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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

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Miss Petunia’s Grits Pie

I discovered Paula Deen’s recipe for Grits Pie four years ago while searching for a birthday cake alternative for my grits-lovin’ lover.  Never did I imagine such a thing existed, let alone tasted so magically delicious. It was the only pie I had ever baked before starting MyPiary.

I have baked this pie with my dear friend Daniel many times, and it always receives rave reviews. People who dislike grits still love this pie. I’m thinking it has something to do with all the buttah.

While the original recipe calls for buttermilk, I have a hard time justifying buying an entire quart of buttermilk (the only size I can find in my Publix, where shopping is a pleasure), when I can easily make my own sour dairy product. I also like to add more vanilla, and sometimes a little bourbon, to kick it up a notch. I only use the slow-cooking, old-fashioned grits and a homemade pastry, because I’m worth it. Oh, my pie-eaters are totally worth it, too.

Miss Petunia’s Grits Pie

¾ cup water
dash salt
¼ cup old fashioned grits
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 tbs flour
3 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup half & half
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs bourbon, optional
1 9-inch prepared, unbaked pie pastry

Preheat oven to 325°. Add lemon juice to half & half to make “buttermilk” and set aside. Bring water and salt to a boil in a small pan. Add grits and cook for 5-7 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Add vanilla and stir. Let cool slightly. Beat eggs in medium bowl. Add sugar and stir until combined. Stir in flour and half & half. Slowly stir in cooled grits. Pour into prepared, unbaked pie shell. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until set. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or cold. The pie is tasty as is, or it can be topped with a warm berry compote for extra deliciousness.

Let’s look at photo documentation now.

The ingredient lineup

Making the grits

A whole stick of buttah? You betcha!

Mix the butter and grits well, then add vanilla and bourbon

Mix all ingredients well before pouring into pie shell

Homemade pie pastry is so much better

My crust looks a little wonky, but it's still delicous

Yes, you can have a slice of grits pie for breakfast

Ginger-Pear Crumble Pie

What started as a simple project challenging myself to bake a different pie every week for a year, has turned into a project of finding unusual pie recipes and making up some of my own. I found that I like to put my own twist on the standards as much as I enjoy creating new flavor combinations.  And even though I fear some of the crazy pies I read about (a sweet, not savory, Green Tomato Pie?), I am willing to take a few risks.

For example, my friend over at Forgotten Bookmarks recently shared with me a recipe he found for Prune Meringue Pie. PRUNE! MERINGUE! PIE! That is just crazy enough for me to try. It also leaves me craving more crazy pie recipes. Do you have any unusual pie recipes to share? Please post a comment or e-mail them to mypiary@gmail.com. I will give you proper credit if I bake your crazy pie.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I recently mixed up this lovely Ginger-Pear Pie with a crumble topping. The fresh ginger gives it a nice kick. My pears were not quite ripe, so they were a little crunchy but still tasty. I added nuts to my crumble topping, but they can be omitted if you are not a fan of nuts. I happen to be a huge fan of nuts. Mmm…. Nuts!

Ginger-Pear Crumble Pie

2 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
2 tbs cornstarch
pinch salt
4 ripe, yet firm, Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 9-inch prepared, unbaked pie pastry

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup cold butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375°, with rack in middle position. Place a spill mat or cookie sheet covered with foil on the rack below to catch any drips.

In a small pan, melt butter with vanilla and grated ginger over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes, until butter is frothy and light brown. Remove from heat.

Place chopped pears in a medium bowl. Pour butter mixture through a sieve over pears. Stir and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until well combined. Whisk in lemon juice, then flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir into pear mixture until combined.

Pour into a 9-inch prepared (unbaked) pie crust. Top with crumble topping and bake about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. I served mine warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

Time for a few pretty photos. Just a few. I sometimes get too wrapped up in the baking and I forget to take enough snaps. Sorry about that. I will try to be better about documenting the entire process without sacrificing the pie.

Here's the ingredient lineup

And another view of the ingredients, just because

Grate the peeled ginger right into the melting butter while avoiding grated fingertips

Evenly top the ginger-pear filling with crumb topping

Baked to perfection

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

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

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

Once You Go Blackberry….

If I had to pick a favorite berry, it would definitely be the blackberry. The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice, right? I used to pick wild blackberries in a field near my childhood home in Sarasota. There was something dangerous and exciting about picking the berries, like we thought there was a slight chance they were poisonous and all of us neighborhood kids would be dead by sunset. As you can see, we survived. And those blackberries were exceptionally tasty. Mmm…. Danger tastes good. Plus blackberries are just so darn pretty.

Still Life with Blackberries

This is one of the pies I baked with my defective “perfect” pastry, the dough was too moist and just crumbled apart. Yes, I was sad but pie should not make you cry, so I sucked it up and enjoyed the deliciousness of my ugly pie.

Again, this a pretty standard recipe for all types of fruit pies. So easy and delicious.

Blackberry Pie

4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs flour
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs unsalted butter (cut up in small pieces)

Mix berries with sugar, flour, and lemon juice. Pour into prepared pie pastry. Dot with butter and top with lattice crust or whole crust sliced with steam vents and decorated as you wish. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for about an hour, or until bubbling and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and love

Look how pretty all plopped in a pie

And here is my failed lattice top. *sigh* Looks more like snakes.

I will report that my official taste-tester declared this pie to be the best he’d ever had.  Two thumbs up and sweet declarations of yumminess. So my theory of taste over looks still stands. WINNING!