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Berry Picking Time

Every year I have visions of going to a local farm, spending an afternoon picking strawberries, and then skipping into the kitchen to make jam.  Then I remind myself that I made a pie for Easter and I haven’t had time to post it here until now so I probably don’t have time for berry picking.  Reality is cruel that way sometimes. Whether you have time to visit a farm and pick your own berries or you’re more like me and will be picking your berries at the farmer’s market or supermarket this summer this is a fantastic way to make use of strawberries.

This is a great warm-weather dessert because once you’re done with the crust you’re done with the baking.  So if you happen to have some extra berries and you’re not looking to heat up the kitchen too much this ideal.  I will confess that the pie I made for Easter didn’t entirely set.  More recent attempts have been perfect.  The only variable I can think of is that I might not have heated up the cranberry juice enough to set the gelatin.  Be sure to heat the cranberry juice until it is steaming and you should avoid having a runny pie.  Confession number two- even if you scoop a runny mess out of the pie plate it is still delicious.

strawberry chiffon pie

Strawberry Chiffon Pie

Ingredients:

for the pie crust:

  • 1 1/4 C. all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 9 Tbsp.  chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3-4 Tbsp. ice water

for the pie filling:

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, stems removed, 6 berries reserved for garnish if desired
  • 3/4 C. plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 C. cranberry juice or water
  • 1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin (about 2 packets)
  • 2 C. whipping cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 medium-size strawberries, halved

Directions:

Start by making the pie crust.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together until well-combined.

Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture.  Do this by rubbing your thumb against your fingertips, smearing the butter between them. Do this until the mixture looks like cornmeal and only pea-sized pieces of butter remain.

Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. of the ice water on top of the mixture and stir with a fork until the dough comes together.  Use another Tbsp. of ice water if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed just enough to make a cohesive dough (about 3 times), do not over-mix.

Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten it slightly into a disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the pie crust into an 11 inch surface.

Transfer the crust to a 9-inch deep dish pie plate, gently pressing the dough into the plate and fluting the edges (press your thumb around the edge of the crust).

Lay a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the pie crust and then fill the pie crust with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from puffing up.

Bake for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Remove the pie weights and let the crust cool before filling.

While the pie crust bakes and cools start on the filling by stirring together the strawberries, 3/4 C. of sugar, and lemon juice.  Use a potato masher, pastry cutter, or heavy spoon to mash up the berries as you mix the ingredients.

Chill the berry mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Warm the cranberry juice in the microwave for 15-25 seconds until just steaming (microwave it longer if you don’t see steam).

Stir into the gelatin and whisk the mixture until smooth.

Stir the gelatin mixture into the berry mixture and chill for 20 minutes, until partially set.

Using a stand or handheld mixer, whip 1 C. of the cream into medium peaks and stir into the berry mixture.

Pour the berry and cream mixture into the prepared pie crust and chill until firm (at least 1 hour).

Whip the remaining 1 C. of cream with remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar and the vanilla until firm peaks form.  Spread or pipe over top of pie.

Garnish the pie with reserved strawberries if desired  (cut into halves or slices if desired).

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Everything is Awesome

Today’s 12 Days of Oscar installment brings us to this year’s nominees.  The Lego Movie has been nominated for Best Original Song (“Everything is Awesome,” a song we like so much we made sure to play it at our wedding).  The Lego Movie tells the story of minifigure Emmett Brickowski who seems to be an ordinary guy . . . until he goes on an adventure to save everyone from evil President Business.   Many agree that The Lego Movie was snubbed by the Academy this year when it wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Film.   I agree with that assessment, and I love Director Philip Lord’s “It’s okay, made my own” reaction.

In The Lego Movie, Lord Business plans to lure all of the citizens out for Taco Tuesday where they will be given a free taco.  His real plan is to freeze the citizens in place with his special weapon, “The Kragle.”  Considering the frequency with which Moe’s manages to lure me out to one of their establishments I’d say the plan would have had a pretty good chance.  Lately we’ve been staying home for dinner and I was glad to have taco Tuesday right at home by making this really easy taco pie.  This takes less than an hour from start to finish, and you can top it with your favorite taco toppings.  I make my own version of Bisquick and I also make my own taco seasoning but you can use store bought versions and they would work just fine.  If you need to you can also make this up to 24 hours ahead of time, cover it and refrigerate it.  Remove the pie from the refrigerator while the oven preheats and allow additional baking time.

impossibly easy taco pie

Easy Taco Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. taco seasoning (or 1 envelope of store bought taco seasoning)
  • 1 4.5 oz. can of chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1 C. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. Bisquick mix (or a homemade version)
  • 3/4 c. shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • optional- salsa, sour cream, or any other taco toppings you enjoy

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 9 inch pie plate.

