Tag : pies
Tag : pies
The first time I ever made my apple chai-der pie (an idea that I shamelessly stole from the Internet, but eventually made my own), I thought I had died and done gone to heaven, y’all. The apples were good and the spiced black tea filling even better, but the real kicker was the streusel. Every time I make the streusel I have to remind myself that it’s going on top of another pastry and I can’t just eat all of it raw (and every time, my willpower fails and I eat most of it raw anyway.)
It’s also good baked.
I think it’s the cinnamon that makes streusel so addicting. And for some reason, I decided to swap out the cinnamon for orange zest in this recipe. What a strange idea.
I honestly could not tell you why I felt inspired to do orange-infused/scented anything, but just like my lemon cravings from last summer and early this spring, I started having these odd cravings for orange-flavored things. Orange cinnamon coffee cake muffins, orange shortbread, dark chocolate orange cakes. All of these things are on my mind.
This pie is overflowing with the four major spring/summer berries that we grow in North Carolina: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. It’s currently the peak of strawberry season so strawberries are providing the decorative accents to my citrus fantasies. They’re also taking up all of the space in my refrigerator and freezer.
I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago to get strawberries for jam, intending to buy two pounds of the berries, and accidentally, shamelessly going home with one five-pound basket. Most of those ended up in a failed strawberry-rhubarb pie, four of the berries went moldy, three pounds became jam, and the rest became the strawberry balsamic muffins.
The citrus counter-note to the berries, and the liquid base of the filling, is Cointreau, but could easily be orange juice, Triple Sec, or any other orange-flavored liquid. On top of the liqueur-laced berry filling is a streusel flavored with orange zest. Overall, it’s a much brighter, warm-weather version of the spicy apple original.
very berry spring pie with orange streusel
makes one 7″ pie (double the recipe for a 9″ pie)
loosely based on my apple chai-der pie recipe
Make the pie pastry, divide into discs for 7″ (or 9″) pies, wrap in plastic and freeze. If you plan to use the dough within 24 hours, refrigerate it instead. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out and filling the shell.
You can also prepare the pie shell all at once and freeze that until the streusel and filling are ready.
Make the streusel and chill or freeze, unbaked, until the pie shell is filled.
And finally, you can assemble the entire pie and freeze it, unbaked, until you’re ready to put it in the oven. The entire pie can go into the hot oven frozen.
2 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
zest of 1/4 of a large orange or 1/2 of a small-ish orange
4 Tbsp (2 oz) butter, softened
1 oz orange juice or Cointreau
4 oz fresh/frozen blueberries
4 oz fresh/frozen blackberries
4 oz fresh/frozen raspberries
4 oz fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
2.5 oz granulated sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour or cornstarch
dash of salt
preparing the pie shell
Let the pie pastry warm up slightly, for about 15 minutes on the counter, just so you can roll it out without the dough cracking too much.
Sandwich the dough disc between sheets of plastic or parchment, floured lightly to keep the dough from sticking a lot. Depending on the day, and on exactly how much water you use to make the dough (which varies based on how much water you need), the dough can be on the wet side or dry side.
Roll the dough until it’s about 2 inches wider in diameter than the top of the pie pan, and approximately a quarter of an inch thick (so just around half or a third of a centimeter.)
Place the dough into the pie plate, and press it into the bottom and corners of the plate, lifting up the edges and placing them into the plate as you go, to avoid stretching. Roll the edges up under themselves so they rest on the edges of the pie plate and add about an inch of depth, then shape, press, or crimp the edges as you like.
I usually form a zigzag edge using my pointer and thumb of one hand and the pointer finger of the other hand. By creating more height/depth, you can add more filling.
Freeze the pie shell, unwrapped if you’re baking it the same day, or wrapped if you’re not baking it within 24 hours.
making the streusel
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the butter.
Mix in the butter, just until it forms crumbs.
Using a fork or pastry blender, break up any large-ish clumps of dough into smaller pieces.
Chill/refrigerate or freeze the streusel in a sealed container until the pie shell is filled.
filling the shell
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and starch (flour or cornstarch). This will make it easier to incorporate these with the juice/liqueur and berries.
In a large bowl, toss together berries, juice/liqueur, salt, and sugar-starch mixture until all the berries are coated with the juice/liqueur and sugar-starch mix. Mash up some of the berries.
Pour the berry filling into the frozen shell, spreading the filling out to fill up as much space as possible. The filled pie should be mounded, approximately 1.5-2x the depth of the shell. The filled shell can be frozen until ready to top and bake.
assembling and baking the pie
Preheat oven to 425 F/ C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch the over-boiled pie filling.
