Category Archives: Pies and Cobblers

Oscar Wild

A couple weekends ago was all things Oscars-related and I kicked it off with my first contribution to the Foodie Crush blog, with a post about my family’s Oscar Dinner tradition and a pun-filled menu! If you aren’t familiar with Foodie Crush, you should definitely check it out. Heidi has created a wonderful virtual space with her gorgeous online magazine and blog, which is unique in that it is dedicated to food bloggers and she’s acquired quite the following! I’m beyond excited to continue brainstorming and working with her on some upcoming projects.

On Friday afternoon, Jay and I put our nerdy heads together to conjure up some more puns for our Oscar dinner menu (a challenge we look forward to each year) and here is what we came up with (I’m quite proud if I do say so)!

13 dinner menu final

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As always, our house and stomachs were full and fun was had all around! I particularly enjoyed the entertaining, suave and witty antics of host Seth MacFarlane, Christoph Waltz’s and Daniel Day Lewis’ win, seeing the adorable, feisty Quvenzhané Wallis and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s charming dance moves. We had fun posing for our own red carpet photos, tallying up our ballots and either praising or yelling at the TV.

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quintessential “red carpet paparazzi photo”

And las night in our household was not just all about that little gold man. It was also about pie, as the case usually is. In honor of Life of Pi, I made two pies: one, a chocolate mousse pie and a new experiment that became quite the hit—a bourbon-butterscotch pie with bananas and salty caramel. A couple years ago for Valentine’s Day, I made Ashley Christensen’s Banana Cream Pie with Salty Bourbon Caramel, except I used walnuts in place of the peanuts, for the crust. I loved it and I thought it would be a good crust for this pie. In addition to using walnuts instead of peanuts (I just used one cup in stead of a cup and a quarter cup), I also used all brown sugar. The result was a caramelized, salty, nutty cookie crust that went beautifully with the bourbon butterscotch custard. I also made a salty caramel and layered it with bananas and the custard (two times around), then I topped it with a cloud of whipped cream, drizzled caramel and a few banana slices. This pie is precisely what Ron Swanson’s kind of pie and I imagine it goes quite well with a nice glass of neat bourbon. It’s dark and caramelly, slightly bitter and a perfect balance of salty and sweet.

I wasn’t sure what to call the pie but when our guests inquired about what it was and I gave my response, they deemed it “monkey pie,” and so monkey pie it is.

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Monkey Pie

Walnut shortbread crust:

  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl, mix the baking soda, salt and flour. In a food processor, combine the brown sugar and toasted walnuts and blend until the mixture is sandy and there are no big nut pieces. Then add the butter, vanilla and egg yolk and blend until evenly combined. Add the dry ingredients and blend just until evenly incorporated. Dump into a 8/9-inch pie dish and press in and up the sides, making an even crust. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for at least a half an hour.

Bourbon-Butterscotch Custard lightly adapted from Zak Miller of Coquette in New Orleans, via Garden and Gun

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 cups whole milk, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 vanilla bean

1 tsp vanilla

6 egg yolks

½ cup cornstarch
4-5 tbsp. bourbon

Melt butter and sugar together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisk in 2 cups of milk and salt. Split the vanilla bean, and scrape out the seeds into the pan. Whisk well, and bring mixture to a simmer.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks and cornstarch with the remaining cup of milk. Add ½ cup of the warmed milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture to temper. Add everything back into the pan of warmed milk, and whisk steadily until the mixture is boiling. Cook until pudding is thickened, about 8 minutes. Strain through a sieve if the pudding is lumpy.

Stir in bourbon and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the pudding to avoid having a skin form. Chill for at least two hours.

Salty Caramel barely adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

1 cup sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

1 heaping tsp fleur de sel

Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you’ll need–at least two or three quarts, whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in, before turning off the stove and pour in the heavy cream (The sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; this is why you want the larger pot.), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce. Stir in the fleur de sel.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, it will likely have thickened a bit but 60 seconds in the microwave brings it right back to pouring consistency.

Assembly:

After the crust is cool and the pudding has chilled, peel and slice up 3 bananas. Cover the bottom of the crust with banana slices, then drizzle the caramel liberally overtop. Add half of the bourbon-butterscotch custard and spread evenly. Repeat, using the remainder of the pudding. Cover with whipped cream (about 1 cup of heavy whipping cream + 1 TBS powdered sugar). Drizzle some salty caramel on top and add a few banana slices to make it pretty.

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Rainy Days and Roasted Strawberry Scones

I’m fairly certain that rainy mornings were meant for lying in, pajamas til’ noon and roasted strawberry scones.  Lately I’ve been taking advantage of the early strawberry season and have been playing with fun recipes to use these berries in; as well as rhubarb.  Both fuse together harmoniously when nestled into a buttery, cakey cobbler, which has become my new favorite way to enjoy these two fruits together.  I adapted this Saveur Magazine’s recipe for rhubarb cobbler, subbing half the amount of rhubarb for some farmer’s market strawberries and I used white sugar instead of brown and the sticky, cakey dough rose up between the bubbling pink and red fruits and filled our house with the most heavenly smell.