In a 10 inch skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over medium heat.  Stir occasionally and cook until beef is brown.

Drain the beef mixture.

Stir in the taco seasoning.

Spoon the beef mixture into the prepared pie plate and top with the green chiles.

In a small bowl, stir together the Bisquick mix, milk, and eggs.

Pour the Bisquick mixture into the pie plate (pour it over the beef mixture, it will settle to the bottom on its own).

Bake for 25 minute or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 8-10 additional minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with your favorite toppings.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: slightly adapted from Betty Crocker

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Pi Two

Happy Pi Day! If you didn’t learn in math class, pi is the number representing the ratio of a circle’s circumfurence to its diameter. Pi’s value is 3.14 (when rounded to two decimal places) and that value never changes. I know people all over are celebrating in the streets and dancing around with pies to celebrate today. Just me? Oh. Okay, I admit that I didn’t go so far as to dance in the streets, with or without pie. I did take some time today to make a pie today, and I realized two things. One, I do not make pie often enough. Two, pear crumble pie is so good it doesn’t need to wait for a holiday.

This pie is very similar to the apple crumble pie I made with M and O, but because it’s filled with pears and not apples, the spices are a little different. The ginger and nutmeg compliment the pears very well. The pears don’t get as soft as apples do in a pie, so it isn’t necessary to stack the pear filling as high as you would for an apple pie. They will soften considerably, but will be far from mushy. When buying pears for this pie, look for pears that have only ripened slightly; you want pears that are very slightly softened but still quite firm. This pie crust recipe is quick to make, and the pears and crumble topping are very quick to prepare. I suggest having some aluminum foil handy when you bake this. If you find that your crumble topping or crust are browning too fast, tent the pie with aluminum foil and continue to bake the pie. I checked mine about twenty minutes in and found that the aluminum foil tent was needed, and it kept the whole pie from becoming a burnt mess.

pear crumble pie

Pear Crumble Pie

Ingredients:

for the crust:

  • 1 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. very cold water

for the pie filling:

  • 6 firm medium sized pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

for the crumble topping:

  • 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Directions:

To make the crust combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (this can also be made in a food processor fitted with the dough blade).

Mix briefly to combine the ingredients, then add in the butter and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand and all of the butter pieces are pea-sized or smaller.

Mix in the cold water on low speed just until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a ball, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a circle large enough to fill a 9 inch pie plate.

Place the dough into the pie plate and trim away the excess.

Put the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the pie crust from the freezer and line it with a layer of aluminum foil, then fill with dried beans or rice (or pie weights if you have them).

Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and whatever you used as pie weights.

Return the crust to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes, then set aside and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

To make the pear filling, place the pear slices, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice and spices in a mixing bowl and toss to combine.

Pour the mixture evenly into the pie crust.

To make the crumble topping, put the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon into a bowl and stir to combine.

Using a pastry blender (or two forks), cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the pear mixture.

Bake the pie for 45-55 minutes, until the pears are bubbling and softened (if the crust and crumble topping are browning too fast, tent the pie loosely with aluminum foil and continue to bake until the pears have softened).

Place the pie on a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes one 9-inch pie.

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

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The Future of America

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday in January, is a relatively new holiday.  Signed into law in 1983 and first observed in 1986, it wasn’t until 2000 that the holiday was officially observed in every state.  Many are still fighting for the equality they deserve, the equality that King spoke of in 1963 in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  I’m hoping that this is the presidential term where change really happens, giving everyone in this nation equal rights.  King believed in a nonviolent approach to change and did not publicly support any political party.  Today, President Obama will publicly take the oath of office, placing his hand on both Lincoln’s inaugural Bible and King’s traveling Bible.

Because January twentieth is the date mandated by the Twentieth Amendment, Barack Obama officially took the oath of office yesterday in a brief ceremony.  Today will be the public inauguration ceremony complete with the first Latino, immigrant, openly gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration.  Obama has limited the official inaugural parties this year to two balls and one children’s concert citing current economic conditions, and the tradition of the inaugural luncheon will continue.  The inaugural luncheon is hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) and began as we know it in 1953.  The luncheon includes the president and vice president, their spouses, Senate leaders, the JCCIC members and other invited guests and includes various speeches, toasts, and gift presentations.  At today’s luncheon, the theme is “Faith in America’s Future,” and guests will dine on a three course menu including foods from all over the country including Maine lobster, Virginia veggies, South Dakota bison, and Hudson Valley apple pie.

