Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Jackson Pie (Puffy Muffin)

In the earlier article about Puffy Muffin, I mentioned that I had their cookbook in hand and that I was going to start trying some of the recipes. I've made two quiches already based on their recipes, but this time I decided to take on their Jackson Pie.

I had the Jackson Pie at Puffy Muffin. It's utterly delicious. In essence it's a pecan pie with chocolate chips and bourbon added. When I had my first slice there, it was that moment when I knew I had found the definitive pecan pie for me.

Last night, with their recipe in hand, I set out to create that Jackson Pie.

Here is their recipe, exactly:

1/4 cup Margarine
1/4 cup Butter
4 Eggs
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Light Karo Syrup
2 tbl. Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup or less Bourbon
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
Pecan pieces to cover bottom of pie shell
Pie Shell, uncooked

Melt the margarine and butter in the microwave and set aside. In separate bowl mix the eggs, sugar and Karo Syrup with wire whisk until well incorporated.

Combine the egg mixture and butter mixture and whisk until well blended. Stir in the vanilla and bourbon. Set aside.

Cover the bottom of the uncooked pie shell with pecans and chocolate chips. Pour the egg mixture into the pie shell. Bake until almost set in preheated 325 degree oven for 1 hour. The pie is ready when it still wiggles when slightly shaken, so resist the urge to overcook!

This was our bourbon. 
How about those special ingredients? What to use?

We used these chips
It turns out that those "airline size" containers of Maker's Mark contain 1/4 cup of pure Kentucky nectar, so we used one of them.

We didn't have an idea what chips they normally use, so we browsed a little bit in the baking supplies aisle and finally settled on Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips. We figured with the amount of sugar that was going into this pie in one form or another, we didn't need anything overly sweet.

For the pie shell, we used one of those rolled-up crusts. You can find them in a Pillsbury box-of-two anywhere; we were buying at Kroger and they have it in their Kroger brand (gee, I wonder who makes them?).  We put the crust into a glass pie plate.

We followed their instructions exactly in assembling the pie. I should mention this is the first time I ever made a pecan pie of any sort so this was all new to me. That said... you would have laughed to see me trying to lay out the pecans neatly on the bottom of the crust. I did that for a minute or so, then yielded to the sane voice in my ear and spread them around until there were pecans everywhere, then made sure there were no "piles" of them.

We put the chips in on top of the pecans.

Finally we poured the mixture in. I didn't want to move things around too much while pouring so I moved a tablespoon around over the pie plate and poured into it, letting the mixture go over the sides of the spoon. After it was all in I let it sit for a moment so the pecans would surface, then dropped a couple of pecans into the "holes" on the top.

Apologies, by the way, for not having any pictures of that whole process. We'll make up for it now. Here's what the pie looked like right after we popped it into the oven:

After about 45 minutes, here's what it looked like:

Here's where it got a little bit dicey. The instructions again:

"Bake until almost set in preheated 325 degree oven for 1 hour. The pie is ready when it still wiggles when slightly shaken, so resist the urge to overcook!"

I've never baked a pecan pie before. So how much wiggle is what they had in mind? Earlier, I could see a clear difference between the edges of the pie and the middle when "slightly shaken" but now it looked less pronounced and consistent across the pie. I brought Christine over. She had never done this before either. We finally decided to go for 50 minutes and take it out then. At the 50 minute mark there was still some wiggle so we were satisfied it was not overcooked -- and it was out of the oven and safe!

The kitchen was so full of the heavenly smell of the pecans and the bourbon and the chocolate!

The plan was to bring it into work the next morning... but would it be OK? I know the pie is fine but that's when the folks at Puffy Muffin are making it. I'm not so bad in the kitchen but I don't hold a candle to them.

Here's what the pie looked like, the minute before we cut into it. You can see a few of the chocolate chips were able to elbow the pecans aside and work their way to the top:

I shouldn't have worried. So far everything I have tried in the Puffy Muffin cookbook has come out exactly as advertised. They really know how to make a recipe work for everybody!

