secret ingredient pie, #52 of 52-the final pie of the challenge!

wow-the final pie.  how quickly the year went.  well, now what?  don’t know yet but i will be sure to do something crazy, something inappropriate, something stupid and who knows what else but in the mean time, i’ve got some splaining to do…

i decided to have some fun on thanksgiving and all at the expense of my family and guests.  they were kind enough to play along-some more than others (kids-what are you gonna do with them?)  and they were served a pie and told to guess what i made it from.  it kinda looked like it could be some sort of squash pie but alas, it wasn’t…only one of our guests was able to figure it out-and he nailed it!

the inspiration for this pie came from my job.  every day, or at least it seems like every day, i partially bake pie shells for use in my pie recipes.  to do this, i line each pie shell with a restaurant sized coffee filter and fill that with pinto beans.  the beans act as a weight and keep the crust from puffing up.  the running joke is that the bean pies must be popular since i bake so many…yes, those are crickets chirping-i don’t find the joke very funny either; after hearing it on a nearly daily basis for 7 years, can you blame me?  so anyway, what was funny though was the day one of my latino coworkers had the realization that if she bakes those bean pies every day, they must taste good-he then proceeded to taste some of the beans.  did i mention that i reuse the beans, a lot, until they stink so bad that i replace them?  we never did talk about those beans he tasted and trust me, he never tasted another.  but anyway, i came across a recipe for navy bean pie in an old farm journal cookbook and decided to give it a try but not tell anyone what was in the filling.

a few notes, first of all, anytime i am going to fill a pie shell with a custard filling, i partially bake it to be sure that the bottom crust is baked and not gummy when the pie filling is finished baking.  the recipe calls for evaporated milk which is something i never use and i have found that half and half is a perfect substitution.  to save time, i used canned beans that were drained and rinsed and then pureed in a food processor.

white bean pie
1 (9″) pie serving 8-10
adapted from farm journals navy bean pie recipe
1 (9″) pie crust must be an extra deep crust or a 10″ crust, partially baked
2 (15) ounce cans white beans-i used great northern beans
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
12 ounces half and half
preheat the oven to 350.  place the partially baked pie shell on a sturdy baking sheet to make placing it in the oven and removing it a little easier.  drain and rinse the beans and then place them into the bowl of a food processor.  add the brown sugar and pulse to combine and then run till smooth taking the time to scrape the bowl a few times to get every last bean pureed.  add the honey and spices and pulse to combine. add the eggs and run till smooth, scraping the machine at least once.  finally, add the half and half and combine.  pour it into the prepared pie shell and bake until it is set, 50-55 minutes.  allow it to cool and serve it as you would serve a pumpkin pie.
and there you have it, the last pie…on wards and all that to what ever comes next.   bake one and send me a photo, i will post it here.  may the power of pie see you safely through the next year…
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oh, by the way, do you remember when i was baking pies with my daughters?  my younger daughter, devon and i baked an apple pie together.  well, she is currently living in northern california with her grandparents while she attends school.  they were having a little pre-thanksgiving thanksgiving dinner and she baked one with her grandmother.
and here it is!  they used the same recipe that she and i used, the one straight out of my book.  looks beautiful and they enjoyed the pie!  so get in that kitchen with a kid or a grandparent or somebody else that is truly important to you and bake some sweet memories!  you will have more than fun, you will have a memory that will last much longer than that pie no matter how it turns out!!!

it’s a pie, it’s a cheesecake, no wait! it’s both, pie #51 of 52

so it was the week before thanksgiving and all through the house…wait, wrong story…well, it was the week before thanksgiving and i got completely derailed from my plan of posting this before the holiday.  it ultimately ended up being done in time for thanksgiving but sadly, not in time for anyone to see and attempt it.  hopefully, you will forgive me and then run out and buy the ingredients to try and bake one for the next big holiday celebration.

remember last year’s big thing-cherpumple cakes?  when i saw them posted all over the internet, i wanted to try one.  then i saw the recipe-frozen pies and cake mix…major disappointment! no time to play with that many scratch recipes this week.  instead i decided to bake my own version based on things my family enjoys.  there was one holiday season that after baking about a bejillion pies in the cafe, i refused to make any for our annual thanksgiving trash can turkey extravaganza.  needless to say, even though they enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake i baked, they missed having a pie on the table.  this year i decided to combine two pies with a cheesecake and see what would happen.

