pies and tarts

Red Berry Pie — Version 2.0

Once upon a time, there was lovely confection by the name of Little Red Berry Pie. Little Red Berry Pie was tasty and appeared beautiful on the outside, but carried a dark, depressing secret within her shell. You see, in her fruity little pie heart, she was weepy and sad.

Very weepy. Like, soggy. Sort of like a puddle o’ fruit, actually.

She hadn’t been made with the best thickener, hadn’t been stuffed with enough berries, hadn’t cooled before being sliced, and was just an all-around mess. One fateful day, though . . . her prince arrived. No white horse was required, and no sword to slay her enemies — in fact, all she needed was him. His name? Err, well. We’ll call him Granny Smith. What?! Never met a prince named Granny?

Boy, that bright green prince was a harbinger of happiness! Little Red Berry Pie was reborn — a better version of herself!


Version 2.0

This Sweetie Pie followed the grand tradition of all fairy tales and definitely lived happily ever after. Until she was digested by gastric juices, that is. Oh, don’t look so surprised. Fairy tales are full of kidnapping, cannibalism, and violence!

You’ll have to forgive me. I spent weeks reading fairy tales to my adorable sixth grade students and discussing the elements of fiction — characters, plot, setting, theme, point of view. We marveled together that these “child-friendly” tales contained the kid-eating witch; the parents who left their kids in the middle of the woods; the multiple attempts to curse, poison, or slay enemies. And that’s not even considering the clueless, helpless, victimized princesses just waiting for a Man-with-a-capital-M to save their beautiful bustles. But I digress! I think we all agree pie is more pressing than fairy tales at the moment.

. . . But biting into this pie did feel a bit like living happily ever after. Let’s just say I’ve finally perfected my Red Berry Pie recipe with a little help from America’s Test Kitchen. In their blueberry pie, they use a brilliant thickening agent: tapioca plus a big ol’ grated Granny Smith apple, which releases its natural pectin while baking. It worked so well for the blueberry, I decided to use it to tweak my previously flawed Red Berry filling.

To say it worked perfectly is an understatement. This is the best pie I’ve ever had! The best pie I’ve ever eaten, y’all! Are you listening?! That’s saying a lot — I’ve eaten and swooned over some amazing pies (Peach Crisp Pie, for instance). The proportion of strawberries to raspberries was ideal: the raspberries lent their rich, deep fruity flavor to the brightness of the strawberries. The filling was thick, juicy, and hearty. The crust . . . well, okay, it was still difficult to work with, but practice must make perfect, because it was a little simpler than last time (hence the not-as-hideous pie, perhaps?) And of course it was tender and flaky.

Serve each piece with a dollop of freshly whipped, lightly sweetened cream for a true fairy tale dessert — minus the cannibalism. Or grab the vanilla bean ice cream, if that’s your style! Regardless of the accompaniments, make this pie.


Mmm, hello, big ol’ juicy berry!!

Red Berry Pie



Recipe by: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen‘s Blueberry Pie
Yields: one 9-in, double-crust pie

Crust Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I use butter flavor)
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Red Berry Filling Ingredients:
3 cups frozen raspberries*
3 cups frozen whole strawberries*
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground*
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Directions:
1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 2 cups frozen whole strawberries and about 1 cup frozen raspberries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until many of the raspberries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.

7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

*I made this recipe using unthawed frozen berries, but fresh would probably work as well if the berries in step 4 were mashed and cooked only for 8 minutes. I used whole strawberries which made the pie so succulent! Grind the tapioca to a powder in a spice grinder or mini food processor. If using pearl tapioca, reduce the amount to 5 teaspoons. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.




Best wishes for your happily ever after!


Share Share this post with friends!

Fresh Blueberry Pie

…with a surprising crust. No, the surprise is not the vodka — y’all have all heard about the vodka crust trick by now.

Adding too much water to pie dough makes it tough, whereas adding too little results in a dry, crumbly mess (that was supposed to be a pie pocket. Ahem). Adding vodka and water to your pie dough instead of just water allows you to incorporate more liquid, making your dough workable without making it tough. The alcohol vaporizes while cooking so the final pie doesn’t taste like vodka. This was my first trial of this nice little trick, but it’s old news for many of you.