The pie was gone in about 3 minutes. A lot of people missed out. I'll have to bake another one soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Another idea -- what to do here -- cruise foodie?

We cruise fairly often, and actually the food photo thing started on a cruise. Now here I am trying to do reviews.

A friend suggested that I go just a little bit further, specifically doing cruise-related foodie posts. Stuff from cruises of course, and in between cruises, digging out information relating to food on cruises and posting that.

The big question is whether I should try to start another blog or add it in the mix here. I think given that I'm just back from not posting in two years, I'm going to start it here and see how it goes.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Puffy Muffin, Brentwood TN

(Thanks to -- silly me didn't bother to take a picture this morning.)

Any of my Facebook friends can tell you that I go to Puffy Muffin pretty often. Considering it's over 70 miles from my front door, that I get there on average about once every 2 weeks is at least worthy of raised eyebrows. I know this. But I like the place enough that it's often the decider when we're talking about driving down to Nashville to do some of our (grocery or other) shopping.

I've brought family and friends here. Many have come back. Some actually build it into any trip to see us. We can't have a visit from my youngest daughter and her family without going to what her elder son calls "The Pancake Place!". If you know me and you have visited me, you have probably been there if time permitted.

There are plenty of places to find out more about Puffy Muffin. They have a website, Puffy Muffin Dessert Bakery and Restaurant. There are the review sites: Yelp Reviews for Puffy Muffin and Urbanspoon Reviews of Puffy Muffin. And of course there is Sarah at The Nashville Fork with her blog entry Puffy Muffin -- The Nashville Fork -- 07/29/2010. You'll find lots of great information here and that's great for me, it lets me just talk about today's visit without feeling that I left something important unsaid.

The restaurant is in one of those ubiquitous (for Tennessee at least) H.G. Hill strip malls, this one on Franklin Pike (US 31) in Brentwood, TN, just a little bit south of Nashville. It's a pretty good strip mall too, as it also includes a Fresh Market and an REI in its tenants list.

Today events conspired to keep us from arriving at "breakfast time", in fact we didn't get a chance to eat anything until about noon. Since on Saturday they serve "brunch" (full breakfast menu plus about 3/4 of the lunch menu) we fortunately still could have breakfast.

When we walked in the door, we grabbed a couple of sample pieces of Zucchini Bread while we were getting ourselves on the seating list. The joint was really jumping but they said 20 minutes and while I didn't time it, I'm pretty sure they got it exactly right.

Something that really tickles me -- the people responsible for seating greet me by name. OK, they obviously got it from the party name I always give, but still it's a great little touch. They seat a lot of people every day and it feels good to know that brain cells have been devoted to your memory.

The breakfast/brunch I usually get is the pancake platter with bacon and either a cup of fresh-cut fruit or a potato-cheese casserole that is clearly what Cracker Barrel was trying to accomplish (their result, while quite acceptable, falls a bit short). My Facebook friends have seen pictures of this plate many times. It's not what I got today but we'll include a picture anyway here just in case.

These pancakes have blueberries in them... the syrup (not maple but "Log Cabin"-like) is heated. They used to do that only by request but I asked every time and the topic finally bubbled to the top in staff conversations there. The result: they did the work to be able to safely keep syrup heated, and everyone gets warm syrup without asking. I've made my mark!

The other articles cover the place pretty well but I thought it might be nice to take a few photos. First up here is the dining room with people in it. You get a lot more feeling for whether a place is any good when you know that it fills up when the doors are open. The two tables you see in the middle of the photo filled up about two minutes later. Towards the back you can see a little "bar" that fills up quickly, especially when there's a backup on tables (we have eaten there several times). Notice it's full?

Then there's the bakery case. There's one big case that's pretty much filled with muffins. Another that's about 1/2 cookies and 1/2 pies. Another that's about 3/4 quiches. One more that's for cakes. Here is part of the cookie case. As you can see, they are managing to get them sold.

