Custard Pie

custard pieEvery now and then, you’ll have a mishap in your kitchen. Such was my experience with today’s custard pie.

This was my first experience with custard pie and boy, when they say to carefully pour the filling into the shell, they’re really not kidding. Armed with my large measuring glass filled with the most liquid pie filling I’ve ever encountered, I placed my pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet on my oven rack. Not giving much thought to the fact that my oven rack rarely slides back into the oven perfectly, I poured in my filling and gently pushed the rack back into the oven, only to hit an invisible snag and watch in horror as a miniature tsunami of filling soared over the edge of the pie dish and onto the baking sheet, then splash into the bottom of my oven.

For a moment, I may have sounded a bit like Yosemite Sam. Amid a stream of incomprehensible expressions of frustration, I whisked my baking sheet from the oven and mopped up the mess thereon while the filling in the bottom of my oven burnt to a crisp and filled the first floor of my house with a light film of smoke. Not to be deterred, I wiped down my baking sheet and the bottom of the pie plate (very carefully, of course) and returned them both to the oven, with the rack already in place.

At present, this pie is chilling in my fridge waiting for Mike to get home from his lodge meeting and try a slice. After today’s adventures, I sincerely hope it tastes good.

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • nutmeg

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare pie crust; line the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish with crust, then line the crust with two layers of foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Note: the original recipe did not call for pricking the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork during blind baking, but in hindsight, I’d recommend doing so because once I removed the beans in the next step, my crust puffed up quite a bit.

Bake for 8 minutes, then remove beans and foil and continue baking for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven for filling.

In a large, 4-cup glass measuring cup, beat eggs with a fork, then add sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix well.

Slowly add milk, blending well.

Place pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in filling, then sprinkle with nutmeg. Cover the edge of the pie with a guard or foil to prevent over-browning.

Very, very carefully transfer the baking sheet to your oven; I found it best to keep my oven rack all the way in the oven and gently slide the sheet onto it after the tsunami incident.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Remove guard and bake another 20 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. The edges may look a bit wobbly, but that’s okay.

Cool on a wire rack; refrigerate after two hours.

 

Advertisements

Blueberry Pie

blueberry pieSummer began yesterday, and summer solstice is one of my favorite days of the year. People have been celebrating the sun since the beginning of time, so why not join in?

One of summer’s great fruits is the blueberry, a delicious superfood packed with manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. I’ll concede that blueberries are probably better eaten when not in pie form, but Mike requested a blueberry pie this weekend, so there you have it. I sought a recipe that used his preferred whole berries, not a pureed-type recipe, and found one that I have to admit has some flaws.

Here’s the problem, from what I can tell: blueberries have a high water content, and this recipe calls for 6 cups of them.There’s also sugar and cornstarch in the filling, but I suspect the cornstarch quantity is well below what it should be because no thickening occurred during baking. Although Mike had a piece and really enjoyed it, I’m afraid that the bottom crust will be a soggy mess today. I’ve never needed a pie dam, but I really could have used one for this.

If anyone out there has a good blueberry pie recipe, please do share it with me. I’d love to try again!

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts
  • 6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Zest of 1/2 of a medium lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small squares
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Preparation

Prepare pie crusts; line the bottom of an 8-inch pie pan with one and reserve the other for lattice top.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add blueberries and toss to coat, stirring gently.

Pour filling mixture into crust and dot with butter.

Create the lattice top crust, sealing the edges well, and refrigerate the pie for 20 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees; place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven.

Place pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.

Whisk together egg yolk and milk, then brush on the lattice and crust edges.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for another 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Cool for 2-3 hours before serving.

 

 

Butterscotch Pie

butterscotch pieCooking pie filling is a delicate business. Most recipes instruct you to cook your ingredients “until thickened and bubbly” before tempering with the egg yolks. This is a very subjective endeavor, when you think about it. Just how thick and bubbly is thick and bubbly enough, really?

