Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Week 8-Presidents' Day Pie

Sorry for the late post this week.  I won't even lie- for the last couple of nights I was caught up watching the Academy Awards and the Fashion Police follow up.  Now you all know my guilty pleasures.

In the past week, there was a lot of celebration of presidents- Presidents' Day, Washington's birthday, Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar for his portrayal of Lincoln.    And there was the marketing holiday known as National Cherry Pie Day.  Because the cherry growers want you to buy cherries out of season at $12.99 a pound.

In honor of all of these things, I chose to make a delicious cherry-bourbon pie that utilizes jarred cherries.  For those of you who don't know how my logic works, the cherry pie covers the Cherry Pie Day and George Washington's birthday (I mean every one knows the cherry tree story, right?)  The bourbon is a nod to Abraham Lincoln who was born and spent his childhood in Kentucky and married crazy old Mary Todd from Lexington (everyone thinks of Illinois as the Land of Lincoln, but not I.)  And bourbon, my friends is the drink of Kentucky. 

Plus, the recipe description told me it was like making an Old Fashioned in pie form.  And since my kids haven't stepped up to eat these pies, I figured I could make another liquor enhanced pie.

The end result- very yummy.  When my taste testers and I first tried the pie the day it was baked, it was definitely too orange-y.  The orange taste overwhelmed the cherries.  But after a day in the fridge, the orange taste mellowed a bit.  I probably would not add the orange zest the next time I make this since I think that might have put it over the edge.  The crumble on top was lovely- sweet and nutty.

 I used Trader Joe's jarred Morello cherries for this- and they are wonderful.  I probably will buy them again to make a topping for ice cream.  Just beware, I found a couple of rogue pits in my pie.  I promise I will pit my own cherries this summer and make a real fresh cherry pie- cherry pie is my absolute favorite so I knew I'd be making it a couple of times.

Cherry- Bourbon Pie
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, August 2012
Link to Cherry Bourbon Pie recipe

By the way, I saved this hard copy from Bon Appetit magazine.  The whole article was about setting up a bring your own pie party- a pie social as they call it.  I definitely must consider doing this over the summer!

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 pie crust
6 cups pitted sour cherries, drained (this equated to 3 24.7 ounce jars of cherries)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (as mentioned above, I probably would try the recipe with this left out next time)

Make the crumble- mix all the ingredients for the crumble except for the butter.  Rub the butter into the oat mixture with your fingertips.  The butter should stay chilled before baking so I put this back in the fridge while I made the pie crust and assembled the pie.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking tray with aluminum foil.  You'll put the pie on this in case it bubbles over. 

Combine the cherries and the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix until the cherries are completely covered.  Pour into the pie crust and then top with the chilled crumble.  Put the assembled pie on the pie sheet and bake about an hour and fifteen minutes.  The crumble should look golden brown and  the cherries should be bubbly and thick.  Let cool at least 2 hours.

This is not in the recipe, but I would recommend chilling the pie in the fridge prior to eating.  I thought it was a lot more delicious cold than at room temp.

And here is the final result:

BTW, I think it's funny that I bought the Argo cornstarch a few days before the Oscars. I must have known what was going to happen...


Post oven

Tasty pie

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week 7-Red Velvet Valentine

Many of you who know me, know I've lived ALL around the United States.  And if you had told me I would have spent most of my life after grad school living below the Mason Dixon line, I would have told you that you were crazy. But that's how it all shook down.

One of my favorite culinary things about living down South was trying a whole bunch of desserts I'd never really had before- hummingbird cake, fresh coconut cake and my favorite, red velvet cake. Yum!

When I moved back to the Tri-State, I was surprised to find that red velvet cake/cupcakes were ubiquitous at every bakery.  And as often happens when something becomes that trendy, they weren't really that good.  Yes, the cakes were beautifully red, but a lot of time they were dry and they never had that tang and the cocoa taste I remembered.

So I decided I was going to try to make my own red velvet cake for my last birthday.  I found a recipe, I invited folks over.  I was ready to bake.  And then an inconvenient guest named Hurricane Sandy knocked my power out and left me without an oven for over a week.  When we finally got our power back, I just wasn't excited about making my own red velvet cake.

But I keep seeing red velvet stuff all the time.  So in honor of St Valentine, I decided to make a red velvet pudding pie. 

