Pie, (Food) Porn, and Puppies!

VegEdibles just got interesting!

After my dad asked for the Reader’s Digest version of my recent post about grain milling, I started to realize that VegEdibles will never become popular if my posts are as dense and dry as the whole wheat bread they describe. In this post, I will turn over a new leaf and attempt to write something that people actually want to read! Through my non-scientific research, I have identified three key elements that increase the popularity of food blogs.

The Three P’s of a Popular Food Blog:

  1. Pies: Or desserts, more broadly. Everybody likes the idea of cooking healthy food, but posts about desserts and sweets are by far the most popular in the food blogosphere.
  2. Porn: Food porn, that is. Let’s face it. Even the most delicious food will be overlooked if it looks like poorly lit cat vomit.
  3. Puppies! Because I needed a third P, and who doesn’t like to look at pictures of puppies?

Let’s start with a picture of Sophie to draw you in. Sophie isn’t actually a puppy; she’s a 14-year-old golden retriever. But she’s as cute as any puppy. Sophie happens to be a really big fan of VegEdibles, by the way. She is quite fascinated by grain milling minutiae, and she appreciated how this post provided a thorough and balanced treatment of such a controversial topic. She also appreciates my very clever puns.

Now that you’re hooked, let’s move on to the recipe. You may recall that Bill and I purchased this orange kabocha squash at the farmers’ market as our surrogate pumpkin for Halloween. I decided to ask readers for ideas about what to make with it, and I got some interesting suggestions, all of which sounded delicious. However, since it’s close to Thanksgiving and I really love pumpkin pie, I had to go with the kabocha pie.

The kabocha squash, and in particular the orange kabocha, is supposed to make a really good “pumpkin” pie because it is more sweet than pumpkin, and its flesh is smoother and less stringy. Additionally, the kabocha flesh contains less water than pumpkin flesh, so you don’t have to strain the purée the way you would with homemade pumpkin purée. Without further ado, here’s the recipe for kabocha pie.

Kabocha Pie
(adapted from the Red Kuri Squash Pie recipe in Healthy Green Kitchen)

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used freshly milled soft white wheat berries.)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Filling:

  • 2 cups kabocha squash purée from a 2-3 pound squash (see directions below)
  • 1 cup cream (I used coconut cream from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Crust:

  1. Stir together the butter and sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. Stir in the yolks, then add the flour, crystallized ginger, and salt, and stir just until the mixture comes together. (Note: It will be dry and crumbly.)
  3. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Freeze for 20 minutes, or until firm.
  4. Cut a round of parchment paper to cover the base of the crust, and place pie weights (or about 2 cups of dried beans) over the parchment.
  5. Bake the crust in an oven preheated to 375F for 20-22 minutes, or until the crust turns golden brown.
  6. Remove the parchment and pie weights, and allow the crust to cool before pouring the pie filling.

Filling:

  1. Using a heavy-duty knife, chop the kabocha squash in half and scoop out the seedy, gooey insides. (VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t cut off your hand or fingers!!!)
  2. Cut each half into smaller wedges, place them in a baking pan with the skin side down, and drizzle them with olive oil. (Note: This squash has a very thick skin, so it’s difficult to cut. If you happen to drop the squash on the floor while attempting to cut it, just pick it up à la Julia Child, and continue as if nothing happened.)
  3. Cover the baking pan with foil and roast at 375F until very soft (40-60 minutes, depending on the size of the wedges).
  4. Allow the roasted squash to cool, then peel off skins and blend the soft flesh until smooth. (Note: It should be closer to the consistency of mashed potatoes than applesauce.)
  5. Measure 2 cups of kabocha purée to use for the pie filling, and reserve the rest for something else, like these muffins.
  6. Blend the 2 cups of kabocha puree with the other filling ingredients.

Assembling and Baking the Pie:

  1. Pour the filling into the baked crust. (Note: I had too much filling, so I poured the remainder into two ramekins and baked them separately.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 325, and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the filling just begins to set in the middle. Cover the pie loosely with foil if it starts to get too dark.
  3. Allow the pie to cool in the refrigerator for 6 hours to overnight.

Edibility Evaluation

This recipe was very involved, but it was totally worth it. Bill and I gave the pie edibility scores of 4.8 and 4.9, respectively. We both loved the filling, and I thought the use of coconut cream instead of evaporated milk gave it a nice flavor. Our only complaints were minor, and they related to the crust. I thought it was a bit too sweet, and Bill was put off by the bits of crystallized ginger. He picked one out, made a face, and asked, “What is this gummy, fruity thing in the crust?” I actually enjoyed how they made the crust more interesting with their strong, gingery flavor.

(Update: The NY Times recently published this article comparing different types of winter squash as substitutes for pumpkin in “pumpkin” pie. Kabocha was praised for its silky texture, but the resulting pie tasted “vegetal and too earthy.” I think it was because they used a green kabocha. The orange kabocha is sweeter, and Bill and I noticed no such earthiness. But be warned if you’re thinking about using the more common, green variety of kabocha.)

And now, let’s move on to the food porn. Photography is one of my weak points. However, as a result of spending hours on foodgawker observing legitimately good food photography, I have gleaned a few shortcuts to help me get by until I take some time to seriously learn how to style and photograph food.

Tips for Good Food Porn Photography: (Just remember the initials: G.F.P.)

  • G is for Good Lighting: Poor lighting in food photography can make an otherwise delicious dish look unappetizing or even downright frightening. Here are before and after shots to illustrate this concept. You can see what a huge difference good lighting makes.

  • F is for Fuzzy Background: Those of us who live in small apartments don’t always have the luxury of a well-appointed photography studio. The key is to blur the background so that you can draw attention away from any unsavory elements in the photo. Here’s an example:

  • P is for Props: Let’s face it. Your food isn’t always going to look pretty. But that doesn’t mean you can’t deceive everyone into thinking you’re Martha Stewart. Select props that draw the viewer’s attention away from any minor blemishes in the food.

And now for the giveaway!

Finally, you know you’ve made it to the food blog big leagues when you start having giveaways. However, I realized that you don’t actually need sponsors; you can just give something away. So, VegEdibles is having its first giveaway! Simply write what your favorite type of pie is in the comments section, and you will be entered to win … drum roll, please … Pong!

Pong is a nine-year-old, fawn-colored pug with a cute, wrinkled face, poor posture, and debilitating self confidence issues. He enjoys long walks to the mailbox and even longer naps with his brother, Ping. His talents include snoring, chasing planes, and barking at his own reflection. What he lacks in intellect, he makes up for in softness.

Thanks for reading, and have a happy Thanksgiving!  Also, thanks to Creative Dialog Studios for the dog pictures!

6 thoughts on “Pie, (Food) Porn, and Puppies!

  1. Jamie,
    I think you have found the blogging key! The photo of Sophie totally drew me in (but, I might be an exception since I’m so taken with pups anyway). However, you definitely hooked me with your still life of the pie and the bottle on the table near the window. That was just lovely. I could imagine sitting there having a piece of pie and a cup of tea with you and Bill. Looking forward to Thanksgiving–

    • Thanks, Mary! If somebody doesn’t like the photo of Sophie, I’m okay with them not liking my blog. I’m glad you liked the pie picture also. If only we could have shared some with you. See you soon!

  2. Dad is going to be mad that you’re trying to give his dog away. And you failed to mention that he leaves little poops wherever he goes like a pez dispenser (Pong, not dad).

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