Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Little Something Different

I'm always looking for something just a little different.  I had a bag of cranberries in the freezer, and some egg whites leftover from making pumpkin cream pie and I thought, dare I make cranberry meringue pie?  I Googled possible recipes and found there were quite a few.  I decided on my own version flavored with orange juice and spiked with a touch of Grand Marnier.   Of course I had to make delicious, fluffy Italian meringue to top off the sweet-tart fruit.  Success!  This pie is both rich and refreshing and absolutely perfect if you're looking for something a little different for your holiday table.

Cranberry Meringue Pie
1 9" pie crust, blind baked (I use Wholly Wholesome)
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
zest and juice of one orange
1 Tb. cornstarch
1 Tb. Grand Marnier

Combine  the cranberries, sugar, water, cornstarch, orange juice and zest in a small pot over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low.  Cook until thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the liqueur.  Scrape the filling to the cooked and cooled  pie crust.  Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Italian Meringue (from
3 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Place egg whites in a mixer bowl.   Whip the whites in mixer until soft peaks form.  Whip in the salt.  Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until thermometer registers 240°, 6-8 minutes. Remove pan from heat.  Slowly pour hot sugar syrup down side of bowl into whites and beat until meringue is firm and glossy. Continue beating until cool, about 4 minutes.  Spread the meringue over the top of the cooled pie, being sure to connect it to the edge of the crust.  Bake the pie in a 400 degree oven until nicely toasted to your liking, about7 to 10 minutes.

Pile on the meringue.  I said pile it on!
Make decorative swirls and peaks.
Brown the meringue in a hot oven.
Fluffy meringue pairs perfectly with tart cranberry.


Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Drowning in Turkeys

So, it's Thanksgiving and work is just a tad bit busy.  And by busy I mean 1,000 pounds of stuffing and turkeys EVERYWHERE. I don't think I'm even going to want to look at a turkey for my own Thanksgiving meal.  Luckily I managed to make 2 delicious bourbon pecan pies (I doubled the recipe) to bring to work and share with my wonderful, hard working co-workers.  Actually, this is the second batch of pecan pies I  made as the first was not up to snuff and I had to give it another go.  But anyway, if you're in the market for a delicious, sweet, gooey, boozy, pecany pie, then search no more.  End of story.

Bourbon Pecan Pie
1 9" pie shell, unbaked
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 Tb. butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tb. bourbon
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. pecans (I prefer them whole, but you can chop them if  you like)

Put a sheet pan in the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.
Whisk eggs until thoroughly mixed.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except pecans, and mix completely.  Stir in the pecans.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell  and place on the hot sheet pan in the oven.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees.  Bake until the pie is set and lightly puffed, about 40 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My New Favorite Pumpkin Pie

I've always loved pumpkin pie, or pumpkin anything, for that matter.  In fact, I've always lamented the fact that pumpkin is a seasonal item when I'd like to enjoy it year around.  I've never felt the need to stray from the classic recipe with canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar and spices.  But when I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Cream Pie on the Martha Stewart website, my heart skipped a beat.  Gingersnap crust, pumpkin custard and a mountain of fluffy whipped cream...what more do I need??!!  I think this will be my new go-to pumpkin pie!

A sprinkle of nutmeg on top of the whipped cream is perfect.

I'm sensing a new Thanksgiving tradition!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can't Get Enough Sweet Potato

Just because I'm obsessed with sweet potatoes right now...

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

If there is anything I love more than sweet potato pie, it's pecan pie!  Now I can enjoy two loves together in one delicious pie.  This is an Emeril Lagasse recipe you can find on the Food Network website.  I think it would make a unique addition to any Thanksgiving celebration.  Be sure to use a 10" pie pan, or else you won't be able to fit all the gooey, sweet pecan filling on the top!

You had me at sweet potato pecan...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Apples and cheddar, oh my!

Although I've never been the biggest fan of apple pie, I remember when I was a child hearing about pairing it with cheddar cheese and even then I was intrigued.  I couldn't help but put a thick slice of cheese on my pie and pop it into the microwave until it was gooey and dripping down the sweet apples.  What could really be better than melty, cheesy goodness ON TOP of your dessert?!  Come on, it's a no brainer!

