Pies

The First Thanksgiving {chocolate chess pie}

It's funny how I can feel so alone in a crowded room these days. This little place here in cyberspace, though—I never feel alone here. The sincere comments, emails and well-wishes over the last week have only reaffirmed what I've always believed—there are more good people in this world than we sometimes realize.

When I wrote a post asking friends to make a peanut butter pie to celebrate Mikey's life and the love for everyone in their own lives, I never expected the amazing domino effect that would follow. One woman wrote to tell me she has a peanut butter chocolate cupcake on the menu at her cafe in Buenos Aires in honor of Mikey, with the proceedings going to a charity that helps kids in need.

It reminded me of Eric Carle's story the The Tiny Seed, the way the love Mikey and I shared made it's way through the borders of Argentina into the heart of a woman neither of us knew. There are many more stories like this, and they make my heart swell with hope.

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day 104 {brown butter apple pie}

It's the seemingly little things that throttle me back into the harshness of my reality. Tonight I was folding laundry, and when I came to the dinner napkins there were only three of each pattern. Everything about a meal at home makes me ache for him, but the napkin thing especially tugs at my sense of balance.

I always bought napkins in sets of four.

Now I only need three on normal evenings.

That fourth, lonely napkin sits cast aside in the drawer until it is needed every third day. By the third day there are three mismatched napkins, longingly waiting to be put to good use.

Those mismatched napkins remind me everyday that there is a piece of our family missing. They gather in the draw, and seem to scream at me every time I open it—"he is never coming back".

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brown butter apple pie

 

If you all knew the recipes I’ve been keeping from you, there might be a mutiny for my bounty. There’s pumpkin ricotta waffles, pumpkin buttercream, homemade sandwich rolls, ricotta spaetzle and more. But there’s all this talk of turkey and Thanksgiving, and I figured it would be cruel to not share a recipe for the best apple pie I’ve ever made, and eaten for that matter.

Until this recipe, I enjoyed making apple pie more than eating it. The sweet scent of apples filling the house as the pie baked, and the staring through the oven door window to spy if the juices are golden and bubbly were always the best part.

Don’t get me wrong, all my variations have been winners with friends. It’s just apple pie never rocked my world. One reason is I don’t like cinnamon with apples. I know, a classic pairing. Flavors pastry chefs deem worth marrying over and over again. To that I say “eh”.

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almond oat crumb topping

I wish I could share this pie recipe with you. I remember there were peaches. They're my favorite for pie. They were the first ripe ones of the season. And I remember peeling the skins off, knowing it would all be worth it once the first bite landed on my tongue.

And there were raspberries, the seeds crunching between my teeth.

I know there was 32 grams of flour, freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon and six ounces of sugar. Just the right balance of tart and sweet, so as to not mask the juicy fruits' natural flavors. It was a harmonious dessert, and enjoyed the leftovers gently warmed in the oven, because frankly cold pie just isn't worth eating in my book.

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sweet cherry hand pies

I’ve been having a very hard time lately watching my girls grow up. While kind-hearted and good-natured are strong personality traits, I’m also a pretty tough cookie, and am usually exceptionally good at plowing along and not letting things get to me.

Then I became a mommy.

Trust me there are no awards for patience racking up around here. I often wince at the mere thought of a whine. My general rule of thumb is if it’s not bleeding, then buck up.

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basic butter crust

 

Nothing about life is basic or simple, especially with children. Just the act of leaving the house becomes a 15-minute ordeal—and that’s assuming you didn’t leave anything behind. Going back is not so quick and convenient for us city folk.

But this crust? It’s capable of melting my stresses away. Pie crust tensions, at least.

A few weekends ago I had the best quiche ever at a friend’s house. She never gives herself enough credit on how amazing she is, as a mother, cook or friend, so I felt it my duty to put it out to the universe that Marina, my dear, I adore you.

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caramel pecan pumpkin pie

Last week, I got it in my head that I wanted to a make a no-bake pumpkin pie. And I wanted one lighter and on the creamy side. Well, a few pies later and more time than any no-bake recipe should require, I learned an hour in the oven is well worth it and requires much less effort. Now, where do I begin? Should we talk about the flaky pie crust? The smooth, light as air creamy filling? Maybe the thin layer of caramel that makes my toes wiggle with excitement just typing the words?

