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!

better late than never: pie #24-snickers bar pie

while it might seem that i have given up on this challenge-believe me, i haven’t.  our younger daughter graduated from high school and with that occasion came all kinds of fan fare and family.  for the last two weeks, i have managed to make all of my pies but have not had the time to sit down and share them. 
when younger, much younger, my husband and i thought it would be exciting to move around the country.  we worked in restaurants which made finding jobs easy.  it also meant leaving behind friends and family.  we had reached a crossroad of sorts 16 years ago when my uncle was killed by a reckless driver.  we made the decision to move closer to my family on the east coast.  despite our good intentions, we didn’t quite make it and now find ourselves still missing out on the chance to see them.  time flies, we often go a year or more between visits and in that time, our girls have grown up.  to have the chance to spend some time with my mom was great and the chance to share some pies with her was fun too.  
so first up is the snickers pie.  anything that has chocolate, caramel and candied peanuts works for me and most of the family too. in an effort to save time, i used a recipe i found online and made subtle changes to adapt it to pie size rather than a small square baking pan.  
a few notes to start with:  the crust was really greasy when i prebaked it.  actually, there was a lot of fat in the recipe in relation  to the amount of flour and i cannot help but think that there is a typo in it.  if you choose to follow the recipe, consider using a different crust.   while i could have just used the dulce de leche called for in the original recipe, i chose to caramelize sweetened condensed milk since i had a small collection of cans in the closet.
snickers pie
adapted from dorie greenspan by way of the naptime chef
1 (10″) pie serving 10-12
caramel filling
2 (14oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk
preheat the oven to 350.  place the milk into a covered casserole dish and place the dish into a larger pan.  pour in enough hot water  to reach the same level as the milk.  place the pans in the oven and bake until a deep golden brown (darker than the photo above-i wasnt happy with the consistency).  it will take as long as 2 hours and you will need to stir it and whisk it every 20 minutes to gain an even tone.  while this bakes, make and bake the crust, recipe follows.  pour the caramel into the prepared crust, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface andchill it completely-at least several hours or overnight.
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
preheat the oven to 350.  place the flour, sugars and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  add the cubed butter and pulse a few times to cut in the butter but only until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  add the yolk and pulse to combine and forms a ball of dough.  press this dough into the bottom of a 10″ pie dish which has been lightly greased.  prick the crust all over with a fork and prebake it until it just starts to color, about 20 minutes. allow it to cool completely before assembling.
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 cups salted peanuts
10 ounces semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup half and half
combine the sugar and water in a saute pan and cook over medium heat until it boils  and the sugar melts.  continue to cook until it starts to color but be sure that you do not stir it.  add the peanuts and stir to coat them with the sugar.  turn them out of the pan onto a greased baking sheet and allow them to cool completely. 
in a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate and half and half on the lowest setting until it is melted and smooth.  using 15-20 second intervals on low power, be sure to remove the bowl and whisk in between heating cycles to prevent scorching.  
chop the peanuts coarsely and sprinkle 3/4 of them evenly over the top of the caramel while reserving the remainder for garnish.  drizzle the chocolate glaze over the peanuts and smooth it out evenly.  allow it to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  decorate the pie with the remaining peanuts.
so there you have it, one down and two more to go before i make this weeks pie!!!  make one and send me a photo, you will see it here!!!

if it’s pies you that you want…

have you heard the news? pie is the new big thing, the “it” girl of the dessert world for the new year. according to the folks who predict food trends, pie will be the number one food trend in 2011. honestly, where have they been keeping their heads? here in the south, pie is always a big thing! can you imagine a meat and three or a country market without pies? how about a potluck dinner? or a family get together? in little mom and pop businesses all over the south, whether they are restaurants or gas stations, if there is food sold, there is most likely some sort of pie-mainly a chess pie or some variation of one and if you are really lucky, fried pies. at the cafe, we generally have anywhere from 6 to 9 different types of pie to choose from daily. stop by today and you will find a house specialty-turtle pie. pictured above as it is being dressed for display, i start out with a homemade cookie crumb crust with nuts in it, fill it with a homemade caramel filling (sweetened condensed milk that is slowly cooked in the oven until it is a dark golden color) and topped with a semisweet chocolate glaze and pecan pieces.
here is a glimpse of the finished pies, all dressed and ready to party! don’t hesitate on this one, it really sells fast and since it can take a whole day to make them, i only make a batch when i can spare half of the oven for at least 4 hours-no joke, large quantities take a lot longer than you think!

this brings me to my next project. since the powers that be, you know the movers and the shakers of the prediction realm say that 2011 is the year of the pie, i am going to make pies. ooohhhhhh, something that i don’t do everyday…canning the sarcasm for a moment, i plan to make one pie each week for the next 52 weeks. each one will be an original pie and i will post recipes-something i very rarely do. the exciting part is that my final pie will land here during the week of thanksgiving. hopefully, you will bake along with me and share photos of your efforts. to anyone that does, i will post the photos here as well. just to get things moving, i baked a pie. a very special pie. pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies. but that whole turtle pie experience (see above) had me thinking. what if i took a pumpkin pie and combined it with a turtle pie…
rich and gooey…spicy and creamy…too good to be true, but it is. first, i made a crust using gingerbread biscotti crumbs (homemade of course). i mixed up half of a batch of pumpkin pie filling and baked it in the crust. as it cooled in the fridge, i caramelized some sweetened condensed milk in the oven (using a water bath!). when it was done, i spread it over the top of the pumpkin filling. i let that cool over night and then this afternoon, i made a glaze using some semisweet chocolate. after spreading the glaze over the pie, i sprinkled on some toasted pecan pieces. sounds like a bit of work but sometimes, you just gotta do it!

pumpkin turtle pie

makes 1 (9″) deep dish pie

2 cups cookie crumbs-gingersnaps or gingerbread cookies
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup half and half
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup half and half

preheat the oven to 350. combine the cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a bowl and using your fingers, mix well to combine. press the mixture into a pie plate so that the sides and bottom are all evenly covered. in a mixing bowl, whisk the pumpkin with the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, whole egg and egg yolk. scrape the bowl, add the half and half and mix thoroughly to combine. pour the filling into the pie shell and bake until set, about 30 minutes. remove the pie from the oven (but leave the oven on) and allow it to cool a bit at room temperature. when the pie has cooled enough to handle it (just to make it easier to move around) place it in the fridge to get cold. place the pecan pieces in an oven safe pan and toast them for 5-7 minutes, allow them to cool and reserve them for decorating the pie.

pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 1 quart baking dish, preferably one with a cover. place this dish in a pan of water to make a water bath and bake. every 20 minutes, carefully open the dish and using a heat proof spatula, scrape the dish well and stir the mixture. this ensures that the caramel cooks evenly. it will take about an hour and a half for the caramel to reach a nice dark amber color. when it is finished, carefully pour the mixture over the top of the pumpkin pie and return the pie to the fridge to cool over night.

to make the glaze, place the chocolate and the half and half in a microwave safe bowl. using the lowest setting or the defrost cycle, heat in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is completely melted. whisk the glaze until it is smooth and spread it evenly over the caramel. sprinkle the pecans over the top and allow the glaze to set completely before cutting, about an hour at room temperature, sooner in the fridge. for clean cuts on your slices, dip your knife in hot water after each cut and be sure to wipe it clean before making the next cut. serves 8-10.