Do yourself a favor and make this ASAP!

My friend Elizabeth shared a recipe for rhubarb syrup (perfect for rhubarb mojitos)!  It amazes me how such an odd smelling fruit that is like a red version of celery can transform into such a delicious tart and sweet fruit and how when boiled down with some sugar and water, it will turn into a vivid watermelon hue.  I love the added spice from the vanilla bean the the subtlety of the nutmeg – just enough to know its there.

I also made some gorgeous strawberry conserve that we’ve been enjoying with toast and farmer’s cheese, though it’s a little too far on the tart side for me.  I’ve been wanting to pair it with some ice cream of some sort to help balance it a little.

Then this morning, I was itching to make these roasted strawberry scones and I’m so glad I did.  Roasted in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, the strawberries blistered and broke down under the heat and after they cooled they were folded into the scone dough.  I think I could have stood to roast them about 15 minutes longer than I did (I only did about 45) and I think they made the dough a little stickier than it should have been, but adding flour can always solve that problem (and I added lots more)!  They turned the dough kind of a pretty mauve color and baked up beautifully.  I drizzled them with a glaze (of powdered sugar, half and half and a tad of the leftover roasting juices) and ate them with mascarpone cheese…sublime.  I may or may not have eaten two and may or may not be thinking about having another one…

This has nothing to do with strawberries but everything to do with a certain apple we all know.  Ahem…drumroll please…Now for some exciting news!  For those who don’t yet know, I’ve been offered (and have obviously accepted) an editorial food & drink internship with Time Out New York!  I will be temporarily moving to NYC this July for about four months or so.  I feel so lucky and am so ecstatic about this fortunate opportunity and the adventure that lies ahead.  More to come very soon!

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A Match Made

I did something daring.  Something that has raised a few eyebrows and evoked quizzical thoughts.  I mixed cayenne and chocolate together.  I took a deep breath and put my faith in Cooking Light Magazine.  I even used more than 1/8 tsp of cayenne.  I’ve always been kind of a skeptic about chocolate and heat and still generally prefer my chocolate sans spice.  Unless it’s a Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie, because that friends is different.  Different in the very best of ways.

This risky behavior of mine also prodded me to make a few tweaks to the recipe.  Since I am still a baker, true to form and the words “frozen reduced calorie whipped cream” makes me shudder, I kinda took the “light” part out.  Well not entirely.  I didn’t add butter or any more egg yolks or chocolate and I used a combination of whole milk and 1%.  That’s a fair compromise right?

I figured I was sacrificing enough calories elsewhere, so I could afford to make some real whipped cream.  Also, I have always detested graham cracker crust.  (Sorry graham cracker crust fans)!  It’s just that I’ve always found it to be boring, uninspiring and overrated and far too many pie, bar and cheesecake recipes have graham cracker crusts!  I’ve just never understood that.  Even a simple shortbread press-in crust is so much more interesting!  Whenever my mom made cheesecake, she’d always make the crust using Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies, which yield a richer, crunchier, sturdier crust than graham crackers.  Following suit, I too made my cheesecake crusts the same way, adding some toasted pecan pieces and a little butter.  You should try it.  It’s time for the Grahams to retire.

So when I first made this pie about a month ago, I basically followed Cooking Light’s crust recipe to a T, but subbing Oreos for graham crackers.  (I wanted to use Nabisco chocolate wafers but apparently they don’t exist in Greensboro, or at least I’ve never been able to find them).  So I just scrape the icing off the Oreos before I make the crust (and I don’t eat it either!).

That pie crust was sugary and crumbly and while I did like it, I decided to try something different this time.  Last night I got out my tart pans and slightly adapted a chocolate tart dough recipe (if you could even call it a dough).  It’s low-maintenance, requires no rolling or several hours of chilling and it came out great except I could have baked it a little longer.  This crust was thicker, with a stronger chocolate flavor and was like a chewy chocolate cookie (I’m sure it’d be less chewy and more crispy had I baked it a few minutes longer).  I also liked trying the recipe as a tart rather than a pie, just for something new and tarts are always so pretty and look so impressive!  It was really a pie just pretending to be a tart.  Whatever your fancy, either one would suffice just fine.

This pie is lusciously smooth and surprisingly rich for not having any butter in it or hardly any eggs.  Cooking Light has tried to fool your brain, making you think you’re eating something highly caloric and decadent but you’re not!  Well, you kind of are if you eat my version, but not totally!  Trust me on the crust and the whipped cream.  Like I said, it’s a compromise.

The spice brings just enough of a kick for you to know the cayenne is there and it provides a nice contrast against the sweet chocolate pudding like filling.  The cinnamon accentuates the cayenne and is a nice compliment to the chocolate, adding more warmth.  I am definitely a fan of pairing chocolate and cinnamon together and this recipe is reason enough.  The two spices gives the pie some delicious  intrigue.   If this pie were a movie genre it’d be a black & white film noir.  Veronica Lake and Humphrey Bogart would probably star in it.   Bogie would wink and say in his effortlessly cool voice, “here’s to looking at you pie.”