Behind the cake case, there is a big cooler with the fancy decorated cakes. These had not yet been picked up today. This is beautiful work. Not to the "Ace of Cakes" level perhaps, but I have seen some really wonderful designs. Their design people do a good job.

They make wonderful quiches there. My absolute favorite is their Southwest Chicken quiche, which has some finely chopped onions and tomato, and chicken with the kind of seasoning you put in taco meat, added to the basic quiche. Unfortunately they usually have Spinach-Bacon quiche on Saturday, as it is apparently the favorite of most of the clientele. My feeling is that it's OK but just not something I get excited about. When I really want quiche, and Quiche of the Day is Spinach-Bacon, I'll check in their to-go cooler where they will often have individual slices of other quiche combinations.

That's what I did today. The old Spinach-Bacon was ruling the roost again. They didn't have Southwest Chicken in the cooler but they did have their (Breakfast) Sausage quiche. I grabbed it and they used it to create the quiche platter with their Frozen Strawberry salad and the Lemon Poppy Seed cake.

The Sausage quiche was quite good. I will quibble with it a little though. I have their cookbook and I made a sausage quiche... but I crumbled the sausage. For this one, the sausage was mostly in the form of small cubes. I think that the crumbled sausage was a better idea. That said, I enjoyed it anyway.

The Frozen Strawberry Salad is mostly Strawberries and Cool Whip, with a little bit of pineapple. The cherry is sitting on top of a small dollop of mayo. I always scrape that off, I don't think it helps anything. The  frozen salad is fine without it. I guess anything for looks though. A plain pink rectangle with no cherry wouldn't be as cute. Uh-huh. Got it.

The Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is delightful. Down to the light clear frosting on the top.

Christine ordered an omelet and I don't even remember what it was. I didn't take a picture either, sorry. I can report that she likes it well enough to have it every time.

I thought about dessert. I've had a few good ones there. The last one I had was really good: Jackson Pie. This is a pecan pie with chocolate chips and bourbon. I've looked this up in their cookbook and I plan to make it soon. When I had it, a few weeks ago, I felt I had finally achieved Pecan Pie Nirvana. I'm told that there are similar recipes with different names. Call it whatever you want but when I'm in the mood for dessert, please just give me one.

Today I wasn't feeling it for dessert. But I might make that pie tonight and have some tomorrow.

Having their cookbook makes me feel empowered. And so my future is already there for the realization. After the pie... my next project will be Meatloaf Quiche.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So, what's the deal with Bacon Sundaes?

My family can tell you that I have no problem with bacon, except when I run out. I have tried and loved and evangelized bacon candy. But I really had never thought about what a Bacon Sundae might be like.

Until I read the Review of Burger King's Bacon Sundae. Go ahead. Read it. I can wait.

When I found out that it was being test marketed in Nashville, I put that on my list of things to do there, and when I happened to be in town the following weekend, I stopped at the Burger King on Charlotte Ave. And... resting there on the counter was the only evidence needed that I was at the right place:

Once I reached the front of the line, I ordered two of them, as my wife Christine was interested too. Just like in the review, it took a moment for the counter person to find someone who could make the sundae... but then I had them. You can see mine here:

Now in all fairness neither of them looked as pretty as the picture on the counter card, but since they had all the ingredients, especially the bacon, we were ready to give it a try.

The review in GrubGrade was well done and we're not going to try to compete with it. In fact, just about everything he said held true... the crumbled bacon on top was great, the bacon that wasn't stuck into the ice cream was very good, and the end that was stuck in the ice cream was a little soggy. The "fudge" was ok but it wasn't hot fudge, the caramel wasn't hot caramel, and the ice cream itself was so-so. The taste of the bacon was quite good.

After that stop, I thought a bit about how the experience could be improved. What you basically are looking at there is a fudge and caramel sundae, with crumbled bacon scattered on top and a couple of slices of bacon stuck in. Not hard at all to recreate. Or to mess with.