When the oven is fully heated, sprinkle the chilled streusel crumbs onto the filled pie shell so as much surface is covered as possible. Spread the streusel around if needed, and fill in some of the gaps made by the crimped pie crust.
Place the assembled pie onto the baking sheet and bake for 50 – 60 minutes until nicely browned and actively bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool the pie on a wire rack.
Bon apple-tite, y’all
Last year, I made a decision to master pie once and for all. I went about it as scientifically as possible: I compiled half a dozen pie crust recipes, tested each one (with labels, taste-testing, notes, sample batches, and all), and developed my own recipe.
October (2015), when I took a pie class at a local bakery, all of that went out the window, as I had learned a new recipe and some new techniques (which I never mastered.) At that point, I thought I had everything down to a science and it was time to start playing with fillings. I even attempted to make my own pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins.
I have since learned, from first hand experience, reading things online, and asking professional chefs, that this is a waste of time. I haven’t pureed a pumpkin in approximately 382 days.
Half a year later, I took another pie class, and everything I thought I knew about pie went out the window…again. The technique I had learned last autumn was just a little too much work to justify something that should be as easy as pie. The pastry instructor from the cooking school gave us a useful ingredient ratio for pie pastry, so now I don’t even bother looking at my pie crust recipe (which I updated a few months ago after taking that class.)
For what I call “American pie crust,” the crust that most of us Americans know via apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie, the best ratio is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part ice water. How you go about chilling and combining the three is up to you, but it really isn’t difficult. The first few times, it can be daunting because we seem to mythologize pie crust, but once you’ve gotten the process into your muscles and bones, it’s a 5-minute recipe that you can do with your eyes closed, and the result is always phenomenal.
Even filling, which until this past summer frightened me, can be simple. I never managed a fruit pie recipe over the summer, but come April this blog will be replete with blackberry cobblers, mixed berry pies, lemon meringues, and Little Jack Horner will be weeping with joy. A berry pie filling is five basic ingredients: sugar, starch (corn, tapioca, flour), berries, flavor (lemon zest, extracts, spices), and liquid (optional, because the sugar will melt and the berries will excrete juices in the oven.)
For the sweet potato pie, I went through a few iterations of recipes, each time experiencing the same problem: my filling was runny and the sweetener was leaking out as the pie cooled down. After much pestering of chefs and coworkers, I decided to reduce the liquid in the filling drastically and simplify everything, and here we are:
The molasses is the main sweetener, and sweet potato is already relatively sweet, while the egg helps the filling set up (sweet potato puree is very loose, unlike pumpkin), and the rum is added for an additional splash of flavor. Altogether, the filling is slightly tart, deeply yam-y, and pleasantly molasses-y, so if you don’t like Meyers Jamaican rum, this might not be the pie for you!
ideas for next thanksgiving: cranberry ginger pie, classic apple pie, lemon meringue pie, fig and feta pie
sweet potato molasses pie
one 7″ pie (~5 servings)
15 ounces (1 can) sweet potato puree
2 ounces molasses
0.5 ounces dark rum
dash of salt
pecans, walnuts, or marshmallows for topping
demerara sugar for topping
Roll out pie pastry, ~10″ in diameter, fit into a 7″ pie plate and crimp or fold the edges as you like. Freeze or refrigerate the shell unbaked.
Preheat the oven to 425 F/ C, and set oven racks at top and bottom 1/3 of the oven.
Combine the sweet potato puree, molasses, rum, salt, and egg and whisk until smooth. Fill the shell and spread the filling out with a spatula, smoothing along the surface.
Decorate with marshmallows, nuts, demerara sugar, extra pie pastry, etc., and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the crust is bronze and the center of the pie is set.
Pie can be served warm or chilled.
I remember the good ol’ days of getting out of my car at 10:00 p.m. and watching my glasses fog up immediately. Those precious “is that sweat, rain, or the humidity?” moments. The 5:00 am sunrise and “will the sun ever set?” times.
But those are over now. My glasses don’t fog up anymore and I can walk around without fainting.
I’ve finally finished up all the frozen summer berries and started stocking up on pumpkin puree, sweet potatoes, and various apples in anticipation of autumn sweets, and let me tell you, I’m anticipating a lot of sweets.
About a year ago I started really exploring pie crust. I watched every YouTube video and read every recipe I could find. I tried every possible technique the Web would show me, and even did a bit of scientific experimentation, complete with sticky labels and test batches and all.
It was very official, y’all.
