Tag Archives: baking

Cranberry and Pear Pie

Rather than making my homemade cranberry sauce this year, I decided to make a cranberry pie. I was inspired by a recipe I found in Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts, which is a little different than the recipe on the website. Whatever. I put my own spin on it and now I’m sharing it with you. It is tart, but not too tart. I served the pie warm with vanilla ice cream and it was really, really good.

Cranberry Pear Pie

4 pears, Bosc is best
24 oz (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tbs cornstarch or tapioca
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tbs port wine
3 tbs cold butter, cut into bits

Pie pastry, top and bottom crusts, for a 9-inch pie plate.

Preheat oven to 375° with rack in lowest position.

Peel and core pears, slicing 2 into eighths, the other into chunks. In a large bowl, toss pears, cranberries, brown sugar, cornstarch, and spices until fruit is evenly coated. Add vanilla and port, and stir until combined. Pour into pie shell and gently press fruit until evenly dispersed. Your pie will be high. Dot with butter. Top with pie pastry vented as you desire. You can simply cut slits for steam if you aren’t up for the challenge of cut-outs or lattice work. Need ideas? Martha has some for you, or be creative. I’ve spelled out words, cutout leaves and hearts, and made my own fake lattice. I like to make cutouts by hand, but you can use cookie cutters.

Bake on lowest rack for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°, move to middle rack, and bake for 40-45 minutes longer, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool on wire rack.

Let’s look at pretty pictures now.

Posing pears and ingredients

I like to mix the fruit together before adding the other ingredients

Mmm.... Port

Your pie will be high

Another perfect pie by Miss Petunia Buttercup

I suggest serving warm with vanilla ice cream

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Buttercup’s Bourbon Pecan Pie

Hello, pie lovers! I hope that by now you have mastered your pie pastry skills and are prepared to impress your Thanksgiving guests with your mad pie skillz. If not, well, you best get crackin’.

I am nuts about pecans, as proven by my Magical Mystery Pecan Pie and Praline Pecan Pumpkin Pie, so it was only natural that I would whip up another nutty pie before the big feast. (Spoiler alert: Sweet Potato Souffle Pie is next on my list.)

Being a fan of bourbon, I was immediately attracted to this Bourbon Pecan Pie recipe by the butter-lovin’ Paula Deen. Of course I had to jazz it up a bit and make it my own. More nuts! More spice! More baking time because it was not even close to being set in the time Paula recommended! I find that a lot with pie recipes, which is very annoying. Aren’t you glad you have me to save you from pie-tastrophes?

Buttercup’s Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 cup sugar
3 tbs butter, melted
½ cup dark corn syrup
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups pecan halves
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper (about 4-5 turns of the grinder)
dash salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbs good bourbon (I used Blanton’s, Knob Creek or Basil Hayden’s are also good)
1 9-inch pie pastry, unbaked

Preheat oven to 375°
Stir together sugar, salt, and melted butter in a large bowl. Add the corn syrup and eggs, mix well. Stir in bourbon, vanilla, nutmeg, and pepper. Add pecans and stir until combined. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on the lowest rack. Move pie to middle rack and lower temperature to 350°. Bake for an additional 45 minutes or until pie is set. Cool on a wire rack.

Look at the pretty pictures for inspiration.

Assemble your ingredients before you start measuring and mixing

I present my perfect pie pastry. Superior to Pillsbury and no lard!

Mix the sugar, salt, and melted butter until it looks like this

Mmm... Bourbon. Use only good quality bourbon if you want a good quality pie

Freshly grated nutmeg is so much better than the stuff in jars

Stir in the pecans after combining the rest of the ingredients

Carefully pour filling into your prepared pie shell

Who's ready to get baked?

Fresh from the oven and baked with lovin'

Happiness is the perfect slice and pie bokeh

You Are Too Sweet

No, really. You are way too sweet. Not you, sweet love, who always opens the door for me. I like that. I’m talking to you, Brown Sugar Pie. Goodness, why did I think you would be good?

Well, you were good at first, and then you just became too much, kind of like that sweet guy who calls to check up on you but then keeps calling and texting until you want to heave your phone (or him) off a cliff. (Don’t worry; we don’t have cliffs in Florida.)

After the third bite my love said, “this pie is not for Wilford Brimley.”

Do you have diabeetis? Then let’s dance!!

Seriously, though. I found the recipe in “Southern Living Homestyle Cooking” and added my own bit of flair. It was super easy, just one bowl. Measure, dump, mix, and pour. I like that. But it was really freakin’ sweet.

I used a basic all-shortening pastry because I didn’t have enough butter. (Travesty, I know.) I also added some spices because it had the sugar and everything nice, but was missing something. Try it if you dare.