When it comes to making apple pie I think I resist going with traditional, all-American apple pie.  Remember my cranberry-apple crumble pie?  I just don't want to make a plain old apple pie because I kinda couldn't care less about them.  So I thought an apple pie with a cheddar crust would be just traditional enough, with just enough of a recipe twist to keep me interested.  I found this recipe for Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust on the Gourmet website.  The smell of the baking cheddar dough is like Goldfish crackers, but then you can smell the sweet apples and cinnamon and it all just works!  I love the contrast between the sharp, savory flavor of the dough and the sweet, juicy apples.  I used Honeycrisp, which is one of my favorites.   They were so juicy, in fact, that my filling probably could have used an extra tablespoon of  flour.  But the dough was so sturdy and crisp due it didn't get soggy, even the next day.

If you're like me and looking for something just a little different, I highly recommend this pie.  Nearly no extra effort if involved, and it makes apple pie just a little more special.

Butter, shortening and sharp cheddar in the crust.
Form the dough into two disks and put in the refrigerator.
Pile in the apples!  
The finished pie, crust flecked with cheese!
Hello, delicious!
Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb extra-sharp cheddar (preferably white), coarsely grated (2 1/2 cups)
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (trans-fat-free), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 lb Gala apples (3 medium)
1 1/2 lb Granny Smith apples (3 medium)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Make the crust:
Stir together flour, salt, and cheese in a large bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Add butter and shortening and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 6 Tbsp ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful: If dough doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.
Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide in half, then form each half into a 5-inch disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

The the filling:
Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Peel and core apples, then slice 1/4 inch thick. Toss apples with sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt until evenly coated.
Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining disk chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch round.
Transfer filling to shell. Dot with butter, then cover with pastry round. Trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together to seal, then fold under. Lightly brush top crust with milk, then cut 5 (1-inch-long) vents.
Bake on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 375°F and bake until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Little Sweet Potato

Sweet potato pie is one of those things I absolutely adore, but don't often have.  Thanksgiving is usually all about the pumpkin and pecan pie, poor sweet potato is usually not given a second thought by most folks.    Whenever I've eaten sweet potato pie in the past, I always find myself wondering why the hell I don't make/eat it more often.  When thinking about Fall pies I could make for the blog, I knew sweet potato had to be on the roster, but I wanted something a little different.  For many people, myself included, sweet potatoes served with marshmallows is forever entwined with Thanksgiving.  I wanted a pie reminiscent of that iconic combination.  I have seen recipes for sweet potato pie topped with marshmallows and broiled, but I wanted to elevate the level just a touch, so I went with Italian meringue.  This type of meringue is made by whipping a hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, resulting in a fluffy, shiny, delicious form of heaven in a pie topping.  Coincidentally, when you make home made marshmallows, you start with an Italian meringue.  So there you have it, pie full of sweet potato flavor, accented simply with orange zest and vanilla and crowned with a beautiful, snowy meringue.  My little sweet potato is all grown up, and delicious!

Sweet Potato Pie with Italian Meringue
1 9" pie shell, unbaked
1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato (I roasted mine)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks, save whites for the meringue
Juice and zest of one orange
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Place a sheet pan on the lowest rack of your oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.  Place the sweet potatoes in a mixer bowl and mix on medium speed until well mashed.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and mix again, scraping the bowl often.  Add the eggs, vanilla, orange zest and juice and mix again until well combined.  Scrape the filling into the pie shell and place on the pan in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes, until the pie is set and puffed.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Italian Meringue (from
3 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Place egg whites in a mixer bowl.   Whip the whites in mixer until soft peaks form.  Whip in the salt.  Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until thermometer registers 240°, 6-8 minutes. Remove pan from heat.  Slowly pour hot sugar syrup down side of bowl into whites and beat until meringue is firm and glossy. Continue beating until cool, about 4 minutes.  Spread the meringue over the top of the cooled pie, being sure to connect it to the edge of the crust.  Bake the pie in a 450 degree oven until nicely toasted to your liking, about 3 to 6 minutes.  Watch carefully, it can burn fast.

