Showing posts with label pie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pie. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sugar-Free Chocolate Silk Pie

We recently made this pie for a friend who has diabetes. 

After I took the picture I did sprinkle a little bit of chocolate shavings on top which had a tiny bit of sugar in it but it was still super low sugar. Here is how I made it!

Ingredients: 

  • Sugar-free chocolate pudding
  • Milk
  • Sugar-free Cool Whip
  • Sugar-free graham cracker crust



I followed the directions for the pudding for a pie. I let it set in the bowl for about an hour and I mixed 2/3 of the whipped cream in with the pie filling and put it into the crust. I let it set up for a couple hours and used a cookie scoop to make the dollops on top.

This pie was a little pricey because of the crust but it ended up only being around $7.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fast gluten-free, butter-free apple pie!

When my husband stopped eating dairy, gluten and eggs at the beginning of the year, we assumed the allergy trial would last two weeks. Sadly, those two weeks fell right over his birthday. (Three months later, he's just barely begun to try these foods again.)

Each month at work, they have a birthday party for that month's honorees, and they weren't going to run out and buy a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake for one poor person. He was okay with being left out, but I wasn't. So I decided to make him a surprise:




It's a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free apple pie!

The biggest challenge to eating around gluten, eggs & dairy is how they sneak into things. Obviously there's gluten in pie crust, and maybe butter (I'm a shortening crust girl myself). But the egg wash on a pie? The butter cubes in the filling?

So I went simple. My husband had already picked up refrigerated gluten-free pie dough which happened to also be egg- and dairy-free. (I joke that it's not made from real food.) I chopped up some apples we had around and tossed them with sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. You could use a dairy-free butter substitute, of course. (You still have to bake the pie almost as long.)

I also got to use my mini-pie pans, since it seemed ridiculous to bake a whole pie just for one person to eat. I brought it to him at work and surprised him . . . once I found him, avoiding the party.

This is less of a recipe and more of a technique, learning to substitute out allergenic foods. Instead of an egg wash, for example, I used almond milk (because real milk is another type of wash, right?) and raw sugar. That experiment didn't work as well, and the applies could have used a little longer to bake, but all in all, it was much better than foregoing cake.

Especially since my daughters and I got ice cream out of the deal.

What's your favorite way to surprise someone?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chocolate chip maple pecan pie

So, hey, my first book came out last week. But we're gathered here today not to go and buy my book (though I totally won't say no if you want to!), but to celebrate with FOOD. Not just any food: PIE.


Chocolate chip maple pecan pie. Maple chocolate chip pecan pie. However you want to arrange it, it. is. DELICIOUS.

And not only is this amazing pie . . . well, amazing, but it's also featured in my book.

     
My pie
Both yummy
.

The pie was inspired by a real pie, made at a real restaurant. My characters get to visit Wilfrid's, the totally awesome restaurant at the (Fairmont) Château Laurier (amiright, Jaime?). Yep, I've been there—but I'm pretty sure they didn't have this dessert at the time, a specialty of Chef Ernst's.

Since Ottawa is a bit far away right now, I made the pie at home. It's good chilled, but let me tell you: eat it warm. Nuke it if you have to. YES.

Ingredients
adapted from Pioneer Woman's Pecan Pie recipe. kind of a lot of adaptation
  • 1/2 c granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 c + 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 c corn syrup
  • 1/2 c maple syrup (the real stuff! You can really play around with the levels here, swapping corn syrup for maple—but you'll want more than 1 oz of maple syrup, which is all I had on hand when I made the recipe!)
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 c salted butter, melted (and somewhat cooled so you don't scramble the eggs)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 c pecan halves, plus more pecan halves for the top layer (~20)
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • pie shell (being me, I also made this by hand, but that's optional)


Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Microwave the 3/4 c pecan halves just until warm, then crush or chop them. (This releases more oils and flavors. Or something. I made this recipe up a year ago, and I did a ton of research at the time, okay?)
  3. Line a 9" pie pan with a pie crust. Pour the chopped pecans and chocolate chips into the bottom of the crust, shaking to settle them in an even layer
  4. Mix the sugars, syrups, vanilla, melted butter and beaten eggs in a bowl. (I actually put the chocolate chips in here, but it doesn't matter which way you do it.)
  5. Place the whole/half pecans (neatly & prettily!) on top of the chopped pecans & chocolate chips in the pie shell
  6. Slowly pour the filling mix in the pie shell
  7. Gently shake the pie from side to side to make the pecan halves float
  8. Arrange the nuts with a toothpick to make a pretty pattern, spell your name, ask someone to marry you (uh. Don't think you'll have room for that. But you can ask out loud, and then celebrate with pie!)
  9. Gently cover the exposed crust with foil
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake 20 more minutes, or until set.
  11. Let cool (if you can).

