Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Holidays to Me

Hello Pie Princess!

I saw your blog about the Path of 1,000 Pies. The world is honored you choose to make pies. I used to live and work in Madison, WI.

Good pies to you, Pie Princess.

Anne Dimock

Monday, December 20, 2010

Party-time Pumpkin



I made this pumpkin pie for one of the holiday parties my family attended. In many aspects, it was the best pumpkin pie I have made yet. The crust was perfect - even thickness, perfect browning, no slouchy or cracked walls. Because the crust was perfect, I was able to load it up a little higher with the filling. The result was pure indulgence. My one complaint was that the pumpkin was a little underdone for my liking. I roasted the enormous pie pumpkin I grew over the summer for this one. Even though I hacked it into manageable sections, I should have left it in the oven a bit longer. No one else noticed the difference luckily. In fact, one party guest admitted he didn't like pumpkin pie, but he sure liked mine. I feel the same way.

For a preview of Christmas pies, I bring you visions of pecan and apple...and hopefully an exciting surprise.

Current Pie Tally: 41

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Next Time Make It a Double



I made a lemon meringue pie over the weekend for a gracious woman who agreed to store my family's bicycles over the winter. One tandem cruiser and two adult mountain bikes neatly tucked away indoors a few blocks away in exchange for one lemon meringue pie. My one regret is that I didn't make two pies, so that I could have kept one for personal devouring. As I was whipping the meringue topping, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, I really should have made two of these. It wouldn't have been hardly any extra work." Ah well, next time. I think the above single meringue pie came out pretty well, judging from the compliments from the recipient, but it is hard to tell for sure. I fear the meringue may have been a little runny. Granted, it was a soggy day when it was delivered anyway. Apologies if the meringue wasn't quite right.

For the above pie, I used this lemon meringue pie recipe. I made one substitution, which was that I used arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch (in the same quantities).

Current Pie Tally: 40

Friday, December 3, 2010

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie



Herb Crust (top and bottom crust)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
10.5 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4.5 T. ice water (or more if dough is still too dry)

Blend the dry ingredients and herbs in a food processor until well-blended. Add butter and process until mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 3 T. of the ice water. Pulse. Add more water in 1/2 T. increments, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just starts to clump together. Gather dough into 2 balls. Place one ball in the refrigerator. Roll out the other ball and place in pie dish.

Turkey and Vegetable Pot Pie Filling
1 lb. cooked leftover turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 parsnips, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2" pieces
5 oz. package of baby spinach
1/2 onion, diced
2 shallots, diced
1-2 T. olive oil
1 c. chicken gravy (mix 1.5 T soft butter with 1.5 T flour to form a paste; whisk paste into 1 c. hot chicken broth and stir until thickened)

Boil carrots, parsnips, celery, and potatoes in 1 c. chicken broth for about 10 min. in a medium-size pot. Vegetables should be tender. Strain, reserving broth, and transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Saute onion and shallot in oil over medium heat until soft. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Add onion, shallot, and spinach to bowl of vegetables. Add turkey and gravy and mix well. Place ingredients in prepared crust.

Roll out top crust and place over mixture. Crimp and seal edges; cut a hole in the top crust for steam to escape. Bake at 425 F for 20 minutes, then 350 F for about an hour, until the crust is golden and it looks like the filling is bubbly.

Current Pie Tally: 39

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Pies



I traveled down to Iowa City to spend Thanksgiving Day with my brother and sister in law and brought these two pies. I made my popular pumpkin and molasses pecan. Both turned out well, though I think the pecan was a bit too firm from either overcooking or not enough butter. For this version of the pecan pie, I used 1/3 c. unsulphured blackstrap molasses, which I left in the measuring cup and then topped it up to 3/4 c. with real maple syrup. The flavor was good, but boy is that molasses strong. It has an almost licorice bite to it. I'm finally almost out of the high octane stuff, so I'm excited to try local sorghum instead of molasses in the next one.

Current Pie Tally: 38

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey Feast Pumpkin



I celebrated to Thanksgiving meals with different groups of family this year. The first occurred the weekend before Thanksgiving, when my mother came to visit. She cooked us a true turkey feast with all of the fixings and I made us this creamy pumpkin pie from my latest recipe. My only regret is that I sloppily covered it with plastic wrap when it was time to put it in the fridge and I accidentally peeled off the top layer towards the middle of the pie. The leftovers were lacking in aesthetics, but still tasted fabulous.

Current Pie Tally: 36

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pre-Holiday Warm Up with Apple



Apologies for the lack of posting. There will be a flurry of pie posting excitement this week to make up for it - starting with this apple delight. We had no junk food in the house and a bag of apples in the fridge, so I threw this together using my standby apple pie recipe. I used packaged Tropicana orange juice for the fruit juice in this one and unsulphured blackstrap molasses. Freshly squeezed lemon, orange, etc. juice makes for a slightly more flavorful pie and the potent molasses really imparted a pleasant sharpness this time.

As a side note, I think it was a bad year for apples in Wisconsin this year. The only ones I've been happy to eat fresh so far are Russets. All of the Macouns and Cortlands I've purchased have been mealy and watery tasting, but they make decent pies and baby applesauce.

