Tag Archives: food photography

Late to the Pi Party

Those who live in colder climes tend to think of strawberries as a sign of summer. Living in Florida means finding local strawberries from December to April, and we are peaking right about now. Oh, yeah. Spring is in the air and strawberries are everywhere. Aren’t we lucky?

One of the first pies I made when I started this project was a Strawberry Icebox Pie. It was delicious. As of late, I’ve been itching to make a baked strawberry pie. I thought it would be the perfect pie for Pi Day, which was March 14. As you can see, I am late to the Pi party. All I can say is that it’s not easy to bake a pie after work in the middle of the week. Pies take time. No one likes to feel rushed. Pie should not make you cry.

I can say that it was worth the delay. This is one of my favorite pies I’ve made. My best pastry, yet, no doubt. The key to a tasty and flaky pastry is letting the dough rest for at least an hour before rolling and keeping it cool while working it. Don’t rush it and never let it get too soft. I put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes after rolling, after pressing it into the pan, and after crimping. After finishing the top crust, I put the pie in the freezer for a few minutes to let it firm up before sticking it in the hot oven. It’s the little things that make a difference.

I just used a standard fruit pie recipe. You can use any berries, stone, or hard fruit, really. A little lemon juice and nutmeg really bring out the flavor of the fruit without overpowering. Use more or less fruit depending if you want a smaller or taller pie. Feel free to add another ¼-½ cup of sugar, or brown sugar, if you like it sweeter or if the berries are too tart. If the filling looks too juicy after stirring, add 1-2 tbs cornstarch to thicken it a bit. I also recommend placing a cookie sheet or a spill-mat beneath the pie to catch any drips.

Baked Strawberry Pie

4-6 cups (2-3 quarts) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
½ cup sugar
¼ cup tapioca or flour
pinch salt
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp grated nutmeg
3 tbs cold butter, cut into bits

2 9-inch prepared pie pastries

Preheat oven to 425°.

Press one pie pastry into 9-inch pie plate. Place pastry in freezer while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, toss sliced strawberries with sugar, tapioca or flour, salt, lemon juice, and nutmeg. If strawberry mixture is too juicy, add 1-2 tbs cornstarch.

Spoon into prepared pie pastry. Pour juice over top and dot with butter. Top with remaining pie pastry. Crimp edges and vent as desired.

Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, move pie to middle rack and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. (I used a pie crust shield for the last 10 minutes to keep the edges from becoming too brown.)

Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Time for pretty pie pictures.

Florida strawberries pose for a still life

The ingredient lineup

Hull and slice 2-3 quarts of fresh strawberries

Pour some sugar on those berries

Now pour some tapioca on there

A little freshly grated nutmeg mingles nicely with the fruit

Freshly squeezed lemon juice complements the sweet berries

Gently spoon the berries into the prepared pie pastry

Dot with butter before adding your top crust

My pie talks nerdy to me

Pretty and delicious. The baked strawberry pie is a new favorite

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Hot Buttered Rum Raisin Pie

I must first apologize for the piatus. I started a new job (yay!) and I’m still adjusting to the schedule. It’s all good, though. I’m finding my groove and I even had time to bake two pies this past weekend, Grits and Dark Chocolate Mocha Meringue. Yum! But you already have those recipes. This post is about a new pie I’ve added to my repertoire.

Two weeks ago I finally got around to making a raisin pie. It had been on my list but I kept passing it over in favor of other pies. I like raisins, but I just wasn’t sure about a whole pie of raisins. Man, I had no idea how delicious it would be.

The raisin pie is also known as Funeral Pie. For real. From what I’ve read, it’s an Amish thing. Someone dies, you make a pie with what you have on hand. Apparently the Amish always have raisins on hand. I usually have raisins in my cupboard, too, so I had everything I needed to make this pie. Because of the timing, I also called this my Whitney Houston Memorial Pie.

I took the basic raisin pie recipe and kicked it up a notch with a little rum and more spice. Since I had Hot Buttered Rum batter on hand (recipe below), I just used that in my pie. Worked like a charm. I have the breakdown of the spices in my original pie recipe. Either way, it is darn tasty.

Hot Buttered Rum Raisin Pie

2 cups raisins
½ cup Bacardi gold rum
1½ cups water
½ cup packed brown sugar (I used dark, but light works fine)
4 tbs butter
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
1 tbs cider vinegar
2 tbs cornstarch
¼ tsp salt

2 9-inch prepared pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425°.

Put raisins in small bowl. Add rum and let the raisins get drunk as you prepare the pie pastry or prep the other ingredients.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together water, salt, and cornstarch. Bring to boil. Stir in hot butter rum batter or brown sugar, butter, and spices until combined. Add raisins, vinegar, and rum. Return to boil and let simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until syrup thickens. Let cool slightly.