Brown Sugar Pie

½ cup butter, melted
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 9-inch pie pastry

Beat butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and spices in a large mixing bowl until blended. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

There is such a thing as too damn sweet

Chocolate Meringue: Three Pies a Charm

Pardon my absence, again. I heard the call of the cool Carolina mountain air and had to run. Glorious, it was. Low temps, lack of humidity and mosquitoes, a gorgeous mountain man to pitch a tent and light my fire. Twas all good.

Hello, pie lovers. I’m here to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of cream pies, or How I Lost My Shit While Trying to Reach Pie-vana.

Remember when I told you how pie should not make you cry? Yeah, well, I am speaking from experience. Pie made me cry, ruined my evening, and made my love look at me funny. It’s pie. Don’t cry. Please learn from my pie mistakes.

The first pie on my One Pie a Week journey (yes, the basis of My Piary), was Chocolate Meringue. Easy, I thought. I even cheated and used a frozen pie crust because I wanted to perfect a filling and meringue before moving on to perfecting the pastry. Oh, I am so glad I did. The first pie was such a huge FAIL. In the trash it went, as tears dripped off my cheeks and curses blew from my lungs. Stupid pie. Stupid, stupid pie.

It was and it wasn’t my fault. I accept responsibility for not reading more about cream pies before attempting this, but I also blame a crappy recipe for not explaining more about the cream pie process. If only I’d read my mother’s cookbook first.

How to cook cream pie fillings

Both cooking time and temperature are important when preparing cream pie fillings. Under- and overcooking can cause runny fillings. Set a timer for exact minutes specifies in recipe. Cook fillings over moderately high heat. Too high a heat cooks mixture too quickly; too low a heat results in excessively long cooking.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

If only I had read that first. If only. Le sigh.

Here is the Rich Chocolate Meringue Pie recipe I used with my own twists, like using dark cocoa powder instead of the regular and cutting back on the sugar. Thanks to Paula Deen for the excellent Mile-High Meringue recipe, but not for the vague cooking instructions of the pie filling. I will fill you in on the details of what to look for in your cream filling for doneness, so don’t you worry. I guess Ms. Deen was too busy licking the butter off her fingers to make sure her minions wrote a proper recipe.

During my first attempt, the mixture was too runny. I needed to bump up the heat and look for bubbles and a certain thickness that Paula failed to tell me about. It was my first pie. I messed it up. I was very upset. I cried. Pie should not make you cry.

Rich Chocolate Meringue Pie

1⁄2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1⁄2 cups whole milk
5 egg yolks, slightly beaten; reserve whites for Mile-High Meringue
2 tbs butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) pre-baked pie crust; homemade or store-bought

Oven 325°

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine cocoa, flour, and sugar. Gradually stir in milk and egg yolks. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until mixture is bubbling. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes, until big bubbles rise to the surface and the whisk leaves trails along the bottom of the pan. The cream filling should look like pudding. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Pour mixture into baked pie crust. Prepare Mile-High Meringue. Using a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon, spread meringue over hot filling, sealing to edge of pie crust. Bake for 20-23 minutes, until meringue has golden peaks. Cool completely on a wire rack. The filling will run if you cut into the pie while it is still warm, although it will taste delicious. Store in refrigerator for up to three days. It is even better the next day.

Make pretty peaks for sticking it in the oven

You Can Have Cookies for Crust

The topic of pies came up the other night while sharing beers with friends. (I know, right? How random. Pie.) And someone mentioned they don’t like pastry pie crust, but they do like cookie crusts. I started thinking about all of the cookies I could use for crusts. Mmm…. Cookies.

I made an Oreo crust for the Grasshopper Pie. And a— wait a minute. Oh my! Look at all of these OREO pie recipes!! I’m so easily distracted by pie and recipes….

I’ll have to check that out later because I want to talk about how easy cookie crusts really are. Plus they are delicious. Graham crackers are the classic. I think my sister uses some kind of almond cookie for her awesome cheesecake, and that would make a delicious pie crust, too. I used a package of Pepperidge Farms shortbread cookies for a Mandarin Orange Cheesecake Pie (recipe TK!) a few weeks ago, and that was darn tasty.

I noticed that a lot of the older cookbooks recommend Zweibacks as a cookie to crumble for a crust. Man, I loved those teething biscuits. Seriously. Crunchy goodness. Sounds kind of odd for a crumb crust, though. Maybe it’s just me.

A few cookies I recommend are Anna’s Thins (any flavor, but ginger rocks), LU’s le Petit Beurres, and, most importantly, Jules Destrooper‘s Almond Thins or Butter Crumbles. Yumness right there.