When I finally settled down a beautiful slice of this pie, my mind was pretty much blown clean outta my head!!  This pie is everything I wanted it to be.  Decadent and rich, with a deep sweet potato flavor brightened by the orange juice and zest, and the meringue is soft, sweet and toasty delicious on top.  This pie rocks my world.  Nuff said.

The filled pie ready for the oven.
It's puffy fresh out of the oven.
But it'll flatten out as it cools.
Pile on the beautiful meringue and make decorative swirls.
They will brown nicely after a few minutes in the hot oven.
Thanksgiving perfection.
I love you, my little sweet potato.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Apple Pie Even I Can Enjoy

Let the record show that when it comes to apple pie I've always been pretty "meh."  My whole life, apple pie has never really turned my crank.  The only way I enjoy it is with a crumb topping, like Dutch apple pie.  But seeing as how it's Fall, and how practically everybody on the planet goes crazy for apple pie, I knew I was going to have to bust out the apple pies.  No problem.  I had a partial bag of cranberries leftover in the freezer and thought that apple-cranberry sounded delightful.   A quick search of the ol' interwebs revealed a great many apple pies using cranberries.  Sounds like Fall to me!  I settled on this recipe for Cranberry-Apple Crumble Pie from  It's always a good idea to take a quick look at the reviews that people write on recipes.  Usually readers will post any changes they had to make to the recipe, or anything that didn't work out.  When I looked at the reviews for this pie, many people noted that they would have liked a little more sugar in the pie because it was very tart and some said they would have liked more crumble topping as well as more sugar in the crumble.  Others said they had trouble with the topping getting too brown.

Armed with this knowledge I set out to make the pie with a few changes.  Knowing that I adore generous amounts of a sweet crumble topping, I made a few adjustments to that portion of the recipe:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
6 Tb. butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

And for the pie filling itself, I added an extra 1/4 cup of sugar to help with the tartness issue.

As for the cooking portion of the recipe, it calls for putting chunks of butter on top of the fruit, covering the pie with foil, and baking it for 30 minutes BEFORE putting the crumble on top and then baking the rest of the way.  I had previously cooked a pie that calls for putting the crumble on half-way through the cooking time and I really didn't like that because the heat of the pie makes it hard to get the crumble on properly and it kind of falls all over the hot sheet pan.  I didn't want to deal with this, but I also didn't want a burned pie.  So instead I did this:
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees with a sheet pan on the bottom rack.  Omit the butter cubes on the fruit and instead pile the crumble all over the pie.  You may need to really pack it on, as the fruit will be mounded above the crust.  Place the pie on the heated pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350 degrees and move the pan and pie to the middle rack and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour more, until the fruit juices are thickened and bubbling out of the pie.  I covered my pie loosely with foil for about the last 20 minutes of cooking time.  All ovens are different, and so are our tastes, so keep a close eye on the pie and cover it when you think it is time.

It's worth noting that it is important when cooking fruit pies that the filling bubble properly so that your pie will set and not be a runny mess.  Both flour and cornstarch need to come to a boil in liquid to reach their full thickening power.  So if you see thin fruit juices spilling out of your pie, it isn't hot enough yet.  Wait until the juices are thick from whatever starch you used.  And remember that the outside edge of the pie will bubble first, before the middle gets to the proper temperature.  Be patient, you don't want a runny pie!  Generally the center of the pie should be over 200 degrees to achieve the proper thickening.

The resulting pie I made with a few minor changes was an apple pie that even I could get excited about!!  Juicy apples that retained just enough texture, tart cranberries (but not too tart!) and a delicious, crumb topping with the rich flavor of toasted pecans, yum!  This is the perfect Fall pie!

Ta da!  A beautiful apple pie!