And seriously, people it was yummy.  And a little scary- after I finished making the pie, my kitchen and the interior of my dishwasher looked like a crime scene.  But honestly, the pie was worth the red splatter. 
I will be honest, my pudding didn't set up perfectly- it was a little on the loose side since I was afraid the buttermilk would curdle (clearly, I'm not a real Southerner as buttermilk sort of scares me.)  But it was spot on for taste and the chocolate graham cracker crust was fantastic- the only bummer was there was no cream cheese frosting.  However a layer of whipped cream made up for that.
I also got a little nervous putting more than a tablespoon of red food coloring in the pie, so I had more of a dark rose velvet than a red velvet- but Revlon should call me, because I created an excellent lipstick shade for them.
This one will definitely be on the make again list but I need to man up on the red dye :)  I invited over some third party taste testers and they gave it a big thumbs up too.
Red Velvet Pudding Pie
Adapted from the website Completely Delicious
1 1/2 cups chocolate graham crackers- I used about 12 crackers
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon red food coloring (as mentioned above I would recommend more if you want a deep rich red)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees,
Prepare crust by processing the graham crackers with the sugar.  Then add the melted butter. Press into the pie plate and bake for 10 minutes. Let the crust cool completely.
To make filling, mix milk, cream, sugar and cocoa in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until you get bubbles on the edges.
Now here's the trick.  At the same time you need to whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and the cornstarch.  But make sure you watch the stuff on the stove- apparently my ability to multitask is not so good :)
Once the cocoa mixture is heated, add it to the big bowl of egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Then return the mixture to medium high heat.  Stir the mixture until it thickens-the recipe tells you not to allow it to boil.  I probably heated this for 8 minutes until it started to thicken, but when I got a few clumps I got nervous and removed it from the heat.
Mix in the butter, vanilla and the food coloring.  Then strain the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any clumps- I'm wondering if I removed too much and that is why my pudding never fully thickened.  Pour the mixture into the cooled crust.
Spread whipped cream on top of the pie and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 

FYI- this is a tough pie to cut and make it look pretty.  When I tried to pull the knife out, I would get little pink stains all over the whipped cream.

Voila!  Red pie with crumbage...

Can't tell it's red at all...


Messy but delicious!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 6- Blizzard Pie

In case you didn't hear, this week we got a little snow on the East Coast.

LOL- and you know you're weatherworn, when you breath a sigh of relief for ONLY getting 20 inches of snow.  At least, that's what I think we got.  It's hard to tell due to the drifts.  I have completely lost my composter bin and my woodpile.  Luckily, I kept the kids and the cat inside or I would probably have lost them too..

Our snowed in deck

This is pretty much what we did through the storm...

I was also smart enough to buy my pie ingredients before the storm- and thankfully the power stayed on so I could bake the aforementioned pie.

This week, I decided to use a recipe from a book that came recommended to me by a friend (thank you Patty!)  It's called the Dessert Bible and it's by Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated fame.  This book is FANTASTIC- hint, hint, if anyone is looking for a birthday present for me come November.  I got distracted a few weeks back and made the buttermilk cupcakes since I had some extra buttermilk sitting around.  They were incredibly yummy and have been added to my "make again" folder which boded well for the pie recipes.

Since my arteries requested a reprieve from Crisco, I decided to go with the diner cream pie recipe with the graham cracker crust.  I made the banana-rum cream pie variation- and yes, the only thing that can make banana cream pie better is rum.

I have to say, I don't really drink rum that often so I only bought a tiny little minibar sized bottle (the recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons.)  But when I measured out the rum it smelled like heaven.  I closed my eyes and for about 20 seconds I was taken back 15 years to a beach in Puerto Rico drinking something that had an umbrella in it.  And then I opened my eyes and saw 20 inches of snow.  Oh well...

As for the pie- fairly easy to make and incredibly delicious.  We made it yesterday and my husband and I have been snacking on it at every opportunity.  It really does taste like a diner pie- a slightly tipsy diner pie.  I would most definitely recommend this one.

The Big One actually came around and helped me with this one.  She was in charge of cutting up the banana slices and she put them in the pie.  She was incredibly proud of herself for this!

