Pies/Pastry Feed

Spirited Holiday Eggnog Pie

Holiday Spiked Eggnog Pie slice

When I saw this posted on America’s Test Kitchen's Instagram, I knew I had to try it. It is a perfect holiday dessert, with all the traditional flavor of eggnog baked into a rich and creamy custard pie. The whipped cream is unique and particularly delicious with this pie.

Download Spirited Holiday Eggnog Pie

INGREDIENTS

Single Crust Pie Dough

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, divided

1 ½ cups (6¼ ounces) all-purpose flour, divided

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon table salt

¼ cup ice water, divided

Eggnog Custard Filling

¾ cup (4⅔ ounces) sugar

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons cornstarch

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon table salt

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons dark rum (for more kick, use ¼ cup)

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

⅛ teaspoon table salt

½ cup sour cream

2 teaspoons bourbon

Cinnamon and grated nutmeg for dusting finished pie

FOR THE DOUGH:

  1. Grate 2 tablespoons butter on large holes of box grater and place in freezer. Cut remaining 8 tablespoons butter into ½-inch cubes.
  2. Pulse ¾ cup flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, 2 pulses. Add cubed butter and process until homogeneous paste forms, about 30 seconds. Using your hands, carefully break paste into 2-inch chunks and redistribute evenly around processor blade. Add remaining ½ cup flour and pulse until mixture is broken into pieces no larger than 1 inch (most pieces will be much smaller), 4 to 5 pulses. Transfer mixture to bowl. Add grated butter and toss until butter pieces are separated and coated with flour.
  3. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Toss with rubber spatula until mixture is evenly moistened. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons ice water over mixture and toss to combine. Press dough with spatula until dough sticks together. Transfer dough to sheet of plastic wrap. Draw edges of plastic over dough and press firmly on sides and top to form compact, fissure-free mass. Wrap in plastic and form into 5-inch disk. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Let chilled dough sit on counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes, before rolling. (Wrapped dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let dough thaw completely on counter before rolling.)

FOR THE PIE:

  1. Roll dough into 12-inch circle on floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9-inch pie plate, letting excess dough hang over edge. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with your hand while pressing into plate bottom with your other hand.
  2. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of plate. Tuck overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of plate. Crimp dough evenly around edge of plate. Wrap dough-lined plate loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Line chilled pie shell with double layer of aluminum foil, covering edges to prevent burning, and fill with pie weights. Bake on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet until edges are set and just beginning to turn golden, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Remove foil and weights, rotate sheet, and continue to bake crust until golden brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer sheet to wire rack. (Crust must still be warm when filling is added.)
  4. While crust bakes, whisk sugar, eggs, cornstarch, ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in bowl. Bring milk and cream to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk 1 cup of hot milk mixture into egg mixture to temper, then slowly whisk tempered egg mixture into remaining milk in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened, bubbling, and registers 180 degrees, 30 to 90 seconds (custard should have consistency of thick pudding). Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into clean bowl, then stir in rum.
  5. With pie still on sheet, pour custard into warm crust, smoothing top with clean spatula into even layer. Bake until center of pie registers 160 degrees, 14 to 18 minutes. Let pie cool completely on wire rack, about 4 hours. Spread whipped cream attractively over pie and dust with remaining ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon. Serve.

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in bowl of stand mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  2. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip all ingredients together on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.

 


Classic British Bakewell Tart (Almond Frangipane Jam Tart)

Classic British Bakewell Tart Almond Frangipane Jam Tart sliced

If you’re a fan of The Great British Baking Show, you may remember this recipe from an episode where the bakers are challenged by Mary Berry to make a Bakewell Tart,   an English confection consisting of a short pastry shell beneath layers of jam, frangipane, and a topping of sliced almonds. Recently, pastry chef/author Gesine Prado posted a helpful instructional video on the King Arthur Facebook page  demonstrating her take on the King Arthur recipe for this wonderful dessert. She made it look so easy, that I decided to give it a try. Watching the video allays any fear one might have when tackling a new recipe, and the result is spectacular. I made a couple of minor changes to the crust and filling recipe, but otherwise followed the recipe as printed, and followed Gesine’s mixing tips for the filling.