Pour filling into 9-inch prepared pie pastry. Top with second crust. Crimp edges and vent as desired.

Place pie on bottom rack and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and move pie to middle rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and crust is golden. Use a pie crust shield or foil tent to keep the edges of the crust from becoming too brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

~ ~ ~

Now, let  me tell you about that Hot Buttered Rum. I found this recipe a few years ago and my friends loved it. Oh, my. It is a tasty beverage. I made a batch of the batter during the holidays and stuck it in the freezer. I used ½ cup, packed, for my pie. Yum.

Tony’s Hot Buttered Rum Batter
1 lb light brown sugar
½ lb unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tsp vanilla extract

To make Batter:
In a mixing bowl beat together softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and spices until well combined. Refrigerate in an airtight reusable container for up to a month, or place in your freezer until ready to use.

To make Hot Buttered Rum:
In a coffee mug combine 2 heaping tablespoons batter with 1 ½ oz. Mount Gay Rum or any dark rum. Top with boiling water and stir well to mix. Serve with a cinnamon stick.

It is best to make the batter in advance so the spices have an opportunity to mingle. Be sure to remove batter from refrigerator an hour prior to serving to allow it to soften.

Time for pretty pictures. This was a pretty fun pie to make.

The ingredient lineup

These raisins are about to get drunk

Let the raisins soak in rum for at least 20 minutes

This just looks like black bean soup to me

Pour the raisins into your prepared pie crust

Spread the raisin mixture evenly before topping with other crust

I cut out circles to make pretty vents in my top crust

Then I carefully topped my pie with my pretty pastry

Seal the edges of pastry and trim or crimp excess dough

Now that’s a pretty pie!

I have an awesome pie crust shield to keep the edges from becoming too brown

Baked to perfection

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter is a popular pie for potlucks. It is a pretty simple icebox pie that even non-bakers can whip up in no time. I have never been a fan of peanut butter pies (or potlucks, for that matter) because they are usually cloyingly sweet or too salty. I blame the cloyingly sweet part on the usage of Cool Whip. I just don’t get Cool Whip. (I don’t get Miracle Whip, either, but that’s another story.)

Homemade whipped cream is simple: heavy cream, sugar, a little vanilla. When you make your own, you can control the sweetness. You just have to be careful to stop mixing when you reach soft peaks, because it will go from whipped cream to butter in the blink of an eye. Although, making butter is fun, too. I used to do this activity with the kids when I was an after-school group leader. (Kids love craft projects they can eat.)

Back to the pie. The whipped cream I make for this pie contains no sugar because there is already sugar in the pie. I do not add salt because peanut butter is already salty enough. Of course, using some kind of hippie health food, no-salt, no-sugar peanut butter will give you different results. That’s fine if that is how you roll, but be aware that you may need to add salt and your favorite natural sweetener to make a palatable pie.

I am not a choosy mom, but I still choose Jif because my choosy mom chose Jif. I like the taste and the texture better than other brands. You can use the peanut butter you prefer, just make sure it’s smooth. Part of the appeal of this pie is the creamy texture. Peanut bits that will invariably get stuck in your teeth will ruin the effect, plus your friends with diverticulitis (Remember Doug and Wendy Whiner?) won’t be able to eat it.

While you can pick up a ready-made crumb crust at the grocery, I implore you to make your own crust. It is so easy and so much better.

Peanut Butter Pie

Crust
1½ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about one sleeve)
5 tbs butter, melted
1 tbs sugar

Mix and press into pie plate. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1½ cups smooth peanut butter
1 tbs vanilla
1½ cups heavy cream

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Set aside. Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Stir in 1/3 of whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream. Spoon into cooled pie crust and refrigerate at least four hours before serving. Garnish with a sprinkling of cookie crumbs or a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

I remembered to take more photos this time, except during the whipped cream part. I am easily distracted by whipped cream.

The obligatory ingredient lineup

Chocolate graham cracker crumbs. Chocolate cookie crumbs work, too

Mmm.... Butter! Do not skimp on the butter; four tablespoons really isn't enough

Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to evenly press the crumbs into the pie plate

Completely cool the crumb crust on a wire rack before filling

Beat the powdered sugar and cream cheese until fluffy

Ooooh! That's fluffy!

Now it's time to add the peanut, peanut butter (hold the jelly)

Confession: I rarely measure vanilla extract

Beat in the peanut butter and vanilla until it looks like this

Use a spatula to gently fold in the whipped cream

Peanut-buttery goodness ready to become a pie

Gently fill the crumb crust and make it look pretty

I sprinkled cookie crumbs on top just to pretty it up a bit

After chilling for four hours, the pie sliced up perfectly

Bring on the Pecans

We are moments away from the autumnal equinox and although it is still hot and humid in Florida, the craving for all things pumpkin spice and pecan is strong. I am not quite ready to jump into my plethora of pumpkin recipes (give me a few weeks), but I have already gone nutty for pecan pie.