This was also, incidentally, the first time I’d ever encountered vodka first hand (being a teetotaler). I just want to know why someone would drink something that smells exactly like rubbing alcohol? I guess taste is really not the point? Please fill me in.

Anyway, vodka’s not the surprise. The surprise is how seriously I debated throwing this pie over my balcony, pie plate and all. It’s not because the pie wasn’t delicious . . . because WOW, it was! It’s a gorgeous flaky, tender crust with a thick filling full of plump, juicy berries. In fact, it’s not because of the finished pie at all. It’s because of what America’s Test Kitchen ironically calls their foolproof pie dough.

Ohhh this dough was a sticky, frustrating mess until I finally got it shoved into the oven with a huff! Despite the utter gobs of flour strewn all over my counter, my cute apron, my cute dog, and my cute boyfriend, the dough stuck to everything it could get its doughy little tentacles on. Even more fun, it tore apart rebelliously whenever moved. If you’re wondering why this pie looks like it got in a fight with an unruly pastry cutter . . . that’s why.

My attempts to crimp the edges resulted in dough-covered fingers and one ragged pie. Let’s just say this kitchen disaster was not weathered gracefully. There may have been some apron throwing. At least I didn’t chuck the pie into the woods behind my apartment after struggling for the umpteenth time trying to roll out the dough, right? Honestly, if it hadn’t been Mike’s mom’s pie plate . . . who knows what could’ve happened!

After eyeing the evil pie dough and the trash can a few times, I finally decided to buckle down and see my recipe through to the end. I rechilled, refloured, griped about America’s Test Kitchen, rechilled again, cried, switched to rolling on parchment, yelled a little, switched back to flour . . . and held my breath every time I moved that pie dough anywhere.

I’m glad I stuck it out. The crust, as I mentioned, is delicious and the perfect texture. I may switch back to my standard lard/butter vodkaless crust next time to avoid a kitchenpocalypse and protect my typically reasonable blood pressure, but it was very good. And let me tell you about these BLUEBERRIES!!

One of the reasons this pie is beautiful to me despite its decidedly Quasimodo-esque appearance is because it has the perfect consistency, bright flavor, and is full of plump, rich berries! ATK, redeeming themselves for now, formulated a recipe for blueberry pie filling thickened with tapioca and a grated apple, which releases its pectin upon being cooked. No runny filling or smushed berries here — just the perfect blueberry pie. It even has a tangy complexity to the blueberry flavor imparted by Ms. Granny Smith. I was such a fan of every bite I took.

So perfect, in fact, that I tried the same nifty apple trick with another sort of pie. A pie that actually turned out pretty and even tastier than this one — but you’ll have to wait until the next post to hear more! For now, here are some tips on managing this beastly dough (that, in all fairness, many cooks on the interwebs apparently loved working with. Go figure):

-Let it chill for a long time. At least overnight, but two days might be even better.
-Don’t be timid about flouring your surface and rolling pins generously. That’s the point of having a wet dough, and you’re gonna need it.
-Rechill any time you (or your dough) are losing your cool.
-Imagine the final product. While struggling with my dough, I was already drafting a post in my head telling you about how the final pie wasn’t worth the trouble, but truthfully . . . it was.

What’s your favorite pie crust trick? Anyone ever actually chucked their dough into the garbage? Tell me your pie secrets!

Best Blueberry Pie with Foolproof Pie Dough



Recipe by: America’s Test Kitchen
Yields: one 9-in, double-crust pie

Crust Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I use butter flavor)
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Blueberry Filling Ingredients:
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces)*
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground*
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Directions:
1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.

7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

*This recipe was developed using fresh blueberries, but unthawed frozen blueberries (our favorite brands are Wyman’s and Cascadian Farm) will work as well. In step 4, cook half the frozen berries over medium-high heat, without mashing, until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, 12 to 15 minutes. Grind the tapioca to a powder in a spice grinder or mini food processor. If using pearl tapioca, reduce the amount to 5 teaspoons. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.