Current Pie Tally: 35

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Orange Colored Day



I made this pie for some dinner guests last Friday. Since then, I've decided those particular dinner guests are my new pie muses. The pie just comes together for them. I made this pie the same as the last pumpkin batch, but I used closer to 2 c. of pureed pumpkin instead of 1.5.

Current Pie Tally: 34

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Six Pies in a Day



It's over, so we can laugh about it now. Six pies in a day doesn't seem like such a bad idea when you've got plenty of sleep under your belt. But when it's 11pm, and the rest of your family has already been asleep for an hour as the apple pie crusts are falling apart beneath your fingertips, the novelty wears off. I got it all done, perhaps against my better judgement, and the pies all came out well - though the bottom apple crusts were definitely ugly. Hobo patch jobs abounded. Luckily the tops came out fine, so I could keep up appearances.

I ended up making four pumpkin pies, and two apple. If I had to do it again, I'd probably make pecan pie instead of apple. Granted the apple allowed me to mix up the filling and freeze the pies a day ahead of time, but the one crust and one-pot filling of the pecan would have been far less labor intensive. Maybe next year. The apple recipe I used is the same one as usual, with two modifications. I used a combination of lemon juice and orange juice for the fruit juice ingredient, and I added 1 t. of Penzey's apple pie spice instead of measuring out each of the different spices. I think the Penzey's mix lacks clove though, and I did miss the clove. I jazzed up the pumpkin recipe with the addition of the Penzey's pumpkin pie spice mix as well. I added 1/2 t. for each pie. The cooking time for the pumpkin was also extended since I baked the four pies all at once. It probably took 45 - 55 minutes for each pie, depending on which rack they were on and what kind of a dish they were in. Oh, and I did have enough filling from three batches of the filling to fill a fourth pie.

If you are curious about what I got done ahead of time, here is the breakdown of the schedule:
Wednesday - cook fresh pie pumpkin, puree, and put in fridge
Thursday - peel and cut apples and prepare apple pie filling and put in fridge
Friday - roll out all crusts, pre-bake pumpkin pie crusts, fill and freeze apple pies
Saturday - prepare pumpkin filling, fill pumpkin pies, and bake all pies

Feedback on the pies was all positive, with more comments being about the pumpkin. My two favorites were: "Do you take orders?" and "It's the fresh cream that really makes it." I will definitely be making quite a few more of these throughout the fall and holiday season.

Current Pie Tally: 33

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Pie


We got invited to dinner at our friends' place last night, which was the perfect opportunity to test out my new pumpkin pie recipe before my catering debut at my husband's conference. The resulting pie is more of a mousse-like cream pie than a traditional dense pumpkin. As such, it received rave reviews.

To create said recipe, I combined my favorite parts of two recipes sent to me by a friend in Virginia. The first is a pumpkin pie recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, and the second is a pumpkin pie recipe from the November & December 2008 issue of Cook's magazine. My aim was to create a pumpkin pie using as many fresh ingredients as possible.

I also should note that this tends to have extra filling leftover. I figure I have enough pumpkin puree from one of my mid-size pumpkins to make a total of four batches of the filling recipe. I'm counting on having enough leftover from that to make at least one extra pie. If you want a denser pie, I suspect you could add 1-2 more egg yolks to the recipe. For the next round of this recipe, I might increase the amount of spices slightly, but otherwise I'll keep it the same.

Pumpkin Cream Pie (makes one 9" pie)
crust
3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1.5 c. fresh pumpkin puree
3/4 c. packed light-brown sugar
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. whole milk
1 t. vanilla
1 T. real maple syrup

Combine filling ingredients and pour into cooked crust. Bake at 350 F for about 43 minutes. Enjoy!

Current Pie Tally: 27

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Challenge on the Horizon



My husband volunteered me to make half a dozen pies for a conference he is hosting the first weekend of October. Luckily, the pumpkin plant in our garden this year was very productive. I'll probably make 4 pumpkin and 2 of either apple or pecan, for those who don't care for pumpkin. I got to buy a bunch of new pie plates for this. I'm excited! Stay tuned.

Current Pie Tally = 26

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Swirly Twirly Chocolate Cookies



I made these for Labor Day and they came out chewy and fabulous.

Swirly Twirly Chocolate Cookies (about 2.5 dozen)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
9 oz. swirled chocolate chips (semisweet and white)
3/4 c. chopped pecans

Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well to mix. Mix in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet and cook for about 9 min. at 350F.

Current Pie Tally: 26

Friday, September 3, 2010

Apple Rhubarb to Usher in Fall



For the past couple weeks, my last haul of rhubarb from the garden had been daring me to make a pie with it before it went bad. There wasn't enough for a straight-up rhubarb pie and I had some tasty Ginger Gold apples from the farmer's market on the kitchen counter. The result is this pie. My impromptu recipe came out well, though it maybe could have used another 1/4 c. sugar, just to sweeten up those rhubarb-only bites a bit. The crust was also fantastic - light and flaky and flavorful. I think I may be getting better results with the Organic Valley unsalted butter (as opposed to Land O' Lakes, which I sometimes buy when it's on sale or I can't bring myself to shell out the extra cash for organic). My husband and I particularly like how well the maple leaf air vent came out on this one.