Also included in my instructions from testing the recipe: mop, shower. I don't think the pie was that messy to make, but you never know....

When I measured the syrups together, they made some really cool patterns, probably because of viscosity differences:
Look closely if you have to
And, um, PIE.

What's your favorite pie? Or book? Or book with pie in it? Or pie to read books by?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Give the gift of pie!

Last year, my husband’s coworker gave out quart jars of homemade apple pie filling as her Christmas gift. I think that’s a fantastic idea. A one quart jar will fill an 8″ or 9″ pie for a fast, homemade dessert—but the possibilities go way beyond that. My favorite use was as a topping for pancakes. Just heat in a pan until thick, hot and bubbly and voila! Give the gift of pie!

It only takes one county extension class to have the importance of using a tested recipe in home canning. Seriously. They’re tested to make sure that the food quality is as good as it can be while still reaching the temperature to kill of the botulism that may be lurking in the middle of your jars. Botulism, in case you can’t tell, does NOT make a good neighbor gift.

Fortunately, other cooks, like the awesome people behind Our Best Bites, understand the importance of tested recipes. She used a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. And here it is:
Quantities of Ingredients Needed For
1 Quart7 Quarts
Blanched, sliced fresh apples3-1/2 cups6 quarts
Granulated sugar3/4 cup + 2 tbsp5-1/2 cups
Clear Jel®*1/4 cup1-1/2 cup
Cinnamon1/2 tsp1 tbsp
Cold Water1/2 cup2-1/2 cups
Apple juice3/4 cup5 cups
Bottled lemon juice2 tbsp3/4 cup
Nutmeg (optional)1/8 tsp1 tsp
Yellow food coloring (optional)1 drop7 drops

A note about ClearJel: it’s a modified cornstarch that stands up to heat, freezing and/or acid from fruit, unlike plain old cornstarch or other thickeners. The NCHFP says (emphasis mine):
Before assembling the other ingredients, including fresh fruits, to make the pie fillings in Extension canning recommendations, check to see if you will be able to get ClearJel®. There is no substitution for ClearJel® that can be made in these recipes. This means do not use other corn starch, flour, tapioca, or other thickener in our recipes. You also must use ClearJel® and not Instant ClearJel®, ClearJel A®, any other form of ClearJel®, or any other modified corn starch.

However, Sara at Our Best Bites contacted her local extension office and they said that Ultra Gel is the same product and it’s a bit easier to find than ClearJel. (But still—call ahead.)

And as with any home canning, double check the steps, especially the processing time for your altitude. If you don’t have a lovely water bath canner like the one above (and I don’t either), I’ve canned a few things without expensive equipment. I have to use pint jars and at least one site I looked at said to leave the processing time the same. Of course, this might affect the food quality, but I do believe in being safe rather than sorry.

Once your pie filling is done, tie it up with a bow and give the gift of pie!

What do you like to give your friends and neighbors?
Photos by Kurt and Sybilla

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Batching to perfect your pie recipes

With summer coming up, it's time to perfect that peach, apple or other favorite pie recipe. But how can you possibly try out all the variations you want to—and most importantly, get rid of all of those pies without gaining too much weight?

The answer is two-fold: mini-pies and batching. We’ve already talked about adapting a pie recipe to a miniature pie pan. You can go as small as muffin tins for your mini pies. I’m told a 9″ pie recipe will fill 12 regular muffin cups (but I think the sample size might be a bit too small to tell what tastes best to you). I used my 5″ mini pie plates to batch the chess, buttermilk chesstransparent and vinegar pies.

In this case, batching your pies means starting with a set base of the individual recipes’ common ingredients—such as your basic apple mixture—dividing that base into several dishes and mixing in the different ingredients.