Want a slice?


Share Share this post with friends!

Two Terrific Tarts: Chocolate and Raspberry Cream Cheese

You may have realized by now that I’m prone to bouts of exuberance over kitchen achievements. There’s something about tackling a recipe you’re inexperienced with, doing some kitchen acrobatics, and actually succeeding that just brightens the whole week. After crossing puff pastry off my to-bake list, my next goal was a tart. Ohhhh, tarts. They’re so gorgeous — those lovely scalloped edges; dense, golden brown shells; and artfully arranged fillings. I’d never tasted a homemade tart before, so I didn’t even realize that in addition to being beautiful, they’re also heavenly and scrumptious. I definitely found a new favorite dessert, and around this apartment, that’s saying a lot!



I decided on a Chocolate Tart and a Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart for my adventure. Both tarts use the same tart dough, a version of pâte sucrée from Tyler Florence. Pâte sucrée, also called “sweet dough,” is popular for dessert tarts, whereas it’s sibling, pâte brisée (“short dough”) is widely used for both dessert and savory tarts.

Pâte sucrée is apparently notoriously difficult to roll, and after trying once, I decided not to bother. Martha Stewart recommends (and she makes it looks very easy, of course) grating the chilled dough into your tart pan and gently pressing it into place. I found my dough too soft for this (even after freezing). In fact, when I pressed the dough against the grater, it gave way and I sliced my pinky on my tart pan — they’re not kidding when they say those edges are sharp! It’ll come as no surprise that after almost slicing off a finger, I only grated some of my dough. I tore the rest of it into smaller pieces and pressed them into the pan. After this struggle, I found the perfect technique: simply don’t let the dough come together in a ball in the food processor, but stop processing while it’s still in large crumbly pieces. Then pour these pieces into your tart pan and press them out. Perfect, easy, safe. Watch your fingers!

Once in the pan, the tart dough is chilled and blind-baked into a delicious, buttery crust. You end up with a dense but flaky, beautiful edge surrounding whatever sumptuous filling you choose. Want to know which of these two tarts I think you should make? Follow me on a little tangent . . .

I’m addicted to rating things. I’m always creating arbitrary rating scales in my head for movies, outfits, books, restaurants, nail polish colors . . . the list goes on! After eating a meal, I can instantly rank every component on the plate from favorite to least favorite, and am appalled when Mike can’t do the same (this often results in a conversation about my brain being weird).

In fact, you know the little clicky stars for rating things on Goodreads and Netflix? I love those! I wish there were little rating stars floating around in real life; imagine the rating convenience! You could walk around and poke at the stars next to stores, food, people . . . okay, maybe rating people isn’t the best idea. Yikes! At any rate (ha ha), despite the fact that Mike thinks it’s weird, I love to rate. But why am I telling you all this? Here’s why: I want you to know how impressive it is that I cannot decide which one of these amazing tarts I like the best. They’re very different flavors, and both so indulgent and delicious — I just can’t choose! Hopefully this is all the persuading you need to make both of them. You know you want to!

The Chocolate Tart is rich, decadent, and fudgy. The original recipe actually doesn’t include the mounds of fluffy whipped cream, but I knew we’d need more than just the crust to cut the richness of the filling. I have trouble believing even the biggest chocoholic could eat a piece of this tart without a pile of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Then again, maybe other folks don’t eat a gigantic slab o’ tart like I do (I don’t have the restraint to do slivers, y’all). Regardless, the balance here of the chocolate with the whipped cream topping was perfect — and beautiful.

I picked the raspberry tart because I love combining raspberries with mellow cheeses: brie, ricotta, and (obviously) cream cheese. The tart berries in the luxurious, sweet cream cheese were the perfect flavors to pile into my fancy rectangular (!) tart crust once it was cooled from the oven. (Can you tell I’m excited about this tart being a gigantic rectangle? Oh, how I love Williams-Sonoma! I should’ve taken a fan-girl picture with the sales associate that recommended the rectangular pan. Do you think that would’ve seemed creepy? Nah, I’m sure she gets it all the time.) Anyway, once baked, each little raspberry peeks up from its creamy bed just begging to be slathered with whipped cream and devoured. Of course, Mike and I were willing to oblige.