And then I took an autumn pie workshop at Scratch Bakery last October, and everything I thought I had figured out was flipped, turned right upside down on its very head. I stuck with the recipes from that workshop for months, until I took a pie class at work, and everything was made even simpler by the pastry chef. The first thing she taught us when we got to work on the dough was a universal ratio for the dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part ice water.
It was pie-vana. I had a pie-alization. The flaky, buttery dough, the rich summer berries, the dark almond-flavored cherries, they all came together to form one simple truth:
Pie is easy.
And now a full year later, making the dough is like second nature: I toss everything into a food processor, no gimmicks or silly tricks, squeeze it into a ball, and freeze it. And it turns out well every time!
Now that the crust is a breeze, I want to expand on my fillings. Last year, I made Spiced Chai Apple Streusel Pie and Boozy Pecan Rum Pie for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up new autumn and winter combinations for this year (Pear and Fennel, Chocolate Peppermint, or Limoncello Brûlée?)
I’ve also been playing around a little bit with free-form tarts (Italian: crostata; French: galette) and just filling them with a layer of fruit and spices. One evening, when I was really feeling the impending leaf-changing and air-crisping, I sliced up some apples (skins on because I can’t be bothered to peel them), and mixed up some sugar and spices. I threw in some dried rosemary and assembled the tart, then when it was in the oven, I placed some leftover rosemary sprigs (I had made focaccia that day, as well) on top for an extra flavor infusion, and voila!
rosemary spiced apple crostata (crostata di mele e rosmarino)
makes two 7″, or one 9-10″ crostata
200 – 300 g red apples
50 g granulated sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 fresh rosemary sprigs (with or without leaves)
1 egg yolk, for washing
1 spoonful raw, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for coating
Core and slice the apples. You can peel them if you want, but they’re just as good with the skin on. Set the slices aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and spices. Set aside.
Roll dough out into a circle or a square a few millimeters thick. With a bench scraper or spatula, mark approximately halfway (both vertically and horizontally) between edges, then 2/3 of the way between the outer edge of the dough and your marking. You should now have slight marks/scores 1/6 of the way in from the edge of the dough, and halfway across. This is just a guide for how much of the dough to fill and how much to fold.
Spread about 2/3 of the spice mixture between the outer markings (so the middle 2/3 of the dough, leaving the outer 1/3 border empty.)
Layer the apples on top of the spices, and sprinkle the other 1/3 of the spices over the apples.
Fold the edges of the dough in, pinching them together where they overlap.
Freeze the tart for at least half an hour to let it chill.
Preheat your oven to 425 F/220 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the edges of the tart with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is bronze and the filling is bubbly.
Remove and transfer to a wire rack with the parchment paper underneath the tart.
Cut and enjoy!
Tarts to you later,
If yesterday’s pecan pie wasn’t enough, here’s another that you can prepare ahead of time and assemble on the day of baking!
I first learned to do apple pie at a workshop in downtown Durham, at Scratch Bakery. I’d been trying to do double-crust apple pie for a few weeks before but it was too much work so I gave up and decided to follow Phoebe Lawless’s method, covering the pie in streusel. The streusel itself is easy and you can really make it any way you want. Streusel is defined as “n., a crumbly topping made from fat, flour, sugar, and nuts/spices, often cinnamon, used as a topping or filling for cakes”, so you can add oats, brown sugar, different types of flours, spices, and so on. I like the streusel combination I used here (flour, sugar, oats, butter, salt, and cinnamon) and I’ll end up using it fairly often, like for the pumpkin streusel muffins.
Coring, peeling, and chopping the apples by hand was a pain the first few times I made the pie, so I bought one of those old-fashioned hand-crank spiralizers: 3-in-one, cores, slices, and peels the apples all at once. And it looks cool, too.
That being said, sometimes the most tedious aspects of cooking or baking can also be the most relaxing. If you have plenty of time, the kitchen to yourself, a bottle of red wine (it has to be red wine because red wine is the best wine), and your favorite Spotify playlist (I like anything acoustic or morning-oriented, even in the evening), then you can just focus on the apples and let everything else fall away. I like doing the repetitive, menial things because I usually have a hard time focusing on one thing or committing to anything, so these kinds of tasks help ground me.
I haven’t tried the recipe with very many different types of apples yet, although I bought some green apples to make today’s pie, then decided it might not be so good with green apples. Someday, I’d like to go through a few iterations of the tart trying out different types of apples. Maybe even different types of black tea.
So much to do! So little money to buy the things to do the things I want to do (*cries publicly*).
And now, after three months of wading through pies and tarts and apple skins and dark rum, one would logically assume that I’ll be taking a break from pie for, like, a full year.