For example, how about soft hand-scooped ice cream instead of soft serve? Or hot fudge instead of pseudo-fudge or chocolate? And hot caramel instead of cold?

We tried a few of these today.

The first thing we tried was the soft hand-scooped ice cream. The National Corvette Museum has a little cafĂ© that offers some simple foods and hand-scooped ice cream from a pretty good local dairy. So I went in there today and asked them to make a sundae with 3 slices of bacon, chocolate syrup (all they had) and caramel. This is what they made:

It was delicious... the bacon was just the right amount of crispy and the tastes all worked, much like the BK version. The bacon was a little bit thin... the next time I try this, I think 4 slices will be called for so there's enough of it.

Tonight after dinner I decided I was going to write this article, so I had to try the other option. For this, we went to the local Culver's. Sort of a slam dunk: better quality ice cream, and hot fudge and caramel.

They have a "bacon as a side" item on the register, it costs 50 cents. We got two of them, for a total of 4 slices, to go on a "double scoop" hot fudge and caramel sundae. So far so good... but we hit a couple of speed bumps.

First of all, we fell victim to Culvers' efficiency. The sundae was done (except for the bacon) almost instantly.  And it had to sit around and wait for the message to be passed through two people that crispy bacon was needed to be put on a sundae. Then they had to get it. Finally the bacon came up and they crumbled it into the already-soupy sundae.

The result was not ideal either, though it did photograph OK:

The taste, for as long as the bacon lasted, was great, both with caramel and fudge. We had a little bit more until we were down to the melted part, and we stopped there.

What we would do next is order the bacon, wait for it, and then order the sundae and add the bacon ourselves. Also, we would use 4 slices of bacon for the "single scoop", and 6 for the "double scoop".

Finally -- I'd say it's pretty hard to make a bad one. In three tries, we got three sundaes we would be more than happy to try again. So we will, not just there but elsewhere.

You should try it yourself. You just might be surprised how likable it really is.

Monday, April 16, 2012

So... what are we going to do here?

When I set up the blog, I thought I might use it for some low-rent yapping/ranting, hence the "It Does Not Compute". I never really got into that, and also since then I have had the distinct pleasure of reading weblogs authored by people who really know how to do it.

I figure I'll leave it to them for now. But that creates a bit of an existential crisis for the old, neglected weblog. What to do and why to do it?

Well, I do occasionally like to post a mini-rant in other places. I can reserve the right to do it here, but that's not going to create a critical mass of timely postings!

Here's something I do a lot elsewhere: I post pictures of stuff that I am about to eat. (This is a hot dog. Just One. Really)

However, I very seldom bother with any commentary. My social media buddies appreciate the photos and many have suggested I start a foodie blog. I don't know a lot about that sort of thing, but maybe I can use this blog to get me "sea legs"... I can post photos, talk a little about my experience of the day and the food, and see if the quality of my posts gets better with time.

Along with that, I guess, we might cook every once in a while and post something about that. We have lots of friends who cook better but I don't think the occasional pecan pie post will end civilization as we know it (at least not before December 22).

I am a car guy. You can see that from my earlier posts. I will probably throw car posts in from time to time.

(The above is a 1913 Stevens-Duryea "C-Six" originally purchased by George Vanderbilt and still owned by the Biltmore Estate.)

I travel/cruise sometimes. We can include that.

I might occasionally post a few links to stuff I've seen elsewhere that interest me. Maybe BS related, maybe food related, or maybe just a silly cartoon or music or video.

What I hope I actually DO is find enough things to talk about here. No promises. No promises that the content ever completely escapes the category of "random stuff, occasionally useless".

It's just a weblog and I'm just one of the proverbial monkeys at the keyboard.

Well, OK. That is all. For now.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Anybody still here?

Well, I am. Though I have been really quiet. I promise to make more noise in the coming days, weeks, months, whatever.