The basic recipe is about 2 cups of cookie crumbs and 2-4 tbs butter, melted. You may need more butter if the crumbs feel too dry. Depending on the size of the cookie an your pie plate, you may use 12-24 cookies. You can either use a food processor, or put the cookies in a Ziploc bag and smack the heck out of them with a rolling pin. That’s how I like to do it. With a rolling pin. Trust me.

Mix the crumbs and melted butter together and press into a pie plate.  You can cover with plastic wrap and press a smaller pie plate into the crust to get it even. Or you can use the bottom of a glass to do the same thing. Just make sure that you press the crumbs evenly on the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes in a preheated 350° oven and let cool on a wire rack before filling. There’s your crust.

I have seen recipes, like this one for Nabisco’s FAMOUS® Chocolate Wafer crust, that add sugar to the crumbs and butter. More sugar? I don’t think it’s necessary.  (So I have to point this out, but does Nabisco own the rights to shouting “FAMOUS!!” or just the word FAMOUS in all caps? Weird. Oh, shit! I probably owe them money now.)

That’s pretty much it. Go ahead and have yo’ cookie crust!

Any questions?

Oh, My Cherry-Berry Pie

Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen library Pies & Tarts book I checked out from my local library, I have created one outstanding non-sour cherry pie. I am so excited that the crust came out absolutely perfect. Hooray! I used the basic/my new favorite pate brisee. Here it is again for those late to the game:

Pate Brisee

2 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tbs ice water

Using your hands, a food processor, or stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients. Add butter and coat with flour before mixing. Mix until a coarse meal forms. You will still see pieces of butter. Add water one tablespoon at a time until dough sticks together and forms large clumps. Pat dough together in a ball, cut in half, and form two discs on waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill at least two hours or over night. Remove from fridge 15 minutes before rolling.

Now I put my own twist on the recipe, because that’s what I like to do.

Cherry-Berry Pie

2 tbs quick-cooking tapioca
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
3 cups pitted cherries
1 cup raspberries
2 cups blackberries
2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into bits for dotting top of pie

Preheat oven to 425°. Roll out your pastry and stick in the pan, just like I’ve told you so many times before. Stick it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before crimping the edge. The secret is keeping the pastry cool. This will give you flaky, non-soggy crust. Trust me.

While the pastry is chillin’, dump the tapioca, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together, then add the cherries and the berries and mix well.  (About the pitted cherries: Easy peasy, but they will stain your fingers, so wear plastic gloves if you are prissy like that.)

Take the chilled pie shell out of the fridge and spoon the fruit into the shell. Yes, spoon it all in, then pour the liquid on top. This will also help keep your pastry from getting a soggy bottom. Dot with cold bits of butter and top with the other pastry round.

You can do a lattice-top, have a plain top crust with vents cut for steam, or you can get all fancy with pastry cut-outs. So many options!

Bake in the lower part of the oven at 425° for 25 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°, place pie in center of oven and put a parchment-lined pan on the rack below the pie to catch any drips. Bake about 25-35 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and juices are bubbling. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm with vanilla ice cream (or however you wish, but ice cream ROCKS!)

Look at pretty pictures now?

Pose for me, berries, then I will make you into pie!

Best pie pastry yet. Makes me happy

The darker the berry, right? And that buttah! Yum

All of my pies are made with love

Flaky Like Me

Pie pastry needs butter for flavor and shortening for flakiness. Pastry dough needs to chill and relax, so yes, I’m going to say it: Your pastry must chillax. Be gentle with your dough. Pie pastry is tricky. It needs to be kept at the perfect temperature and handled with care. The dough cannot be too wet or too dry. Conditions must be perfect for dough to give you what you want: a delicious, buttery, flaky, golden crust.

I promised that I would tell you all about my pie disasters, and I will, but I want to start with a success. Pie perfection. I’m talking tiara, sash, and pageant tears perfection. Right off the blocks. (I’m a swimmer, I say “off the blocks” rather than “out of the blocks,” so, whatever.) The pie I needed to be perfect baked up perfectly. But before I can even tell you about the perfect pie, I need to start with the perfect crust.

I did a lot of research to find the perfect pie pastry. Duh, I’m a librarian! I am keeping a bibliography of resources I like (lists! I love lists!) and will create a tab just for that. If you can only check out three books today, these are the ones you should get. Now, I am telling you to go to your public library to check out the books. Do not buy them. Once you check out several pie cookbooks and find the one that you like, then you can ride your bike to your local independent bookseller to buy it. Peace, love, and pies, man. Peace, love, and pies.