Monday, October 10, 2011

When Just Chocolate Won't Do

When it came to making a pie for my friend Lindsay's birthday, my initial thought was chocolate cream.  But knowing how fabulous my friend is, and how "just chocolate" wouldn't do for such a special lady, I decided to she needed chocolate with something more.  Lindsay is a bona fide coffee junkie, so mocha seemed to make perfect sense.  And just to make the pie that much more fabulous, I added some booze too!  I think a girl has the right to go all out on her birthday.

Mocha Cream Pie
1 9" pie crust, blind baked
2 cups half & half
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tb. instant espresso powder
2 eggs
2 Tb. cornstarch
4 oz. quality semi-sweet or bittersweet  chocolate, chopped
1 Tb. butter
2 Tb. Baileys Irish Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tb. sugar

In a small, heavy bottom pot, combine 1 1/2 cups of the half & half, the sugar and instant espresso.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup half & half, the eggs and cornstarch.  When the liquid mixture is simmering, ladle in about a cup of it into the egg and cornstarch mixture.  This will temper the eggs so that you don't add them cold into the hot liquid, thereby scrambling them.  Whisk the warmed egg mixture back into the pot and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to keep lumps from forming.  As soon as the mixture boils, remove from the heat and add the chocolate, butter and Baileys.  Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the cream is smooth.  You can strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to ensure a silky-smooth texture.  Pour the chocolate cream into the baked, cooled pie crust and smooth the top.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to keep a skin from forming. Place in the refrigerator and let cool completely, at least 4 hours.  Whip the heavy cream and sugar together to stiff peaks.  Top the pie with the whipped cream and decorate as desired with cocoa powder or shaved chocolate.

A pie fit for a fabulous birthday girl!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back to the Business of Pie

Even since my return from working on the train, I haven't gotten back into pie mode.  Knowing that, I threw together an impromptu pie so that I could get something posted.  I went to my trusty freezer and found a pre-made pie crust from Wholly Wholesome and the rest of the cherries I bought during the summer.  A glance in the fridge found eggs and sour cream and the cupboard revealed oats and almonds.  Sour Cream Cherry Pie with Almond Crumble.  Done. Boom.

1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked
Crumble Topping
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup almonds
6 Tb. butter, melted
pinch of cinnamon
2 cups pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
3 Tb. flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour, oats, almonds and cinnamon.  Stir in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and well combined.  Put in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the pie.

Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk well.  Whisk in the eggs, extract and sour cream, mixing well to remove any lumps.  Fold in the cherries.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell and distribute the crumble topping evenly over the top.  Place on the pie on the heated pan in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and move the pie and the pan to the top rack to help the crumble brown.  Cook until the pie is set but jiggles slightly, about another 30 to 45 minutes.

Almond crumble topping.

Mixing the cherries and the sour cream filling.
The finished pie!
Oh crumbly goodness!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spoiler Alert

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything on the blog recently, I was away for a while cooking on a train.  A train, you ask?  Why yes!  I used to work on one before and my friend Courtney, who now works on another train, needed someone to fill in for her while she took some time off.  I know it sounds kind of strange, who else but me takes a vacation to go work another job??  A crazy person with no money and an obsession with food, that's who!!  Anyway, I was riding the rails and cooking in a tiny train galley, visiting friends in far-off, exotic places like Seattle, Chicago and Salt Lake City.

I haven't made any pies recently, but the last two days I've been working on some canning projects.  I decided a few years ago that I wanted to give people homemade gifts for the holidays, rather than spend money on crap they may not need or enjoy.  So among the many treats I have planned, I made some corn relish, peach butter and bourbon vanilla peach jam.  Oh, and that's the spoiler for those of you on my Christmas treat list, sorry.  I have a feeling you'll get over it once you taste these delicious goodies.  I used Colorado corn for the relish, which was so sweet I was calling it "corn candy."  And of course I used Colorado peaches, which I was so delighted to score a case of imperfect peaches for $22 at the farmers market!

Even though these aren't pies, I'm taking the liberty of posting the recipes anyway because this is my blog and I'll do what I want, thank you very much!  If you've never done any home canning before I highly recommend you give it a try.  Not only is it fun and economical to make your own jams, jellies, sauces and pickles, people really love getting a homemade gift.  It seems like life has gotten so complicated and the holidays have become a stressful frenzy of over-spending.  It's nice to keep things simple and give a gift that comes from the heart.