Both of these tarts were so fantastic that I know you’re going to love them. If you don’t own a tart pan, pick one up — mine was only $9 even at fancy Williams-Sonoma, a price well worth the beauty and enjoyment a tart brings. Then roll up your sleeves and create a beautiful dessert.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Tart



Recipe by: Tyler Florence (adapted by me)
Yields: one standard tart, serves about 10

Tart Shell Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and chopped
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
To make the pastry: combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl (or food processor). Add the butter and mix with a processor or hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the middle of the pastry. Combine the egg yolk with the ice water in a small bowl, whisking to blend; pour it into the well and work it in to bind the dough until it holds together without being too wet or sticky. Squeeze a small amount together, if it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough is coming together but still in crumbs, pour the crumbs into your tart pan and press them out to fill the pan. Press them up the sides evenly and trim off any excess. Dock the dough (prick it slightly) with a fork all over. Put the tart shell in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to relax.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the tart pan on a sturdy cookie sheet so it will be easy to move in and out of the oven. Line the tart with aluminum foil and add pie weights or dried beans to keep the sides of the tart from buckling. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and weights. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the crust with a beaten egg white. Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 8 minutes until the tart is golden in color, but not brown. Remember the tart will be cooked again with the filling. It should be cooked but light in color so that it will not burn on the second bake. Set aside to cool and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

To make the filling: Heat the heavy cream and milk in a pot over medium-low flame, until it simmers slightly around the edges. Remove from the heat; add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smoothed out. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until well incorporated. Beat the eggs in a small bowl until blended and add them to the chocolate mixture, stir until completely blended. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling is set (wiggle the pan to test) and the surface is glossy. If you see any bubbles or cracks forming on the surface, take the tart out right away – that means it is beginning to become over baked. Cool completely before topping with whipped cream.

To make the whipped cream, beat all ingredients together until cream thickens to correct consistency. Pile the mound of whipped cream onto your cooled tart and use a spatula to spread it (messy = more rustic). Shave some leftover chocolate over the cream for decoration.


Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart still cooling in its pan.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart



Recipe by: Joy of Baking (with crust by Tyler Florence)
Yields: one standard tart, serves about 10

Tart Shell Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and chopped
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Filling Ingredients:
4 ounces (125 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (180 ml) light cream or half-and-half (coffee cream)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 medium lemon or lime (I used just a spritz of lemon juice)
1 – 1 1/2 cups (110 – 165 grams) fresh raspberries

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
To make the pastry: combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl (or food processor). Add the butter and mix with a processor or hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the middle of the pastry. Combine the egg yolk with the ice water in a small bowl, whisking to blend; pour it into the well and work it in to bind the dough until it holds together without being too wet or sticky. Squeeze a small amount together, if it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry* on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Carefully roll the dough up onto the pin (this may take a little practice) and lay it inside a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the pan so it fits tightly; press the edges into the sides of the pan. It is important to press the dough evenly into every nook and corner of the ring, especially the scalloped edges. Shave off the excess hanging dough with a knife. Dock the dough (prick it slightly) with a fork all over. Put the tart in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to relax.

*Note: As mentioned above, I found it very difficult to roll the dough, and instead carefully grated as much chilled dough as possible into the pan, tearing the rest. I then pressed it into all areas of the pan, being absolutely sure it covered every surface.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the tart pan on a sturdy cookie sheet so it will be easy to move in and out of the oven. Line the tart with aluminum foil and add pie weights or dried beans to keep the sides of the tart from buckling. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and weights. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the crust with a beaten egg white. Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 8 minutes until the tart is golden in color, but not brown. Remember the tart will be cooked again with the filling. It should be cooked but light in color so that it will not burn on the second bake. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling: In a food processor or electric mixer place the cream cheese and process until smooth. Add sugar and beat until incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, and process until thoroughly combined. Add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended and smooth.