Apple Rhubarb Pie (to fill one 9" pie)
11 or so small/medium stalks of rhubarb, sliced into 1/2" pieces
3 large Ginger Gold apples (or Golden Delicious), peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 t. cinnamon
1.5 t. lemon juice
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 T. flour

Combine all ingredients and pour into pie shell. Top with second crust. Cut air vent into center. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then 350F for an additional 40 min. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Current Pie Tally: 26

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And Dad's Birthday Pie Was...



Rhubarb Strawberry! It was too hot and time was too precious to invest in making the fresh peach and rhubarb pie, so I ended up baking the one from the freezer. I cooked it at 425F for 25 min and then another hour at 350 this time. I think it came out much better than the last one reincarnated from the freezer depths. My husband said it set up particularly well, and I was satisfied with the doneness of the crust. Dad kept all of the leftovers and told my husband he married well, so I guess he thought it was OK too. The recipe is the same as the one from this post.

Despite the success of this one, I did have a price to pay when I returned home. All of the peaches I had bought for the possibility of the fresh pie had rotted by the time I returned home from the trip to see Dad. From rock hard to festering mess in one stinking day. What a disappointment. Oh well, the rhubarb is still keeping firm in the fridge at least.

Current Pie Tally: 25

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pies of the Past


Apologies for the lull in posting. I was on vacation for two weeks and the baby hasn't been sleeping through the night. Cal slept for seven hours straight last night though, so I'm back on top of the world. Since I've been on vacation, I haven't made any pies. Though, my mother made me a delectable peach pie with praline topping.

The photo above depicts my #1 pie fan enjoying his birthday pie from last year. He recently celebrated his 60th birthday last week and is due for another birthday pie. Happy Birthday, Pops! He doesn't know this yet, but Cal, my husband, and I are giving him a surprise visit this weekend and I aim to arrive with pie in hand. The question is will it be a Rhubarb Strawberry one from the freezer arsenal or a fresh Peach and Rhubarb variety? The answer most likely lies in whether or not my son sleeps through the night again tonight. Until then, here's a short trip down memory lane to tide you over.

Admittedly, I don't have photos of all of the pies in the Pie Tally and may have forgotten exactly what I made, but here are some descriptions to help uphold my integrity as a pie princess. Here's a breakdown of the Pie Tally so far, as it stands in my memory.

2009
3 apple
2 rhubarb
1 rhuberry (rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries)
1 strawberry rhubarb
1 fruity firework (featured in photo at top - Pops' Birthday Pie from August 2009: peaches, blueberries, and rhubarb; Pop LOVES pie; we even brought it to the nice restaurant where we ate dinner and had them serve it to us)
1 rhubarb raspberry apple

2010
2 pecan
1 derby
2 apple
1 lemon meringue
2 strawberry rhubarb
1 rhubarb custard
1 rhubarb strawberry
1 peach rhubarb
1 chicken pot pie
1 veal roast pot pie
1 cherry rhubarb
1 rhubarb

Current Pie Tally: 24

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins



To make these, mix up the batter using the recipe found here. Pour into foil-lined muffin cups about 2/3 full. For the streusel topping. Mix together (with fingers) 1/4 c. butter, 3/4 c. flour, 1/2 c. oats, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1/4 c. chopped pecans. If the streusel is too gooey, add a little bit more flour and/or oats. The topping should be moist and crumbly. Place a spoonful of the streusel mixture on top of each filled muffin cup. Bake at 350F for about 30 min, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean and the tops are brown and crispy looking. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Give us your poor and downtrodden" Rhubarb Pie



In general, I think of pies as being rather decadent desserts. Yet they also hark back to something fundamentally American. A piece of the American spirit, a basic pie is an unfussy and filling way to use ingredients one has on hand. Pies are vessels, especially in summer, for the season's freshest locally available fruits - often things one can forage for. In my opinion, no pie is more of a workhorse in this regard than rhubarb pie. Granted it's not for everyone, but it's a real pie of the people. Rhubarb plants are cheap, need very little maintenance, and keep yielding fruit from the beginning of spring through fall. Luckily, most of my family enjoys rhubarb. I made this pie for a trip up to see my father and stepmother in law. My father in law in particular is a real glutton for my pies. I happily continue to bake them to stay in his good graces and bind the family together with a bit of butter, flour, fruit, and sugar.

This rhubarb pie comes from the "Straight Up Rhubarb Pie" recipe on pages 42-43 of the book "Humble Pie", by Anne Dimock. I made the 9-inch pie. My only changes were that I used less sugar (1 heaping cup instead of 1.25 cups), more cinnamon (1/4-1/2 teaspoon), and more rhubarb (probably an extra cup).