The most important thing with canning is to follow all instructions carefully and sterilize everything - jars, lids, bands, utensils, ladles, tongs, everything!  If you've never canned at home before, I recommend you read up on the subject on the Ball home canning website.  Remember, when you're processing the jars the water must be at a FULL BOIL before you start your timer.

Corn Relish 
Adapted from a recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving
Makes approximately 13 half-pint jars (I filled 4 half-pints, 4 pints and had about a pint left over that I used for dinner that night!)
8 cups fresh corn, cut from the cob
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups red bell peppers, diced
2 cups green chiles, diced (I used fresh Hatch chiles)
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vinegar (I used half cider and half rice wine vinegar)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. dry mustard
1 Tb. mustard seed
1 Tb. ground turmeric
1 Tb. red chile flakes
1 Tb. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process half-pints in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Fresh Colorado corn relish.  Delicious with hot dogs or any grilled meat.

Peach Butter in a Crockpot
Adapted from this recipe from Bed and Breakfast Foodies
Makes 7 half-pint jars
12 cups diced peaches, peeled and pitted
6 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Combine peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a crockpot.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  At this point I used my immersion blender to puree until smooth.  If you don't have one, puree the peaches in a blender before adding to the crockpot.  Remove the lid and change the setting to low heat.  Simmer for about 8 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very dark, syrupy and thick.  When you dip a spoon into the peach it will "sheet" off the spoon, rather than drip off in several strands.  Fill hot, sterilized jars with the hot butter and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Dark, intensely sweet and peachy butter.  Delicious on toast, pancakes, waffles or your finger!

Bourbon Vanilla Peach Jam
Adapted from the recipe inside the box of Ball Fruit Pectin and this recipe from Beantown Baker
Makes 6 half-pint jars
4 cups finely diced peaches, peeled and pitted
5 cups sugar
1 box Ball Fruit Pectin (1.75 oz)
2 Tb. lemon juice
1 fresh vanilla bean
1/4 cup bourbon

Split the vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds.  Combine with the peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and slowly stir in the pectin.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down.  Add all of the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Bring to a full rolling boil again and boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim any foam if necessary.  Remove the vanilla bean and stir in the bourbon.  Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Peaches flecked with fresh vanilla and spiked with bourbon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Easy as (Chicken) Pie

It was a very long, very hot summer in Denver.  But, in typical Denver fashion, the weather went from one extreme to another and one day it was 95 degrees and the next it was 60.  So I thought it was only appropriate to make a cold weather dish to get me in the mood for my favorite time of year and decided to go with chicken pot pie.

I love comfort food.  The more rich and sinful a dish is, the more comfort there is to be had!  So when making a pot pie, I don't just go for chicken and gravy in a crust.  I used smoked chicken, heavy cream in the sauce and both pie crust AND puff pastry.  You heard me, cream, pie crust, AND puff pastry.  Cuz that's just how I roll.  When it comes to food, I don't mess around.  If you're going to enjoy comfort food, you might as well do it right.  Chicken pot pie really is quite easy to put together.  I used a pre-made pie crust, a smoked chicken from my work (or substitute a rotisserie chicken), frozen puff pastry and frozen veggies.  Doesn't get easier than that.

As pretty much anyone who cooks professionally will tell you, I don't know how to cook for two people.  I cook for a minimum of ten people at all times.  It's just one of those things that comes with the job -- you get used to cooking large quantities at work and that spills over to home.   Even though there are just two of us in my home and one of us doesn't like leftovers (not me, I can eat the same thing all week) I still somehow manage to cook for ten people every time.  Naturally when I set forth to make one pie, I ended  up with enough to make two pies.  But just put one in the freezer for later, or give one to a friend.

