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.

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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.

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

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You know you got dressed for work at 3:30 a.m. when you get home from your shift and realize your underwear is both inside out and backwards.

I’ve been baking professionally for a month now at a sweet bakery a couple blocks from my house. This morning I was daydreaming of my head hitting the yellow polka dotted pillow on my bed and accidentally burned the lemon scones. Not terribly, just in an over-caramelized singed way.

The other day I made these cookies to then make them into a crust for a pumpkin cheesecake. I hadn’t made cheesecake in years and regretfully didn’t let the cream cheese come to room temperature, resulting in a lumpy cake. In my defense, I had to expedite the process; I was eating the would-be crust cookies at an impossibly high rate. Though the cheesecake wasn’t worthy of posting, these have become my favorite cookies.

Makes 40 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons peel and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • About 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the butter and white sugar together until it is light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, fresh ginger and molasses. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until combined.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. When you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll the dough into ball about an inch in diameter (I vary them in size every time I make these and they turn out). Roll in turbinado sugar and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake in several batches for at least 7 minutes. If I make them bigger in size I have to bake them for up to 12 minutes. Set a timer for 7 and then go from there. Remove them from the oven. Let cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack. This will allow them to firm up. Repeat.

 

Dunk Like Lebron

 

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I grew up watching the NBA with my dad. He always talked about his lifelong dream of being able to dunk. At a certain point, he decided everyone in the NBA was a “punk” and stopped following it as closely. Now, my boyfriend Tommy is my insight into basketball. I wouldn’t pay it any attention, but I’m constantly hearing about it from him, including his NBA draft picks. For the last couple years, Lebron has been the first pick among Tommy’s family. He describes Lebron as “multi faceted and explosive.” Ha.

Even if you aren’t watching the Cavaliers game tonight, you can still play at home. Dunk away dad.

These biscotti didn’t quite meet my texture standards, but the pop of lemon combined with the mildly tart cherries was lovely. The topping of turbinado was also a nice touch. The texture can be played with based on baking time and sitting out time.

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Because Tommy lives almost two hours away, I sent him a package filled with these biscotti and a love note. Or at least I thought so. When I hadn’t heard from him, I asked if he had received the package. I had accidentally sent them to 1217 instead of 1215, meaning the crack house next door to him got my fresh-baked treats. The neighbors probably enjoyed them, so I suppose it’s not a total loss. I had a few leftover, and I brought them along when my dad and I drove the two hours to meet Tommy for dinner. Those didn’t make it either…my dad ate them.

Makes about 40 biscotti//Adapted from Anne Burrell

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add in the vanilla.

Mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest, until just incorporated. Fold in the almonds and cherries.

Divide the dough in half and roll into logs, dusting with flour as needed. Roll the logs into almost the length of a sheet pan. Beat the egg white with one tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the two logs and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place the logs side-by-side on a sheet pan, at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 30 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Slice on a bias, about 3/4 inch thick. Lay the biscotti on their side, and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Crumb topping

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I spent Labor Day weekend eating and greeting at Molly O’Neill’s Longhouse Food Revival in upstate New York. She had asked friend and professional baker Ellen if we would make 80 pies for the event. We spent two days processing fruit, rolling dough and heating the chilly kitchen with Molly’s two ovens. Ellen and I ended up with lemon meringue, pecan, peach, sour cream rum raisin, buttermilk, blueberry, Wisconsin cherry and apple.

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Adorned with layers of hefty clothing and our favorite aprons, we served slices to the Revival guests who approached our stand. The program’s art intern had constructed and painted a pie wheel, displaying the different flavors available. Excited and slightly liquored patrons flung the handle, sending the painted rolling pin in a mighty spin. If it landed on something they liked, they would ask for it. If not, we would give them whatever they wanted. Cherry was the hit, maybe because it was bright in an otherwise gray landscape of dark clouds that weekend or maybe because I was telling everyone it was my favorite.

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Earlier that week Ellen had tasked me with making large batches of her favorite crumb topping. After making it, I left the ziplock of it open on the table, ready for snacking. I offered it to the video editor working tirelessly out in the dining room. She looked at me with mild skepticism but then tossed a few crumbs in her mouth. Eyes wide she asked, “What is that?” I told her: butter, sugar, almonds and oats. Yum.

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This topping would be great on many pies like cherry, peach or apple.

Topping for one 9-inch pie/Ellen Gray

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse ingredients until crumbly. You can also make this in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Cover your fruit filling with the crumble and bake as directed by the recipe.

Butter Crust

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Being in Rensselaerville, far from a grocery store, I crave ripened peaches. Many mornings we eat plain yogurt, fluffy like whipped cream and sprinkled with a few spoonfuls of homemade granola, adorned with nuts, coconut and raisins. It needs a sliced peach.