I saw “apple pie” and I knew I wanted in on the action.  The pie at the luncheon will be individual-style apple crumble, served with a maple caramel sauce, a scoop of sour cream ice cream on top and will be garnished with a piece of cheese and honeycomb.  There is nothing about this I don’t love, so I hunted down a scaled-back recipe (I’m not making lunch for 200, after all) and I’m so glad I did.  The apple filling is perfect because the apples soften just enough but still maintain a small amount of firmness, and the crumble topping is fantastic.  Any dessert tastes just a little better when it’s served in individual portions, and with a scoop of the sour cream ice cream, this was absolute perfection.  I made this in four-ounce ramekins, but individual pie pans or aluminum individual pie pans would also work.  If you want to remove the pie before plating it, butter whatever pan you use before putting the crust into it.  To serve the pie, I warmed these in a 300 degree oven for about fifteen minutes, and served them with the ice cream on the side.  I’m sharing the sour cream ice cream in tomorrow’s post, but if you can’t wait to party like the president, feel free to serve this with your favorite ice cream instead.

inauguration individual apple pie

Inaugural Luncheon Individual Hudson Valley Apple Pies

Ingredients:

for the crust:

  • 6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 lb.  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 large egg, lightly beaten (beat one large egg and measure half of it into the bowl)

for the filling:

  • 1 lb. Gala Apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 3 oz.  sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

for the crumble topping:

  • 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

To make the crust, cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until mixed well.

Add the egg and mix to combine.

Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Add the water 1 tsp. at a time until the dough pulls together (it should be smooth, elastic, and not sticky).

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Remove the plastic wrap and cut the dough into four equal portions.

Roll each portion out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick.

Carefully place each crust into  (lightly buttered if you plan on unmolding the pies) ramekins, individual ring mold, or individual pie pans about 4 inches in diameter.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, cinnamon and vanilla in a mixing bowl and stir to mix thoroughly.

Spoon the apple mixture evenly into the four pie crusts, piling the apple mixture higher than the top of the ramekin or pie pan (filling will settle a lot as the pies cool).

Make the crumble topping by putting the flour, sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

Pulse three to four times to combine the ingredients, then add the chilled butter to the work bowl.

Pulse the mixture until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the four pies.

Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the pies from the oven and place onto a wire cooling rack.

Serve warm (if pies have cooled prior to serving time, warm them in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes).

Makes 4 pies.

Source: Executive Chef Shannon Shaffer, as seen at Obama Foodorama

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The Pie

Back in September, we all went apple picking and made an apple crumble pie.  At the same time, we decided we’d make a more traditional apple pie and freeze it to share at Thanksgiving.  Due to some confusion, we didn’t get to eat this apple pie on Thanksgiving.  While the kids were a little disappointed that they couldn’t share their work with our friends and family, they were all too happy to help us work on the pie the following night.  On a daily basis now, they ask if there’s apple pie for dessert.

I’m not sure if it’s because M helped with the crust (and the dishes!) and O helped with the apples, but I think this apple pie is the best one I’ve ever had.  While I’m now a huge fan of making my pie crusts in the stand mixer like I did for the sweet potato pie, I made the crust for this when I made the crust for the apple crumble pie and it’s very easy to make as well.   To make the pie so far ahead of time, I wrapped the pie really well in multiple layers of plastic wrap and put it into the freezer.  To bake it, I put the frozen pie in a 425 degree oven for ten minutes, then wrapped the edges in foil and turned the heat down to 375 degrees and baked it for an hour.  I advise against thawing the pie before baking it, as I’ve done that in the past and it’s turned into a soggy mess.  While the apples did cook down a little and shrink as expected, the pie still had a nice thick apple layer and wasn’t watery at all.

classic apple pie

 

Classic Apple Pie

Ingredients:

for the crust:

  • 2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsps. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbsps. butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 8-12 Tbsp. ice water

for the filling:

  • 8 C. sliced, peeled baking apples (about 3 lbs. apples, I used Cortland)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. milk

Directions:

To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to combine the ingredients.

Add the diced butter to the bowl and pulse in 5-10 second increments to incorporate the butter, repeating until there are no clumps larger than peas in the bowl.

Slowly (1-2 tsp.) at a time, add the water to the bowl and pulse after each addition, until the mixture is almost completely formed into a dough.