Download Classic British Almond-Jam Tart Bakewell Tart recipe

Crust:

1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz/180g) unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup (2 oz/60g) confectioners’ sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (4 oz/113g) cold unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk; reserve the white for the filling

2 tablespoons heavy cream

½ teaspoon vanilla

Frangipane filling:

1 1/4 cups (4 ¼ oz/120g) almond flour

1/2 cup (3.5 oz/99g) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (28g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 large egg white

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons (113g) soft unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces

¼ cup (2¾ oz/80g) seedless raspberry jam

½ cup (43g) sliced almonds

Confectioners’ sugar and raspberries, for decorating, if desired

FOR THE CRUST:

  1. Whisk together yolk, cream, and vanilla in small bowl. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor with four 1-second pulses. Scatter cold butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about twenty 1-second pulses. With machine running, add egg mixture and process until dough comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk; wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  2. Remove dough from refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). Unwrap and roll on a lightly floured work surface into a 12” circle. Gently transfer the dough circle to a 9” tart pan, pressing it into the corners. Trim the dough with kitchen scissors so that you’re left with just 1/2” of overhanging dough around the perimeter of the tart. Fold the overhang down to reinforce the sides of the pastry then use the tines of a fork to poke holes across the bottom.
  3. Freeze the crust for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  4. Line the crust with parchment or foil and fill with pie weights, rice, or your favorite blind-baking weights.
  5. Bake the crust on a baking sheet (to catch any butter drips) with the weights for 20 minutes then remove the parchment or foil with the weights and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until the edges and bottom of the crust are lightly golden.
  6. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool while you prepare the filling.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F

FOR THE FILLING:

  1. Add almond flour, sugar, flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3- times to combine. Add egg and egg white, almond and vanilla extracts; process until combined, about 10 seconds. Add butter and process until no lumps remain, about 10 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula and process to combine thoroughly, about 10 seconds longer. (Can be refrigerated in airtight container up to 3 days. Before using, let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes to soften, stirring 3 or 4 times.)
  2. Spread the raspberry jam evenly into the bottom of the slightly cooled crust. Using a piping bag (or use a plastic freezer bag and cut a ½” opening in the corner) pipe the almond filling in a circular motion to cover the jam. Alternatively, you can spoon the almond mixture over the jam, but be careful not to mix the jam into the almond filling. Once the jam is covered, gently spread it to the edges of the tart, and smooth out the surface. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly on top.
  3. Bake the tart on the baking sheet for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a rack. Transfer to serving plate and dust with powdered sugar and decorate with fresh raspberries, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Classic British Bakewell Tart Almond Frangipane Jam Tart crust 

Classic British Bakewell Tart Almond Frangipane Jam Tart filling 

Classic British Bakewell Tart Almond Frangipane Jam Tart photo
Classic British Bakewell Tart Almond Frangipane Jam Tart photo


Blue Ribbon Banana Cream Pie

Blue Ribbon Banana Cream Pie 

If you love banana cream pie, this is the only recipe you will ever need - luxurious pastry cream surrounds sliced bananas and lathered in freshly whipped cream. The filling’s banana flavor in heightened by infusing the pastry cream with sautéed bananas. I prefer the taste of a homemade flaky butter crust, but you can use a ready-made pie crust, or graham cracker crust. Cook’s Country developed this recipe back in 2012 and I’ve yet to find one that beats it. They included some helpful notes with the original recipe: Use all-yellow to lightly spotted, not green-topped or all-brown bananas for this recipe. Peel and slice the bananas just before using to help prevent browning. When straining the half-and-half in step 2, do not press on the bananas or the custard will turn gray as it sits. The pie can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Because the mixture in step 3 is very thick, the temperature varies a bit from place to place in the pot; be sure to check the temperature in various locations before removing the pot from heat.

Download Blue-Ribbon Banana Cream Pie recipe

5 ripe bananas (see note above)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)

2 ½ cups half-and-half

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 large egg yolks

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 9” prebaked pie shell, or graham cracker crust

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

  1. Peel 2 bananas and slice into ½-inch-thick pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sliced bananas and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add half-and-half, bring to boil, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 40 minutes.
  2. Whisk granulated sugar, egg yolks, and salt together in large bowl until smooth. Whisk in cornstarch. Strain cooled half-and-half mixture through fine-mesh strainer into yolk mixture—do not press on bananas—and whisk until incorporated; discard cooked bananas.
  3. Transfer mixture to clean medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and registering 180 to 185 degrees, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat; whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer pastry cream to bowl, press greased parchment paper directly against surface, and let cool for about 1 hour.
  4. Peel and slice remaining 3 bananas ¼ inch thick and toss with orange juice. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spread half over bottom of cooled pie shell. Arrange sliced bananas on pastry cream. Top with remaining pastry cream.
  5. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip cream, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread whipped cream evenly over top of pie. Refrigerate until set, at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve.

