Parsnip Parsimony- A vegan baking and science blog.

“You’re crazy, Susie!”

Its the great pumpkin pie trials, Charlie Brown! (Lab notes)

Posted by Susie on November 10, 2007

Pie #2 on a plate

Okay, here is how I am going to do this:

I try a lot of different stuff in my kitchen. I have the tendency to do my cooking experimentally- sometimes I even make it up as I go along. Historically, I do not keep a very good record of the specifics of what I try. As a result of this bad habit, I frequently am unable to recreate any specific “recipe” that I come up with, nor am I able to share a recipe with anyone else (you all) and be confident that the recipe I give to the other person isn’t going to fail horribly because I remembered or approximated it wrong. I think, however, that a lot of good could come from being able to share my experiments with you all- If I could only make sure that the records I take of the experiments are correct. So thats what I am going to try to do from now on.

I like over-the-top things, so I am going to take a cue from my chemistry lab class, go way over the top with this record keeping thing, and start keeping a baking notebook. (Like a lab notebook! Get it? Isn’t it cool how I have no life?) Anyway. I will try to resist cooking without weighing and writing down my additions of “a little of this” or “some of that” from now on. This way, I can post the recipe for a thing I make along with some information on how it turned out, guesses as to why it turned out that way, and what I might try the next time I make it. This way, the information is available to anyone who might be trying something similar, and might want to pick up where I left off. (Totally let me know what you try and how it works out though!)

So, any posts I make about works in progress, or recipes which I don’t think are quite perfected yet, I am going to call “lab notes”. As soon as I get a recipe to where I think its a “recipe” recipe, I will convert it to a traditional recipe format, convert my weight measurements of ingredients to cup and tablespoon measurements, and make a brand new entry for it. Sound good?
Okay, already. Where are the pies??
Pie #1:

I wanted to make a pumpkin pie. I halved and veganized the pumpkin pie recipe from my baking textbook “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen (page 251 of the fourth edition).

The (halved) recipe called for 150 g Egg, and 300 g Milk. I used my typical method of veganizing custard to veganize this. First I doubled the amount of egg called for, and subtracted the difference from the amount of liquid called for (milk in this case. Then, I replaced the adjusted amount of egg (300 g) with an equal weight of MoriNu brand extra firm silken tofu, and replaced the adjusted amount of milk with soy milk. Because this pie called for no fat containing ingredients besides egg, and because tofu does not have quite as much fat as egg, I added an extra 20 g vegetable oil. I also decided to use 30 g maple syrup in place of30 g corn syrup. The adjusted recipe is as follows:

375 g Pumpkin Puree (I used homemade.)

15 g All Purpose Flour

2 g Cinnamon

1 g Nutmeg

1 g Ginger

0.5 g Cloves

3 g Salt

145 g Brown Sugar

30 g Maple Syrup

300 g Extra Firm Silken Tofu (I used Mori Nu brand.)

150 g Soymilk (I used Silk brand DHA enriched, but this is likely unimportant)

20 g Canola oil

The original recipe called for using an electric mixer and mixing the pumpkin, flour, and spices together, then beating in the eggs. Since my extra firm tofu needed to be pureed anyway, I skipped the mixer step, and put all the ingredients in the blender at once, and blended them until they were smooth and some air had been mixed into the batter. I poured the batter into my unbaked pie crust, and baked it for 20 minutes at 425 F, then another 35 minutes at 350 F. When I took it out of the oven, it had reached boiling tempurature, and the surface of the pie looked like there was boiling going on underneath the top skin.

The resulting pie had good flavor, and really tasted like a pumpkin pie should taste. However, it did not have a smooth appearance. It looked curdled- like there were grains of tofu floating in a liquid. It was the right thickness though, it wasn’t too mushy or too firm, just curdled.

My guess is that tofu custards curdle the same way egg custards curdle- the mixture is overheated, and the protein coagulates too much, forming too tight of a structure, which ends up kicking otherwise bound water out of the 3-d protein-net. This makes the custard separate into overcoagulated protein and “kicked out” liquid. It tastes alright and doesn’t taste that “grainy”, but it isn’t pretty to look at. It seems like tofu custards curdle more easily than egg custards.

I know of two ways to keep this curdling from happening. The first is to heat the custard more gently, or for a shorter period of time. Tofu, as opposed to eggs, is already coagulated when we put it in our custard mix. When we put it in the blender, the blender breaks up the 3-d protein net into small pieces. The protein still wants to form a net though, and will form one over time. If you let it sit long enough, even at room temperature pureed tofu will “set up” a little bit. Heat speeds the process, but can also easily cause curdling.

The second way I know of preventing curdling is by including something like starch in a custard. If starch is used in sufficient quantity, starch networks will form that thicken the custard at about the same temperature that proteins will begin to curdle. The thickness created by the starch prevents the protein molecules from getting so close together, and protects the custard from curdling.

Pie #2

The second time I tried this pie, I decided to increase the starch content of the pie in an attempt to prevent curdling, and hopefully to create a creamier appearance and texture. The original formula called for just 15 g of flour, so this time I kept the 15 g of flour, but added 20 g of corn starch to my formula. I only had 236 g of tofu, so I used that plus 64 g Tofutti “Better than cream cheese”. I also added 1 g of allspice to this formula. The Final recipe for pie #2 is as follows:

375 g Pumpkin Puree (I used homemade.)

15 g All Purpose Flour

20 g Corn Starch

2 g Cinnamon

1 g Nutmeg

1 g Ginger

0.5 g Cloves

3 g Salt

145 g Brown Sugar

30 g Maple Syrup

236 g Extra Firm Silken Tofu (I used Mori Nu brand.)

64 g Vegan Cream Cheese Analog (I used Tofutti brand’s non-hydrogenated option)

150 g Soymilk (I used unsweetened vanilla this time)

20 g Canola oil

I mixed and baked Pie #2 the same way as Pie #1. This pie was really tasty. The graininess present in the first pie was drastically decreased in this pie. It was also much creamier. The small amount of cream cheese analog seemed to yeild a cheesecake- like flavor, but not so much that the pie ceased to be pie. It was really good.

I think this was almost perfect. I want to try this again without the cream cheese analog just to make sure I can make a straight-up traditional tasting pumpkin pie sans graininess, but the cream cheese version is really kind of nice anyway.

Y’all let me know if you have any questions, critiques, comments, or anything!

6 Responses to “Its the great pumpkin pie trials, Charlie Brown! (Lab notes)”

  1. Dawn said

    After reading your blog, I feel like such a kitchen slacker. When I have one failed attempt, I give up for a while. You tried again right away?

    Oh, and the title made me smile :-)I love Charlie Brown

  2. Susie said

    Well, when I made the crust for the first pie, I ended up with enough dough for three crusts, and I froze two of them. (That means watch out for pie #3!)

  3. strawberryrock said

    I love your blog so much already.

  4. getsconed said

    this is so much to read! I expect cliff notes, aka susie notes at whatever the next ppk thing I see you at is. and pie.

  5. kittee said

    susie, this is just up my alley except i don’t like pumpkin pie…if i’m making something new, i try to jot things down too. it really really helps if you get good results, huh?


  6. […] couple weeks ago I posted 2 attempts at perfecting a pumpkin pie formula. The second one was killer, but used tofutti cream cheese […]

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