word of warning, this is not a quick dessert.  to do it right, right meaning so that it doesn’t fall apart, it will take you more than a day to complete, possibly 2 to 3 evenings if you have limited time to work on it.  another important note, i never use springform pans or a water bath to bake cheesecakes!!!  this recipe uses heavy gauge cake pans and if you follow the directions, the cake will work just fine.  you may even want to consider baking your cheesecakes in a cake pan all the time; it is so much easier to use than a springform pan and a water bath!

first step was to make half of a pecan pie in a 6″ cake pan.  it was so cute!  after baking it, i chilled it completely so that i could take it out of the pan without destroying it.  by gently warming the bottom over very low heat on the stove, i was able to turn the cold pecan pie out in one piece.  since the crust stood a little taller than the filling and got a little dark, i carefully cut it off using a serrated knife.

the cheesecake filling was quickly assembled in the food processor.  the cookie crust was pressed into a 10″ cake pan.  i set the pecan pie in the center of the crust and carefully ladled in the cheesecake filling.  it was baked and then completely chilled overnight before i set out to make the turtle pie topping.

the cheesecake is removed from the pan using the same method as the pecan pie.  cover a flat platter with plastic wrap and lightly spray it with pan spray.  gently warm the bottom of the cake pan, place the prepared platter upside-down over the cheesecake and invert it.  the cheesecake should slowly slide out of the pan.  then you can place your serving plate onto the bottom of the cake and invert it again.  sounds tricky but it works!

the turtle pie topping is made from a single can of sweetened condensed milk that has been baked to caramelize it.  on the left, straight out of the can and on the right, after two hours of baking. 

neatly spread the hot caramel over the cheesecake portion of the cake.  spread it out evenly.  then back into the fridge to chill it so the chocolate topping can go on.  the chocolate topping is made very quickly in the microwave and is easily applied to the pie with a piping bag.

pecan pie in a pumpkin cheesecake
1 (10″) cheesecake serving about 14
pecan pie
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon liquid-i used buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup pecan pieces
preheat the oven to 300.  cut the cold butter into small cubes.  place the flour, powdered sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top of the dry ingredients and pulse together until it resembles a coarse meal.  add the egg yolk and the liquid and pulse until it forms a soft dough.  using your fingers, carefully press the dough into a greased 6″ cake pan.  line the crust with paper and fill with weights and bake until it is no longer glossy on the bottom and it barely shows any color, about 30 minutes.  
while the shell partially bakes, make the filling by mixing the brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl.  whisk in the butter and mix until smooth.  add the eggs, one at a time and mix each one in completely.  finally, whisk in the corn syrup.  when the crust is ready, remove from the oven, turn the oven temperature up to 350 and carefully remove the weights and the paper from the pan.  place the pecans in the crust and pour in the custard filling.  return the pan to the oven and bake it until it is set all the way across, about 40 minutes.  allow the pie to cool and then chill it until it is completely cold and unmold the pie as described above.
pumpkin cheesecake
2 cups cookie crumbs
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
preheat the oven to 300.  make the crust by combining the cookie crumbs, sugar and butter.  carefully press the mixture into a greased 10″ cake pan.  to mix the filling, place the cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar, flour and spice into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine and be sure to scrape the bowl at least once.  with the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time.  scrape the bowl again and add the sour cream.  pulse it, scrape it and pulse it again.  
to assemble, place the cold pecan pie in the center of the cheesecake pan.  carefully spoon the filling around it without getting any on top of the pecan pie.  bake the cake for 45 minutes then carefully run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the pan and prevent cracking.  turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven with the door just slightly open for 15 minutes.  remove from the oven, the cheesecake should be slightly puffed and feel almost firm to the touch.  let it cool and then chill it overnight before proceeding with the turtle pie topping.
turtle pie topping
1 (14) ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup half and half
heat the oven to 350.  pour the sweetened condensed milk into a small covered casserole dish.  place the dish in a pan of water so that the water comes up to the same height as the milk.  carefully place in the oven and bake.  every 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and whisk the milk completely to ensure even caramelization.  this will take about 2 hours and during that last 30 minutes, you may have to do this a little more often to prevent scorching.  using the photos above as a guide, top the cheesecake portion (after you have taken the cake out of the pan!!!) with the caramel.  chill completely before topping it with the chocolate mixture.