Chicken Pot Pie
Makes 2 pies

Two 9" pie crusts
1 box frozen puff pastry
1 rotisserie chicken (I used a smoked chicken from our in-store smokehouse!)
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 lb. frozen mixed veggies
few dashes hot sauce
few dashes soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten, for sealing and brushing the puff pastry

Place a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.  Line each pie crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with dry beans or pie weights.  Place the crusts on the hot pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, take out the paper and the beans and let cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Pull the chicken from the carcass, removing the skin and bones.  Break up into chunks you can get into your mouth.  Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pot over medium high heat and add the onions.  Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic.  Saute a few minutes more.  Add the flour and mix well.  Whisk in the chicken stock and then the cream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Add all the herbs and seasonings and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the chicken and frozen veggies and remove from the heat.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Roll out your puff pastry sheets and use the pie crusts to trace circles large enough to completely cover the tops of the pies.  Cut several 1/2 inch slits in each of the top crusts and brush them with the beaten egg.  Divide the filling between the two pie crusts.  Brush the edge of the pie crusts with the egg and then place the puff pastry circles over the pies, pressing them firmly to adhere to the edges and form a tight seal.  If you like, sprinkle a little garlic seasoning on the top crusts to give them a nice flavor.  Place the pies back onto the hot pan in the oven and bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 40 to 50 minutes.

The filling ready to go.
Golden brown and delicious!  My steam vents sealed themselves back up so be sure to cut yours big!
Comfort food goodness!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Good and Evil!

Last summer I discovered a fantastic food blog called Evil Shenanigans.  I knew I struck gold because the first recipe I saw was for Peach Cream Pie!!  I don't ever remember seeing or eating peach cream pie before and when I saw the beautiful picture of peaches, custard and whipped cream I thought, "where have you been my whole life?!"  So I immediately made the pie and fell in love.  I think the tag line of the blog says it all, "Sometimes its good to be bad."

I made this pie again a few days ago with some of the last precious peaches I bought.  My partner took it to work for a coworker who is leaving the company and she happily reported that there were swoons a-plenty in response!  If you feel like becoming a hero to your friends and loved ones, or are possibly in the market for marriage proposals and/or sexual advances, make this pie and share the love.  You can find the recipe here.

Hello gorgeous!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Peaches 'n Cream

I lucked out and bought a 10 pound box of Colorado peaches (the last one!) from my upstairs neighbor, who sells them for the local Rotary Club.  So thankfully I can get my fix of peaches and peach-based baking for just a little longer before they disappear for another year.

Not to be confused with the sour cream blueberry pie I blogged about earlier this year, this is a baked pie that uses peaches mixed with sour cream and eggs, topped with a sugary, crisp topping.  To say that it is delicious is an understatement.  Super sweet, juicy peaches, surrounded by tangy sour cream and finished with crunchy goodness, mmmmmm good!!  I tried a slice when the pie was still slightly warm, but it was also fantastic the next day fresh out of the refrigerator.  I used a little almond and orange extracts because I was out of vanilla, but feel free to substitute vanilla if you like.

If you're faced with seasonal depression due to the impending lack of fresh peaches, get your last fix with this pie.  Trust me.

Sour Cream Peach Pie
1 9" pie crust, unbaked
2 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
3 Tb. flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
pinch cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Stir in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and well combined.  Put in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the pie.
Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk well.  Whisk in the eggs and sour cream, mixing well to remove any lumps.  Fold in the peaches.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell and place on the heated pan in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and sprinkle the crumble topping over the pie.  Cook until the pie is set, but jiggles slightly, about another 30 to 45 minutes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Not Pie But I Don't Care

There are two desserts for which I'm a stickler for traditional method - strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler.   These two items should be made a certain way and anything else ain't right!  I'll get on my soapbox about shortcake later, so for today I'm going to rant about cobbler.

According to the Food Lover's Companion (one of my culinary bibles), a cobbler is defined as, "A baked, deep-dish fruit dessert topped with a thick, biscuit crust and sprinkled with sugar."  There is also an alcohol based punch called a cobbler, but a dessert cobbler never has been, and never will be, ANYTHING but baked fruit with biscuits on top.  Cobblers got their name from the look of the biscuits, which resembles cobblestone.  If you see a recipe for "cobbler" that calls for making any kind of a thick or thin cake-like batter that envelopes the fruit rather than perching on top of it, that is not a cobbler!  Cobbler should have a high ratio of juicy fruit thickened with cornstarch (or flour if you like) topped with biscuits.  It should not be cake with bits of fruit inside of it.  It also should not have a crunchy topping using oats or nuts, because that is a crisp.

