Pie #10 – Cherry Crumble Pie

As I sit here in my office, typing away with our white Siamese purring on my lap, I can only say, hmmmm, 42 more pies to go. When I baked the 1st pie at Thanksgiving, 52 didn’t seem like such a big deal. Now, at the end of January and on my 10th pie, I see this is going to be a test of discipline.

My wife selected this weeks pie, Cherry Crumble. Summer in January would be like Cherry Pie:) Even the cherries are frozen…

The Crust:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 tbsp.  chilled non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 tbsp. (or more) ice water

1 large egg yolk

Blend the flour, sugar and salt in a processor for about 5 seconds. Add the butter and shortening, using on/off turns, cut into mixture until it resembles a course meal. Beat in 2 tablespoons water and the yolk in a small bowl to blend, and add to processor. Using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by tablespoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk. Wrap in cellophane and chill at least 30 minutes.

The topping:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Blend the oats, flour, sugar, almonds cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter. Rub in with fingertips pressing mixture together until moist clumps form. Chill at least 30 minutes.

And now for the filling…

6 cups of fresh cherries or (in my case) 2 pounds pitted, frozen sweet cherries, thawed with juices preserved

1 cup of sugar

2 1/2 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca

1 tbsp. Kirsch (clear cherry brandy) or regular brandy (I used regular brandy, which was what I had on hand)

Pinch of salt

Mix the cherries with any juices, sugar tapioca, brandy and salt in a large bowl. Let stand until tapioca looks translucent, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

The Bake:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 13-14 inches around. Transfer to 9 inch diameter deep-dish glass pie dish. Trim the dough over hang to 3/4 inch. Fold the edge under and crimp decoratively. I had a real problem with the dough. I need to stop using a cutting board and roll it on the counter. I did a lot of paste-up on this one.  I could also use some suggestions on decoratively crimping. All I know how to do is use a fork…

Spoon in the filling. Sprinkle with topping. Be careful not to try to break up the topping over open drawers. When it breaks, it flies.

Bake pie for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Continue to bake until filling is bubbling thickly and topping is brown and crisp. Cover the edges with a foil collar if browning too quickly, about 25 minutes longer. Cool pie on rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Vanilla ice cream is optional.

And finally, it is wise to check the oven periodically as opposed to relying on a timer. The crumble on this pie got a bit crispy. Ahhh, attention to detail.


Pie #9 – Toasted-Pecan Pie

Greetings! For this weeks pie, I baked a toasted-pecan pie. It’s a relaxing day to bake here in Austin. It’s cloudy and cold and the NFL playoffs are in full swing.

Yummy Pecan Pie

I’m hoping  it’ll be the Packers and the Jets in the Super Bowl.

The crust:

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick of chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
4 tbsp. (or more) ice-cold water

Blend the flour and the salt in a processor for about 10 seconds. Add the butter, using on/off in turns until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. My favorite part of baking is doing battle with the food processor. Also note, it is not a good idea to stick a knife in an active food processor…

Add 4 tbsp. of cold water until moist clumps form.Add 1 tbsp. at a time if the mix is dry. Gather the dough in a ball, flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate for at least one hour to chill.

The filling:

3 cups pecans, divided
6 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups dark corn syrup
1/2 stick unsalted, melted butter
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coarsely chop 2 cups of pecans and hold in reserve. Spread the remaining cup of pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until nuts are aromatic and dark in color, about 12 minutes. Cool the pecans completely and grind finely in a processor. Maintain your oven temperature.

Roll out your dough disk on a lightly floured surface to about 13 inches around. Transfer to a 10 inch glass pie dish (or in my case, a 9 inch dish. I don’t have a 10 inch). Fold the dough underhang, forming a high standing rim; crimp edges decoratively. Freeze for 20 minutes while you pull together your filling…

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, salt and ground toasted pecans; whisk until blended. Mix in chopped pecans. Pull the crust from the freezer and fill the crust.

Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown and filling is puffed and set (the center of the pie may move slightly when shaken), about an hour and 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and let cool at least 3 hours.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with fresh whipped cream.