break up the chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl.  add the half and half and using 15 second intervals, heat on the lowest setting until the chocolate melts.  stir it until smooth.  place in a piping bag with a small (#4 to #6) straight tip and make the lattice top by using a quick back and forth motion.  turn the cake a 1/4 turn and repeat the action to get a chocolate lattice design.  allow the cake to chill for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate.

and now that my food coma is lifting, bake one and send me a photo-i will post it here!  bakinbabe116@aol.com

mexican chocolate tart with cinnamon toast crunch crust, pie #50 of 52

pie # 50…have to let that sink in for a minute.  i realize that it is a little late in being posted but that couldn’t be avoided-i lost 3 weeks when the house was robbed and i am still trying to get back to normal, don’t know if i ever will.  last two pies will be part of our trashcan thanksgiving extravaganza so look for them this week.

anyway, since the kids are both out of the house for the foreseeable future, my husband and i have been able to find the bottom shelf of the pantry closet as well as see to the back of it.  amazing what has been lurking in there.  i found two boxes of ibarra chocolate and the unopened box of cinnamon toast crunch cereal that i purchased for a visiting 6 year old-had no idea that a 6 year old wouldn’t like cereal that was sweet.  no matter, it makes a fantastic crust for a no bake tart.

the chocolate is flavored with cinnamon and almonds and is rather grainy in appearance due to the sugar crystals.  ibarra is meant to be used for hot chocolate style drinks but it has long been a favorite of ours for cooking and baking.  my husband will drop a puck into a pot of chili and i have favored it blended with bittersweet chocolate to dip biscotti in, specifically my blue corn pecan biscotti.  

to make the crust, i crushed the cereal after i measured it.  don’t turn it into a powder but rather a collection of crumbs that are not completely uniform in size.  to punch up the almond flavor, i toasted some almonds in a skillet on the stove so the tart was truly a no-bake tart!

mexican chocolate cinnamon crunch tart 
1(9″) tart serving 8-10
crust
1/2 cup sliced almonds
4 cups cinnamon toast crunch cereal
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot
toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until they are golden brown-be sure to watch them constantly as they will color quickly.  remove from the heat and turn them out onto a plate to cool.  using your hands, crush the cereal in a bowl until it is mostly small crumbs with some powder and very few large pieces.  roughly chop the almonds so that they are roughly the same size as the cereal crumbs.  add the almonds, sugar and hot butter and mix to combine.   dump the mixture into a tart pan with a removable bottom and press it evenly up the sides and across the bottom.  set aside.
chocolate filling
9 ounces ibarra chocolate-i used 3 pucks
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup half and half
place the ingredients in a microwavable bowl and using the lowest setting, heat it in 30 second intervals taking the time to stir the mixture after each heat cycle.  when the chocolate has all melted and is smooth, pour it into the prepared crust and make the white chocolate swirl.
white chocolate swirl
1 1/2 ounce white chocolate
1 tablespoon half and half
mix the ingredients in a microwavable bowl and heat it on the lowest setting until it is melted, about 30 seconds.  stir until smooth and then using a small spoon, drizzle all over the top of the tart.  take a tooth pick and swirl the white chocolate into the tart so that it is marbleized.  carefully place the tart in the fridge to cool and set for at least 2 hours.  to serve, remove the ring and carefully insert a thin palette knife between the crust and the metal bottom.  move the palette knife around to completely release the crust and then slide it onto a flat serving platter.  to cut, use a hot, wet knife taking care to completely clean the blade between slices for perfect cuts.
and as always, make it and send me a photo, i will post it here.  bakinbabe116@aol.com

two for one: butterscotch pie and blueberry pie with almond crunch topping, pies #46 & 47 of 52