I went about it an analytic way: I set up a spreadsheet and listed the ingredients and amounts for the four recipes I wanted to try out. Then I highlighted the ingredient amounts that were the same or nearly so. I took that amount and multiplied it by 3/4 to get the amount for four 5″ mini pies. That became my base (highlighted in yellow below).



After that, I added the extra columns between the recipes to multiply the non-common ingredients by 3/16, the adjustment for one individual pan.

In this case, the base was 1 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar, 2.25 eggs (or 2 eggs + 1 Tbsp beaten egg), and 3/4 tsp vanilla. Since eggs are roughly 1/4 cup in volume, I figured the total volume of my base was 1 1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp = 27 Tbsp. Dividing that up for four pies yields a little less than 7 Tbsp (8 Tbsp = 1/2 c).

Since this base isn’t complete, we don’t want to pour the plain base right into our prebaked pie crust! No, first we pour the individual mini pie amount of base into a bowl. Then for each pie we mix in the non-common ingredients. Then pour the pie into the crust and bake.

As you’re mixing, pouring, baking and tasting, it’s vital to keep your pies straight. For me, a dry erase marker was invaluable. I used my cooktop as an operations base and labeled each burner with a letter for the pie as I was mixing. Then I labeled the oven door and put the pies in the oven matching their labels. When they were done, they went back on their still-labeled burners.

I even photographed the pies with the letters visible so I could identify them later: I took a picture of the pie on the burner with the letter in the background, then sliced the pie (photo), took out a piece (photo) and sampled it (photo). If you’re good, you’ll take notes (I learned this eventually). And soon you’ll be able to narrow down your favorites and taste them head to head.

Batching pies is a little bit of work—and sometimes more than a little bit of math!—but to find the perfect pie, it’s a step you won’t want to skip!

Don’t forget to check out my mini-pie article for more tips!

Have you ever used batching to perfect a recipe?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Not so delightful S'mores Delight Pie

Two years ago, I embarked on a PieQuest. My PieQuest began with reading magazines. This recipe comes from Spirit magazine from Southwest Airlines but unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out like it did in the picture.



S’mores Delight Pie is originally from Perfect Pies: The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes from America’s Pie-Baking Champion by Michele Stuart. Unfortunately, when I made it following the recipe instructions, it didn’t turn out even close to the intended result.

This pie is almost a s’more cream pie. The idea is a graham cracker crust coated with hot fudge sauce and filled with marshmallow-flavored-and-studded custard. On top, hot-fudge-dipped graham crackers, whipped cream/marshmallow cream and toasted mini marshmallows.

If that sounds like a lot of work—it is. The hot fudge sauce is made from scratch and requires 5 hours’ cooling. The custardy filling, which you can make while the hot fudge sauce cools, has to be refrigerated for an hour and a half before assembling the pie. And then you refrigerate for another 12 hours. And then you top it and broil it.

So basically this is an 18-hour pie. That might be worth it—once—if it turned out amazing. Or even turned out at all. It didn’t.

For starters, I don’t think the hot fudge sauce was supposed to actually be chilled before you poured it in the crust. The directions do say “pour” not “scrape out of the bottom of the bowl and spread,” as fully chilled hot fudge sauce requires.


Another problem with this recipe was in the “marshmallow vanilla cream.” How long do you think it would take just over six and a half cups of a cold liquid to heat to bubbling on medium heat in a medium saucepan, while whisking constantly? Here’s a hint: not four minutes.

However, the directions said, “Place saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly until the cream starts to bubble and thicken, about 4 minutes.” (And yes, my stove was already warm.) After 10 minutes of constant whisking, the milk had barely begun to froth. Was that what they meant by bubble?

I’ve made puddings before. I know what it means for something to bubble and thicken. This wasn’t it. And yet I’d diligently followed the directions, and I’d cooked it for two and a half times the recipe’s direction. Torn, I decided to pull the “marshmallow vanilla cream” from the stovetop. It was the wrong decision.

I cooled the filling with an ice bath and stuck it in the refrigerator for as much time as I had (another error: I only allotted an “insignificant” 14.5 hours to making this pie). Then I assembled the pie. Because the graham cracker crumb crust apparently isn’t enough graham, the hot fudge layer on the bottom of the cake is topped with graham crackers. Do you know what happens when you pour a not-thick-enough pie filling on top of graham crackers?

