Pies

pumpkin slab pie

I know, it doesn’t look like much, but believe me that this pie will change your life. At least when it comes to making pie for a crowd. The weather changed rather abruptly last week. Between that and the sudden realization that Thanksgiving was around the corner, my cravings for pumpkin pie, both eating and baking it, kicked into high gear.

I’ve been doing a lot of baking for the school store, and I wondered the best way to sell the pie there without needing plates or utensils. Slab pie came to mind. Rather than baking it in a round pie plate, you use a jelly roll pan, creating bar-like pieces. The yield is also incredible, turning what would’ve normally been a deep dish pie for 10 into a more suitable serving size of 24 square bars. Continue reading »

foolproof pie crust

Before I talk about that lovely looking pie crust above, I wanted to share some information from my morning drive. I popped into the city for brunch with a dear friend, and spent the morning commute listening to Brian Lehrer. The open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Healthcare Act begins this Sunday, November 15th. I realize there are a lot of people who have had nightmare experiences with coverage since its enactment but when you hear the numbers of how many formerly uninsured people now have coverage, it’s clear that this was a step in the right direction. Nothing is perfect, and healthcare costs in our country still need much improvement.

The boggling aspect is the fact that each state can implement it as they see fit. Some have signed onto the federal program, and others opted to create their own state-managed ones. If you’re in New York state, and need help navigating the process, or are having issues with the insurance you already signed up for through the health exchange, it may worth giving the Community Service Society a call. I had no idea this existed, and am bookmarking their number for the future. I thought it was worth sharing that information. Even if you’re not in New York, perhaps your state has a similar organization that can help.

Okay, now onto something I think we can all agree about—pie! More specifically, pie crust. How many tears have you shed trying to create your own masterpiece? How many hours have you spent trying to make the perfect pie crust, only to be let down, yet again by a recipe that didn’t deliver? I feel your pain. It took years for me to settle on one that works perfectly—every.single.time.

The best part? You don’t need to chill the crust. Yes, you read that correctly. Finally a pie crust you can make, then roll and bake, in one felt swoop. The recipe is from my cookbook, Homemade with Love, so it may seem familiar to some of you. With Thanksgiving just two weeks away, my guess is this recipe will become your BFF.

Stay tuned for this pumpkin pie coming up next week. Until then, have a wonderful weekend. And don’t forget to be gentle with yourself these last six weeks of 2014. The holidays are a mixed bag of happiness and heartache. I think it’s human nature to dwell on what you wish things could be, instead of seeing the goodness in what’s right in front of us. I know quite well that managing it all can feel like a full-time job. Much love and hugs for staying by my side these last few years.

xo—Jennie

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More from In Jennie’s Kitchen:

Simple Scratch Cooking: a homecook’s journal for making easy, everyday meals

Fall 2014 – digital edition

Winter 2014 – available for preorder

Foolproof Pie Crust

Recipe from Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts or 10 hand pies

How many times have you tried a piecrust recipe claiming to be the best, only to find yourself reduced to tears? Yeah, me too. The inspiration for this crust came from Mollie Cox Bryan, and her recipe for a vinegar piecrust in Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pie. Vinegar has long been a secret shared for pie crust making, but it often gets paired with shortening. I’m not a fan of processed foods, so even organic shortening doesn’t appeal to me. I set out to have the best of both worlds—a buttery crust, with a tender crumb, that was a cinch to roll out. Now that I think about it, maybe we should call this the best piecrust ever.

Music Pairing: Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch by The Temptations

1/3 cup (50 grams) yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out

1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt

1 teaspoon (6 grams) natural cane sugar

1 cup (8 ounces) very cold butter, cut into 16 pieces

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons ice cold water

Add the flours, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 1-2 times to mix well. Add the butter and pulse a few more times, until it forms a sandy-looking mixture, about 4 to 5 one-second pulses. Add the egg, vinegar and water. Pulse until it forms a solid ball of dough, about 8 to 10 one-second pulses.

Dump the ball of dough out onto a well-floured counter or smooth surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, wrapping one of them if you’re only make a single-crust pie (see sidebar). Roll one disc of dough out into a circle large enough to fit your pie plate. Proceed with the directions for whichever pie recipe you are using.

Freeze it! If you’re only making one pie, wrap the remaining disc of dough tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then store it in the freezer in a zip top bag. One day before you plan to use it, transfer the wrapped dough to the fridge and let it thaw overnight. Use as directed in the selected recipe.

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?

DSC06658-1

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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