for months, my husband has been asking me to make a butterscotch pie.  personally, i like fruit pies better.  so, rather than try to figure out how to make a fruity butterscotch pie, i went ahead and made two pies.  luckily, we had some visitors and they helped us eat the pies!
butterscotch is a tricky flavor to achieve.  many recipes simply expect the use of butter and brown sugar to give the flavor.  that’s a start but not likely to give you that buttery caramel flavor found in the little yellow hard candies.  to really get that flavor, you need to caramelize some brown sugar and combine it with dark rum and a pinch of salt.  caramelizing brown sugar is very tricky; it can quickly go from slightly colored to black and bitter.  with that in mind, i opted to go with plain granulated sugar since it is easier to see the color gradations.  
on the blueberry pie, i didn’t have fresh berries on hand so i used some frozen berries and if you ask me, that is just fine.  if you are lucky enough to pick your own fresh berries, do you let them go to waste?  i’m thinking not and that what isn’t consumed quickly, is frozen for later use.  yes i know that there are purists out there that will scoff at the idea of using frozen berries, but i am not one of them.  sometimes, you have to use what is available and at this time of year, those frozen berries will have much more flavor than anything fresh coming to us from the other side of the world.  if you do use frozen berries, just be sure to let them thaw completely before baking and to add the juices to the pie.  baking a pie with frozen berries in the filling will add a lot of time to the baking and it could mean a burned crust or topping!  to make this pie a little different, i decided to give it a crumb topping made with almond paste and toasted sliced almonds.  blueberries and almond go together very nicely.  and for those of you, like myself, that do not have a kitchen scale handy, purchase the almond paste in the can.  you can remove both ends of the can push out the paste, cut the cylinder of paste into half and then cut each half into 4 equal pieces and get your 1 ounce of almond paste.  don’t worry, you can freeze the extra and then anytime a recipe calls for almond paste by the ounce, you will just need to thaw the required number of 1 oz. wedges.
butterscotch pie
blueberry pie with almond crunch topping
each recipe yields 1 (9″) pie serving 8
butterscotch pie
1 (9″) pie shell, fully baked (can be any kind you like, even graham cracker)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 cups half and half
3 egg yolks
1″ piece of vanilla bean, split open
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons dark rum
place the sugar, water and corn syrup in a sauce pot (at least 2 quart capacity) with a heavy bottom.  cover the pot and place over medium heat until it boils for about 1 minute.  remove the lid and check to see that there aren’t any sugar crystals on the sides of the pot.  if any crystals are present, use a wet brush to wash them away.  allow the mixture to boil until it begins to color.  while this is boiling, place the corn starch in a heat proof bowl with about a 1/4 cup of the half and half and whisk it smooth.  add the egg yolks to this mixture and whisk together.   place the remaining half and half in a pot with the vanilla bean and the salt and heat over medium low heat but do not allow it to boil-just get it hot.  when the sugar begins to color, gently swirl the pan to color it evenly.  when it is a nice amber color, carefully pour in a small amount of the hot half and half-THIS WILL BOIL UP AND RELEASE LOTS OF STEAM!!!  this step can be dangerous if you are not paying attention or if you try to pour it all in at once, so please, do this in batches and with caution.  when all of the half and half is in the pot with the caramel, stir over medium heat to dissolve any sugar that has settled to the bottom.  when this reaches a boil, pour a small amount into the egg yolk mixture and whisk it smooth.  replace the hot half and half on the burner and carefully whisk in the tempered egg yolks.  continue to cook, stirring gently, until it reaches a boil.  boil the mixture for a full minute to cook the cornstarch and thicken the mixture.  remove the pot from the heat, stir in the dark rum and pour the hot mixture through a mesh strainer right into the baked pie shell.  spread the filling out evenly, press plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate it until it is cold.  to serve, top with whipped cream or serve it with whipped cream on the side.  
for the whipped cream topping in the photo, i whipped 1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract until it was stiff and then spread it over the cold filling.
blueberry pie with almond crunch topping
1 (9″) pie shell, home made or purchased
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound of blueberries-can be fresh or frozen (and thawed)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 ounce almond paste, cut into small pieces
preheat the oven to 350.  place the pie shell on a sturdy baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper and greased.  toast the almonds on a separate tray until slightly browned and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes, cool them completely.  in a mixing bowl, rub the sugar with the cornstarch, ginger and lemon zest until it is combined.  add the blueberries and toss them to coat them (include the juices too if you are using thawed berries).  pour the filling into the pie shell.  to make the topping, place the almonds, flour, brown sugar and baking soda into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  sprinkle the pieces of butter and almond paste over the top of the mixture and pulse it until it looks sandy and it begins to clump.  spread the crumb topping evenly over the pie filling and bake it until the fruit filling is bubbly and the topping is browned, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  cool completely before cutting or the filling will not hold it’s shape and will run out.
may the force be with you…and as always, make one and take a photo and i will share it here!  bakinbabe116@aol.com