I’ll tell you: they float. I was too afraid to find out, but I worried that not only did the graham crackers float, but that they’d pulled up the hot fudge sauce and the graham cracker crust underneath. I closed my eyes, spread the hot fudge sauce on the top layer of graham crackers (again, chilled hot fudge sauce isn’t something you can dip a graham cracker in, at least not to coat it for a pie, so this looked pretty ugly already), and stuck it in the fridge to hope for the best.

The next day, I took a peek at the pie-fail I was hoping to bring to a potluck. I tilted it to one side—and decided to make cookies.

After nearly 24 hours in the refrigerator, I knew it was time to give up hope my s’more pie soup would magically turn into a cream pie. Unwilling to throw good food after bad, I decided to forgo the “fluff whipped cream” (another 30 minutes of effort and cream and marshmallow fluff) and just top with the mini marshmallows and broil.


It looks good here. I’m creative like that. Just take a look at this filling:


This is what we call a “Bake Fail.” I think “epic” is overused in Internet slang, but it might actually apply here. The only part of the pie that actually worked out was the store-bought crust. And you know what? That’s probably good, since the other recipe from this book featured in the magazine was a traditional pie crust: and it called for so much shortening that it crumbled at the slightest touch.

Could this pie work? Yes, if you have two days before you want to eat the pie, and you trust yourself more than the directions. But barring that, make this s’mores pie, which is faster (and tastier in my experience), or try this alternative: s'mores delight. Not only easier, but faster and foolproof. What’s not to love about this?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Vinegar Pie vs. Transparent Pie: smackdown!

As I hunted for a chess pie recipe to try, I found some interesting distinctions. Some believed vinegar was a key ingredient in chess pie, but others opined that vinegar automatically made a pie a vinegar pie. I can say that adding vinegar made a pie pretty delicious . . . okay, I don’t think the vinegar made that big a difference, but it was a little bit tastier that way.

Another pie I came across during my recipe hunt was a similar pie called transparent pie. The Kentucky area claims it, so you can sometimes find transparent pie and chess pie at the same event. The biggest difference is that transparent pie is thickened with flour rather than cornmeal. It’s also purported to be a short step away from a nut-less pecan pie—but no corn syrup here.

Like chess pie, both transparent pie and vinegar pie are basic egg-based sweet custard pies. When I made my chess pie and buttermilk pie, I also made this week’s transparent and vinegar pies. In fact, I batched them—and more about how to do that next week. For the pictures in this post, the pictures on the left-hand side are vinegar pies, and the ones on the right are transparent.

Vinegar Pie vs. Transparent Pie: Smackdown!

I found my transparent pie recipe on Boonie Foodie, and my “vinegar” pie recipe is Martha Stewart’s chess pie recipe. I modified both slightly: I lowered the amounts of egg and sugar in the transparent pie to match the other pies for better comparison, taking it from the equivalent of four eggs and two cups of sugar to three eggs and one and a half cups of sugar. I tripled the vinegar in the vinegar pie—but don’t worry, the flavor didn’t carry through to the final version.

Both pies (modified) use the same amount of sugar, eggs, vanilla and butter. The transparent pie also added the flour thickener and cream. Since the vinegar pie features neither corn meal or flour, this pie is thickened solely by eggs.

As with the chess and buttermilk pies, the top of these pies had a delicious sugar crunch like a very thin meringue, and the centers are simply sweet without tasting exactly like sugar. Obviously, without the corn meal, neither of these pies were at all gritty, but surprisingly, I didn’t find them noticeably smoother than the corn meal-based pies.

Personally, of these two, I preferred the vinegar pie. It had a beautiful golden color and the butter and sugar combined for a wonderful caramel flavor. The transparent pie was also good, in a straight-up sweet way.

The winner overall, from all four pies, was the buttermilk chess pie. The notes of buttercream in its filling just edged out the caramel flavors in the vinegar pie. But really, all of these are good pies!