I suspect that I under-cooked my filling for this pie, because it is far less solid than the filling in my vanilla cream pie from a few weeks back. It’s also far less butterscotch-like than I expected…not that it wasn’t very tasty.

Next time, I’ll use dark brown sugar, which in hindsight was probably what the author meant when they wrote “brown sugar” in the recipe. I’ll also cook the filling for a few more minutes, until thicker and bubblier, before tempering the eggs.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

To pre-bake the crust:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with crust, trim edges, and prick bottom with a fork. Line crust with parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights; bake for 15 minutes, then remove the beans/weights and parchment and continue baking for another 15 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Allow crust to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling:

Place egg yolks in a large glass measuring cup and beat lightly; set aside. Using a measuring cup will make it easier to pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the pan of filling later.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together flour, brown sugar, and milk until very well combined. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring frequently. Once bubbles form, cook and stir 1 minute more.

Remove from heat and slowly pour about 1 cup of the filling mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper. Pour egg yolk mixture back into the pan of hot filling and bring to a very gentle boil. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract until very well combined.

Pour filling into cooled pre-baked crust and gently press plastic wrap on the top of the filling. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving; my pie was refrigerated overnight.

 

Vanilla Cream Pie

vanilla cream pie

Yesterday I attempted (twice) to make a butterscotch pie from a recipe written by a famous lifestyle maven. While I fully recognize that the maven and her test kitchen chefs likely possess culinary skills that surpass my own, I also sincerely believe there is something wrong with her recipe, in quantity or in process. Perhaps some step was left out, or there was an instruction regarding the temperature of an ingredient that no one thought to include. Either way, I gave it two good tries and ended up having to throw away a burnt-caramel-encrusted wooden spoon.

Fortunately, I had a pre-baked crust and four egg yolks waiting in the wings during the butterscotch disaster, so when I consulted my trusty Better Homes & Gardens 25th Anniversary Cookbook and discovered that vanilla cream pie called for both items, I knew it was meant to be. I’d never tempered eggs before, but with Mike’s help all went well. The end result is, quite seriously, one of the best pies I’ve ever had. So take that, lifestyle maven. The BH&G also has a butterscotch recipe, so stay tuned for that sometime soon.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses, for garnish, if desired

Preparation

To pre-bake the crust:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with crust, trim edges, and prick bottom with a fork. Line crust with parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights; bake for 15 minutes, then remove the beans/weights and parchment and continue baking for another 15 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Allow crust to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling:

Place egg yolks in a large glass measuring cup and beat lightly; set aside. Using a measuring cup will make it easier to pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the pan of filling later.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn starch, and milk until very well combined. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring frequently. Once bubbles form, cook and stir 2 minutes more.

Remove from heat and slowly pour about 1 cup of the filling mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper. Pour egg yolk mixture back into the pan of hot filling and bring to a very gentle boil. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract until very well combined.

Pour filling into cooled pre-baked crust and gently press plastic wrap on the top of the filling. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving; my pie was refrigerated overnight.

If desired, chop or grate dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses and sprinkle over the top of the pie before serving. Whipped cream would also be a great topping idea.

Wondering what to do with four leftover egg whites? Use three of them for coconut macaroons and the remaining white to make a half-batch of cocoa meringues.

 

Chocolate Pie

chocolate pie

I waited four months for this pie.

Why, you ask, would someone like me go four months without a cookie, slice of cake, scoop of ice cream, sip of soda (Western Pennsylvanias read: pop), or bite of pie? Let’s just say that sugar and I had one of those unhealthy, borderline addictive-type relationships, and something had to be done about it…not to mention that my scale came very close to being hurled out the window after Christmas. But, now that I can look upon sweets as a normal part of a regular diet rather than the focus of my daily caloric intake, I really wanted a chocolate pie.

This is not a chocolate cream pie, but rather an interesting, almost brownie-like creation. It could definitely benefit from some whipped cream and raspberries (or raspberry sauce), fresh strawberries, or even a drizzle of melted peanut butter. It is also quite good just plain, and well worth a four-month wait.