shoo fly, don’t bother me…pie #44 of 52

and so it starts-the catching up that is.  so many pies, so little time to spend here sharing them.  first, let me say that it is wonderful to be able to share those pies.  after 3 weeks of wallowing in the whole robbery drama, i am now connected and secured but damn, i’m still mad!  i lost 10,000 photos and tons of files as well as one fantastic camera.  but, i need to move on…

so, first up is a personal favorite, shoo fly pie.  it even comes with its own catchy little song, “shoo fly, don’t bother me!  shoo fly, don’t bother me…”  just don’t ask me to sing that too you.  the inspiration was a trip to pennsylvania and a chance to roam antique stores with my mom.  i was up there to appear on qvc and if you like, you can watch my appearance on “in the kitchen with david” here.  what an amazing experience that was and david is every bit as nice and friendly as he seems on tv.  but, i digress, while out hunting with mom, i spied a nifty little pie dish and it came with a recipe for shoo fly pie-i had to give it a try.

i loved the design and colors but honestly, i had my doubts about the recipe.  

 as you can see, there aren’t any clear directions and the amounts are a bit sketchy too.  but i managed to figure it out and forged ahead with the plans.  something so simple, so easy and believe it or not, quite tasty.  however, being in the south, i used sorghum rather than molasses and for anyone who wants to make this, i suggest you do the same if you can find it.

shoo fly pie
1 (9″) pie serving 8
1 (9″) pie crust
1/2 cup sorghum (or molasses)
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar-packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
preheat the oven to 325.  partially bake the pie shell using the method described in pie #29 but do not bake the pie shell completely since it will be going back into the oven.  raise the oven temp to 350 and mix the filling as follows:  whisk the sorghum with the water and baking soda.   pour into the prepared pie shell.  rub the flour, brown sugar and butter together to form a crumb topping.  sprinkle over the top of the filling and no, it isn’t going to sink!  bake until the filling sets in the center and the crumb topping is a little toasty, about 45 minutes.  allow it to cool before serving.
so folks, stay tuned, i have at least 5 more to post just to get caught up and then i am going to go ahead a little so that my big finale will actually be posted before thanksgiving.  may the power of pie be with you!  and as always, bake one, take a photo and send it to me-i will post it here!  bakinbabe116@aol.com

baking sweet memories with my daughters, part 2: crumb topped apple pie, #43 of 52

in my previous post, i baked a tart with my daughter alix; a sort of all growed up/movin out on my own party for the two of us.  this week, i was given the opportunity to do the same with my daughter devon.  you see, she too has moved out and is now in california where she will be attending school.  it was important to me to take the time to teach each of them a little about baking with the hope that they will take this new skill and use it to make their lives a little sweeter.  and in devon’s case, it was a chance to pass a baton;  apple pie is my father in laws favorite pie and since she is now living with my in laws, it is something that she can make for him.

no matter what, i enjoyed every minute of baking with my daughters and cannot wait for the next chance to do so.  for now, i am adjusting to an empty nest and a husband who works all different shifts; in other words, i am spending a lot of time by myself.  it may be a little quiet here but it gives me a chance to do all the things that a book release requires.  my book was released the first week of september and it has been a little hectic.  since the book is out there, i decided to use my recipe for apple pie as this weeks challenge.