Remove the dough from the work bowl and knead into a ball on a floured surface.

Divide the dough into two equal portions and wrap each portion in plastic wrap.

Chill for 30-60 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl, tossing to evenly coat the apples.

Roll each portion of pie dough out into a circle large enough to fill a 9 inch pie plate.

Place one crust into the bottom of the pie plate, leaving any excess crust hanging over the edges of the plate.

Pour the apple filling into the pie crust.

Spread the pieces of diced chilled butter over the apple filling.

Place the other crust portion on top of the apples, trim the excess pieces of crust from around the edges of the pie plate.

Crimp the edges of the crusts together to seal the top and bottom crusts together, using your fingers or a knife.

Cut one inch slits into the top pie crust using a sharp knife to allow steam to vent from the pie while it bakes.

Beat the egg yolk lightly and brush it on the top pie crust.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling bubbles.

Makes 8-12 servings depending on slice size.

Source: crust,  Baking Bites; filling, Moms Who Think

classic apple pie whole

 

 

 

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Milestones

I’m hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and has recovered from the food or the traveling.  Things are looking normal around here again- not having your patio chairs in your living room helps that along.  Hey, I did say we had fifteen people coming over, and I said we hadn’t picked out furniture yet, so anything was a nice alternative to sitting on the floor.  We also have our Christmas tree in the living room, and it goes a long way toward making this a home.  M and O have decided that Santa is going to love our tree, and remind me daily that I am a genius because I thought to put candy canes (which they have done a remarkable job of not eating) on the tree.

I’m going to start my roundup of things I made for Thanksgiving dinner with dessert.  We made two pies that, because of what I’m now calling the dessert debacle, didn’t get served to our guests.  I’m starting with the pie Lane made, because it marks a pretty big moment in our relationship.  We’ve had a lot of milestones this year, including moving in together, but nothing tops what happened right before Thanksgiving.  Are you sitting down?  I let Lane use the stand mixer.  Yes, my shiny, cobalt blue, KitchenAid stand mixer.  Lane has been circling around it ever since I plugged it in at its home on our coffee nook.  I suppose since I’ve needed his help tightening a screw on it once or twice, it was time I let him use it to make something.  Since it isn’t Thanksgiving for Lane without sweet potato pie, that’s what he made.  I made him a fresh crust because his old version used the refrigerated kind, but other than that, he followed Alton Brown’s recipe closely.  He did make one change- after steaming the sweet potatoes, he put them in the bowl of the stand mixer and let the stand mixer do the mashing.  It worked out really well.  Also, it bears mentioning that I made the pie crust using the stand mixer.  As much as I love making pie crust in the food processor, I’m pretty sure making it in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment is the way I’m going to do it from now on.  The ingredients came together quickly and uniformly, and I didn’t have all of the food processor parts to wash afterwards.  The recipe does make for a fantastic pie, the filling isn’t overly sweet and the toasted pecans add a nice crunch to the overall texture.  M and Lane have been working on this pie for a few days now, so it’s worth noting that if it’s covered and refrigerated, it holds up really well for at least a few days in the fridge.

Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients:

for the filling and topping:

  • 1 pound 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/4 C. plain yogurt
  • 3/4 C. packed, dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 5 egg yolks
  • Salt
  • 1 C. chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup

for the crust:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp. very cold water

Directions:

To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix for a few seconds to blend then add in the butter pieces and mix on medium-low speed to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are not much bigger than peas.

Mix in the cold water a little at a time (I use 1-2 tsp. per addition) on low-speed just until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a circle 1-2 inches in diameter larger than your pie plate.

Carefully move the pie crust to the pie plate, trim the excess using scissors, and pinch the edges.

Set aside until ready to fill.

To make the pie filling,  put the cubed potatoes into a steamer basket and place the steamer basket into a large pot of simmering water (water should be no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of the steamer basket).

Allow the potatoes to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Mash with potato masher (or place into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low-speed until the potatoes are mashed) and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer (if they aren’t there already) and beat with the paddle attachment.

Add the yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt, to taste, and beat until well combined.

Pour the batter into the pie crust and place the pie onto a sheet pan.

Sprinkle pecans evenly over the top of the pie and drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches 165 to 180 degrees.

Remove from oven and cool.

Keep refrigerated after cooling.

Makes 1 9- inch pie (8-12 servings, depending on size of slice).

Source: Crust, Annie’s Eats originally from Williams Sonoma; filling Alton Brown

 

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