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie (adapted from Cooking Light and Epicurious).

Crumbly Pie Crust:

  • 1 1/3 cups chocolate Nabisco Famous Wafers (or Oreos with the icing scraped out & discarded)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons egg white
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Or

 Tart Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) cinnamon
  • 1 stick chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 1/4 (heaping) teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 (heaping) teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (instead of 2 % I prefer 1 cup whole milk and 3/4 cup 1% milk)
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (I use Ghiradelli Bittersweet), chopped
  • 1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  • 2. For a crumbly crust, combine 10 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers or Oreos, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well. Stir in egg white and butter. Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 9 minutes or until lightly toasted; cool completely on a wire rack.
  •  For a thicker, more chewy cookie-like kind of crust, for a tart, spray 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick spray.  ( didn’t have a tart pan this big, so I used a smaller one plus 2 baby ones).   Blend flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in processor 5 seconds. Add butter and blend until moist sandy texture forms. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water and blend until dough comes together. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Chill crust 30 minutes.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes; cool completely on wire rack.
  • 3. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup sugar and the next 7 ingredients (through egg yolk) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place the milk in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until milk reaches 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth.
  • 4. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 10 minutes or until mixture cools, stirring occasionally. Spoon filling into crust, and cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill for 1-3 hours or until set.  Top with whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar).  You could garnish with a dusting of cinnamon and/or some chocolate shavings.

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A Pear of Apples Pie with Gruyere Crust

I’m so crazy for fall right now, that I just entered an Autumn Pie Contest on Food 52.  My first ever pie contest too!   I’m so crazy in fact, I was up making this pie and writing the recipe until 11:30 last night – a half an hour before the submissions were due!  I’m also so crazy that I might just have some of this pie for breakfast, because quite frankly it’s pretty awesome.

This was a lengthy and costly endeavor, because I was set on buying Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans and $10 Gruyere cheese and these adorable little fall leaf pie crust cutter stamps from Williams-Sonoma, which were so necessary.  I want to make more pies just because of these little guys.  They’re fun and will make your pie look like it was made by a professional baker.  Normally, when I tackle a recipe for the first time, it takes longer and doesn’t always come out so swimmingly.  But when the pie cooled enough for me to dive into it with my fork without burning the roof of my mouth, much to my surprise, I discovered that it was a success.

And the house smelled like gourmet Cheez-Its.  As soon as I could smell that gruyere melting into the buttery pie crust, I knew the crust at least was on the right track.  The only slight trouble I had was the leaves I placed on the edges of the pie got a little droopy and some fell off in the oven.  I’ll have to be careful not to put them too far on the edge next time.

During my research, I perused a couple apple pear pies and crust recipes online and developed my own – something I don’t have much experience with but want to work on.  I was inspired by an episode of Pushing Daisies, where Chuck makes a pear pie with gruyere baked into the crust for her aunts.  (Mine was free of any mood enhancers), though I did think that a fresh vanilla bean, infused with the butter, would make a nice bed of luxurious flavor for the pears and apples.  (I kept he pod in the pan too, just because it looked nice).

A Pear of Apples Pie   (makes 8 servings)


For the Crust (Makes a double 9 inch crust)

  • 2 ½ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. of cider vinegar
  • About 1/3 cup of ice cold water
  • 1 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese

For the filling:

  • 4 pears – peeled (I used two bosc and two bartletts)
  • 3 golden delicious apples (cored and peeled)
  • ½ stick of unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (split open, seeds scraped)
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. and ½ tsp. of corn starch

Directions:

For the crust:

Place a medium sized bowl and fork in the freezer.  Combine the flour, salt and shredded gruyere in a bowl, mixing the cheese into the flour mixture with your hands.  Dice the butter into ¼ inch pieces.  Place butter and the flour-cheese mixture in a large zip lock bag, seal and roll over with a rolling pin until the butter is combined.  Place the bag in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the ingredients from the bag into the cold bowl and work together with your fingertips or/and the cold fork until the mixture becomes pebbly.  Gradually drizzle the ice water (excluding the ice) and the vinegar over the mixture, blending with your fingertips and the fork.  Add more water if necessary – a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the right consistency.

Form two discs out of the dough, working each in your palm.  Wrap them each tightly with saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

When the filling is ready, roll one of the discs out onto a floured surface, dusting it with flour as you work.  Transfer to the pie pan, pressing the dough into it and leaving about an inch of overhang.  Crimp or style however you like.  Add the filling.  Roll out the second disc the same way and place it over top the pie, making a few slits in the center or, if you choose to cut out decorative leaves, you can place them on top of the filling instead.  Make an egg wash, using 1 egg yolk and a splash of milk and brush over the pie crust.  Sprinkle with some demura sugar.  Wrap some foil on the edges of the crust (so they don’t burn).

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

For the filling:

Cut the peeled and cored pears and apples into inch size pieces and place them in a bowl.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the fruit, sugars, spices, salt, vanilla and vanilla bean seeds and pod.  Stir and simmer on medium to medium-low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then remove from heat, stir in the corn starch and let the filling cool to room temperature.

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