miss devon peeling and slicing 5 granny smith apples

tossing the apples with the spices and cornstarch
we got a little crazy and used a 7″ pie plate and piled the apples in a tall dome

the pie was topped off with the crumbs and into the oven she went.  the height of the pie made a slight increase in the baking time.  it was tasty served warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream-perfection!
arkansas sweetly spiced apple crumb pie
serves 6-8
1(9”) pie shell, unbaked
6 cups sliced apples, any variety suitable for baking
3/4cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1/2teaspoon nutmeg
1/2teaspoon cardamom
1/4teaspoon cloves
1-cup crumb topping, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a sturdy baking sheet and line it with foil or parchment paper and grease that as well.  Place the pie shell on the baking sheet and set it aside.  In a bowl, rub the brown sugar, starch and spices together until blended.  Add the apples and toss them to coat them.  Dump the apple mix into the pie shell; scrape any sugar mix and juices into the bowl as well.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie leaving about a 1-1/2” border around the edge-as the apples bake, they will sink and the entire top will have crumbs.  If you put the crumbs close to the edges, they may run out with any of the juices that boil over and then you may not have much topping near the edges.  Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the crumb topping is lightly browned all over.  Allow it to set before cutting, although this will be tough to do, who can resist warm apple pie? 
Crumb topping
Makes about 1-1/3 cups
1/2cup all purpose flour
1/2cup rolled oats
1/3cup dark brown sugar
1/2teaspoon cinnamon
1/8teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and slightly cold
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them gently to break up the sugar but take care not to break the oats.  Add the butter and use your hands to gently rub the ingredients together to make small clumps.  Your final result should be a free flowing mixture with some lumps that will clump together when squeezed in your hand.  This can be done in the food processor with the pulse button, a quick time saving method, but will result in the oats being cut.  It can also be done in a stand mixer with the flat beater, which is the method we use in the cafe.


so get in that kitchen and bake some sweet memories with someone you love-send me a photo and i will post it here!  bakinbabe116@aol.com

baking sweet memories with my daughters, part 1: chocolate pecan tart, pie #42 of 52

it has always been a hope of mine that my two daughters will embrace the art of home made food.  to me, a well made meal is an event and when shared with family, there isn’t much out there that can top it. over the years, both of my girls have shown a desire to bake, mostly cookies with the occasional cake thrown in.  but with all of these pies i have been baking, i have wanted to spend an afternoon baking a pie with each of them.  this last week, i finally got that wish.  alix was home for a visit and to help her sister get packed for the big move west and i took advantage of the time to bake a tart with alix.  when asked what kind of pie she would like to make, she chose chocolate pecan-you can’t go wrong with chocolate and when you add pecans, it’s even better!


we quickly mixed up a batch of tart dough using the food processor and alix pressed it into the pan with her fingers-no rolling pin required!  be sure to use a tart pan with a removable bottom to make cutting serving the easy.



using my foolproof method for partially baking a tart/pie shell, alix lined the shell with a large coffee filter and filled it full of marbles-my choice of pie weights.

while the tart shell baked, we mixed up the filling.  for a smooth filling every time, it is important that the ingredients are combined in the proper order.  otherwise, the custard separates in the oven and it the chocolate will float to the top.  to emulsify the filling, the brown sugar is whisked with the melted butter and chocolate mixture, the cinnamon and vanilla.  then the eggs are whisked in one at a time.  the final addition is the corn syrup.  be sure to scrape that bowl as you go.

alix whisking in the corn syrup-gotta love the action shots!

toast the pecans if you like and then chop them up and fill the shell with them.

pour the custard over the chopped nuts
decorate it with pecan halves

baked to fudgy perfection!  let it cool completely before removing it from the pan or it may crumble

chocolate pecan tart
serves 8
for the tart shell, use half of the recipe for tart dough from pie #39.  freeze the second half for another time and partially bake the tart shell at 325 for 20-25 minutes.  the dough should no longer look glossy and it will not have begun to color.  remove the weights and proceed with the recipe.
filling
1 cup pecan pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
3/4 cup corn syrup
pecan halves to decorate the tart, at least 1 cup
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the pecan pieces on a baking tray until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  place the pecans in the partially baked tart shell.  melt the butter and the chocolate together by placing them in a microwave safe bowl and using the lowest power setting.  place the brown sugar in a mixing bowl with the vanilla and cinnamon.  whisk in the melted chocolate and butter.  whisk in the eggs, one at a time.  be sure to scrape the bowl between additions.  finally, whisk in the corn syrup and pour the custard into the prepared tart shell.  carefully arrange the pecan halves on the top of the tart.  bake until it puffs up and is almost set in the center, about 30-35 minutes.  allow the tart to cool completely before removing it from the pan or cutting.
as always, if you bake one, send me a photo and i will post it here.  may the power of pecans be with you…bakinbabe116@aol.com