Place the tart pan on a larger baking pan. Carefully pour the filling into the pre-baked tart shell. Arrange the raspberries evenly around the tart shell and then bake the tart for about 30 – 35 minutes or until the filling is set (test by gently shaking the pan). Transfer tart to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold accompanied by softly whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Refrigerate leftovers.


Off to Williams-Sonoma for some tart pan shopping!


Grating and docking the tart dough (and trying not to lose any digits).



Blind baking the crust with beans as weights.



Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart baking and fresh from the oven.



Chocolate Tart cooling, and then getting the whipped cream treatment.

Want to read more about crusts? My article, “Journey Towards a Perfect Crust,” chronicles my quest for buttery, flaky pies and tarts. Read it at The Daring Kitchen.

Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple

As the days adopt a chill and the pretty trees behind my apartment lazily lose their leaves, I’m embracing what’s to come. I’ve already begun lighting my Balsam and Cedar candles, poking about for pumpkin recipes, and crunching happily down sidewalks strewn with crisp leaves. I’m trying to get in the autumn spirit, and it was with that mindset that I sat down this week to hunt for delicious recipes. My Sunday school class is having a potluck tomorrow, and I wanted something bite-sized and special to contribute.

Whenever I’m pondering what to bake, I struggle between two very disparate urges. On one hand, I love baked goods that are cute. You know, those cupcakes that look like burgers, cake balls shaped like random animals, cakes decorated to resemble inanimate objects. On the other hand, I grow more in tune with each passing week to the fact that I’m pinching salt, molding dough, tossing flour, and in short, creating things with my hands. In keeping with that, I love baked goods that are simple, rustic, and emphatically homemade. Marrying these two desires is sometimes difficult, but this weekend, I think I found the perfect solution (just in time for the Sunday school potluck): miniature pies. Itty bitty Pumpkin Pies, Peach Crisp Pies, and Sour Cream Apple Pies, to be precise.

These tiny pies are so sweet and cute and charming . . . that I’m almost suspicious. Remember diminutive, pigtailed Rhoda from the classic 1956 horror film The Bad Seed?

She was ostensibly the picture of perfection, but in actuality, she was going around killing neighborhood children, old ladies, and her family’s dimwitted handyman. I can just see her roller skating down the sidewalk with a basket of these perfect pies. She used to ask her parents, “What will you give me for a basket of kisses?” and they’d respond nauseatingly, “A basket of hugs.” But who wants a basket of hugs when you could have a basket of pies?

Murderous allusions notwithstanding, these particular perfect treats are not too good to be true. Unlike dear Rhoda, they are every bit as sweet and delectable as they appear.

The Mini Peach Crisp Pies were exact taste replicas of their full-size cousin. I chopped fresh, juicy peaches and mixed them with brown sugar, granulated sugar, and oats. This simple combination yields an unexpectedly bright fall flavor with a satisfying, gooey, oaty texture. I’m glad I have more of these waiting in my fridge. I don’t know if my Sunday school class will get to sample these!

The Sour Cream Apple Pies had a nostalgic appeal. When I was little, my mom made a buttery, tangy dessert she called, simply, Apple Kuchen. It was easy to assemble — a yellow cake mix base topped with apple pie filling and sour cream. I’ll have to post that recipe sometime, since it was my first introduction to the apples and sour cream together. That combination is still a favorite of mine today. These mini-pies didn’t quite live up to my expectations, though; the flavor was very mild and left me wishing for more spice. The recipe I used didn’t call for a single bit of cinnamon or nutmeg, and though I snuck in a few shakes of the cinnamon jar, it still needed some work. I have to hand you a grain of salt to take with my criticism, though, since I’m devouring these little apple parcels lustily. The sweet apple flavor is certainly still appealing.