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with crust, trim the edges, and prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Line the crust with two layers of foil, fill with dried beans or pie weights, and blind bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before filling. If using beans, pour them into a bowl and allow them to cool, then store for re-use.

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt. Carefully add melted butter, taking care not to scramble the eggs.

Cover the edge of the pie with a guard or foil; bake for 30 minutes, then remove guard and bake another 20 minutes, until the pie is set. Remove from oven and cool completely; refrigerate once pie reaches room temperature.

Pecan Pie…for my Mom

Pecan pieEveryone loves my mother. No, really, they do. Many times in my life, when I’ve introduced myself to someone, they’ve said “oh, are you related to Genny Kozusko?” And when I confirmed that she’s my mom, they inevitably proclaimed, in wide-eyed fascination, “Genny’s your mom?!? I love her! What’s it like to have a mom like her?”

What is it like to have a mom like Genny? She was strict with my brother Andy and me when we were kids, tolerating no back-talk, tantrums, or nonsense. Weekly mass attendance was compulsory, good grades were expected, and junk food was rationed like it was World War II. But every summer, she packed us into the car for a week-long trip to Maryland, where she and my Aunt Liz would take us to Gettysburg, or DC, or Baltimore and teach us about everything they knew; during the school year, Genny came to all of our games, school plays, and concerts when her own busy teaching and coaching schedule permitted. When I lived away from Pittsburgh, I called her every week to check in, and I still call her when I travel to let her know that I’ve arrived safely. She helped Mike and me paint our house, landscape our yard, and renovate our bathroom. She’s our go-to dog-sitter and always happy to take Millie for a walk when she stops by.

What it’s like to have a mom like Genny is to know that I must leave this world a little better off than I found it; to know that family, faith, honesty, hard work, and humor are the most important things that exist. I’m incredibly lucky to have her as my mom. And because it’s Mother’s Day, I’ve baked this pecan pie for her.

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • 3 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with crust; trim edges and shape as desired.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, corn syrup, sugar, and vanilla and mix well. Add melted butter, taking care not to cook your eggs, stirring to combine. Stir in pecans, then pour filling into crust.

Cover the edge of the pie with a guard or foil to prevent over-browning; bake for 25 minutes, then remove guard and bake another 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before refrigerating.

Meet Genny

Genny O’Donnell Kozusko is the second-youngest of six children. Born in Howard County, Maryland on June 9, 1946, she is fifty minutes older than her twin sister, my Aunt Liz. She’s the director of athletics at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, though she is retiring this year to spend more time volunteering at her church, hanging out with our nephew Roman, and hopefully walking Millie.

Below, Genny leans over to touch the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston.

Genny and the Monster

Pumpkin Pie

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we eat pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and not in the middle of July? Because once upon a time, long before supermarkets and canned pumpkin puree, people ate what was available to them in any given season, and pumpkins were available in the fall.

Seasonal eating is another great lesson that can be learned from your local family farm market. Pumpkins, squashes, and apples are great fall foods, as peaches, berries, and corn sweeten the summer. Citrus fruits, like my favorite clementines, are at their best in winter. So while you can procure nearly any fruit or veggie year-round, it won’t necessarily taste as good out of season.

You could certainly roast a pie pumpkin, scrape out its flesh, and use that in your pumpkin pie, but thanks to the good folks at Libby’s pumpkin puree is available year-round. This is a quick and easy recipe that works well for busy holiday times.

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 lightly beaten eggs
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup milk*

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie dish with crust; trim edges and place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any overflow.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and beat with a fork.

Add eggs and beat lightly until combined.

Slowly add milk and mix well.

Pour filling into prepared pie dish.

Cover the edge of the pie with a guard or foil to prevent over-browning.

Bake for 25 minutes, then uncover the edge and bake another 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Cool completely.

*Full disclosure: In my flurry of Thanksgiving preparations, I totally forgot the additional 1/2 cup of milk in this pie. It turned out just fine, but next time, I’ll make sure to use both the evaporated milk and fresh milk!