One would be wrong.
Now it’s time to work on some winter crumb tarts and gluten-free recipes. I tried gluten-free pie dough earlier and it was…so-so. It’s kind of a pain to work with because, due to a lack of gluten, it doesn’t hold together so you can’t pick it up, turn it, flip it, etc. You have to roll it out on parchment or wax paper and transfer it gently to the pie pan, then press it in. I was getting frustrated with the dough so I figured I could simplify everything by working on crumb crusts.
Call me in a month to see how they’re turning out.
This apple pie is unbelievable, y’all. The crust is finally flaky and buttery (thank you, Phoebe Lawless, the Pie Pastry Queen), the tea is lightly fragrant and the spices are rich, perfect for the season. The apples soften while the cider thickens, and the crispy streusel just floats around in all of it. It can be a little messy or runny, or it can hold up with integrity. At the workshop, Ms. Lawless mentioned that she likes to change recipes to cram in as many different flavors as possible, and when I saw a recipe for chai spiced apple pie online, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to add one more flavor: buttery pie crust, spiced black tea, apples, and streusel.
apple chai-der pie with streusel topping
makes one 7-inch tart (with 9-in measurements in parentheses)
one 7-inch buttery pie crust, recipe here
30 g all-purpose flour (45 g)
30 g granulated sugar (45 g)
a dash of cinnamon (a dash and a half)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
1 ounce (2 T) unsalted butter, melted (1.5 ounce/3 T)
250 – 300 g red apples (2 large apples) (350 – 450 g)
70 g granulated sugar (105 g)
20 g all-purpose flour (30 g)
1 tsp cinnamon (1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cardamom (3/4 tsp)
1 bag black tea, cut open (1 bag)
1/4 tsp each of ground ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
50 g apple cider (75 g)
Follow the recipe to make a disc of pie crust. The night before, or the morning of, baking, transfer dough from the freezer to the fridge, and when ready to roll out, take out of the fridge and let thaw on counter for 15 – 20 minutes before rolling.
Roll out on a liberally-floured surface, turning and flipping the disc as you go.
Lay dough into pie pan and crimp the edges. This doesn’t need any pre-baking so you can chill/freeze until everything else is ready.
In a small food processor, blend together everything except the butter.
Slowly blend in the butter. If it clumps up, break clumps apart with your hands or a fork.
Chill until ready to use.
Peel, core, and chop the apples (quarter and slice, or chop however you like.)
Mix together sugar, flour, spices, salt, and loose tea in a small bowl.
Combine apples and dry mix in a large bowl, then pour in apple cider and mix.
You can either save the filling for later or fill the pie shell now. Let the filling pile up a few inches above the rim of the pan.
Dump the streusel on top of the unbaked pie.
You can freeze the whole pie assembled and unbaked.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
Bake the pie for 50 – 60 minutes until the streusel and crust are browned and the filling is visibly bubbling.
Let cool and enjoy!
Happy Food, y’all!
I mentioned before that I’d be coming out with a few pie recipes this season and I finally got one I feel confident publishing.
There was a time years ago, when I was in college, when I tried to learn how to make pie and used pecan pie as the test. I always seemed to get only one thing right, and it was always a different thing, but I could never get the whole thing to come together. Either I’d substitute thing recklessly and the filling would turn out funky, or the crust would burn, or the crust would hardly bake at all. Those are essentially the three aspects of a pie that you have to nail: the filling cooks and holds up, the edges of the crust don’t burn, and the bottom actually bakes completely.
Back then, I thought all hope was lost. I held off on pies for at least a few years and as soon as I moved home this past summer, I hit the ground running with dough all over my hands. You can see the first fruits of my efforts here (buttery pie crust recipe.) I wanted to practice different types of fillings and really get the measurements right before publishing any more, so after at least half a dozen pecan pies (and pumpkin pies, and chocolate tarts, and apple pies), here’s the boozy and succulent pecan pie.
I also had an epiphany recently. In order to save my family from carb-excess, I’d been using small 4.5-inch tart pans to test recipes, then calculating measurements for larger tarts based on those attempts. I figured since 4.5 is half of 9, then one 9-inch tart recipe must make two 4.5-inch tarts, right?
Wrong. While testing pecan pie recipes, I made two half recipes, thinking I could do two 4.5-inch tarts, and wound up with enough for four tarts. Whaaaat? In middle and high school, I was two years advanced in math, and apparently I had forgotten every thing in college: if you have two squares, one is 6 inches on each side and the other is 3 inches, then how many of the smaller squares fit into the larger?