Current Pie Tally: 24

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July Pecan Pie



Granted the height of summer does not exactly call to mind this nutty pie common to Thanksgiving feasts, but it was the hostess' favorite so I obliged. Thanks for a great 4th of July party, Cathy & JP! The recipe I used as a base for this called for corn syrup instead of the molasses and maple syrup mixture that I used. This is the second one of these pies that I've made. For the first, I substituted straight blackstrap molasses for the corn syrup. I really wanted to use locally produced sorghum for the most recent version, but alas we exhausted our supply and have to wait for our next farmer's market outing to restock. Next time, I aim to use a mixture of equal amounts of sorghum, maple syrup, and honey. Also, for this iteration of the recipe, I used some grated lemon rind instead of the orange rind the original recipe calls for and decreased the brown sugar to 1 cup. The resulting pie this time was incredibly rich and velvety with a very strong molasses flavor. Perhaps not for everyone, but all the party guests I polled had nothing but rave reviews.

Current Pie Tally: 23

Monday, June 28, 2010

Homemade Walnut Brownies



I made some deliciously fudgy brownies last week in lieu of pie. Hard to believe, but I needed a break from pie.

Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownies
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. dark chocolate (I used 1 slab + 1 row from a Sirius brand 70% extra-bitter chocolate bar; available at Whole Foods)
4 large eggs
1.75 c. sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. vanilla extract (optional)
2/3 c. shelled walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9 x 12" baking pan (I use ceramic). Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler (can also use a metal mixing bowl atop a medium or large pot of boiling water). Set aside. With electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until thickened and lemon yellow in color. Add vanilla. Fold in chocolate liquid mixture. Stir to mix. Sift flour into batter and gently fold in. Mix only until just blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour into prepared baking dish and rap the side of the dish with your hand a couple times to release air bubbles. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 30 min. before cutting and serving.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Leftover Veal Roast Pot Pie



I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Making a basic pot pie is not that hard and it's a great way to use up leftovers. Granted, you'll need to feel comfortable making a pie crust and homemade gravy, but the rest is easy. You just take a bunch of cooked meat, a bunch of cooked vegetables, and a bunch of gravy and mix it all together for the filling. Also, as an added tip, my mom says you can use a can of cream of mushroom soup instead of gravy in a pinch. She made us the tasty veal pot roast used to make this pot pie.

Herb Crust (top and bottom crust)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
10.5 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4.5 T. ice water (or more if dough is still too dry)

Blend the dry ingredients and herbs in a food processor until well-blended. Add butter and process until mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 3 T. of the ice water. Pulse. Add more water in 1/2 T. increments, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just starts to clump together. Gather dough into 2 balls. Place one ball in the refrigerator. Roll out the other ball and place in pie dish.

Leftover Veal Roast Pot Pie
1 lb. leftover veal roast (or beef pot roast), cut into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 onion, cut into 1/2" pieces
1-2 T. olive oil
2 medium-large red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2" pieces
1-2 c. frozen peas, thawed
2 c. of beef gravy (use the drippings from the roast, add some beef broth, and thicken with butter and flour while stirring)

Boil carrots and potatoes for about 10 min. in a medium-size pot. Vegetables should be tender. Peas can be thrown in just before taking off the burner to expedite thawing. Strain and transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Saute onion in oil over medium heat until soft. Add to bowl of vegetables. Add veal and gravy and mix well. Place ingredients in prepared crust.

Roll out top crust and place over mixture. Crimp and seal edges; cut a hole in the top crust for steam to escape. Bake mine at 425 F for 20 minutes, then 350 F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and it looks like the filling is bubbly.

Current Pie Tally: 22

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can't Ruin a Good Thing



Another Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from the freezer arsenal. Made the same as the last one of the same proportions. I think I could have cooked it a bit longer. The bottom crust could have been a bit firmer. But a success overall.

Current Pie Tally: 21

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cherry Rhubarb Pie



When you have a new baby, the house guests just keep on coming. I like to keep them well fed and happily plied with pie. This is one of two pies I made last week. I didn't add quite enough ice water to the crust, so it was difficult to work with (tearing and falling apart all over the place when I rolled it out and tried to transfer it to the pie dish). However, crust that barely holds together and fresh-frozen crust come out the best. Despite its ugliness, the pie was delicious. The other pie I made was another rhubarb strawberry version that used garden produce. That one will probably be summoned from the freezer in about a week. As I write this, I am also currently cooking the strawberry rhubarb pie that I made for the freezer the day before Caleb was born. I'll post about that one in a few days.

Cherry Rhubarb Pie (for 9" pie):
pastry for 2-crust pie (Dimock's recipe)
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 lb. cherries, pitted and cut in half
1 c. sugar, heaped
5 T. flour
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla

Mix the fruit, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl. Roll out the bottom crust and place in pie dish. Pour fruit filling in. Roll out top crust and place over bottom crust and filling. Trim overhang; crimp, and seal edges. Cut one or more vents in the top crust. Bake at 425 F for 15 min, then 350 F for 40 min. When filling is visibly bubbling vigorously under the vent in the crust or some of the filling erupts onto the crust, the pie is done.