Banana- Rum Cream Pie
Adapted from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball
Link to The Dessert Bible

1 Graham Cracker Crust

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
8 large egg yolks (and yes, we had a giant batch of scrambled egg whites this morning)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 large ripe bananas

-In a medium saucepan, mix 1/2 cup sugar, the salt and the cornstarch.  Add the yolks and 2 teaspoons of vanilla ( yes, it will be a sticky mess).  Slowly pour in the milk and 1 cup of heavy cream, whisking constantly.  Cook over medium heat until it thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise.  I tried to watch how long this took, but I got a little distracted.  I think it was about 8 minutes or so.  But when it did thicken, it thickened very fast to you have to really watch it.
-Remove the mixture from heat and whisk in the additional butter and rum.  Place the custard in a bowl, lay plastic wrap directly on the surface and chill until cold.  (Note, I don't know why you place the plastic wrap directly on it, but I always do this when I make a pudding and have never had any trouble with that nasty "skin" that people get on their puddings.)
- Here's the interesting thing- to make the whipped cream topping, Kimball tells you to chill the bowl and the beaters.  I did it and the whipped cream came out delicious.  Not sure it's worth the step but worth a note.
- Whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in the chilled bowl.
-Place half the chilled custard in the pie crust, cover with sliced bananas (I actually couldn't fit 2 whole bananas in there, but maybe my little helper cut them too thick!) and then top with the rest of the custard.  Cover the whole pie with whipped cream.
The girls anxiously awaited the results

Not as pretty as a diner pie, but DELICIOUS!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Week 5-(Big) Apple Pie

Exciting going ons this week as the Little One turned two.  Since it was her birthday, we asked her what she wanted for pie.  Now her vocabulary is limited and we sort of stacked the deck with how we asked the question, but she is all about the apple.  She loves apples.  She'll ask for a whole apple and then wander around the house eating tiny little bites from it until she's eaten it about halfway through- then she tosses it wherever she happens to be.  We're still working on speaking and on cleanliness.

It's fitting that she loves apples so much since she was born in the Big Apple on a snowy, icy day. It still boggles my mind that my girl was born a New Yorker.  I've always loved the city so much and my one regret is that I never actually lived there.  I came close once.  I was supposed to spend six months working at NBC, but at the last minute it all fell through and I was sent to Lynchburg, Virginia.  Yes, I'm still bitter even though ten years have passed...

But back to my girl.  She was supposed to be born in New Jersey, but apparently she had no intention of that.  Three months before she was due we found out she had a condition in which her diaphragm did not fully close when it developed.  It may not sound like much, but the effects can be catastrophic- only 50% of babies with this condition survive.  Luckily we lived a short ride away from some of the world's best doctors in New York City.

I will never forget walking into the hospital the day I went into labor.  I had a coin toss chance of walking out of there with a baby.  I remember with my first daughter how I drove myself crazy with all the choices- what stroller to buy, how long to nurse for, whether to sleep train or not. But sometimes all the choices are taken away from you. And I realized then and there what motherhood is all about.  It really is about loving your baby for as long as you have him or her.  It may be 5 minutes or it may be 70 years, but it's as simple (and as hard) as that.

Anyhoo, I'll stop being philosophical. We all know how it ends because the Little One is alive and well.  My kid is a total New Yorker no matter what her zip code says.  She stares strangers down. She's working on her graffiti skills by writing all over my house. She has a strong distrust of farm animals. And she's dated a Yankee (Ok, it was a son of a Yankee and a playdate, but it makes for a good story.)

And she loves apples.  So I made a pie especially for her.

Little G's Apple Pie

I'll be honest, I have no idea where this recipe came from- it's the one I have always used during apple picking season and it's in my handwriting. I'm guessing I probably got it from a friend of mine and just wrote it down.  But it sure is good.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (I don't actually have a 1/8 teaspoon so I just throw in less than 1/4 of a teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon salt (same as above)
8 baking apples (this time, I used Macintosh and Granny Smith)- peeled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter

- Heat oven to 425 degrees

- Make filling- combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle over apples.  Toss until apples are covered. Spoon filling into unbaked pie shell.  Dot with butter.

- Cover with top crust. Cut slits in top. Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter on top.

- Bake at 425 for 10 to 15 minutes to brown curst.  Then reduce oven temp to 400 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes.

And here's the pie:

And here's the slice my niece cut for herself, topped with whipped crème