Almond Tart

A few weeks ago I the flu and spent two days lying on my sofa drinking tea and watching The Great British Baking Show. While I know I can bake, I can’t bake like those contestants…yet.

Once I was able to go out in public without feeling like Typhoid Mary, I ventured to Williams Sonoma for a tart pan. I’m obsessed with tarts now and really wanted to make one for our Easter dessert, so I scoured the web for good ideas. This almond tart is actually a hybrid from Better Homes & Gardens and Williams Sonoma, and it is delicious. While I doubt it would help me win Star Baker, I enjoyed making it very much. Many more tarts to come!

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 8 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces almond paste, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preparation

To make the pastry, place flour in a large mixing bowl and cut in butter until the crumbs are pea-sized. Mix egg yolk and 1 tablespoon ice water and drizzle over flour mixture, stirring with a fork to moisten. Add additional tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to moisten. Gently knead the dough until a ball forms; flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic, then chill for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Roll out pastry to about a 12-inch diameter, then carefully transfer to a 9 1/2 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Carefully press pastry up the sides of the pan, extending dough over the edges. Gently run your rolling pin over the edges of the pan to remove excess dough; reserve your excess dough for another use.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights – I use dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift the foil; if the crust is a pale golden color all over, it’s ready. If not, continue baking for a few more minutes at a time, checking often, until crust is pale golden all over.

Remove crust from oven and place on a wire rack while you prepare the filling; lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and place the rack in the center.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until completely smooth. Add almond paste one slice at a time, mixing very well between each addition until the filling becomes completely smooth. Note: I flattened out my slices of almond paste so they’d blend into the butter easier. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in flour.

Spread raspberry jam over the bottom of the crust, then carefully top with dollops of almond filling and spread filling to form an even layer; the jam may travel up the sides of the crust a bit, and that’s okay. Top with sliced almonds in an even layer.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the center is completely set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool; I used an inverted 6-inch cake pan on my cooling rack and remove the side of the tart pan. Cool completely; serve at room temperature and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 servings.

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Butterscotch Pie II

Some time ago, I made butterscotch pie, and my filling didn’t set well. I suspect that I didn’t cook it long enough, but then again, I was pretty much a pie-baking amateur at the time. I’m pleased to report that this recipe from Trisha Yearwood at Food Network delivered a wonderful, fully set filling.

While Trisha’s recipe calls for a meringue, I decided to leave the meringue out; you can use your three leftover egg whites to make meringue cookies or almond clouds (adapting the recipe to account for the extra whites in each of those recipes), or make a meringue for your pie if you like. Personally, I’m more of a whipped cream/whipped topping-on-pie kind of gal, but whatever floats your boat. I also have to admit that I used a store-bought pie crust for this, but as I’ve mentioned in previous pie posts, sometimes you just want to focus on your filling, and such was the case with this pie.

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Pre-bake pie crust and allow to cool completely before filling.

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, heavy cream, and butter. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils; continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and turns darker in color. Remove from heat; reserve 1 tablespoon milk and slowly pour remaining milk into the sugar mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the reserved 1 tablespoon milk, cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla extract; whisk together until smooth. Return the sugar/milk mixture to medium heat and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring well to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens; Trisha’s recipe says this takes 3 minutes, but my filling took at least 10 minutes to get thick. Large bubbles will appear in the pan when your filling is ready.

Pour filling into baked pie shell and immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the filling. Refrigerate until the filling is set, about 4 hours or overnight.

Remove plastic wrap and top with whipped cream or whipped topping before serving.

Store in the refrigerator.

 

Apple Pie with Plaid Lattice Leaf Crust

apple-pie-with-lattice-leaf-crustSometimes, I use canned pie filling. Yes! You’re shocked, I know…unless you’ve already read my posts on cherry pie and peach pie, of course.

Here’s the thing: fully scratch-made pies are awesome, but I’ve already made apple pie from scratch. And today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I wanted to spend time focusing on my crust, creating a beautiful, fancy lattice and interesting edge.