Current Pie Tally: 20

Friday, June 4, 2010

Post-Baby Pie Update



And then there were three pie-loving mouths to feed. My son Caleb Richmond was born on May 23rd, so pie time is precious time these days. However, I have managed a few. First off, the chicken pot pie that I froze was excellent. Freezing definitely "cured" the crust to perfection. Very flaky, flavorful, and filling. Just what we needed after a long delivery. Here is a recap of how to cook a frozen pot pie: DO NOT THAW IT. Put it directly in a 425 F oven for 20 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to 350 F and cook it for about another 50 min. It's done when the crust around the center looks dry and cooked.

Second, the day before Cal was born, my nesting instincts (which manifested mostly in obsessive gardening) inspired me to pick a bunch of our rhubarb and make a strawberry rhubarb pie for the freezer. It's still there, waiting to be called into service.

Lastly, there's the story behind this post's photo. My boy is less than two weeks old and I made a pie today. From scratch. With filling ingredients solely from my garden and a neighbor's garden. It's a rhubarb strawberry pie, made the same way as the strawberry rhubarbs I've made, except that the fruit proportions are skewed in favor of the strawberries. I maybe used 1.5 - 2 quarts of strawberries and 1 c. less of the rhubarb.

Current Pie Tally: 19

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lunch


Fountain Prairie ham sandwich with Brunkow Morel and Onion Jack cheese, lettuce from my garden, and Hellman's mayo. Served on homemade seed bread with a side of garden radishes. I used this recipe for the bread, except that this time I substituted 1/2 c. of roasted and salted pumpkin seeds for the 1/2 c. of sunflower seeds. I think I will play around with the recipe some more to try to recreate the Karrotten Zwilling (Carrot Twin) loaf that my husband and I were fond of in Austria. I'm thinking I'll cut back on the water a bit, add some shredded carrot, and use pumpkin oil instead of butter. I'll post the recipe when I come up with a version I'm happy with.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Peach Rhubarb Pie


Fresh peaches are truly delectable in a homemade pie. When some organic yellow peaches (from Mexico), went on sale at Whole Foods last week, I knew they were destined for my husband's birthday pie. Combined with rhubarb from our garden, they were sensational. I ended up bringing the pie over to our new friends' house for dinner, where it was very well received.

Comments: "This is way better than the pies the Mennonites sell at the farmer's market." & "There's so much content!" (host) "I love how it's not too sweet." (hostess)

I have to say I was surprised by the Mennonite comment. I always assumed my pies were on par with theirs (or vice versa). Maybe I'll buy one sometime to do a taste test comparison.

The crust on this one came our PERFECT. Light, flaky, and flavorful. Also, here's a tip about the peaches. I bought firm peaches and kept them in a closed paper bag at room temperature for about four days to ripen them up. Works like a charm.

Peach Rhubarb Pie (for 9" pie):
pastry for 2-crust pie (Dimock's recipe)
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 small-medium ripe peaches, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 c. sugar, heaped
5 T. flour
1-2 dashes of cinnamon
1 T. butter (optional)

Mix the fruit, sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Roll out the bottom crust and place in pie dish. Pour fruit filling in. Cut 1 T. butter into small pieces and dot top of filling with butter. Roll out top crust and place over bottom crust and filling. Trim overhang; crimp, and seal edges. Cut one or more vents in the top crust. Bake at 425 F for 15 min, then 350 F for 40 min. When filling is visibly bubbling vigorously under the vent in the crust or some of the filling erupts onto the crust, the pie is done.

Current Pie Tally: 18

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie with Herb Crust


As Dimock writes in her book, pie in the freezer is money in the bank. I made this chicken pot pie yesterday to add to the stockpile of oven-ready foods to have after the baby is born. I altered this recipe from epicurious.com. Here is my recipe:

Herb Crust (top and bottom crust)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
10.5 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4-6 T. ice water (I used 5 T.)

Blend the dry ingredients and herbs in a food processor until well-blended. Add butter and process until mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 3 T. of the ice water. Pulse. Add more water in 1/2 T. increments, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just starts to clump together. Gather dough into 2 balls. Place one ball in the refrigerator. Roll out the other ball and place in pie dish.

Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 c. (or more) water
2 chicken boullion cubes

2 carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
4-6 oz. greens (I used spinach and arugula), chopped

1.5 T. butter
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 T. minced fresh thyme
1/8 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 c. dry white wine (I used a cheap Pinot Grigio)
1/8 c. whipping cream

Place chicken breasts in a large saucepan. Cover with water (I used 3 c.), add chicken boullion, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Save broth in pot. Transfer chicken to plate or cutting board to cool.

Add carrots and turnips to chicken broth in pot. Simmer uncovered until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer vegetables to prepared pie crust with a slotted spoon. Add greens to broth and cook until just wilted but still bright green, about 1 minute. Save broth. Transfer greens to colander with slotted spoon and drain well. Add greens to vegetables in prepared crust.

Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and add to mixture in prepared crust. In a small frying pan, melt 1.5 T. butter. Sautee the leeks, shallot, and thyme until tender, about 5 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Decant reserved broth into frying pan, discarding any solids at the bottom. Stir in white wine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Stir in cream and boil, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens to a gravy, about 8 minutes. Pour gravy over mixture in prepared crust. Stir/jostle to blend. Roll out top crust and place over mixture. Crimp and seal edges; cut a hole in the top crust for steam to escape. Wrap securely in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze. To reheat, bake the pie straight from the freezer. I plan to bake mine at 400 F for 20 minutes, then 350 F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and it looks like the filling is bubbly.

Current Pie Tally: 17

Monday, May 3, 2010

Great Grandma Helen's Rhubarb Custard Pie


We received a bunch of free rhubarb from some friends of ours in the community gardens at the end of last week and my mom suggested I make Great Grandma Helen's Rhubarb Custard Pie. I had never tasted this pie before. I didn't know what to expect, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Not having much experience making custard pies, I didn't know how exactly to tell when it was done. I also thought the instructions to cook it at 400 F for 50-60 min seemed a bit excessive. I was paranoid the crust was going to burn, so I cooked it a little less intensely. I'm glad I did, because I anticipate that it's not too hard to overcook the custard. The pie that I made had a slightly underdone center (wasn't quite set in a 1.5" circle in the middle), but the other custard areas were velvety, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Light. Fluffy. Flavorful. Custard is good.

Since making this rhubarb custard pie, I learned that you tell when the custard is done by sticking a toothpick or chopstick (my choice) into the center of the pie. When it comes out clean, much like any baked good, the custard is done. Next time, I think I'll play around with the cooking time some more to get it just right. Maybe 30 min at 400 F and 15-20 min at 350 F. I also think I might leave the top crust off the pie next time to really let the custard take the spotlight.

Speaking of crust, this was not the best pie crust I have ever made. I added too much ice water and the crust came out rather heavy. No one else who ate the pie noticed, but it detracted from the total excellence of it. I failed to follow my own advice of "add the ice water a little at a time". I threw caution to the wind and dumped the recipe's 6 T of water into the dough all at once. Then I listened to the food processor struggle under the heft and watched the dough clump together like a huge ball of lead. Not gonna do that again.

Slightly Altered Great Grandma Helen's Rhubarb Custard Pie:
1.5 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1.4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cinnamon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 c. (1 lb.) rhubarb, cut into 1/2" slices
pastry for 2-crust pie (lattice top)

Combine sugar, flour, and nutmeg. Beat into eggs with a whisk. Stir in rhubarb. Pour into pie shell. Add top lattice crust. Crimp and seal. Bake at 400 F for 20 min, then 350 F for 25-30 min. Cool and refrigerate.

Current Pie Tally: 16

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Rules


I've had some people ask me a few questions about the boundaries of this challenge I've undertaken. If you've got others, please leave them in the comments and I'll address them there.

1. Am I allowed to make repeat pies? Yes. I figure asking me to make 1,000 unique pies while I and the ones I love have clear favorites is a bit much. Also, I try not to go too wildly astray from seasonally available ingredients. I often will use a similar ingredient that I have on hand instead of going to the store to buy something as well, thereby slightly altering one apple pie from another.

2. Can I receive help in making any part of the pies? No. I've decided to do this thing myself, so I have not counted any pies that my husband or others have helped with.

3. What about tarts and galettes and things? Those don't count. While I may make some on occasion and post about them here, they will not go toward the pie tally.

4. Do meat pies count? Yes. I feel that savory pies are true pies as well. In fact, I have plans to make a chicken pot pie or two in the near future. In "Humble Pie", Anne Dimock writes that some consider fruit pies to be the only true pies. I am not one of these purists and will make custards, creams, meats, etc. in addition to fruit pies.

5. Are all of the pie recipes you use your original recipes? No. Wherever possible, I will post the link to the recipe or state which book it comes from. However, if I feel I have altered a recipe enough to call it my own, I will write it out for everyone.

6. Can I use prepared ingredients like frozen crusts and canned fillings? No, that's totally cheating and I have no desire to ruin a pie experience that way.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Homecoming Pie


What better way to arrive home from a conference than to an enormously pregnant wife and a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie? I usually hold off on making this until husband's birthday, but it's only a couple weeks away, so I thought I'd kick off the celebration early. Whole Foods had a tempting display of local rhubarb, so I went for it. Though the organic strawberries are from California. Shame on me.

Strawberry Rhubarb Homecoming Pie (filling for 9" pie)
1.5 lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2" thick slices
16 oz. strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered depending on size
1/2 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 c. white sugar
5 T. flour
1 t. ground cinnamon (I used Penzey's)
1/4 t. salt

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a large bowl. Line your 9" pie dish with the bottom crust. Pour and heap filling mix into crust. Set upper crust on top. Trim edges and seal (I use a fork to crimp the edges). Cut a vent into the top crust. Bake at 400 F for 20 min, then reduce oven temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 35-40 min. When magenta goo erupts from the crust vent (or other cracks in the crust), the pie is generally done. Serve warm.