I ended up with quite a bit more filling than I could fit into the pie crust. I think it’s because the pie dish I have is smaller than what the recipe called for. So I grabbed a

ready-made pie crust and made another pie. I’ll be bringing that one to work on Monday:)

Pie #8 – Lattice-Topped Blueberry Pie

The "least presentable" in todays pie category

I love blueberries. I put them on cereal, I eat them in bagels. Breakfast bars of course. I don’t care about antioxidants. If they do something healthy, that’s nice too. I just like the way they taste. That and they’re really purple. Who names purple berries blue?

From the handy Bon Apetit Deserts Cookbook

Best Ever Pie Crust (this is debatable):

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup non hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or lard, frozen, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 tbsp. (or more) ice water

Blend the flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening. Using on/off, cut in until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Transfer mixture into large bowl. Mix in 5 tablespoons of water, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls, if needed, until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Flatten each half into a disk, wrap in cellophane and chill at least 20 minutes.

Point of note: make sure your processor is big enough to accommodate the above crust recipe or things could get messy and frustrating…

While the crust is chilling, prepare your blueberry filling. Yes, I meant to do that.

The filling:

32 ounces frozen wild blueberries or regular blueberries (unthawed) of 7 cups fresh wild blueberries or regular blueberries ($14 total at your local HEB)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
Heavy whipping cream
Vanilla ice cream (also known as pie garnish)

Combine the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch lemon juice and lemon peel into a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and bubbles, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Continue to cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Cool until warm.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees F. Roll out one disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to 12 inches around. transfer to a 9 inch diameter pie dish and trim dough so 1 inch hangs over the edge. Spoon the filling into the crust. Roll out the remaining dough to 13×10 inch rectangle, cut into 2/4 inch wide strips. I hope you have a ruler:) Arrange half the dough strips atop the filling, spacing evenly. Arrange the remaining strips at a right angle atop the first strips. Weaving is optional or, in my case, not realistic. Brush the crust edge with the cream so the strips adhere. Trim the dough strips even with the overhang on lower crust. Fold the edge of crust up over strips, pressing gently to seal. Crimp the edges decoratively. Brush the edges and the lattice lightly with cream. I didn’t do the previous six sentences, The cream was an oversight and the crust work was in need of some piecrust ninja. There wasn’t one to be found.

Place the pie on baking sheet and bake until crust is a golden brown, about an hour. Cool pie on a rack for about an hour.

Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream garnish.

The pie bubbled over quite a bit and the presentation is messy but it’s tasty. And I like tasty just as much as I like blueberries, bubbled over or not.

Pie #7 – Lemon Merin Pie (didn’t quite make it to Meringue)

Lemon Merin Pie:)

I have to re-think my schedule. I’d initially thought I’d bake these on Wednesdays but sometimes things get in the way (like life or laziness). I plan on doing my baking, moving forward, on Saturday or Sunday. It’s easier and a bit more relaxing than doing it on a weeknight when I’m usually late from work.

I had a couple of challenges this week; I forgot to add butter to the pie crust recipe so I had to do the pie crust again. File under lack of attention to detail. I also didn’t whip the meringue long enough so it wasn’t as stiff as it should have been. Not epic, but slight pie-fail.

The Crust:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

2 tbsp. (or more) ice-cold water

Blend flour, sugar and lemon peel in a food processor. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Unsure of what a “coarse meal” resembles, I winged it. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of ice water and mix with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if mix is dry. Gather dough into ball and then flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator a minimum of 20 minutes.

Roll dough out on a lightly flowered surface to 12-inch around. Gently roll up the dough on a rolling-pin and unroll into a 9 inch diameter glass pie dish. Fold the excess dough overhang under, even with the edge of the pie dish. Crimp dough edges decoratively. Freeze your crust until firm, about 15 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Line the frozen crust with aluminum foil and dried beans or pie weights. Pie weights? I have never seen or heard of these… Bake until crust sets, about 15 minutes. This will keep the bottom of the pie crust from bubbling up, forming a dome. Remove the foil and beans and continue baking until the crust is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so. Remove the crust from oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. Let the crust cool while you prepare your lemon filling.

Your lemon filling:

1 cup sugar

4 tsp. cornstarch

2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 large egg yolks

1 tbsp. finely grated lemon peel

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a medium sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the lemon peel. Whisk constantly over medium heat for 10 minutes until the filling comes to a boil and thickens. Spoon the warm filling into the crust and smooth out the top.