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I’ve searched years for the perfect pie crust recipe and posted my favorite one by Dorie Greenspan over the summer. The recipe for this pie is pretty much the same except I substituted rendered leaf lard for half the butter. I’ve been in love with the stuff ever since Melissa Clark wrote about it three years ago in the New York Times. Vegetarians beware, and same goes for the faint of heart when reading Clark’s description of the process for making it. My babysitter asked one day, and the poor thing nearly fainted when I told her. Once you get past that, though, you’re in for a treat. It really does make for the best piecrust. And Clark is right about that porky flavor. It’s a crazy taste sensation but for a girl who loves swine, mix it with caramel, pecans and pumpkin…I almost fell off the chair just thinking about it. In fact, there’s a bit of drool hanging from the corners of my mouth.

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Peach Raspberry Tart (and a blackberry plum one too)

While I love vacation, there are a few allowances I have to make cooking-wise when away from my own kitchen for two weeks. All I need is my chef's knife and a pair of tongs to jumpstart savory meals (although this year I'm also packing my cast-iron skillet), dessert is another story. There are no handheld mixers, let alone the 1000 watt Cuisinart Stand Mixer I normally use. Same goes for the food processor. Now, given the choice, I'd probably take at least the latter with me but watching my husband load our luggage like puzzle pieces, eventually muttering something about how much we're taking (newsflash: we're a family of four and two are kids).

So a few weeks ago I decided to experiment with free form tarts. Mainly because the last thing I want to worry about on vacation is the perfect piecrust. I'm also not sure there's a pie plate in the cupboards there either. Using the crust recipe I adapted from Dorie Greenspan as a start, I tweaked some measurements and decided to use a biscuit-making technique since the food processor wouldn't be an option. An old-fashioned pastry blender did the job of cutting in the butter, but truth be told, even using your fingertips to work it in was fine. Yes, I was worried too about the butter getting to soft, but a quick chill in the fridge and all was fine.

It doesn't matter if your tart is an exact circle, so you can eyeball—no need to pack a ruler too. What I love most about free form tarts (besides all that melt-in-your-mouth buttery crust), is they look imperfectly perfect. Those ragged edges give way to a sweet, bubbly, warm fruit filling, making me forget about the modern conveniences of home.
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Peach Pie + Dorie’s Perfect Crust

Apple pie may be part of the American dream but I bet it’s due to being in the right place at the right time. If it had been a few months earlier and peaches were in season, Thanksgiving tables across the country might look quite different come dessert time.

Or, maybe, it's because apples are easy. All you have to do is peel, core and slice. Peaches, on the other hand, take a bit more prep to make pie. I'm an avid baker and must admit it requires a certain mind set to commit the time. The best way to remove the skin is to cut an “X” on the bottom (also referred to as scoring), cooking them for 30 seconds in boiling water (called blanching), remove with a slotted spoon and then plunge in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. The skins will slip off 1,2,3 at this point, and then you can slice them. I know this sounds likes a lot of work, but I’ve learned the active time is relatively short compared to trying to peel a peach with a pairing knife. 

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Very Coconut Custard Pie

I tweeted about this piecrust made with matzoh a week or so ago. The wonderful thing about being a recipe developer is every time I go into the kitchen it's research and development. This one made it into the Cuisinart Stand Mixer blog, but you can also grind the matzoh with a regular food processor if you don't have the mixer or attachment. Enjoy!

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Crazy for Coconut

by Jennifer Perillo

Mom's Italian. Dad was Finish-Flemish. They were both Catholic, but it was my own marriage that brought me into the kitchen this Passover. While, technically nothing I make is considered kosher, I do my best to adhere to the laws of kosher cooking. My mother-in-law is a very arthritic 77 year old, so sweating over the stove isn't high on her list of priorities anymore. Besides, she was more one who cooked to survive than for enjoyment.

I've taken to hosting the Jewish holidays as a way of both keeping her traditions alive and showing her the respect she deserves — her parents had to send her away alone on a train as a child for her safety while living in London during WWII. I also want my daughters to know about their heritage.

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