Current Pie Tally: 15 (9 in 2009; 6 so far for 2010)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Additional Notes on Lemon-Lime Meringue Pie


The Lemon-Lime Meringue Pie was delightful. I couldn't distinguish any difference in flavor as a result of using some lime juice and the taste was plenty citrus-infused. Also, no one got sick, so the egg yolks were fine. Next time I make this pie, I'll use the 9-inch pie plate instead of the 10-inch. That way I can heap the meringue on top more obnoxiously.

In an attempt to simplify my life and pie and avoid using unnecessary processed ingredients, I did some research on cream of tartar before deciding to go out and buy some since I didn't have any on hand. I have made this pie without cream of tartar before, but admittedly the meringue did not come out as fluffy or creamy. Regardless, if you make this pie with or without cream of tartar, expect that some little liquid blobs will start to separate out of the meringue after a day or two. I think it's liquid sugar, but don't hold me to that. If you look closely at the top of the pie slice in the photo, you can see a few pools.

According to wikipedia.org, cream of tartar is the culinary name for potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate, a byproduct of winemaking. Crystals form during the fermentation of grape juice or on the underside of a cork in wine bottles that have been stored at temperatures below 50 F. In its crude form, cream of tartar is referred to as "beeswing". The processed cream of tartar is a white, odorless, acidic powder that is often used to stabilize egg whites, prevent the crystallization of sweet syrups, or reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables. It can also be combined with baking soda to create baking powder or with potassium chloride to create salt substitutes.

I feel it is also necessary to comment on cornstarch. I generally avoid using processed forms of corn (high-fructose corn syrup and corn syrup being high on the list), and plan to phase out my use of cornstarch once my current box is finished. A friend of mine said she uses arrowroot starch instead, so I'll give that a try. If it works as well in making Chinese food (my husband's specialty), I will switch permanently. Some of you may be wondering what to do about the corn syrup called for in some pies. I substitute any other naturally sweet syrup instead. I use molasses most often, but if a recipe calls for a large amount of corn syrup, I will probably use a combination of molasses and maple syrup or honey. Large amounts of molasses carry a VERY strong flavor. I haven't tried using sweet sorghum syrup yet, though I just picked some local organic Wisconsin stuff up at the farmer's market this past weekend. It is said to be comparable to molasses, so I look forward to trying it. I'll let you know how it is.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lemon-Lime Meringue Pie


For this pie, I used this recipe, except that I used a mixture of lemon and lime juices instead of pure lemon juice. Things were going smoothly, until I failed to read the line in the directions that reads, "Simmer mixture, whisking 3 minutes." I had already whisked in the butter, lemon-lime juice, and zest before I caught my oversight. Considering this is the part that involved raw egg yolks, I decided to put everything back on the burner and do the 3-minute simmer-whisking with all the citrus goodness and butter having already being added. Doing this thickened the mixture up a bit more and most likely cooked the egg yolks sufficiently. Hopefully, I didn't lose any citrus flavor to evaporation in the process. I'll let you know after I try a slice.

For meringue novices out there, here are some tips, complete with the first video clip to adorn the blog! When it says to beat until soft peaks form before you add the sugar, it took me about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed on my mixer. The resulting liquid was white and frothy (small bubbles throughout) and made little mounds when I dipped a spoon in. After I added the sugar, I beat the mixture on high for about 5 minutes, until it looked white and creamy (like whipped cream) and you could see clear swirls forming from the electric beater. For a look at "just until stiff peaks form," check out my video clip:
video

Current Pie Tally: 14

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Snack


Organic honey graham cracker smeared with Skippy Natural peanut butter and dappled with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Washed down with a glass of organic 2% milk (Sassy Cow Creamery). Interestingly enough, the chocolate chips are leftover from a Derby Pie I made a month or so ago.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Rolling Pin


You don't need a fancy rolling pin to make pie crust. In fact, I'd recommend holding off on buying one until you've made about 20 pies. In the interim, try a bunch of different bottles and things to get a feel for the weight and size you prefer. When I was living in Vienna and baking my pies in a Coleman camping oven (a metal box that sat on top of my stove-top burner), my makeshift rolling pins included thermos bottles, empty wine bottles, full wine bottles, and partially full rum bottles - whatever was on hand at the time. Just be sure to wash and dry the surface of your "bottle" before and after using.

Now that I've been reunited with all my stuff in the US, I have my proper rolling pin back. This one is a solid piece of pine and was a gift from my mother. I think it came from T.J. Maxx and is probably about 10 years old. It's fairly modest as far as rolling pins go, but in many ways I think that makes it a superior tool. It doesn't flaunt any moving parts or fancy heavy marble barrel. It is very lightweight and easy to control, so that I can get my pie crust just as thick or thin as I want it and even throughout. My only complaint is that pine is a weak wood, and this rolling pin does get dings and dents easily. So, I have to be careful when washing, handling, and storing it.

You might be able to tell from the photo that this one is also starting to lose its finish. I consider the weathered look a mark of pride in having used it well over the years, but I do have a tinge of worry about having to replace it someday. If I had to decide on a replacement now, I think I'd get something similar, but made of a sturdier wood - maybe a fancy varnished log of cherry wood.

