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.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cover Girl!

One day my dear friend Leslie sent me a text message telling me that I MUST pick up the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine because there was an article about pie.  When I got home from work that day my wonderful better half, Rachel, had already purchased the issue for me!  I gasped when I saw the beautiful Lime & Blackberry Italian Meringue pie on the cover.  And the article inside, entitled "Let Them Eat Pie," featured some really beautiful classic pies with a modern twist.  I knew that I'd be trying out a few recipes for the blog.

Fast forward a few weeks.  I'm wasting time on Facebook and I see a post by Bon Appetit magazine asking readers to "cook the cover" (the pie!!) for a chance to be featured on their website.  Well, hello opportunity!  I hear you knocking loud and clear!  So I made their heavenly pie and it is beautiful and delicious!  My only tiny issue that I didn't use a deep-dish pie pan (as the recipe states, oops) and therefore my pie's proverbial cup runneth over!  Oh well, she's still a knockout anyway!  And here's hoping  that I get some more traffic to the blog, and hopefully a plug on their site!

Click on the link above to get their recipe and try this sweet little number yourself!

Work it, girl!