what he's talking about, pie-wise?) It may sound like it'd be a fussy recipe, but it's nothing extreme.
The usual pinches of fall cinnamon, ginger, and cloves are involved, as is the assumed canned pumpkin puree. There are two elements that make it a bit more luxurious. That's the additional egg yolks (three eggs and two egg yolks) and the heavenly, additional cup of cream. If you'd like the recipe, pass me a note and I'll gladly pass it along.
The other fall treat I've been reveling in is hot chocolate.
In my book, good hot chocolate is dependent on two things: whole milk and unsweetened cocoa powder. When it comes to milk, don't mess around - go whole. To the full-fat phobics I say this: just have the fat, revel in its flavor (because that's what it's all about), and be done with it. There is absolutely no substitute for its flavor. As for the unsweetened cocoa powder, it gives you more control regarding the sweetness and character of the final product.
Call me crazy, but I prefer making this over the stovetop rather than the microwave. It allows me to adjust the flavor as it heats, ensures there are no cocoa powder chunks, and richly sweetens the air in our 650 square foot apartment. My process is the following: put a saucepan on medium heat, add some milk and unsweetened cocoa powder, and whisk until thoroughly combined and there are no more chunks. Have a tasting spoon and jar of sugar on hand, and continue to add milk and cocoa powder until it's at the quantity and flavor you like. Add sugar as desired.
From there, the hot chocolate can take on any personality you're in the mood for. You can add vanilla, cinnamon, a squeeze of an orange, dark liquor (if you're into that), or anything else that strikes your fancy with chocolate. Or just leave it plan. Tonight I was in the mood for something dark and rich, so I didn't add that much sugar, but I did add vanilla extract.
Warm, spicy, and sweet things from the kitchen - that's what fall's about for me. That, and traditional German celebrations of course.