Scores:
Vinegar Pie, Martha Stewart
Transparent Pie, Boonie Foodie
Taste:3.5 stars3 stars
Texture:3 stars2.5 stars
Easy to make:4 stars4 stars
Durability:5 stars—the crunchy meringue-like upper crust actually held up on the counter, instead of getting soft like a meringue does5 stars—same
Wow factor:2.75 stars2.5 stars

Recipes
These recipes have been adapted for 5″ pie pans.

Vinegar Pie
adapted from the Martha Stewart
  • 1/4 cup plus 1.5 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 2 1/4 Tbsp liquid egg product or beaten eggs (just over half an egg)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla (if you have a “pinch” measuring spoon, it’s actually 3 pinches)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 unbaked 5″ pie crust
Transparent Pie
adapted from Boonie Foodie
  • 1/4 cup plus 1.5 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 2 1/4 Tbsp liquid egg product or beaten eggs (just over half an egg)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla (if you have a “pinch” measuring spoon, it’s actually 3 pinches)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp cream
  • 1 unbaked 5″ pie crust
Directions for both pies
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then add wet to dry. Pour into pie crust. Although most recipes will tell you to lower the temperature at about 20% of the total baking time, I left my oven on 350 and baked them for about 25 minutes. (The vinegar pie did take slightly longer.) Check your pies often—I considered them done once the top crust was fully set, and might crack but wouldn’t collapse if I tapped it.

What's your favorite kind of pie?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingerbread Pie with Marshmallow Meringue (and extra waywardness!)

Last year, I experimented with several "Christmas-y pie ideas"—cranberry apricot, eggnog chiffon, and today's example:

Gingerbread pie with marshmallow meringue!

Gingerbread just says "holidays." This custard pie has molasses and brown sugar and some of the classic spices for a spot-on gingerbread taste. The recipe itself comes from Sprinkle Bakes, but I make my "experimental" pies in miniature pie plates that are 5" across, so I have to adapt everything (starting with the crusts).


Here's the recipe for a 5" pie:

1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp molasses (not blackstrap)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp flour
tiny pinch salt (or use salted butter)
1/4 tsp ginger (heaping)
1/8 tsp cinnamon (heaping)
1 egg yolk
1/8 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp buttermilk
A pie shell

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Mix the butter, molasses and brown sugar using a hand mixer. Mix in the flour, salt, and spices. Add the egg yolk and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in the vanilla and buttermilk, then pour into the pie shell [the original recipe uses a regular, unbaked pie shell; I used a blind baked graham cracker crust].

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set (not jiggly in the middle when moved).

I'd rate the pie itself "not bad." The texture is chewy, especially around the edges, but pretty good, though it's a little weird paired with the gingerbread flavor, which was pretty good.

The marshmallow meringue topping, however, was FANTASTIC. Here's the 5" pie version:

1 egg white
1/8 tsp vanilla
tiny dash salt
2 tsp sugar
1 1/3 oz marshmallow creme (about 1/4 cup)

Beat the egg white with vanilla and salt until foamy. Add the sugar a bit at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form, like in the first picture here:

Add the marshmallow creme a little at a time. I recommend stopping the mixer and putting the marshmallow creme underneath the beaters. Otherwise, my mixer grabbed the chunk of marshmallow creme and flung it to the side of the bowl.

Note that once you've added the marshmallow, the stiff peaks disappear and we get into a kind of ribbon stage again. That's perfect.

You could also use straight marshmallow creme, but it's stiffer and harder to work with. See:


After spreading the meringue you can make it fancy. I usually spoon it on, making sure to seal the edges to minimize shrinking. Then I use a knife or spatula to make the peaks, tapping it on the surface and pulling it off. Brown it in a 400 degree oven.

I cut a real-sized slice out of my mini-pie:
YUM.

My mixer beaters are so high in my bowl that they can't beat fewer than three egg whites (sad, I know). So I had to make the full-sized pie recipe of the meringue (double sad). With all the extra meringue, I piped these babies:
I love meringue drops and I was already hoping to make some for this year. The marshmallow flavor was a big bonus (and some mini chocolate chips would make these perfect!).

Normally, meringue drops do NOT expand as they bake, but the marshmallow kind of changes that, so they expanded a little, and took a bit longer to bake. I gave mine about 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Once they look dry, you turn off the oven and leave them in there with the door shut (or slightly cracked, depending on what recipe you use).

