Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ann's May Pie - One Fruit, Two Pies: Watermelon Chiffon and Watermelon Rind

I've been really excited since the beginning of the year to make some summer fruit pies - it seems like the essence of Midwestern life. In fact, I attribute much of my interest in pies to the almost intrinsic all-American atmosphere that I've discovered and embraced since moving to Indiana. I played around with some ideas, but as usual, the items I had in my fridge determined the end result. I'd bought a massive watermelon at Sam's Club and had to find various ways to use it. I wouldn't have decided on watermelon pie, but the fabulous Pie book by Ken Haedrich (seriously, why have I not bought my own copy yet?) had a couple of intriguing recipes: Watermelon Chiffon and Watermelon Rind. I kept rolling them around in my mind all month, even as I planned on making something else. In the end, though, the recipes proved too intriguing to pass up.

I made a graham cracker crust for the chiffon pie and then my first double crust for the rind pie, using the recipe from The Dessert Bible. Once again, I had the fun of grating frozen butter and shortening into the dry ingredients. However, I need to stop making pie crusts at 1 am the night before I plan to finish the pie - I'm always rushed, and everything I've read about crusts says that you shouldn't rush them. I'm guessing that it's by luck that I haven't screwed up a crust too much yet - or maybe all the pie books are lying! I don't know...

The chiffon pie was a bit of an experience. The recipe said to mash the chunks of watermelon with a potato masher. Unfortunately, I don't own one. It's one of those tools that I always wish that I had, but don't remember that I want one until I actually need it in that very moment - too late, of course, to run to the store to buy one. So I spent some quality time with a fork, crushing the individual cubes of watermelon in batches. Then I passed the resulting pulp through cheesecloth and luckily got exactly the amount of watermelon juice that I needed. I would recommend buying a potato masher instead of this method.
For some reason I can't remember, I had to go someplace in the middle of making these pies (I think a movie or something?), so I added the gelatin and checked on it shortly before leaving to see if I could finish the pie off with whipped cream and egg whites. It didn't look like it had set up at all, so I left. When I came home, it was in the same state - until I took the bowl out of the fridge the next day and realized that it just looked like it hadn't set up - it was a completely solid chunk of watermelon juice. I called my mom to see how I could fix this, and she said that I should melt it down a little bit to see if I could get it into a kind of loose consistency. However, it melted completely, so I added two more packages of gelatin, and it seemed to get to where it needed to be. I folded in the whipped cream and beaten egg whites, and crossed my fingers. In the end, it set up nicely, but I still wasn't completely sold on this pie. There wasn't anything wrong with it at all - in fact, most of the people that tried it liked quite a bit, but the flavor of watermelon without the crunch and texture of it seemed kind of wrong to me. I'd rather have just eaten the watermelon and saved the rind for the next pie. But it was still worth making since it tasted so summery; I just don't know that I'd do it again.
Get your hand out of that pie, La Dolcezza!

I didn't do a perfect job of folding in the egg whites...

The filling for the rind pie was fairly simple: after removing the flesh to be used in the chiffon pie, I peeled all the green skin from the left-over rinds, diced them, and then cooked them in sugar water until soft. I think I overcooked them a bit - the recipe said to drain them when soft, but all the water had cooked out of my batch and the rind pieces were quite caramelized. I don't think this was a bad thing, however; it could only add a nice smokiness to the flavor as long as they weren't burnt. To the cooled rind, I added walnuts, raisins, brown sugar, and vinegar, creating a filling similar to mincemeat (according to the heading of the recipe - I've never actually had mincemeat) or maybe a mock-apple pie. The filling didn't seem to be enough for the pie shell, so when I added the top crust, it kind of slumped down into it, but I crimped the edges with a fork and hoped for the best. In the end, it baked beautifully - the crust evened out with the perfect amount of browning on both the top and bottom, and flaked enticingly with each touch of my fork as I cut into it. It was buttery, tender...all the words you're supposed to think of when you eat really good pie crust...and I made it! I really enjoyed the rind filling - the browned rind pieces had a bit of a sour, tart flavor that was nicely accentuated by the vinegar, but the brown sugar and nuts made it feel like a comforting walk-through-leaves kind of pie, unlike the chiffon pie which tasted like summer. The friends that tried it said that they liked it (some liking it better than the chiffon pie), but that it was better suited for fall. Since watermelon is most definitely a summer fruit, I wonder if I can freeze some left-over rinds during the summer months to be used later in the year - I'm not very knowledgeable of the do's and don'ts of freezing, so I'll have to ask around. But this pie would be perfect at Thanksgiving, and it's even more fun when you can make people guess what's in it! I liked it much more than the chiffon pie - the vinegar flavor completely set it apart from other pies (like apple) with similar flavor components, making it really distinctive and special. And wow, that was a good crust.

It may seem shameless to put two pictures of myself in my post, but I look skinnier than I have in a long time in these pictures, and I'm willing to run with that.