To me, the quintessential cobbler is peach.  I don't bother with apples, cherries, berries or anything else besides peaches.  Save those other fruits for pies, crisps and buckles.  I hold fast to my belief that a cobblers' entire reason for being is to be peach.  End of story.  Especially when those peaches are sweet, delicious, fresh and in season, like the Colorado peaches right now.  I don't add cinnamon or any other spices, just some sugar and the pure sweet flavor of ripe peaches.  It's so good it's worth getting up on my soapbox for!! I recommend serving this classic cobbler warm with ice cream or unsweetened heavy cream poured right over the top.  I'm a purist and I beseech the world, don't mess with the cobbler!  Life is complicated enough already.

Peach Cobbler
4 pounds peaches, peeled and sliced
sugar, depending on your peaches, I used 1/3 cup
cornstarch, I used 3 Tb.
2 cups flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
6 Tb. butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup milk
1 Tb. raw sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  To make the cobbler topping, mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and whisk to combine.  Add the butter and use your hands to rub the pieces into the flour, breaking them down into small bits.  When the mixture is sandy and crumby looking, stir in the milk and mix just to combine.  The dough will be moist and sticky.  Put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

To peel and pit the peaches first use a paring knife to score an X on the bottom and then drop them into simmering water for about 20 to 30 seconds.  Remove and drop into a bowl of cold water with ice to stop the cooking process.  If the peaches were nice and ripe you will be able to rub off the skins with a paper towel or clean dish towel.   Or you may need to use a paring knife to remove the skin, pulling it down from the X.   Cut the peaches into large chunks, be sure to remove the pits.  Toss the peaches with the sugar and cornstarch, stir  until well combined.

Coat a 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray or butter and add the peaches.  Use a small portion scoop to place the topping in 12 small mounds on the fruit, giving them space to expand.  Sprinkle the biscuits with the raw sugar.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes to an hour, until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are browned and firm to the touch.

Juicy and delicious Colorado peaches.
Biscuit dough scooped onto the fruit.
The real deal!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Seize the moment!

Peach season has arrived in Colorado and it will be gone as quickly as it came.   Considering I made this pie on Tuesday, I've already lost a few more days of peachy goodness!!  I went to the Boulder Farmer's Market last weekend and the peaches were close to $4 a pound.  So I decided to give my money to my employer, where they are still $2.49 a pound.  And boy, I was not disappointed!  These peaches are sweet, fragrant and juice-dripping-down-your-arm juicy!!  Go get some peaches and make this pie, with or without the blueberries.  Don't hesitate, life is short.  And so is peach season.

Peach Blueberry Pie with Almond Crumble

1 9" pie crust (cold), I used Wholly Wholesome
3 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
sugar to taste, I used 3 Tb.
2 Tb. instant Clearjel, or about half the amount of cornstarch, depending on your fruit
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 Tb. melted butter
pinch of ground nutmeg

Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, almonds, nutmeg and butter in a small bowl.  Put in the refrigerator while prepping the rest of the pie.

To peel and pit the peaches first use a paring knife to score an X on the bottom and then drop them into simmering water for about 20 to 30 seconds.  Remove and drop into a bowl of cold water with ice to stop the cooking process.  If the peaches were nice and ripe you will be able to rub off the skins with a paper towel or clean dish towel.   Or you may need to use a paring knife to remove the skin, pulling it down from the X.  Slice the peaches, I like to leave them sort of thick so they don't disintegrate when cooking.

Combine the peaches and blueberries in a bowl.  Mix the instant Clearjel and the sugar and sprinkle over the fruit, tossing to combine.  Pile the fruit into the unbaked pie shell.  Top with the crumble mixture.  Place the pie on the heated pan and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbling.  Cool for as long as you can possibly wait, this pie is great warm or cold and is perfect with vanilla ice cream!