Last but not least, the Pumpkin Pies were my absolute favorite. Spicy, custardy pumpkin inside a buttery, flaky crust, all topped with either a pretty pecan or a dollop of homemade whipped cream (okay, or both!). Want to know the best part? They were by far the easiest mini-pie to assemble — so easy that I’m making them one of my go-to desserts. Just like the Plum and Cream Mini Tortes Mike and I loved so much, these little pies pay out much more joy and deliciousness than they cost in labor.



I can’t wait for you to try these miniature pies and share your thoughts with me! How else are you going to try three or four different flavors of pie all on one plate? If you’d rather not indulge your do-too-muchitis, though, why not choose just one flavor to bake? Pop a pan of the easy pumpkin pies in the oven all by themselves for a simple treat. Whether you bake one flavor or all of them, I hope you’re thrilled with the sweet results.

Miniature Pies: Pumpkin, Sour Cream Apple, and Peach Crisp


Recipe By:

Digs Magazine (pumpkin pie filling)
Not Martha (fruit pie inspiration)
Epicurious (apple pie filling, adapted)
-Willow Bird Baking (peach crisp filling)

Yields: About 48 mini-muffin sized pies, depending on proportions
Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold butter flavored vegetable shortening*
3/4 cup cold butter, chopped
6-8 tablespoons cold water
*I tried shortening for this recipe, but prefer lard!

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
6 oz. evaporated milk
1.5 eggs*
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
*For half an egg – lightly beat one egg, then measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Peach Crisp Filling Ingredients:
3 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 cup oats
pinch salt

Sour Cream Apple Filling Ingredients:
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large eggs
1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large Granny Smith apples

Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg
a little water

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or flavoring of your choice)


Directions:

Make the crust: Pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add chunks of shortening and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another 2 tablespoons of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes while preparing your filling.

Make desired fillings: While dough is chilling, make desired fillings.

  1. Pumpkin: Combine the sugars, cinnamon and ginger in a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and stir in the pumpkin; add the evaporated milk and mix well. Refrigerate if you aren’t using it right away.
  2. Peach Crisp: Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Sour Cream Apple: Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, and flour until the mixture is smooth. Add the apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin, and stir the filling until it is combined well. Note: I added a teaspoon of cinnamon and wish I’d added some nutmeg, too.

Prepare the bottom crust: Take one of the disks of dough and pinch off walnut-sized balls. Place a ball in each well of an ungreased mini-muffin pan. Using your fingers, work the dough up the sides of each well (and create a little lip of dough rising over the edge for fruit pies). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For fruit pies: Fill each well with desired fruit filling. Pinch off a piece of dough and flatten it or roll it out thin on a sheet of parchment paper. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out a top crust. Place the top crust on one of the wells, folding the bottom crust lip over with the edge of the top crust and crimping the edges shut. You can use a toothpick to decorate the edges. Repeat for all of the mini-pies. Cut a crisscross vent in the center of each pie. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the tops of the pies. Bake pies at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, checking often. If the pies appear to be getting too brown, cover the whole pan with aluminum foil. Remove and let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring mini-pies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For pumpkin pies: Pour pumpkin pie filling into each prepared well. Bake pies for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling set. Remove and sprinkle chopped toasted pecans on top OR decorate with a pretty toasted pecan half. Let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring mini-pies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve mini-pies with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. To make homemade whipped cream, mix all ingredients together until soft peaks are obtained.

Notes: The fruit pie filling portions above are most likely out of proportion. I made extra peach and apple to freeze. The pumpkin filling recipe above has been halved from the original, because I made the original amount and ended up with way too much.

To store Pumpkin and Sour Cream Apple Mini-Pies, refrigerate in an airtight container.


Preparing my apple pie filling and baking the pies.



Pumpkin pies baking and cooling off.



All packed up and ready to go to Sunday school!



Happy Eating!

P.S. Nominate your favorite food blogs for the 2009 Foodbuzz Blog Awards by September 30th!

Red Berry Pie — Version 1.0

Author’s Note: I’ve updated and perfected this recipe! After reading the post below, please see Red Berry Pie — Version 2.0!