Blue Ribbon Banana Cream Pie bananas
Blue Ribbon Banana Cream Pie bananas
Blue Ribbon Banana Cream Pie bananas


Giant Apple Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie collage

This is a great option when you need a dessert for a large group. Using store bought pie crust is a nice shortcut, and though I usually prefer homemade, this Cook’s Country version “doctors up” the dough with crushed animal crackers and melted butter, which greatly improves the flavor of the pastry.

Download Giant Apple Slab Pie recipe

8 Granny Smith apples (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced thin

8 Golden Delicious apples (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced thin

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups animal crackers, about 4 ounces

2 (15-ounce) boxes Pillsbury Ready to Roll Pie Crust (or Wholly Wholesome brand)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

6 tablespoons Minute Tapioca

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons lemon juice

GLAZE

¾ cup reserved apple juice (from filling)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 ¼ cups confectioners' sugar

  1. For the pie: Combine apples, 1 cup sugar, and salt in colander set over large bowl. Let sit, tossing occasionally, until apples release their juices, about 30 minutes. Press gently on apples to extract liquid and reserve 3/4 cup juice.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse crackers and remaining sugar in food processor until finely ground. Dust work surface with about ½ cup of cracker mixture, brush half of one pie round with water, overlap with second pie round, and dust top with another ½ cup of cracker mixture. Roll out dough to 19 by 14 inches and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Brush dough with butter and refrigerate; roll out top crust with remaining cracker mixture in the same way.
  3. Toss drained apples with tapioca, cinnamon, and lemon juice and arrange evenly over bottom crust, pressing lightly to flatten. Brush the edges of bottom crust with water, and arrange top crust on pie. Press crusts together and use a paring knife to trim any excess dough. Use fork to crimp and seal outside edge of pie, then to pierce top of pie at 2-inch intervals. Bake until pie is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 1 hour.
  4. For the glaze: While pie is cooling, simmer reserved apple juice in saucepan over medium heat until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and butter and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in confectioners' sugar and brush glaze evenly over warm pie. Let pie cool completely, at least 1 hour longer. Serve.

World's Best Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

  Worlds best pumpkin pie 1

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, so it’s time to start mastering one of this holiday’s classic desserts. There are tons of pumpkin pie recipes, and in November all of the food shows and magazines are filled with both classic and innovative recipes. I’ve tried many of them – most started with canned pumpkin, and from there the ingredients vary  - some use heavy cream, others swear by evaporated milk, and some are heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves.  I love pumpkin pie, but have never found what I would call the BEST pumpkin pie until recently. I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (the leader in test perfected recipes) called “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”. The ingredients and the method were quite original and I couldn’t wait to try it. There are a few extra steps, but well worth it. If you don’t want to make your own crust, you can use your favorite Ready Made crust, like Wholly Wholesome. Feel free to alter the amount of cinnamon and other spices to suit your tastes. (I used Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon Click here for Penzey's), but the fresh ginger is key to the pie’s flavor. This year I added the decorative maple leaves which makes this pie even more impressive. They are super easy to make using the Leaf Pie Crust Cutters from Sur La Table (click here) You can use leftover pastry dough, or cut them from a store bought rolled crust. Just brush the  cutouts with egg wash and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Place the cutouts on the pie and soon as it comes out of the oven.