Behold, fancy lattice and interesting edge! I’m not the best crust designer, so each time I make pies now, I practice a new design. This time, I chose a thin plaid lattice of one-half and one-inch strips, then added a leaf border around the edge. I’m very pleased with the end result.

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts*
  • 1 20-ounce can apple pie filling
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg

*My pie crust recipe, which I learned from my mom, yields 3 crusts. If you’re not sure what to do with the extra crust, consider apple crumb pie, chocolate pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or pie crust rolls

Preparation

Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and pie filling; set aside.

Prepare crusts; line an 8-inch pie dish with one and reserve the second for the lattice leaf top.

Roll your second crust into a rectangle at least 9 inches tall. Cut one-half and one-inch strips; you’ll need 5 one-half inch and 7 one-inch strips for this design, plus more for the leaves, and you should have plenty. I had a bit of dough left over that I’m going to turn into pie crust rolls later.

Pour filling into pie dish, then top with 7 strips of crust; start from the outside edge and alternate the one-inch strips with the one-half-inch strips.

Fold back every other strip halfway; place a one-inch strip, then a one-half-inch strip, in the opposite direction and fold the other strips back so they cover the new ones. Repeat as necessary; if you need video help for latticework, check out this video from Southern Living. Once your lattice is complete, trim your edges and fold them over to secure them.

Using a small leaf cookie cutter (I chose a teardrop-shaped leaf), cut leaves for your edge; re-roll your scraps if necessary. My edge used 24 leaves.

Gently press the leaves onto the edge of your crust, making sure they stick to the crust below.

Place a pie guard or foil around the edge of the crust; bake for 25 minutes, then remove the guard and bake another 25 minutes.

Cool pie completely, or serve warm.

Pumpkin Molasses Pie

pumpkin-molasses-pieWhat makes pumpkin pie better? Molasses. But what is molasses, exactly?

Molasses is a syrup that results from sugar production. To make sugar, sugar cane or beets are crushed to extract their juice, which is then boiled down to form sugar crystals. The crystals are taken out, and the remaining juice is molasses, which may be boiled two or three more times to extract more crystals. The most common type of molasses used in baking comes from the first boiling; it is the lightest in color and sweetest in taste. The second boiling results in dark molasses, and the third results in blackstrap molasses, which is the thickest and most bitter-tasting. Blackstrap molasses is said to have health benefits because it contains vitamin B6 and minerals like calcium and magnesium, but it’s usually not recommended for baking. In fact, I’ve read many a recipe that calls for molasses and then indicates “not blackstrap” to ensure a sweet result.

Last week, I took some pumpkin molasses cookies to work and my colleague Linda told me that she had a good recipe for pumpkin molasses pie. Naturally, I had to try it…and it was just as delicious as I expected.

Ingredients

  • 1 single pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line an 8-inch pie dish with crust, then trim and shape edge as you like. I did a classic crimped edge for this crust.

Place your pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch any spills.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, light brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and molasses. Add eggs and evaporated milk, stirring very well to combine.

Pour filling into pie dish and place a crust shield* around the edge to prevent over-browning. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the crust shield and continue baking another 10-15 minutes. Pie is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; don’t worry about the little hole it will leave, as you can always cover this up with whipped cream before serving.

Remove pie from oven and cool completely before serving. Pie will be very puffy when it first comes out of the oven and will fall as it cools – this is completely fine.

Store pie in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

*You can buy a crust shield at King Arthur Flour and many baking supply stores. If you don’t have one handy, take a 12-inch piece of foil and fold it into quarters. Take scissors and cut out the center, leaving a 2-inch wide ring. Carefully unfold the foil and place the guard on your pie edge. 

Peach Pie with Lattice Crust

peach pieSometimes I use canned pie filling. There, I admit it.

When you want to practice your latticework, it’s just a lot easier to make your crust from scratch, pop open a can of filling, and focus on your lattice strips than it is to worry about peeling your fruit and such. Someday, I’m sure I’ll make a peach pie from scratch, but in the meantime, my can of Lucky Leaf pie filling worked very well.

This is my third lattice-topped pie, and I think it’s the best appearance-wise. I had two crusts left over from yesterday’s lemon meringue pie adventure, and I still have a bit of crust left over from making my lattice, which I might turn into pie crust rolls later.