Last week I was basking on pluffy cloud nine after baking my first pie. I guess I needed a reality check, because the very next day I decided to give pie-making another go with considerably less amazing results. I wish I could share what I baked this weekend with you instead! It was the Daring Bakers challenge, and I’m giddy with the recipe and results. Unfortunately, I must save that until the 27th of the month, so for now, I present . . . failpie.

Well, that’s a little harsh. This is only a failure of texture/appearance, not taste. I was pleased as punch with the crust, and the strawberry and raspberry combination was perfectly tangy and sweet. With a dollop of homemade whipped cream on the whole concoction, it was actually a satisfying dessert. Mike and his dad even preferred it to the peach pie! When it comes down to it, the only problem with this pie was the texture of the filling. Sadly, the words “mushy” and “runny” are apt here. But even that, as it turns out, may have a relatively simple solution.


Ugly but tasty!

There are a few main reasons fruit pies can be runny (I did some research using the list of pie tips on DianasDesserts, as well as several other sites). The filling may not be cooked long enough. The fruit may have required more of a thickening agent (cornstarch, tapioca, and flour are common). But in my case, I don’t think the recipe was the culprit (it was from the cornstarch folks, for goodness’ sake). No, I’m guessing it was something even simpler; that is, the cooling time. Fruit pies need to be completely cool before being cut, and that can require up to four hours. Did I let my pie cool for four hours? Of course not. I didn’t plan four whole hours into my busy Sunday schedule! In fact, my pie barely sat for half an hour before I had to pack it up and head to dinner at Mike’s sister’s beautiful new home. What did I expect?!


Maybe we’ll just call it a cobbler? How’s that?

I do think you should make this pie, but with a couple of changes. First, some people recommend cooking your fruit with the thickening agent on the stove before filling your pie, thus ensuring the proper thickness. That sounds like a better idea than piling it all in the crust and hoping for the best, now doesn’t it? Second, you should use more berries than I did. I wanted my pie to be stuffed, but I was a little low on fruit this time around. Finally, of course, let your pie cool! Plan ahead and don’t be hasty.

I’m posting the recipe below as I used it, but feel free to tinker with the above aspects. I think this is going to be a real winner with a little work. I’ll have to let you know when I give it another shot.

Red Berry Pie, version 1


Recipe By:

Hodgson Mills (pie filling, adapted by me)
-Ina Garten (whipped cream)
-Me (crust)

Yields: One 9-inch, double-crust pie

Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold lard (non-hydrogenated if available)*
3/4 cup cold butter, chopped
6-8 tablespoons cold water
sugar (to sprinkle on before baking)
*you can substitute vegetable shortening here if you wish, but I highly recommend the lard!

Filling Ingredients:
1 pints of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 pound fresh strawberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
tiny pinch of salt
4 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or flavoring of your choice)


Directions:

Pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add scoops of lard and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another 2 tablespoons of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll one disk of dough out to around 2 inches larger than your pie plate and transfer it, situating it in the plate. Trim the excess flush with the edge of the pie plate.

Mix filling: In a large bowl, gently toss raspberries and strawberries together with sugar. Add cornstarch, raspberry extract and orange juice. Spoon into prepared pie shell bottom. Dot with butter.

Roll the other dough disk out to about 1 inch larger than your pie plate. Situate it over the filling, tucking the edges of the top dough behind the edge of the bottom dough and crimping the edges. Use excess dough to add dough cutouts to top of pie if desired (I made a heart).

In a small bowl, beat cream and egg yolk together for egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface of the top pie crust (can sprinkle lightly with sugar if you desire). Cut vents in the top crust. Shield crimped edges of pie (and any dough cutouts) with foil. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place on lower third of oven. Bake 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake until juices are bubbling through vents and pastry is browned, another 25-30 minutes. For the last 15 minutes, remove foil shielding. Allow pie to cool completely (around 4 hours minimum).

Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. To make homemade whipped cream, mix all ingredients together until soft peaks are obtained.


The pie all foil-shielded and baking its heart out.



I can almost hear the tiny pie voice imploring, “Let me cool!” Alas.

1 6 7 8 9