Download World's Best Pumpkin Pie recipe

 

Fool Proof Pie Crust  

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into two pieces

2 tablespoons vodka, cold 

2 tablespoons cold water

Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger powder)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon is best)

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon table salt

 For the Crust:

1. Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

6. For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Re-whisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pie dough 

Pie dough crimped 

Pumpkin pie filling 

Pumpkin pie baked


Worlds best pumpkin pie slice 1


Pastry cutouts


Pastry pie crust cutouts


Roasted Tomato Zucchini Tart

Tomato Zucchini Tart baked

This colorful tart has all the flavors of summer – ripe red tomatoes, bright green zucchini, and lots of aromatic basil atop a three cheese filling. And you don’t need the skills of Julia Child to make this recipe – a foolproof “press-in” tart crust from Cook’s Illustrated eliminates the anxiety of rolling out a pâte brisée. Serve it for lunch with a simple mixed green salad and a nice glass of white wine.

Download Roasted Tomato Zucchini Tart recipe

Serves 4 to 6

2 plum tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 medium size zucchini, sliced a ¼ inch thick

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) part-skim ricotta cheese

1 ounce mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/4 cup)

1 teaspoon dried basil, or herbs de Provence

1 recipe All-Butter Press-In Tart Dough, baked and cooled (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

FOR THE CRUST:

  1. Spray 9-inch tart pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor with four 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse sand, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and process until large clumps form and no powdery bits remain, about 5 seconds, adding up to 1 tablespoon more water if dough will not form clumps. Transfer dough to greased tart pan, scattering walnut size pieces all over tart pan and pat dough into pan. Lay plastic wrap over dough and smooth out any bumps or shallow areas. Place tart shell on plate and transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Place frozen tart shell on baking sheet; lightly spray one side of 18-inch square extra-wide heavy-duty aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray. Press foil greased side down inside tart shell, folding excess foil over edge of pan. Fill with pie weights and bake until top edge just starts to color and surface of dough under foil no longer looks wet, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Return baking sheet with tart shell to oven and bake until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Set baking sheet with tart shell on wire rack to cool completely.

FOR TOMATO ZUCCHINI FILLING:

  1. Spread tomato and zucchini slices out over several layers of paper towels, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let drain for 30 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons oil and garlic in small bowl. In separate bowl, combine Parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella, dried herbs and remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread ricotta mixture evenly over bottom of baked tart shell. Blot tomatoes dry with paper towels and shingle attractively on top of ricotta in concentric circles. Drizzle with garlic-oil mixture. (Tart can be held at room temperature for up to 2 hours before baking.)
  3. Bake tart on rimmed baking sheet until bubbling and tomatoes are slightly wilted, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.
  4. Let tart cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. To serve, remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between tart and tart pan bottom, and carefully slide tart onto serving platter or cutting board. Sprinkle with basil before serving.

Tomato zucchini tart prep

Tomato zucchini tart prebake

Tomato zucchini tart slice


Blue Ribbon Streusel Topped Apple Pie

Apple pie crisp topping slice

 Now that we’re in the peak of apple picking season, it's time to post one of my favorite apple pie recipes. Some people find making pies a daunting task. There are stories, mostly said in hushed tones, about my mother throwing more than a few pie crusts against the wall. I must admit, rolling out a homemade pie crust can be intimidating at first. There are several variables that can throw a “wrench” in your dough – humidity, temperature of the butter, amounts of water, types of flour, overworking the dough - all can influence the outcome of your crust. Once you master a pie crust recipe, and you truly learn the “feel” of pastry in its various stages, it will be a breeze to roll out a pie. If it still seems too challenging, there are some acceptable store bought pie dough brands.  Wholly Wholesome, which has won the praise of Cook’s Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple Magazine and CBS The Early Show, offers organic easy to use rolled pie dough and pre-made pie shells. If you have a Trader Joe's market, try their butter rich frozen pie crusts – just thaw, unroll, and use with your favorite recipe. I like two-crust apple pies, but using a “crisp” or “crumble” topping is also a nice choice, especially if you’re using a pre-made pie shell. The brown sugar, butter and oats bake into a crisp caramel like topping that complements the apples perfectly. Celebrate apple season with this blue ribbon pie. 