Well, not just any pecan pie. I have more than a handful of recipes I plan on trying over the next few months, but I could not wait to try my own version of Paula Deen’s Mystery Pecan Pie. What’s the big mystery, you ask? Cream cheese! I do love me some cream cheese. Cream cheese makes everything better.

But I have to point out the lack of butter in this recipe. Wha-hat? No, BUTTAH? I know, right? A Paula Deen recipe without butter. She must be losing it. I almost lost it, but then I remembered that there was a whole stick of butter in my pie pastry (yes, in just the bottom crust), so I felt a whole lot butter, er, I mean better. Phew! But just the idea that there is a Paula Deen recipe that doesn’t call for even a bit of butter is baffling, don’t you think?

Anyway, I’ve adapted her recipe to take it to my level of awesome. Trust me. My pastry was already prepared, so this was super easy to assemble. I made it the day before the FSU-Oklahoma Tailgate party and it was a winner, unlike the FSU Seminoles. Oh, well. At least my USF Bulls beat the crap out of the other Tallahassee school, FAMU. Woohoo!

I’d make this pie again, for sure. I may try to leave out the dreaded light corn syrup next time. We’ll see. It’s all about experimentation on My Piary.

Magical Mystery Pecan Pie

1 9″ deep dish pie pastry, unbaked
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1¼ cups chopped pecans

Topping
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Use a hand-mixer to blend together cream cheese, 1 egg, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg until smooth. Spread into bottom of unbaked pie pastry and top with chopped pecans.

Mix all topping ingredients together and pour on top of pecans. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes, or until crust is golden and top of pie is puffy.

Cool on wire rack. Can be served at room temperature or refrigerated overnight.

Look at pretty pictures now? Yes, please!

Always assemble your ingredients before cracking the first egg; you don't want to forget anything

I prefer chopping nuts by hand, but you can use a mini food processor or nut-chopper, if you wish

Ah, the magical mystery part of the pie tour. Mmm.... Cream cheese!

All of my pies are baked with love. It's the love that makes it awesome!

Look at the pretty pecans! Yeah, don't bother doing this, mkay? Why? Well....

That's why. Yeah, I forgot about pouring on the topping and making a pecan mess

It comes out of the oven looking awfully pretty, though, and darn tasty!

She’s Plum Crazy Pie

Now I am just making stuff up. The end of the summer fruit season is leaving me as weary as the North Florida heat and humidity. Sure, school has started, and Labor Day is waving in the distance, but it is a far cry from feeling like fall here in the true Southern U.S.

I have an amazing stash of autumnal pie recipes itching to fall out of my recipe box but I’m still wearing shorts and sandals, so the pecans and pumpkins must wait.

A plethora of plums in the market had me searching for a plum pie recipe. Plum pie? Yeah, right. Sounds crazy. Plum crazy. I found that good ol’ Martha has a Bottom Crust Plum Pie recipe which was just ripe for revision. After spotting blueberries on sale, I knew what I could concoct to take the plums to the next level. (Never underestimate the power of the blueberry. Antioxidants in my pie! Oh my!)

Use the basic pie pastry recipe, or the pie pastry of your choice. Also, while I prefer the tapioca to control the juiciest of pies, you can also use flour or cornstarch. About 2-3 tbs to ¼ cup should do the trick depending on the juiciness of your fruit. Mmm hmm….

Blueberry Plum Crazy Pie

2 lbs (6 cups) plums, washed, halved, pitted, and sliced
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries, washed
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup tapioca
1-2 tbs fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp fresh, grated nutmeg
2 tbs cold butter, cut into small bits
2 tbs milk and granulated sugar for the top crust

Preheat oven to 400°, with rack set in lowest position. Prepare pastry as usual. Keep it chill!

Mix tapioca, sugar, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in fruit and lemon juice and let sit until the juices start flowing. Set aside as you work on your pastry. Spoon fruit into unbaked pie shell and pour liquid on top. Dot with butter pieces and top with pastry. Be sure to vent the top crust with basic slits or fancy cutouts. Brush pastry with milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes on lowest rack. Lower temp to 375° and bake on middle rack for another 20-30 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Tip: Place a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet beneath the pie to catch any juices that dribble out of the pie.

Cool on a wire rack for a few hours before serving.

Always make your fruit pose for you before baking

One pint of blueberries equals two cups

Slice in half, remove pit, then slice in thirds or quarters

Two pounds of plums equals about 6 cups

Half a lemon should give you 1-2 tbs of juice

Freshly grated nutmeg is the best

Just call me Madam Mix-a-Lot

So, I kind of forgot to take a few photos here while I was in the pie groove. Here’s the pie fresh from the oven. It smelled heavenly.

Made with lovin' and fresh from the oven