And now for the Meringue (or in my case, the Merin):

3 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

Using an electric mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Check. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating the mixture until stiff and glossy. Glossy, check. Stiff, FAIL! It was, ummmm, semi-stiff. I didn’t mix it long enough and while it was able to hold some form, definitely not enough for the big peaks one would hope for.

Using a silicone spatula, spread the meringue over your warm filling, covering to the crust edge and creating peaks and swirls. My wife needed to step in here and rescue the top by adding the swirls and what she could of the peaks. For that I am grateful.

Bake until the meringue is pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool pie completely and serve.

The lemon filling really pops with sweet/tart. The meringue has a nice texture and the crust is nice and flaky. I’m just not pleased with the presentation and will probably try this one again.

Pie #6 – Coconut Cream Pie

My current favorite, coconut cream pie

Happy New Year! Tammi and I just got back from Louisiana so the pie adventure was pushed to the weekend. It was also Olivia’s birthday on 12/31 so  fun, games and parties were to be had. I decided to make the pie the day of Olivia’s birthday party at our house, figuring it wouldn’t take too long. Wrong! And cooking while 8-10 screaming 10 and 11 year olds, (along with parents coming and going) added an element of mild frenzy to the whole exercise.

About 2 hours prior to the party I went shopping for the ingredients I needed. Locating the supplies was slightly confusing. Mostly because I couldn’t figure out where corn starch and coconut milk were on the aisles of the local HEB. coconut milk was in the condiments and international food aisle.  Corn starch, I thought, would be somewhere near the flower. It wasn’t.

I made a simple pie crust from scratch. A basic pie crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup unsalted butter (cold)

1 large egg

2 tsp. white vinegar

2 tbsp. ice-cold water

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the vegetable shortening and butter into small chunks and add to the flour mixture. Blend the mixture until it has the consistency of wet sand with a few pea size pieces of butter and shortening remain. Mmmmmm, sand. Using a fork or whisk, beat the egg with the vinegar and water. Slowly pour over the egg mixture over the flower, stirring until the mixture is moist. The dough should stick together and hold the shape of a ball. Divide the dough into two, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator a minimum of 30 minutes. For this pie, only one piece of the dough is needed. I used the other to fill in any cracks to the dough I put in the dish.

Roll dough from center to edge until crust is desired thickness (usually 1/8″ thick) and at least 1″ wider than pie plate. It the dough sticks to the rolling-pin, try placing cellophane over dough and then roll it out. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer to pie plate by rolling the dough onto the rolling-pin and then positioning it over the plate. If the crust is sticking to the rolling-pin surface, carefully separate it by sliding a sharp knife or spatula between the crust and rolling surface. Carefully press the dough into the pie plate. If cracks appear, use lightly floured fingers to push the seams back together.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prebake for 15 minutes.

The dough will last up to 3 days. If you want to freeze the extra crust, roll out the dough and line the plate you’ll be using. Once the crust is frozen, remove from you plate and freeze in a large freezer bag. It’ll last for up to 3 months.

And now for the coconut cream filling:)

1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

4 large egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch (note: cornstarch and corn meal are not the same thing!)

1/4 tsp. salt

2 cups whole milk

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp. unsalted softened butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

1 cup chilled whipping cream

2 tbsp. confectioners sugar

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

Start by spreading the 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Set aside for topping. Using a fork, beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a larger saucepan. Slowly whisk in the milk and coconut milk over medium heat. Continue to whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, still whisking. Quickly transfer half the milk mixture to the bowl holding the egg yolks. Whisk to combine, then return the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan. Return to a boil and cook for 1 minute, whisking continuously. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and unsweetened coconut into the milk mixture. If, by some accident, you purchase even more sweetened coconut flake, take heart, it just makes the pie taste that much sweeter… Pour custard mixture into the pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming on the top of the custard. Let it cool and then refrigerate for 2 hours. Once set, beat the cream, confectioners sugar and coconut extract using and electric mixer until stiff. Remove the pie from the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap and top custard with whipped cream. Garnish with the toasted coconut.

The girls who stayed for Olivia’s slumber party gave it a thumbs up, and my wife also like it very much. Myself? This one is definitely one of my favorites. The custard held firm, and the crust was flaky and didn’t turn to mush once I poured the custard.

In the new year, I now only have 46 more pies to bake. This is my resolution.