Download Blue Ribbon Streusel Topped Apple Pie recipe

Streusel Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

¾ cup old-fashioned oats

¼ cup finely chopped pecans or almonds

1. Pulse flour, sugars, cinnamon, salt to combine. Add butter and process until mixture has texture of coarse crumbs (some pea-sized pieces of butter will remain), about 12 one-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl, stir in oats and nuts, and use fingers to pinch topping into peanut-sized clumps. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

 

Apple Pie:

1 pie crust shell, store bought or homemade

3 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (use one type or a variety – I prefer a mix of Braeburn, Golden Delicious, and McIntosh apples)

2-4 tablespoons flour (depending on juiciness of apples)

¼ -½ cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)

1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 medium lemon

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup heavy cream

1. Position rack in lower third of oven and place empty rimmed baking sheet on rack, preheat to 400°F. 

2. Fit pie crust into 10” deep dish pie plate and flute or crimp edges. Chill.

3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt and toss with apples and lemon juice to combine. Place apple mixture in pie shell, they will mound very high – press down slightly. Pour cream over top. Gently apply streusel topping to apples, pressing it into the slices. The streusel should cover the apples but not cover the edge of the pie shell.

4. Place the pie on preheated baking sheet; bake for 25 minutes, then transfer to center rack, reduce temperature to 350°F and bake an additional 45-60 minutes; pie should be golden brown and apples will be tender when tested with a sharp knife or skewer. 

Apple Pie Streusel Topping filling

Apple Pie Streusel Topping prebake

Apple Pie Streusel Topping Baked


Modern Mini Mince Tartlets

Mini mince pies

Mince pie seems to have fallen out of favor in the U.S., although it was once the quintessential American pie - much more popular than apple or cherry, and in the 19th century Americans ate mince pies all through the year - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In Britain, it is still the top Christmas dessert. The markets and department stores in London are filled with festive boxed pies in all shapes and sizes. Traditional mincemeat was made with - you guessed it – meat, usually beef, mutton, or sometimes venison. Mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking some 500 years ago in England. Suet, the dense fat which surrounds beef kidneys, was the other common ingredient, but modern mince generally uses butter rather than suet which can be difficult to find. This recipe uses apples and dried fruit as the main ingredients (no beef, thanks) and, combined with traditional spices and citrus, produces and delicious sweet filling perfect for the holidays. I like to make them into small tarts using a mini muffin tin and top them with a sugar coated pastry star. You can also use the filling with a favorite double crust pie recipe, or make turnovers with your favorite puff pastry.

Download Modern Mini Mince Tartlets recipe

Filling:

3 Granny Smith apples, large (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 McIntosh apples (or Macoun, Royal Gala, Empire, Cortland), large (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup dark raisins

1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

1 cup currants

¼ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

1 cup packed dark brown sugar (7 ounces)

¼ cup granulated sugar

10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons)

¼ cup diced candied orange peel, (homemade or available online

Grated zest and juice from 1 orange

Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups apple cider, plus more as needed

1/3 cup rum or brandy

Crust:

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch pieces

5 tablespoons cream cheese, cold

1 egg white, beaten, for glazing pastry stars

1 tablespoon sugar or turbinado for sprinkling over crust

 

For the filling:

 

1. Place all ingredients except 1/2 cup cider and rum in large, heavy saucepan set over medium-low heat. Bring to boil and simmer gently, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens and darkens in color, about 2 ½ to 3 hours, adding more cider as necessary to prevent scorching.

2. Continue cooking, stirring every minute or two, until mixture has jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup apple cider and rum and cook until liquid in pan is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes; cool mixture. (Mince filling can be refrigerated for several days to improve flavor.)

 

For the crust:

 

1. Process flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add butter pieces and cream cheese and process until mixture is the size of small peas about 20 pulses. Then process until mixture just comes together, about 15-20 seconds.

2. Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and press together to form large even mass. Divide dough into 3 sections and refrigerate the remaining section. Pinch off 24 pieces of dough (12 from each section) and roll them into balls in the palm of your hand (about 1” balls). Place them on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove remaining section from refrigerator and place on lightly floured surface. Roll out with floured rolling pin to 1/8” thick (make sure dough doesn’t stick to surface. Cut into 1½” star shapes or 1½” rounds. Arrange on small tray or plate and place in freezer.

4. Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust rack to middle position. Lightly grease a 24 mini muffin tin with butter.

5. Remove balls from the refrigerator and flatten each one with your fingers. Press them gently into the muffin cups so that the edge of each comes 1/8” above the rim. (A pastry tamper is helpful, or just use your fingers) Make sure not to make a hole or tear the dough. Place tin in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill the dough.

6. Remove stars from freezer. Beat egg white with 1 teaspoon of water and brush each star (or round)with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar or turbinado sugar.