I know what you're asking: where are the glamorous shots of the final product? Well, when you're fixing dinner and your meringue drops are resting in one oven, and you need to cook your dinner in the other oven, make sure you turn on the right oven, or you'll ruin both.
And that's what it means to be Wayward & Crafty.

Fortunately, I still had the little bit on my pie. My then-one-year-old was fascinated by it and climbed up to the table to take a look. When she saw me coming to get her, she swiped a handful and stuffed it in her mouth.
Yep. Raising the next generation of Wayward Girls. (And she's got good taste!)

What pies will you be making for Christmas? How do you like to use (or eat!) gingerbread?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Caramel Custard Pie

Just in time for Thanksgiving, this elegant twist on the Thanksgiving classic pumpkin pie was my first original pie recipe! I’ve had pumpkin pie lovers and haters try this—and we all liked it!

The difference is subtle: it’s slightly sweeter with a more caramel flavor, and since it’s based on a pumpkin-caramel custard recipe, that’s not super surprising. (You can read more about the original 1964 recipe here!)

When I made it, I had enough for a 9″ pie and two 5″ pies. I modified a few of the amounts to try to make it fit into just a 9″ pie better, and Jasmine graciously tested the recipe. The filling worked out perfectly for her!

Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 unbaked 9″ single pie crust
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1 1/4 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 c cream (light or heavy)
1. Prick the pie crust with a fork. Lay a double layer of foil over the crust (I also weighted mine with rice) and bake according to recipe directions for a pre-baked pie.

2. Turn the oven to 325.

3. Once the crust is done, in a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp white sugar (half of the total amount) with 3 T water. Heat over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let boil until it turns the color of brown sugar. Promptly remove from the heat and pour into the baked pie crust. You only have a few seconds before this stiffens up, so spread it around the bottom and sides quickly (I used a pastry brush, but be sure your brush is rated for high heat!). (This step can be considered optional, but if you skip it, add the sugar to the pie filling.)

4. Combine the rest of the white sugar, pumpkin, brown sugar, molasses and spices. Mix until well combined. Stir in cream. The batter will be thin. It’s okay.

5. Place the prepared pie crust on the oven rack and pour the filling into the crust. You may want to cover the edges of the crust with foil*, but mine didn’t burn.

6. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted about 1″ from the center comes out clean.

7. Cool on a wire rack.

For the adventurous, you can take this to the next level by making it a more of a pumpkin “crème brûlée” pie with an optional sugar crust (option B pictured above, option A pictured below):

either A. sprinkle enough white sugar onto the top of the pie to coat it well. Cover the edges of the crust with foil*. Place under the broiler, watching constantly, until sugar bubbles and browns (or use a kitchen torch).

OR B. In a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 c sugar and 2 Tbsp water. As in step 3 above, heat over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let boil until it turns the color of brown sugar. Promptly remove from the heat and pour over the cooled pie, keeping the pan moving constantly so it doesn’t pool too much in one place. (I recommend pouring in circles. When you cut the pie, crack the sugar crust first by tapping it with a sharp knife.)

Option A gives a subtle crunch to the top of the pie. Option B gives a solid sugar crust with significant crunch. I liked A better. Or you could do what I did: cover half (or you could do 3/4s) of the pie with foil, then sprinkle with sugar and broil (and you could do another quarter with the solid crust, if you want). All optional.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*Need to cover your crust with foil? Try this trick from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook: take a sheet of foil large enough to cover your pie. Fold it in quarters, then cut a circle from the middle of the foil sheet. Open and voila! Easy to apply crust protection!

What's your favorite Thanksgiving pie?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chess vs. buttermilk pie: the smackdown

Last year, I went on a quest to make unusual pies, and this is where I began. When Sky Magazine asked Martha Stewart what the most underrated pie was, she said, “Chess pie.”

Apparently chess pie is a Southern classic. I was born and raised in the South and not only had I never eaten it, I’m not even sure I’d ever heard of it. I knew this had to be remedied, and I had to find the perfect chess pie.

So what’s with the name? It conjures images of board games of strategy or Alice in Wonderland (especially in chess tart versions). But really, no one knows exactly how it got the name. Equally specious theories include that originated in Chester, England, or that a Southern woman (who apparently had developed a Southern accent before the US was even its own country) told her husband she was serving “jes’ pie.” (Should I spell that “pah”?) Possibly the most likely is that because the pie kept well in a pie chest, it was originally “chest pie,” and the t and the p elided.

