Monday, June 2, 2008

Tricky Piki

About 6 months ago, inspired by a visit to the Heard Museum, we decided to try and make some piki, also known as Native Indian paper bread. Last night we finally realized that decision! We didn't want to eat it just by itself, so we looked for recipes that include any of the "three sisters": Corn, Beans, and Squash (CBS). I finally found one recipe that incorporated all three of them! So we set up for cooking, not realizing how challenging it might be!

Not that the chili was so hard to make - it was actually quite easy. I did omit the garbanzo beans, for authenticity, though.

It's the piki that gave us trouble. That simple paper thin bread, of all things!

First of all, the recipes we found online call for juniper ash. Now where the heck can you find something like that? Fortunately, it can be substituted with baking soda. But what's the exchange rate? One place said 2 tbs per cup of cornmeal but that was way too much. The batter tasted like, well, baking soda, and it created gigantic bubbles in the bread after you pour it onto the hot griddle, resulting in multiple little separated islands of baking-soda-tasting mush.
So we tried again, this time with only 1 tsp per cup. That worked much better.
The amount of water to use was also a matter of trial and error, but I think Mark finally got it right, more or less. Of course, we can't say for sure, since neither of us has ever had it. But at least it resembled a thin paper, albeit a rather holey one.

By itself it doesn't taste like much, but with the chili it was nice. And most importantly, as Mark said, it made us feel "Indian", which was nicely complimentary to our visit to the North Scottsdale branch of the Heard.

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