7. Remove tarts from freezer and fill with mince filling – about 1 rounded teaspoon each. Top with pastry star (or round).

8. Bake 20-25 minutes until the pastry is a rich golden brown.  Cool the tartlets completely in the pan. Run a little butter knife around the edge of each tart, and use the knife to gently lift the tart out of the pan.

9. These are great the day they are baked. You can also store them in an airtight container or freeze them for up 2 weeks. 

Mini Mince pie fruit pan 

Mini Mince pie filling cooked

Mini Mince tarts tamper

Mini Mince tarts unbaked

Mini Mince tarts pastry stars

Mini Mince tarts star

Mini mince pies baked1



My Favorite Parisian Lemon Tart Tarte au Citron

Lemon tart1

When I was a student living in Paris, one of my favorite rituals was to treat myself to a tiny lemon tart at a local patisserie after class. There were dozens of shops to choose from along my walk from the Sorbonne to my small apartment near the Place des Victoires. If I was feeling extravagant I would stop by Fauchon near the Place de la Madeleine, and leave with a lemon tart boxed in their trademark hot pink packaging and black and white bag; otherwise, there were plenty of other neighborhood shops that offered tasty tarts at a more reasonable price. I still love a lemony dessert, especially at the end of a great meal. This is one of my favorite recipes - very lemony, but with a rich creamy filling. It’s from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham and is the best version I’ve had outside of Paris – the zest in the filling and in the crust gives it a great burst of lemon flavor. Paul Bocuse’s “Simple French Recipes for the Home Chef” calls for crème fraiche, but I find the heavy cream works just as well. This is the perfect finish to a great dinner.

Download Parisian Lemon Tart recipe

 

1 stick unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

1¾ cup flour

1¼ cup sugar, divided

2 pinches salt

6 large eggs

1 cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup of heavy cream

1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Have ready an 11” tart pan.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of the zest and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Whisk together flour, ¼ cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Pour the butter mixture in a fine stream, stirring with a fork, and continue stirring just until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to the pan and press into sides and across the bottom. Bake tart for 20 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Let cool while making the filling.

4. Process the remaining cup of sugar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of zest and process until zest is finely ground. 

5. Whisk together eggs, zest mixture, lemon juice and pinch of salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

6. Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Whisk the cream into the egg mixture just until blended. 

7. Place a baking sheet in the oven, place the crust on the sheet and pour the filling into the still warm crust. Bake 25-30 minutes or until filling is just set in the center.

8. Cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar. 

Lemon tart crust

Lemon Tart baked


Lemon tart fauchon box


Best Ever Homemade Blueberry Pie

Blueberry pie slice

A friend of mine from NYC called the other day to ask which pie bakery I preferred. He had guests from Norway stopping by that afternoon for coffee and wanted to offer them a slice of “American pie”. When he told me a whole pie from a bakeshop would cost anywhere from $35-$65, I suggested he take a quick lesson in pie making and bake one himself. He had 3 hours before they arrived and I was convinced I could help him get a pie, prepped, baked, and on a cooling rack before they rang his buzzer. I quickly emailed this recipe for Best Ever Blueberry pie and he raced to his local grocery store to pick up everything we needed, (including a pie plate). With the help of Skype, I coached him through the basic steps (he saved time with a ready-made pie crust) and the pie was in the oven in no time. Nothing warms a home during the winter months like the smell of a freshly baked pie and this one is certain to please any guest.

Download Best Ever Homemade Blueberry Pie recipe

1 Foolproof  Pie Dough, see recipe here http://bit.ly/xXGmvi    (or use your favorite pie crust recipe or Pillsbury Ready-made)

Blueberry Filling

6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) or 2 -16 oz. bags frozen Wild Blueberries (or  one 15 oz bag of frozen and 3 cups of fresh)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater

2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon or orange

3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)

2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground in a coffee grinder or mini cuisinart

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch table salt 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Egg Wash: 1 large egg , lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Foolproof recipe

1. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side.

2. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

For The Filling:

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups fresh berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. If using frozen, place one bag of berries in saucepan and cook over medium to medium high heat for 12-15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

3. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries (fresh or frozen),  zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, cinnamon and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

4. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.

5. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

6. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Blueberry pie prebake

Blueberry pie baking