1/02/2015

#49 Classic Apple with a Twist

Posted by Chrisi

In November my son turned one-year old. I had a lot of fun planning his farm-themed birthday party. Unfortunately, the traditional “smash” cake was a “no go” due to Z’s allergy to eggs. As a result, we had eggless cupcakes (a mini smash) and apple pie. Nothing says “farm” like apple pie!

I consulted the “Pie Bible” for a recipe and was disappointed by the lack of spices. I like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in my apple pie so I consulted another handy reference… Baking Illustrated by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Here I found what I was looking for! I followed this recipe for the filling but added a little twist…

A few years ago, I made my own bitters (with mixed results). This short-lived craze led me to purchase “Bitters: A Spirited History of aClassic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas” by Brad Parsons. While I no longer make bitters (or rarely mixed drinks, for that matter), I do still use recipes from this book, such as “Sweet & Spicy Bitter Bar Nuts” and “Bitter Apple Fried [Baked] Hand Pies.” The apple pie recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Fee Brother’s whiskey-barrel aged bitters. If you live in a large metropolitan area, you will probably be able to find it (how I miss you, BevMo!). Or if you plan ahead, you can order it online. I live in western Virginia and rarely plan ahead so I substituted Angostura bitters, which can be found in most grocery or liquor stores. The bitter was perfected in 1824 and its ingredients are a proprietary mixture of herbs, roots, botanicals and barks. I will not even attempt to describe the taste of Angostura bitters (cloves? orange?) but will direct you to thecocktailgeek.com. All I can say is “try it!” Add a little Angostura bitters to your apple pie and you will experience a little somin’, somin’ that is totally indescribable—totally transformative. It will take classic apple pie to the next level… guaranteed!

Crust: 9” double pie crust

Filling:
  • ~1 1/2 lbs (or ~7) apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bitters, such as Angostura (see above)
  • butter and turbinado sugar


Directions:

Toss sliced apples with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, spices and salt. Toss the dry ingredients with the apples. Add the bitters and mix. Add the apple mixture to the bottom pie shell. Dot with butter. Roll out the top crust and place it over the filling. Trim the dough, if necessary, and seal the pie by making a folded/crimped crust. Cut vent slits in the top crust and dot with more butter. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake the pie at 425 F for 25 minutes, then lower the temp to 375 and bake until bubbly, approximately 30-35 minutes longer. (When you lower the temp, also rotate the pie 180 degrees and add an aluminum foil collar if the crust is getting too brown). Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before serving. I recommend baking the pie a day ahead so it has plenty of time to cool and “gel.” There is nothing worse than an avalanche of hot pie filling from your beautiful, homemade crust!




3/28/2014

#48 Coconut Cream Pie

Posted by Chrisi



(Sing)
Sometimes you feel like a nut
Sometimes you don’t
Almond Joy’s got nuts
Mounds don’t

Almond Joy’s got rich milk chocolate
Coconut and a crunchy nut, too
Mounds got deep dark chocolate

Chewy coconut ooh




This pie inspired my sister-in-law to sing the Almond Joy/Mounds jingle from our childhood. While no Mounds candy was used, it’s got “deep dark chocolate and chewy coconut, ooh.”

Quite honestly, the addition of the dark chocolate was completely utilitarian. Cream custards often make the crust soggy, even if it has been fully baked. For this reason, I brush the crust with egg white. It seals the vent holes and acts as a protective layer between the filling and the crust. In fact, this technique works so well that I use it for any partially (see pumpkin pie) or fully baked crust. But this time I went one extra step… I painted the crust with melted dark chocolate. No soggy crust here! And the chocolate adds a little extra something special.

Also, and I’m super-excited about this (!), the crust did not shrink one bit when baked. This was a first for me! I had a lot of shrinkage with the banana cream pie. A little less with the chai tea cloud pie (the only success with that pie). Even less with the strawberry pie. And now zero, zip, nada with the coconut cream pie! The trick? Patience! Pie crust shrinks when gluten is activated and stretched, so I gave the gluten plenty of time to relax at each step. I refrigerated the dough for several hours and then rolled it out, cold (great arm workout!). When I placed the dough in the pie pan, I was careful not to stretch it. I gently laid the crust down in the corners, instead of pushing it into the pan. Then I then I covered the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the frig before I baked it. Perfection!

Crust: 9” fully baked crust sealed with beaten egg whites and dark chocolate

Filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream of coconut (not coconut milk), well mixed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, plus 1/2 cup for toasting
  • 3/4 heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • ~1/3 cup Ghirardelli’s chocolate chips, 60% cocoa


Instructions:

Crust. Bake the crust with pie weights (I use a mixture of random beans) for 17 minutes at 400 °F. Prick the crust with a fork ~8 times to make vent holes then bake an additional 10 minutes at 375 °F. Use a pastry brush to apply whisked egg whites then bake an additional 2 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely. Once cool, melt the chocolate. (I heated the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 20 sec. intervals). Use a pastry brush to paint the chocolate onto the crust. Place the crust in the freezer for ~20 minutes to set the chocolate, then move the crust to the refrigerator.

Filling. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Add the milk, well-mixed cream of coconut and beaten egg yolks. Heat on medium with constant stirring until the mixture thickens, approximately 6 minutes. (Careful! It thickens quickly). Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla extract and 1 cup of shredded coconut. (If you want extra coconut flavor, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of coconut extract). Place plastic wrap over the top of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.

Toasted coconut topping. Toast the coconut in a skillet on medium-low heat with intermittent stirring. It will take about 15 minutes… but be patient. The coconut oil will cause the coconut to burn if higher heat is used. Set aside or store in a baggie until ready to use.


Assembly. Pour the coconut filling into the pie crust. Make the whipped cream just prior to serving: In a chilled mixing bowl, whisk the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and whisk until peaks are stiff but not grainy. Spoon the whipped cream over the coconut filling. Top with the toasted coconut. Serve immediately.

3/23/2014

#47 Strawberry Pie

Posted by Chrisi


On November 3rd, 2013 our son Zachary was born. On March 2, 2014 he met a very special group of people, my former colleagues from Chapman University. Such a special occasion required a special pie. This one is simple but fit the bill. It’s quintessential California since fresh strawberries are available almost year-round. Some of the strawberries are crushed and cooked into a thick sauce. The rest are left al naturale. One tablespoon of strawberry Jell-O was added to amp up the red color and to add a wee bit of extra strawberry flavor (not that it’s needed with fresh, juicy berries). I considered painting the bottom of the crust with melted chocolate but refrained. I thought it might overpower the pure strawberry flavor but I might try it next time… and there will definitely be a next time.

Crust: 9” fully baked crust. During the last two minutes of baking, brush the crust with whisked egg white. This will seal the crust and prevent sogginess.

Filling:
  • 2 lbs of fresh organic strawberries, cored
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry Jell-o
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Directions:
Crush enough strawberries to yield 1 cup. Halve or quarter the remaining berries and set aside.

Mix the sugar and cornstarch. Add water to the crushed strawberries and bring to boil in a small saucepan. Whisk in the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Stir continuously until the filling thickens, about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Stir in the Jell-o and butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the remaining cut strawberries in the baked pie crust. Pour the filling over the berries. Chill in the refrigerator until set, preferably overnight.