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts
  • 1 can peach pie filling
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix cinnamon and pie filling; set aside.

Prepare pie crusts; line an 8-inch pie plate with one crust and reserve the second crust for the lattice top.

Roll out your second crust, then cut into 1 1/2 inch strips for the lattice. You’ll need 7 strips for this design.

Pour filling into pie dish; place four lattice strips on top. Fold back the first and third strips, then place another strip on your filling so it is perpendicular to the other strips. Fold back the strips so they cover the new strip, then repeat with remaining strips to form the lattice. If you’d like some video help, check out this tutorial from the folks at Southern Living magazine.

Fold the edges of your lattice strips over the edge of your bottom crust to seal. Gently press the tines of a fork into the crust vertically, then horizontally, all the way around your crust to create a crisscross design.

Place a pie guard or foil around the edge of your crust and bake for 25 minutes; remove pie guard and continue baking for 10 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Lemon Meringue Pie

lemon meringue pie

Lemon meringue pie reminds me of my grandpap, Andy Kozusko, Sr. It was his favorite, and a few times a year my grandma Zella made one for him, completely from scratch, of course.

My grandpap was a member of the Greatest Generation, born in Pittsburgh to Slovak immigrants in August 1921. He served in the Navy during World War II; he worked hard, knew how to fix everything, took great pride in his home and lawn, drove me to school, volunteered as a fireman, and served as a usher at church. He had more patience and gratitude than any person I’ve ever known.

This recipe comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, and although the filling is kind of runny, it tastes delicious. I suspect that if my grandpap were here today, he’d thank me for making him a pie, tell me it was delicious, and ask for a second piece…because he was just that kind of man.

Ingredients

For the crust

For the filling

  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

For the meringue

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

*My pie crust recipe yields 3 crusts, enough for this pie and either one or two more, depending on what you choose to make. Check out my pie ideas!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place beaten egg yolks in a large glass measuring cup next to your stove.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt; mix well. Slowly pour in water, stirring constantly to break up lumps. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly; once you see large bubbles break on the surface, it’s ready. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes more.

Gradually stir about 1 cup of hot filling into egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper. Pour the yolk/filling mixture back into the pan and bring to a gentle boil, then cook and stir for 2 minutes more.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and butter, stirring until butter completely melts. Very carefully stir in lemon juice; keep filling warm while you make the meringue.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form (soft peaks will curl).  Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form and meringue is glossy; this will take about 4 minutes.

Pour filling into pre-baked pie crust and gently top with meringue, spreading over filling and sealing to the edge of the crust to prevent it from shrinking.

Bake for 15 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour, then cover and refrigerate for 3-6 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

 

Apple Crumb Pie

applecrumbpie1Confession: as much as I love to bake apple pie, I don’t eat it. I’m not a fan of cooked fruit, except for my Aunt Liz’s skillet apples, which are kind of like apple pie filling. But when it comes to this traditional, all-American dessert, I always pass.

I’ve never made a crumb-topped pie before, but they’re a great solution if you don’t want to get fancy with your crust. This pie went into my office, and it was a big hit, especially around 2:30 p.m., when the post-lunch need for sugar kicked in.

Ingredients

For the crust

For the filling

  • 6 medium-sized apples, preferably a mix of green and red, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 tablespoon honey

For the crumb topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare pie crust; line a 9-inch pie plate with crust. I left my edge plain, but you could flute yours if you like.

Prepare the filling; in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add sliced apples and toss to coat.

Pour filling into pie shell and drizzle with honey.

Prepare the crumb topping; combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Rub in the butter (or cut in with a pastry blender) until the mixture appears as small crumbs. Cover filling with crumb topping.

Place a pie guard (or aluminum foil) around the edge of your crust to prevent over-browning; bake for 20 minutes, then remove guard and reduce temperature to 375. Bake for another 40 minutes, until apples are tender.

Cool completely, or serve warm.

Below, the pie is being divided up for my coworkers (next to some expense forms). 

applecrumbpie2