Four. Because the area of a 6-inch square is 9 inches and the area of a 3-inch square is 2.25 inches.
Therefore, one 9-inch tart recipes makes four 4.5-inch tarts (and, coincidentally, two 6-inch tarts.)
I prefer to make medium (7-inch) pies, to save money and ingredients and because I like to test a lot of recipes. I figure more numerous pies, all smaller, means more variety and less guilt (I mean other people’s guilt…I have none of my own.)
boozy dark rum pecan pie
makes one 7-inch tart (with 9-inch measurements in parentheses.)
3 Tbsp butter (4 1/2 Tbsp)
90 g maple syrup (135 g)
135 g brown sugar (200 g)
1 Tbsp dark rum (4 1/2 tsp)
2 eggs (3 eggs)
hefty pinch of salt (a heftier pinch)
1 Tbsp cornstarch (4 1/2 tsp)
75 g pecans (114 g)
Roll out your chilled pie crust so that it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pan. Transfer dough to pan, fold edges under and crimp, and prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, or in the freezer overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
make the filling
In a pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
When melted, stir in maple syrup, rum, and sugar, and mix fully.
Remove from the stove and let cool before adding the eggs.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the cornstarch and salt, and fold in the pecans.
Fill the unbaked pie shell with the pecan filling and bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the edges are starting to brown and the filling is bubbling up.
The filling will deflate when the pie cools.
Serve with a side of shots of dark rum but try not to drink them before you eat the pie like I did.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
For a long time, pies and tarts have been the bane of my existence. Either the dough fell apart in my hands, the crust burned in the oven, or, god forbid I cover it with tin foil, the pie would be under-baked and liquid-y. My experience with pie has been…frustrating.
But I promised myself I would get into it once moving home, and that I wouldn’t stop until I could make a decent pie. I nearly mastered macarons, so I should be able to do this, right?
I picked out a recipe from a trusted book, Mom’s Big Book of Baking, watched YouTube videos until my eye bled out, and made a few different batches of dough. Fortunately, you can (and should) freeze the dough for up to a month, so I can spend an hour making 2-3 different recipes (enough for 6 – 9 tarts), and let them rest for a few days while I recover from the trauma. Additionally, if you can manage enough dough, you can knock out two birds with one oven: you can test filling recipes with your test dough!
I made a few different versions of the “buttery pie crust,” some with extra butter, some with sugar, and used each one to try a different filling, while setting aside a handful of dough to bake without filling so I could taste the crust on its own. To be honest, all the crusts tasted unbelievable, but they don’t all hold up well as a tart. Of the four I tried (the original plus three of my own), this was the best both with and without any filling.
I’ve found that pies are one of those pastries that can stupefy even the most intrepid among us (meaning those of us who will eat butter from the box, or cover our faces in sour cream in order to get rid of zits), and as such, the most effective way to succeed is to embrace your fear of failure. It’s something I’m still learning even after seven years of kitchen mishaps.
super butter-y pie crust
makes enough for four 9-inch pies (with measurements for 7-inch pies in parentheses)
25 oz all-purpose flour (7″: 12.5 oz)
hefty pinch of salt
16 oz (2 c) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen and chopped into small pieces (7″: 8 oz)
8 oz ice water(7″: 4 oz)
In a food processor, mix flour and salt. Dump in diced butter and pulse (2 seconds, stop, 2 seconds, stop, etc.) until it’s well-chopped (the pieces are about the size of a pea or smaller.)
Add water about an ounce or two at a time and pulse quickly until the dough just starts to clump together.
Dump it all out onto the counter and squeeze it together into a large mound. Divide the mound into four and form each part into a smaller mound, squeezing and turning. Don’t knead the dough.
Form four balls and wrap each in cling wrap, then squeeze and rotate each ball until it forms a disc one inch thick. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.
Frozen dough will keep for at least 6 months. Refrigerated dough will only keep for about 48 hours before it becomes discolored and soggy.
When ready to bake:
If the dough is frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator all day or overnight (up to two days.)
On the day you want to bake it, put the dough, wrapped, out on the counter for 15 minutes to soften.
Flour a work surface, unwrap the dough, and roll it out until it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pie pan. Alternately, sandwich the dough between two sheets of clingwrap and roll it out.
Put the dough into the pan and chill for at least half an hour, or freeze for later.
Pie crust can be baked directly from the freezer or the fridge.
Some pies can be blind baked (pecan pie), some don’t need to be (apple pie,) and some are assembled after baking (chocolate pie.)
If you make one recipe, you’ll have enough tart dough for a Thanksgiving dinner or for a month of pies!
Categories: pies and tarts