18 December 2010

Turcaken and Bacon Vodka

Taking a break from my posts on Turkey to write about something equally interesting...Turcaken and bacon vodka. A few months ago, a friend sent me an article about a bakery (I think in Philly) that was pioneering pie inside a cake, and she gave me my mission: make this. Challenge accepted. Unfortunately between summer and winter there's a dry spell for birthdays at work so I had to wait some time before I could fulfill said challenge. But when the time came I was prepared.

Well, almost prepared. I started to make the filling for the pumpkin pie and ran into a wee problem. I got the pumpkin, heavy cream, and eggs in the bowl and realized...I had no brown sugar. Sigh.

So I put the bowl in the fridge and poured my freshly made coffee in a travel mug so I could run accross the street to the mall where the greatest store ever live...Target.

I got myself some brown sugar (and a few other things...there always seem to be other things you need while at Target) and hurried back as quickly as the newly fallen snow would allow me on unsalted sidewalks. I added the sugar and spices to the pumpkin mix and whisked everything together.

Unfortunately time constraints dictated that I couldn't make my own pastry dough and I couldn't find sheet pastry at the store so I hade to use frozen premade crusts for the pies.

Pumpkin pie:
1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin                                   lots of cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream                                             slightly less nutmeg
3 large eggs                                                          wee pinch of ginger
1/2 cup packed brown sugar                                 at least 1/4 each teaspoon allspice and clove

Whisk everything together, pour in pie crust and bake at 350 for about an hour.

After the pumpkin pie came the pecan pie. Luckily I had all the ingredients for this one on hand.
3/4 stick butter                                                   1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar                          3 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup                                      2 cups halved pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat butter on the stove until it melts, then add brown sugar and whisk together until smooth.

Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, and salt.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl then add the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

 Fill the pie crust with the pecans and pour the sugar/egg mixture until it covers the nuts. Then bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

I don't have a picture of me doing it...but I might have eaten the leftover mixtures of both the pumpkin pie and the butter/egg mixture.

Next there must be cake! I made a carrot cake fairly recently but with a tropical twist. This time I went for a more traditional carrot:
2 cups flour                                                     1 1/4 cups canola/vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda                                 4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt                                                3 cups grated carrots
lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and clove             1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups sugar

First whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. The actual recipe calls only for one teaspoon of cinnamon...and nothing else. Seriously?! What is wrong with the people who write these things. I invariably use at least twice the cinnamon called for and always toss in nutmeg and maybe some clove.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil and sugar then the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the flour mixture. And if you're me then get flour absolutely everywhere while you're at it.

Then stir in the three cups of carrots and the walnuts. I have to say...I love my food processor. I made a carrot cake a few years ago for my mom for her birthday and had to hand grate the carrots. That was...annoying to say the least. With a food processor you just put the carrots in the little chute, turn it on and viola!

Pour the batter in 3 9 inch greased and lined round cake pans and bake at (you'll never guess!) 350 for about 30-35 minutes.

Then I took a pizza break.

When everything was baked I set them all out to cool while I put together the frosting. Easiest and tastiest frosting recipe that comes courtesy of our friend KMac:

2 bricks cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

At this point what I have is one layer cake in the making and two pies. Now you're asking yourself...how does this become a turcaken? Well I'm glad you asked. It starts out fairly normally with one layer of cake and some frosting.

And then you plop on the pecan pie. I started with the pecan versus the pumpkin figuring it was probably the more sturdy of the two and would hold up the full weight of the cake a little better.

Next I took a second, prefrosted cake layer and put that frosting side down on the pie.

I frosted the top of that cake in preparation for the pumpkin pie. Then I faced an unexpected dilemma. You know how those frozen pie crusts come in an aluminium tin for baking? Have you ever tried getting a whole pie out of one? The pecan was actually pretty easy. Because it is so solid I just inverted it and tapped the bottom like I do the cake layers but I couldn't risk doing that to the pumpkin lest it fall apart. In the end what I did was pry down the sides of the tin as much as I could then worm our most flexible spatula under the pie until I could safely lift out the entire thing.

And the final layer was another prefrosted cake round.

If I ever do this again, and I think I may, I will have learned some valuable construction lessons:
  1. Take the time to either make pastry dough or find the premade sheets.
  2. Use a tarte tin rather than a pie pan. Less crust and the sides of a tarte tin fall away for easier access.
  3. If you have to use regular pie crusts cut of the edges of the crust.
I often say that whatever I've made is the ugliest cake I've ever done and I'm pretty sure I was right this time. I ended up making another half batch of the frosting but could have used another full batch on top of that to completely hide all the holes. But then it would have been a frosting cake and while intriguing, that was not the point of this exercise.

In an effort to make it less ugly I covered it with ground pecans and walnuts. It, um, didn't really make it any less unatractive.

Happily it's appearance in no way detracted from its flavor and my utter and complete awesomeness. Gaze upon the cake and drool.

It was five layers of tasty turcakenness. The flavors blended beautifully and I was especially pleased with the pecan pie layer. I shall begin plotting flavor combinations for my next creation.

And no I'm not forgetting about the bacon vodka. I have a friend who is mildly obsessed with bacon. I made candied bacon ice cream for her for her birthday. In searching for the perfect Christmas gift, our boss stumbled accross bacon vodka.

Pay no attention to my messy desk on which this tower of strange wonder sits. We all partook of the vodka at the office on Friday. It smelled very much like bacon bits and tasted...very much like bacon. Now, I love bacon myself and I also love the vodka but I'm not so enthralled with the bacon vodka. We decided that as a mixer it was probably great and a bacon bloody would probably be fantastic. I think she and I were the only ones to really drink the entire pour we had...and we both did it by pinching our noses and tossing it back.


Oh one last thing. I had some leftover carrots from the cake so Lauren suggested that I make one of the greatest salads ever. Learnt from our university Russian professor, the carrot salad is simple and powerful. Shredded carrots, shredded garlic, and a little mayo.

The amount of garlic in it will knock over you and any vampire within a five mile radius. Yum.

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