a taste of fall: pear frangipane tart, pie #41 of 52

while i am sad to see summer come to a close, i am looking forward to the arrival of fall produce.  as much as i love visiting the farmers market in summer, i find the trips downtown in the fall almost magical.  the sight of so many apples and hard squashes…the thoughts of applesauce and butters and pies…mmmmmm, that’s all i can say about it.  while it is still very warm, with many days still 80+, it is no longer too hot to make baking impossible.  the arrival of pears from colder climates made a pear tart irresistible.
not all pears make nice tarts.  the best ones are those with a slightly soft texture that hold their shape when baked.  for this reason, i generally use d’anjou pears that are a tad under ripe.  for this tart, i had to choose between bartlett and bosc-neither being a favorite of mine.  i went with firm, under ripe bartletts so that they would not turn to mush when i poached them.  poaching is important for this type of tart-it prevents discoloration and ensures that the pears are soft when the tart filling is completely baked.  it also prevents the pears from releasing excessive amounts of juices onto the top of the filling and that enables the filling to bake properly.  the poaching liquid includes wine and the beauty of this tart is that you could use any type of wine and alter the taste of the pears to your liking.  i used marsala because that is what was convenient but you could easily use chardonnay, sauternes, port, champagne or any other white  wine.  however, there is no reason that you couldn’t use a mild, fruity red and give the pears a pink tint. 
freshly poached and ready to be sliced. after removing the pears, place the pot of liquid back on the stove over low heat.  the poaching liquid is reduced down to 1 cup and used as a syrup to drizzle over the slices as you serve them.

the tart shell must be prebaked first.  then, mix up the frangipane filling, spread it into the tart shell and layer the sliced pears around the top in a spiral.

once the tart has been baked and allowed to cool completely, remove it from the pan and cut it into wedges.  drizzle it with the syrup and you have an elegant fall dessert.

pear frangipane tart
serves 8-10
tart dough
half batch of tart dough from pie #39, second piece can be frozen for future use.  place the dough into a greased tart pan with a removable bottom.  with your fingers, carefully distribute the dough around the bottom and sides by pressing it and pushing it into place so that it is an even thickness throughout (no rolling pin required!!!).   place the shell on a sturdy baking pan.  line the shell with a coffee filter or parchment paper, fill with weights and prebake it at 325 degrees until the dough no longer looks shiny and appears opaque when you lift up the paper/weights, about 25-30 minutes.
poached pears
3-4 pears, peeled, halved with cores removed
3 cups water
1 cup wine
1/2 vanilla bean
1 star anise pod
3 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon, squeezed-juice and fruit both added to the mix
1/2 cup sugar
combine the ingredients in a large pot.  over medium low heat, simmer the pears until they are soft but not yet mushy, about 20 minutes.  remove the pears to a dish to cool.  remove all of the aromatic ingredients from the liquid and return the pot to the stove over medium low heat.  allow the syrup to reduce and concentrate to just 1 cup.  chill the syrup
frangipane filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces almond paste
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup all purpose flour
in a mixing bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and the sugar until light and fluffy.  add the egg and mix to incorporate.  sift the flour into the batter and mix just to incorporate.  
assembling and baking the tart
remove the weights from the tart shell and spread the frangipane filling evenly in the shell.  cut the pears into 1/4″ thick slices and using the photo above for reference, carefully arrange them in a spiral around the top of the filling.  bake in an oven preheated to 350 until the filling sets, approximately 50-55 minutes.  brush a small amount of the syrup over the tart while it is still hot to give it a shine and allow it to cool completely before removing it from the pan.  cut into wedges and serve it with a drizzle of the syrup.  if you would like to really indulge yourself and those you are serving this too,  serve it with some vanilla or buttermilk ice cream.
as always, bake one and send me a photo, i promise to post it here.   bakinbabe116@aol.com

scuppernongs, a native american fruit-pie #40 of 52

i can remember the first time i heard someone talk about scuppernongs-i thought they were nuts.  just say the name out loud and you may understand.  it hardly sounds like something that anyone should be eating.  years later, the trend towards native plants and foods makes this recipe somewhat relevant.  the scuppernong,  a bronze muscadine, is the only native grape found in north america and are easy to grow.