There are probably hundreds of variations on chess pie, the most basic sweet custard pie you’ll find. All recipes use an egg-based custard, sweetened with sugar. Corn meal is often used as a thickener. Some people say that’s what makes a chess pie a chess pie, but not all the recipes I found used it. Some recipes even include a little vinegar to cut the sweetness with a little acid, but many believe that including vinegar moves the pie into a whole ‘nother category: Vinegar Pie (next time, pie fans!). The Merry Gourmet’s chess pie recipe includes some vinegar, but I omitted it so I could compare the pies with and without it.


I picked four recipes to make in my new mini pie pans. This week, we’ll cover a chess pie recipe from the Merry Gourmet, and a buttermilk (chess) pie recipe from About.com. (The parentheses are because they call it buttermilk chess, but I just call it buttermilk for short, though a true buttermilk pie is slightly different.) For the pictures in this post, the pictures on the left-hand side are chess pies, and the ones on the right are buttermilk.


Chess Pie vs. Buttermilk (Chess) Pie: Smackdown!

Both of these recipes use egg, sugar, and cornmeal (as a thickener). This particular buttermilk pie actually calls for double the vanilla of the chess pie, but I made them the same. The chess pie uses a little milk, while the buttermilk, naturally, uses buttermilk. The buttermilk pie also calls for a little butter and a small amount of salt.

I was almost afraid to try these cornmeal confections. I have a texture hangup with hard bits in something that’s supposed to be smooth and soft (ice cream, yogurt). What if the cornmeal didn’t get any softer? Would I be able to choke them down?

Results
The top of both pies has a delicious sugar crunch like a very thin meringue, and the center is simply sweet without tasting exactly like sugar. Surprisingly, the pies didn’t seem gritty between the crunch of the sugar crust and the regular pie crust (though after swallowing, I did find a few bits of lingering meal). The best part is the little bit along the edge of the pie—combined with the side of the crust, the custard takes on a chewiness that’s an awesome surprise. After discovering this, I made my husband sample a piece of the edge, and he agreed.

Personally, I preferred the buttermilk (chess) pie, even though it turned out . . . less than beautiful, comparatively speaking. The texture was a little more substantial, slightly chewier (in a good way), and the flavor had a fantastic hint of the butter included. I should note that the Merry Gourmet’s recipe, from her grandmother, actually called for three times the butter used in the buttermilk version, but she forgot it and said the pie tasted perfect without it, so I omitted it as well. I made two other pie varieties at the same time as these which did use the full amount of butter, and I still preferred the butter taste in the buttermilk version.


Scores:
Chess Pie, Merry GourmetButtermilk (Chess) Pie, About.com
Taste:3 stars3.5 stars
Texture:2.5 stars4 stars
Easy to make:4 stars4 stars
Durability:5 stars, For both, the crunchy meringue-like upper crust actually held up on the counter, instead of getting soft like a meringue does5 stars
Wow factor:2 stars. It’s not underrated for nothing.3 stars.

Recipes
These recipes have been adapted for 5″ pie pans.

Chess Pie
adapted from the Merry Gourmet
  • 1/4 cup plus 1.5 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp cornmeal
  • 2 1/4 Tbsp liquid egg product or beaten eggs (just over half an egg)
  • 3/4 Tbsp milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla (if you have a “pinch” measuring spoon, it’s actually 3 pinches)
  • 1 unbaked 5″ pie crust

Buttermilk Chess Pie
adapted from About.com
  • 1/4 cup plus 1.5 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp cornmeal
  • 2 1/4 Tbsp liquid egg product or beaten eggs (just over half an egg)
  • 1 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 unbaked 5″ pie crust

Directions for both pies
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then add wet to dry. Pour into pie crust. Although most recipes will tell you to lower the temperature at about 20% of the total baking time, I left my oven on 350 and baked them for about 25 minutes. Check your pies often—I considered them done once the top crust was fully set, and might crack but wouldn’t collapse if I tapped it.

Have you ever had chess pie? What did you like (or dislike) about it?
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