Watermelon Chiffon Pie
from Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich

6 cups watermelon flesh (seeds are fine)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream
1 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Prepare the graham cracker crust.
2. Combine the watermelon and granulated sugar in a very large bowl. (I actually can't remember doing this...hmmm....) Using a potato masher, mash until the mixture is quite liquid. Set aside for 15 minutes. Drain the mixture through a strainer, reserving almost 2 3/4 cups of the watermelon juice. Discard the pulp and seeds.
3. Put 1/4 of the juice in a medium-size bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 3 to 4 minutes to dissolve. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup of the juice in a small saucepan over medium heat to a near boil. Whisk the hot juice into the dissolved gelatin. Pour the remaining 2 cups of watermelon juice into a large bowl and stir in the gelatin-watermelon juice mixture. Stir in the lime juice. Place in the refrigerator.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a medium-size bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Clean and dry the beaters. Using a chilled medium-size bowl and chilled beaters, beat the heavy cream with the mixer until it holds soft peaks. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth and stiff but not grainy. Refrigerate.
5. When the watermelon juice mixture starts to firm up, add about one-quarter of the whipped cream and beat with the electric mixer until smooth. Add the beaten egg whites and remaining whipped cream and gently fold them in with a large rubber spatula. If necessary, use a whisk - very briefly - to smooth the mixture and break up any large globs of whites or whipped cream. Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell, shaking the pan gently to settle the filling. Cover with loosely tented aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. To serve, garnish with confectioners' sugar and whipped cream, if desired.

Watermelon Rind Pie
from Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich

3 cups peeled and diced watermelon rind
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Granulated sugar

1. Prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
2. Combine the watermelon rind and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in a large saucepan. Add water just to cover. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and continue to boil until the rind is tender and translucent, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well, then transfer the rind to a large bowl and let cool.
3. On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the larger portion of the pastry into a 12-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9-inch standard pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edge. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
4. Stir the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar into the cooled rind. Stir in the raisins, nuts, vinegar, and brown sugar, then stir in the flour, spices, and salt.
5. On another sheet of floured waxed paper, roll the other half of dough into a 10-inch circle. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell, smoothing the top with your hands or a spoon. Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell. Invert the top pastry over the filling, center, and peel off the paper. Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge. Trim the pastry with scissors or a paring knife, leaving an even 1/2-inch overhang all around, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge (I crimped the edge with a fork). Poke several steam vents in the top of the pie with a fork or paring knife; put a couple of the vents near the edge of the crust so you can check the juices there later. To glaze the pie, lightly brush the pastry with the beaten egg white and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.
6. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the top is dark golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. This is not a particularly juicy pie, so you may or may not see juices bubbling up through the steam vents.
7. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Master Recipe for Foolproof Handmade Pie Dough, double crust variation
from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball

9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
9 tablespoons cold all-vegetable shortening
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
About 1/2 cups ice water

Follow this method for pie dough. Separate into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.


Miss Hass said...


And you look totally hott.

Elizabeth said...

Wow, those look really great. Two pies in one month!! What a woman.

Your assessment of the chiffon pie was so interesting to me, because I think I've had that exact same reaction to everything "watermelon" that I've ever eaten (unless it's a Jolly Rancher). I always think, "That was good, but I'd rather have eaten that watermelon in slices instead." I have made watermelon ice (DEFINITELY not as good as plain watermelon), watermelon drinks, and watermelon shakes.

Maybe it's because watermelon really isn't that strong of a flavor, so it doesn't go very far, like raspberries or lemons do. You have to use a lot of watermelon to get a good taste of it.

I've always wanted to try dehydrated watermelon, though. I keep forgetting to talk mom into putting it into her dehydrator. Wouldn't that be crazy? There'd be nothing left!

I wish I could have been there to try your pies, Printer! They look great. I am particularly intrigued by the rind pie. Make it for me!! I'm not picky---summer, fall, whatever. Tell your picky, spoiled friends to make their own dang pie!


La Dolcezza said...

1)I loved those pies. I think maybe I like the pink color and THAT's why I tend to like pink pies- watermelon, strawbery quick...
2) Those pictures of you ARE good. I esspecially like the necklace. You don't wear it a lot, this must have been a special occasion. ;)

Heiderhead said...

I know, I know. It's taken me quite a bit of drama to get here. My school filter won't let me on 'Ann's Lame Blog' so this will have to suffice. Good info, good info. I'm constantly amazed and the wealth of info all my library friends provide!
I'll be checking back.

I Am An Automaton said...

The pies look very tasty! I have no problem with watermelon flavoring without the crunch- though I do really enjoy watermelon. My especial favorites are Lip Smackers chapstick- watermelon flavored, Watermelon/strawberry/lemon fruit smoothie, salt water taffy- watermelon flavored, and Bubble Gum- watermelon. I love watermelon!! Make me the pie!!