Apple, Pear and Cranberry Pie

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Since I last posted, I had my last day as a professional baker, got a job working at a tech company that connects local restaurants to people in offices who want lunch, joined a new fitness community that twerks for a workout and was featured in the food + drink section of The Seattle Weekly.

In late February, my two pie muses representing the East and West Coasts came together to join me for a pie class and drink. We bantered back and forth about pie apples and the future of food writing. Kate Lebo, my Washington pie princess, and Ellen Gray, my best pie soulmate from New Jersey, made the perfect pitch for Seattle Weekly.

I emailed food + drink editor Nicole Sprinkle and a couple weeks later had a spread. The night before the issue went on the stands felt like Christmas Eve. On my way to work on 1st ave., I skipped over to the news stand to grab a fresh copy. And then another.

Nicole later told me my article had been in their top ten for overall views that week. A proud moment? Ah, yes. To honor the great muses in my life, here is Kate Lebo’s pear and cranberry pie recipe that I made for Christmas last year and never posted. The golden brown beauty was a treat on our Christmas dinner table. Though my mom was a skeptic, I promised her Kate knows her sweet to tart ratios.

Makes 1 pie//Kate Lebo

  • 1 double pie crust
  • 2 Gravenstein or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 medium lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Big pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Egg white wash (1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Follow your pie crust recipe and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out the bottom crust and place it into a 9-inch pie plate. Tuck the edges into the pie plate and trim the edges. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the apple and pear slices in a large bowl with the lemon juice. Stir in the cranberries, granulated sugar, candied ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Taste the filling and adjust to your preferences.

(In Kate’s pie classes she says if you don’t want to eat the whole bowl of filling on its own then it needs adjusting. Add lemon. Add spice.)

Stir in the flour and set aside.

Roll out the top crust and retrieve the bottom crust from the refrigerator.

Pour the filling into the bottom crust and rearrange it in the plate as necessary to reduce air pockets. Dot the filling with butter. Drape the top crust over the filling. Trim, tuck and flute the edges. Cut steam vents in the middle of the pie. Brush the crust with the egg wash, and sprinkle it with turbinado sugar.

Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 to 45 more minutes, until the crust is dark golden brown and the filling bubbles.

Cool for at least an hour before serving.

Brownie Cookies with Espresso Buttercream

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While my friends used my kitchen to make their first cioppino the other night, I took this test. Author Gary Chapman wrote a set of questions to help determine a person’s “love language.” Perhaps you feel loved when your partner holds your hand? Your love language is most likely “Physical Touch.”

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My results were as I expected. My love language is “Quality Time,” meaning I feel adored when people I care about make special time for me.

Though The 5 Love Languages are “Words of Affirmation,” “Acts of Service,” “Receiving Gifts,” “Quality Time,” and “Physical Touch,” I can’t help but think food is the 6th.

I mean forget a dozen red roses this Valentine’s Day, I feel most admired while sharing sweetbread agnolotti from Altura or Columbia City bread with butter and black salt.

Sharing food, giving food, making food and receiving food are some of the best forms of human connection. This Valentine’s Day, I decided to make these brownie cookies in heart shapes. I realized they needed frosting solely so sprinkles could adhere to them. The espresso in the frosting actually made the cocoa in the cookie taste more prominent.

Makes a lot of cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
  • 2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa, unsweetened
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whipping cream, half and half or milk
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl and add in the vanilla. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

(Meanwhile you can make the frosting below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dough from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes to warm slightly. If it’s too hard and crumbly, grab a chunk at a time and squeeze it with your hands to soften it.

Divide the dough into 4-6 chunks and roll out on a flour work surface, until it is about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into any shape you’d like using cookie cutters.

Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8-11 minutes depending on your thickness. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Frosting

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Dissolve the espresso powder in the milk in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter mixture. Beat for another minute or so until it is a spreadable consistency. Cover and keep in fridge until cookies are cool.

Frost the cookies and dust with sprinkles if you’d like.

Dakotaberry Pie

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Things to do when you’re broken-hearted:

1. Return your curtain rod that you know you will never hang yourself.

2. Go to Barnes and Noble, partly to buy 52 Loaves and Heartburn, but mostly to ride the escalator for fun.

3. Contemplate why “cheesy” is that and not “cheesey.”

4. Eat a whole box of vegetarian fried spring rolls from the creepy place that has flickering fluorescent lighting.

5. Call your dad at his office. He will book you a flight to Phoenix, where he will be a self-proclaimed “seafood pimp.” You will bathe in hot sun and probably ride the water slide post poolside drink.