On the pie horizon, my father in law and his wife are coming to visit this weekend. Which means enough people will be around to warrant making a pie. The top contender right now is Lemon Meringue, so I can use up the lemons and limes leftover from the party last weekend. Stay tuned...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mini Pumpkin Tart Wedges


In my party-going and party-throwing experiences over the years, I've learned a thing or two. One is that bite-size desserts are much easier to eat. They tend to be more popular also, perhaps because the diminutive size offers less guilt. So, for the bash I threw recently, I decided to make these mini pumpkin tart wedges.

The recipe is adapted from the Pumpkin Pie recipe in "Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook." I did not get all fussy with the crust like she did. I used Anne Dimock's Pie Chart for Piecrust* in the book "Humble Pie" and made enough dough for a one-crust pie. I also used up a couple dough scraps I had in the freezer. The end result was six 4.5-inch tart shells. (Wedges from five are in the photo.)

Another adaptation lies in the preparation of the filling. My husband made the filling for these, and they aren't in the form of a true pie anyway, so they won't go toward the pie tally. For this filling, winter squash was used instead of pumpkin. Also, the exact proportions are probably a bit off compared to Martha's recipe. We use a higher ratio of squash to other ingredients, so that no squash is wasted. My husband initially made a large batch (maybe a double or triple recipe) and froze any extras. These tarts are the remnants of those frozen extras. Not a tart wedge was left standing at the end of the party, so I'd say they were a hit.

current pie tally: 13 (still)

*I use unsalted butter instead of shortening in my crust (in the same proportion).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lunch


Homemade egg salad on sauerkraut rye.

Egg Salad:
12 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped
1/4 - 1/3 c. mayonnaise
1 T. Dijon mustard
handful of chopped fresh dill
handful of chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Don't Fill Up on Bread


It occurred to me that some of you faithful readers might get bored sitting around waiting for the next pie project. One thousand pies in a lifetime isn't exactly a whirlwind pace. So, I'll do my best to woo your affections throughout with posts related to the daily happenings of a Midwestern Pie Princess. For this one, we check in with my faithful bread machine.

I stopped buying bread* after moving back to the US from Austria, where fresh amazing bread is very affordable and addictive. The high-fructose, hydrogenated crap we peddle on our supermarket shelves in the US doesn't measure up. The book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, inspired me to shanghai my mother's forlorn bread machine (used maybe twice). In the book, Kingsolver's husband divulges how you can make hearty and healthy homemade bread from scratch with one of those bread machines of yesteryear. I Googled some recipes and have been adapting them to my liking ever since.

My recent favorite is this Cinnamon Raisin Bread:
3/4 c. warm milk
1 T. butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T. white sugar
2 t. cinnamon (I recommend Penzey's)
1 t. salt
2 c. bread flour
2/3 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. bread machine yeast
1/2 c. raisins, heaped
1/2 c. walnut pieces, heaped

Place the first six ingredients into the bread machine first. Then, add the flours and yeast. Select the Fruit & Nut Bread Cycle (light crust if possible) on the machine and push "Start." After about 10 min., open the machine and add the raisins and walnuts.

*I still occasionally buy fresh-baked baguettes and the like.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The First Step


At the Easter dinner my husband and I attended yesterday, the hostess officially challenged me to blog about my journey on the Path of 1,000 Pies. So here I am. Easter seems like an appropriate time for such an undertaking. New birth. New beginnings. A call to serve...pie.

I brought two apple pies to Easter dinner and received rave reviews: "I can tell you're an experienced hand at making that crust" (Uncle Bob) and "Those pies you brought were delicious! Thank you for bringing them" (Marcia, the hostess).

Partly, making the pies was an exercise in the humane demise of some less-than-great apples I picked up at the Dane County Farmer's Market last weekend. Yes, I know that it is not currently apple season, but they were locally grown and stored in a fancy-sounding humidity-and-temperature-controlled environment. So I bought them. Lots of them, probably about 20, thinking I would eat some fresh and make a pie with the rest.

After choking a couple down, I decided to make two pies instead of just one. They weren't awful; they just weren't the Macouns I know and love. They had more of a McIntosh consistency (quite soft) and the flavor was watered down and rather bland. I recently received a birthday card that read, "Birthday cake is just about the happiest outcome flour can hope for." Pie was the happiest outcome for these apples.

Current pie tally for 2009 and 2010: 13 pies (15 if you count two pumpkin ones that my husband made the filling for)

Easter Apple Pie Filling Recipe (we'll get into crust later); makes one 9-inch pie:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/8 c. lemon juice
1/8 c. apricot/pear juice
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 T. molasses
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. ginger
1/8 t. allspice
8-10 peeled & cored Macoun apples, sliced about 1/3" thick

In a large non-metal bowl, stir together the sugars, juices, flour, molasses, and spices. Fold in the apples. Pour the mixture into your pie shell, including all the juicy goo at the bottom of the bowl. Roll out your remaining crust and place over the filled bottom shell. Trim and crimp edges and slit or cut a hole in the middle to allow steam to vent. Bake at 450F for 15 min., then reduce heat to 350F and bake for 35 min. more. Allow to cool and serve warm.