Beautiful peaches!
Sliced with blueberries.  
Sweet, delicious, juicy, crunch pie goodness!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cherry Custard Pie

Custard pie is very old-timey in my opinion.  I like that.  I also like that custard pie is rich and velvety and so deliciously decadent.  I happened to have a lot of cherries on hand and combining the two just seemed to make perfect sense to me.  I was very pleased with this pie.  The sweet cherries and rich custard were a match made in heaven.  Very much like creme brulee with cherries in a crust.  The top developed a thin, sugary, brown crust that really drove the pie home!

Cooking a custard pie can be tricky because the egg mixture requires gentle heat, but the crust needs high heat to cook through and brown.  I've read a lot about "slipped" custard  pies that require cooking the two items separately and then slipping the filling into the crust.  I wasn't ready to tackle that one just yet, so for this one I blind baked the crust first.  I went with my good ol' standard pie crust, Cook's Illustrated fool proof pie dough recipe.  The crisp, flaky crust is the perfect compliment to the creamy custard.  I used Grand Marnier in this pie, but you could substitute Kirsch or even rum.

Cherry Custard Pie
1 9" pie crust

2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp.  vanilla extract
1/2 tsp.  almond extract
2 Tb.Grand Marnier
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 cups pitted cherries

Place a sheet pan on the lowest rack of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.  Roll out the pie crust and press into the pie pan.  Use a fork to prick holes in the crust all over.  Line the crust with a piece of foil and fill with dry beans or pie weights.  Place the crust on the hot sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil  and beans and allow to cool slightly.

Combine all the liquid ingredients to make the custard filling.  Put the cherries into the partially baked pie crust and pour over the custard.  Place the pie back on the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then turn  down the heat to 325 and cook until the custard is set but jiggles lightly when you gently shake the pan, 30 to 45 minutes.  Let the pie cool on the counter for about 20 minutes and then refrigerate until cold.

Mediocre picture of an outstanding pie!

Creamy goodness!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Pie in the Hand

What could possibly be better than a pie you can easily heat out of your hands?!!  I've been thinking about it and I tell ya, I'm hard pressed to come up with something!  I originally wanted to fry these adorable little pies, like those Hostess fruit pies I enjoyed as a child.  Unfortunately when I went to the cupboard I found that I didn't have enough vegetable oil, so I just baked them.  But don't worry, fried pies will be coming soon!

This isn't so much a recipe as simple guidelines.  Don't be a slave to recipes.  Like I'm always saying, its good to experiment!  So many people feel  like they must have a recipe to follow, but you don't need that.  Have confidence in your skills and just go for it!  I made these delicious hand pies with fresh Colorado peaches, but feel free to substitute whatever fruit you like.

1 recipe for a double crust pie, or pre-made pie crust
fruit (I used 7 small peaches, peeled and chopped)
sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
juice of one lemon

Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a small  pot.  I mashed the peaches up with a potato masher but didn't go too crazy so they would still have some texture.  Cook the fruit over medium heat until the mixture is very thick, stirring often to keep the bottom from sticking and burning.   The fruit should stay in a thick mound, not run together.  This could take about 30 minutes, depending on the juiciness of your fruit.  Put the mixture into a bowl and let cool.

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out the dough and cut it into circles as big or small as you like.   Mine were 6-inch circles.  Spoon the cooled filling onto the dough, being careful not to put too much because you don't want it oozing out all over the place.  Brush the edge of the crust with water and fold the top half of the circle over the filling, enclosing it completely.  Use a fork to crimp the edge of the crust together, making sure it seals well.  Put the pies on a sheet pan and cut a vent into each pie.  If you like, you can brush them with heavy cream and sprinkle them with sugar.  Bake in the hot oven until the crust is golden brown and juices bubble out the vents.  Depending on the size of your pies this could take about 10 to 20 minutes.  Enjoy warm or cool, with ice cream or whipped cream, or just right out of your hand!

Ta da!!  Precious hand pies!
Delicious peach filling.
Mmmmmm. Pie.