6. Call your mom. She will say something that Buddha himself would say.

7. Go to dinner with your little brother. He will tell you his phone is broken due to his pocket being “moist like a summer day in the south.” Give him the other half of your sandwich because he is a poor college kid and you are holding out for the three pints of ice cream in your freezer.

8. Have a dance party with yourself to Robyn’s, “Dancing On My Own,” a.k.a. girl power song of the century.

9. Write a blog post about your Dakotaberry pie that your old lover’s family loves.

Makes 1 pie//Kate Lebo

1/2 recipe of any double crust pie dough

For the filling

  • 5 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh or frozen marionberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 medium lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • Big pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons tapioca flour (depending on how juicy the berries are, Kate says)

For the topping

  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-tablespoon-size pieces

Make the dough and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out the bottom crust and place it in a 9-to-10 inch pie plate. Tuck the crust under itself and crimp the edges how you like. Freeze the crust while you prepare the filling.

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

To make the filling, combine the marionberries, sugar, lemon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Kate recommends tasting it at this point. I generally like more lemon. Heck, throw in a pinch of zest if you’re feeling wild. I am. Gently stir in the tapioca flour and set the filling aside.

To make the topping, put the hazelnuts, flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are well chopped. Add the butter and process again in 1-second pulses until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Get the crust from the freezer. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top. With your hands, crumble some of the topping into small balls to make it pretty. Cover in a thick layer.

Bake the pie on the middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is blistered and blond. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for about 50 minutes more, until the topping has browned and the juices bubble slowly at the pie’s edge. If the topping is browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil.

Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Kate says store it on the kitchen counter wrapped in a towel for up to three days.

Vanilla Pear Galette with Mascarpone

Happy New Year!

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Contrary to my hermit personality, I went out on New Years Eve. I even had people over. We dressed up, took pictures in front of a white sheet, ate cheese and popped champagne. I wore a velvet dress and gold heels. Tommy arrived wearing a tie adorned with rockets.

2014: Year of the donut
Some things never change. We can’t take a normal photo.

Though Tommy and I pulled out our best dance moves at the club, the best part of the day was eating this pear galette with Julie. We had our late-afternoon coffee to rev up for the evening and paired it with forkfuls of flaky pastry. I used a galette dough recipe by Kate Lebo and stuffed it with sliced pear tossed in Vanilla Bean Purely Syrup. Purely Syrup is a line of organic syrups made in Northern California. Though they are intended for cocktails, I used it for baking. Why not? The syrup added a light sweetness with a touch of vanilla bean.

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After it came out of the oven I topped it with a dollop of sweetened mascarpone and a drizzle of honey. Later we sipped on a drink of 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of pure cranberry juice, 1 ounce of Ginger Root Purely Syrup and a splash of club soda shaken with ice.

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Galette dough//Kate Lebo

  • 1/4 cup sour cream or room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
  • 1 egg (For egg wash)
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Whisk the sour cream, lemon juice and water in a 2-cup spouted liquid measuring cup and put it in the freezer during the next steps.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt. Cube the butter and cut it into the flour using a pastry blender until the butter is mostly pea sized.

Take the liquid out of the freezer and pour in a steady stream into the flour mixture, stopping halfway to toss the dough with your fingers. The dough should hold together and feel a little wet. You may not need all of the liquid.

Gather the dough into a ball, make a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 3 days before rolling.

For the filling

  • 3 pears
  • 1/3 cup Vanilla Bean Purely Syrup

For the mascarpone topping

  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • Honey for drizzling

To assemble

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it in half. On a floured surface, roll each into a circle about 6-7 inches in diameter.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I use my pizza stone and flour it. Place each circle onto the sheet.

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Slice pears 1/2-inch thick and toss with the syrup. Arrange the pears in the center of each dough, leaving about a 1-inch border. Fold the border in on the pears, creating an edge.

Mix the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the edges of the dough. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake until flaky and golden, about 25 minutes. Watch carefully as this may vary.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whip mascarpone with vanilla extract and powdered sugar.

Remove galettes from the oven. Let cool slightly and move to serving plate. Spoon half the mascarpone onto the top of each galette. Drizzle with honey and serve.

Fruit, Mascarpone Cream and Almond Crust

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This year I will host Christmas. Enough of the back and forth divorced parent stuff. I’m going to get a massive tree, make an impossibly delicious breakfast casserole and we’re all going to sit down to do a puzzle.