all muscadines have thick skins.  you need to separate the pulpy insides from the skins by squeezing them.  the skins are then simmered until soft and the pulp is then run through a food mill to remove the large seeds which are inedible(they aren’t poisonous but are a little like gravel if you end up with them in your mouth).  the recipe can be made with either the red or green (also called bronze) muscadines but remember, only the green ones are called scuppernongs.  the flavor is a bit musky in comparison to grapes  and they will take on other flavors easily so be careful not to overdo it when adding additional ingredients to the pie.  since there aren’t too many options for using the fruits, this recipe is a lot like everyone you will find online and that is about as good as it gets.

scuppernong pie
1 (9″) pie serving 8
enough pie dough for a double  crust pie
1 quart scuppernongs
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
egg wash and crystal sugar, if desired
separate the skins from the pulp of the fruit.  place the skins in a sauce pan with the water and simmer until tender, can take as long as 30 minutes.  allow the skins and the liquid to cool before using.  run the pulp through a food mill to remove the seeds-this can also be done by hand; just pick out and discard the seeds.  combine the sugar with the starch and zest.  in a bowl, combine the skins, the cooking liquid, the pulp and the sugar mix and stir.  preheat the oven to 350.  roll out the bottom crust, line the pie plate with   it and pour in the filling.  roll out the top crust and cut a hole in the center to vent the steam.  brush some egg wash around the edge of the bottom crust, place the top crust on with the hole centered and seal the edges.  flute the edges if desired, brush egg wash over the top and sprinkle crystal sugar over the top of the pie.  bake until boiling in the center, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  allow it to cool completely and set before cutting.
and there you  have it, scuppernong pie.  will i make it again, don’t know but i would like to try making some scuppernong jam and perhaps i may even try to grow some.  and as always, if you bake it, send me a photo, i will post it here.  bakinbabe116@aol.com

plum galette, pie #39 of 52

what a dreary day-we needed the rain and i am happy it has finally arrived but does it have to be so dark and grey too?  enough of the whining, this pie can brighten your rainy day without a lot of work.  galettes are a quick and easy pie because they aren’t supposed to look perfect.  it is a great go to recipe when you need a dessert that seems a little more elegant than usual without the hassle of classically prepared pastries.

plums bake up quick too but this can be made with peaches, apples, berries or pears.  make the dough from scratch using the recipe below but freeze half of it for another day and use it to make a tart or more galettes.

plum galette
serves 4
dough
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold milk
Place the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl and blend to combine.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In a food processor this will be accomplished by pulsing the mixture.  Add the egg yolks and the milk and mix until the dough combines and forms a smooth dough.  Divide the dough in two pieces, shape into 4” disks, freeze one for later and chill the other before using.
plum filling
4 black plums
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 of a vanilla bean-seeds only, pod reserved for another use
halve the plums, remove the pit and cut into thin wedges.  in a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and rub them together with your fingers until completely mixed.  toss the plums with the sugar mix and allow them to macerate while you roll out the dough.
preheat the oven to 350.  cut one disk of dough into 4 equal pieces.  shape each piece into a round disk and roll them out to 7-1/2 inch circles.  place the dough circles onto sheet pans lined with parchment 
paper.  arrange the pears in a circle on top of each round of dough leaving a 1″ border around the edge.  fold the edges up over the top of the plums to form a loose and free formed pie.  drizzle a spoonful of the collected juices over the center of each galette.  if desired, brush the edges with some water and sprinkle with additional sugar, but you can leave it plain as i did too.  bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden around the top and the juices are bubbly.  allow them to rest on the pan for 10-15 minutes before serving and if you want to really go all out, serve them with some vanilla ice cream.
as always, bake one and send me a photo, i will post it here.  now if you will excuse me, i am going to go and find some other song to play incessantly in my head-the carpenter’s(rainy days and mondays) are killing me…bakinbabe116@aol.com