  1. Baking with Julia is a fantastic reference for the beginning baker. Not really pie-heavy, but an excellent primer for pastry and full of drool-worthy recipes and delicious photographs. (You can find Julia’s pie pastry tips on the PBS website. And if you like public television, make a donation while you’re there.)
  2. Ken Haedrich’s book Pie: 300 tried-and-true recipes for delicious homemade pie is a big book. That’s a lot of pie. I like Ken and I like his style. (Shhhhh! Don’t tell, but you can find the perfect pastry tips and more on Google books.)
  3. Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies is pretty cute and a nice reference for a “Southern” girl like me. Yes, it’s a joke. I was born in South Florida, but now live in North Florida, which is the “Southern” part of the state. It’s South Georgia, really. I love grits and bake pies. That’s Southern enough.  (Take a peek at her basic tips on Amazon.)

From my extensive research and limited experience, I can honestly tell you that this is the easiest and tastiest pie crust you can have in your recipe box. I agree with Julia Child that “heaven forbid” you should have just one pie pastry recipe, this would be it. This is my variation of Julia’s Flaky Pie Dough from Baking with Julia.

This recipe will make four 9-inch shells or two double-crusts. I halved it the first time just to make sure I liked it. It is perfect, so now I make the big batch and freeze the two or three balls I don’t use. Tee hee! It is so much work to get all of the ingredients out and measure and then put everything away, that it saves time to mix up a bigger batch of dough. So there you go.

Did you read Julia’s tips? I’m serious, now. Make sure the water is ice cold. Put the shortening in the freezer and the butter in the fridge. Keep the dough cold. Let it rest. It takes patience for perfection. I promised my Canadian photographer friend that I would give her my perfect pie crust recipe and this is it.

2 ½ cups pastry flour (unbleached, organic, or what you prefer)

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (unbleached, organic, or what you prefer)

1 tbs kosher salt

1 ½ sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes and kept cold (REAL BUTTAH!)

1 ¾ cups solid vegetable shortening, cut into cubes and kept cold (Crisco sticks, or whatever you like)

1 cup ice water

Now it is up to you to decide if you are going to do it by hand or with a mixer. I did it by hand until my pie taster gave me a beautiful KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. {cue Heavenly Angels singing} The mixer works really quickly. Doing it by hand gives your arms a good workout. (Yes, that is what I said.) You can use a pastry blender or two knives, or you can just use your fingertips. Whatever you choose, do not overwork your dough. Keep it cool and let it rest.

Are you measuring properly? Do not scoop the flour, spoon the flour.

Spooning the flour into your cups gives you perfect measurements

Once you measure and mix your flour and salt, toss the butter cubes in and cover them in flour before you begin to cut them into the flour.

Toss your butter cubes in the flour to coat before mixing

You want to achieve coarse crumbs. Do not let the butter get warm.

Coarse crumbs achieved by magic fingers

Cut in the shortening next, the same as you did the butter, working to achieve small clumps.

Ooooh! Coarser crumbs achieved with a little forking

Add the ice water 1 tbs at a time, mixing just to incorporate. You want the dough moist, not wet.

How cold is my water? ICE COLD!

You may not need all the water and that is OK. Once the dough really starts clinging to itself, it is ready.

Oh, that feels nice and moist

Gently form into a ball and halve. Halve those two balls and gently pat into a small round and wrap in plastic wrap.

Wrapped and ready to chill

Refrigerate the dough you are using and freeze the rest. Refrigerated dough should be used within a week; the frozen dough will keep 6 months if wrapped properly. Let the dough chill for at least an hour before rolling.

I like to roll the dough out between two sheets of lightly floured waxed paper.

Ready to rock and roll

Roll out the dough to the width of the paper for a 12-inch circle. Be gentle. Keep the dough cold. I keep returning the dough to the freezer to let it rest. While the dough rests, I clean up the kitchen and have a beer. Beer, rolling, freezing, cleaning. You get it. I like a clean kitchen and a cold beer.

I’ve tried all methods but I prefer to roll the dough around my rolling pin and place it into the pie plate.

Let's do this!

Easy as pie. Gently press the dough into the pie plate and trim around the edges leaving enough overlap to crimp into a pretty crust. Keep the scraps to decorate a double-crust. (This is where I got busy with my crust and forgot to take photos. Photos to come with next pie, I promise.) Now it’s time to put that baby in the freezer to rest for about 10-15 minutes.

And this is the time when I leave you. Wha-hat?!?! Why would I abandon you now? Because you need to figure out what kind of pie you are going to bake. Some pies require blind-baking and pie weights, others need an egg wash, plus there are variations of crimping to discuss. It gets complicated and this post is already way too long. Besides, you need to study the materials I gave you before you attempt that crust. A pie pastry fail is totally discouraging. We want pie perfection.

~Peace, love, and pies