On a shopping venture Hayley told me I couldn’t spend $90 on a Noble Fir. We walked up and down the pine laden columns looking for the perfect tree. After a moderate amount of huffing and puffing on my part, I decided on an economically-sized tree. The Christmas tree guy (yes, dressed in plaid) scooped my tree up. Hayley made a comment about how he must not need to lift weights because of his occupation. I rolled my eyes and shoved more complimentary candy into my pockets.

Once home, Hayley threw the tree over her shoulder and hauled it into my house. (She also hung all the pictures in my house when I moved in and wipes my unforgiving black counters after I cook.)

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Later that night I made this pie, and we decorated the tree. Our friend Ashley, who gets a stomach ache after more than one bite of dessert, ate a whole piece of the pie. She was silent when she took a bite. I took this as a sign of distaste, but Hayley said, “Oh. Ashley likes it.”

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I was unsure about the crust. I made my own almond meal by grinding up whole almonds in my food processor. I didn’t get it as fine as I would have liked. If possible, grind yours finely or buy it at the store. The mascarpone filling, however, was luscious with a touch of sweetness that sang amongst the tart berries.

Makes 1 pie//Inspired by Kate Lebo

For the crust

  • 2 cups almond flour or meal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten

In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and stir until the mixture is moist. Add the egg and stir. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Press the “dough” into a pie plate, going up the sides as well. Flatten and smooth the rim. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly toasted. Set it aside to cool.

For the filling

  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup good honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh marionberries
  • 1 pear
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Over medium-low heat, combine the marionberries, almond extract and cornstarch. If the fruit was frozen, allow it to completely thaw. After bringing to a simmer, set aside to cool.

With an electric mixer, whip the mascarpone and sour cream together. Add the honey, vanilla and salt. Spoon the filling into the cooled piecrust, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Lay thinly sliced pear across the top of the filling in any pattern you’d like. I went in a circle. Top with cooled marionberries and serve.

Cherry-Cranberry Lattice Pie

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Before this summer, if you had said “cherry pie,” a crust filled with gelatinous-y marble shapes would have popped into my head.

That was before I met Ellen Gray. She is a “pie-o-neer woman” as she likes to say. Cherry was one of the eight pies we baked for the Longhouse Food Revival. I looked at her with an enormous amount of skepticism when she suggested we make cherry.

Then a white bucket of fruit, swimming in their juices, arrived from Wisconsin. Ellen’s eyes turned into saucers as she pried back the lid. I placed a cherry on my tongue. It looked something like the maraschino cherries that I only eat after 1 am. But instead, I tasted summer. Sweet and tart at the same time.

I tasted this same sensation on Thanksgiving when I made Kate Lebo’s cherry-cranberry pie. Like Ellen, Kate knows the balance of sugar and lemon. Cherry and cranberry. Swoon and pucker.

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Makes one pie//Kate Lebo’s Pie School 

Ingredients

  • Double crust pie dough
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen pie cherries
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Egg white wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Take your pie dough out of the fridge and roll out the bottom crust. Fit it into a 9 or 10 inch pie plate. Return to fridge.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the cherries and cranberries with the granulated sugar, lemon juice, almond extract, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the flour and butter and set aside.

Roll out the top crust and cut it into strips for a lattice. Retrieve the bottom crust from the fridge. Pour the filling into the bottom crust. Weave the lattice strips accordingly. Trim, fold and crimp the edges. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Place the pie in the middle of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust looks blistered. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the juices bubble.

Cool completely.

Pecan Pie

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My dad loves pecan pie. Except he doesn’t like it for the reasons most people probably like it. He just likes the nuts. “I don’t want all of that goop,” he says.

This year, I made him his own special pie with extra pecans, less goop and mild sweetness. His eyes lit up at the 3 hefty cups of nuts. It was also the first time I’ve liked pecan pie. Usually the sweetness gives me an instant cavity. Not really. Well, probably.

If you like normal pecan pie skip this recipe. If you like pecans like Ryan Mackey, then this is for you. We tried to come up with a name for this pie. I looked at my dad and suggested, “Daddy’s Double Nuts?” At the thought of this he turned toward me revealing the front of his sweatshirt which said, “Everyday I’m Musselin.'” He didn’t like the name…

1 pie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 recipe any double-crust
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups pecan halves

Roll out your single pie crust. Slide it into a 9-inch pie plate, crimping the edges. Put in the freezer while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with an electric hand mixer (or with strong hands and a mighty whisk) until frothy. Stir in the maple syrup, brown sugar, butter, vinegar, orange juice and salt. Mix in the pecans. Pour the filling into the pie shell and smooth the surface with a spoon. Bake for 45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the center is mostly firm.

Cool for 1 hour before serving. Serve heated or at room temperature.