While driving to Hudson on a night off, one of the other scholars yelled, “Farm stand! Peaches!” Ellen, our trusting driver, skidded to a halt. With nothing guarding the stand but a note that said, “Peaches: $4. Please place your money in the box,” we threw $5 in accordingly and dashed back to the car, fruit in hand.

When Ellen the baker and I found out we’d have some time Monday, we made eye contact from across the table, and I mouthed, “peach pie.”

We spent Monday morning squishing our hands into pie dough. To learn about the taste of different fats, we made one batch with solely butter and one with a butter-shortening combination. With years of professional experience, Ellen had tricks up her sleeve. She advised me to mix the fat and flour in a mixer or food processor but then fold in the water by hand so the dough wouldn’t get tough.

Ellen removed the chilled from the fridge, rolled it into a neat circle and nestled it into the pie plate before returning it to the fridge. I asked her why she chills it a second time. Ellen did a dance with her shoulders and said, “I like it to get cozy.”

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We filled the crusts to the brim with abundant peaches and blueberries, stirred with lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch and warm spices. We wove the lattice top together, brushed it carefully with egg wash and sprinkled it with sugar.

In two weeks of baking with Ellen, I’ve watched her eyebrows crinkle together, concerned with bake ware or fretting about the absence of a crucial flavor like ginger. But after time in the oven, sweetness permeates Molly O’Neill’s kitchen sending ease throughout. The pie is retrieved, left to snooze, and sliced after dinner. With a final scrape of the plate, coating my silver fork in syrupy peach juice, my craving is quenched.

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 Makes a double crust//Ellen the Baker

 Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 6 ounces butter
  • ¼ cups ice water
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon cream

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cube the cold butter and plop it into the flour mixture. Put in freezer, if time allows, for at least 15 minutes.

Move the mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is the size of large peas. Pour the mixture back into the medium bowl. With your hands or a rubber spatula, slowly incorporate the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the flour. Depending on the day and the environment, you may need to add one less or one more tablespoon of water. Scrape the sides of the bowl, bringing the dough together into a ball.

Cut the ball in half and pat each piece into a flat disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

After removing the chilled disks, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for five minutes. Lightly flour your surface. Using a rolling pin, begin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, using more flour if the dough is sticking. The dough should come out to be about 1/8-inch thick. Nestle it into your pie plate. Trim the edges or fold them under to create a rim. Return the pie plate to the fridge.

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In the same way, roll out your second disk into a 12-inch circle, using flour as needed. If you want a lattice top, cut it into ¾-inch strips, using a pizza or pastry wheel. In a pinch, a knife works fine too. Put the strips on a parchment lined baking sheet, and return it to the fridge.

Remove the lattice pieces from the fridge. Weave the pastry.

Whisk the egg and cream with a fork. Brush it over the top of the crust. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Follow your pie recipe for baking times and temperatures as they vary.

 

 

 

Ginger Peach Pie Filling

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I said goodbye to Bellingham, my home of four years, in mid July.

I first drove to Missoula, Montana for a visit. Of course, this also involved the usual eating tour: A slice, or several, from Biga Pizza, a raspberry cream cheese filled croissant from Bernice’s and a creamy scoop of maple walnut ice cream from Big Dipper.

Before I knew it I was getting dropped off at the Seatac Airport and heading to New York. 36 hours and two snack vouchers later, thanks to an infamous airline, I arrived in the tiny town of Rensselaerville for the month-long Longhouse Food Scholars program founded by food writer and author Molly O’Neill.

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I came with the normal amount of nerves, but as soon as we were asked to introduce ourselves by saying our name and favorite food, I knew it was going to be okay. Someone would say, “Pie” and everyone in the room would swoon before telling us about their favorite pie. It took over an hour to get through 10 people. Food enthusiasts? I think so.

This recipe for ginger peach filling comes from pie extraordinaire Kate Lebo of Seattle. I emailed her frantically before Julie’s birthday in July to get a recipe. We all loved the filling, which was sweet and slightly spicy from the ginger and cayenne. I’m not including a crust recipe quite yet because the whole wheat one I used was not right.

Makes 1 pie/Filling adapted from Kate Lebo

Ingredients

  • 5 medium or 7 large ripe peaches
  • 1/2 cup clover honey
  • 2 tablespoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • turbinado sugar
  • double crust pie dough

Combine honey and chopped ginger in a saucepan over low heat for 20 minutes.

Preaheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove your bottom dough from the fridge, and roll it in a circle out to fill your pie pan. Make sure it is pressed down gently into the pan. Cut off any excess overhang. Poke a fork into the bottom crust a few times. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the peaches for about 4 minutes. Then immediately put them into an ice bath. After a few minutes in the ice bath, they will be really easy to peel with your fingers. Pit and slice the peaches so they are 1/4 inch think or so.

Put the slices in a bowl and squeeze the lemon over them. Add the powdered ginger, cayenne, nutmeg and salt. Pour the honey mixture over it and toss. Adjust for flavor as needed. Perhaps you like it sweeter or spicier. Sprinkle the tapioca flour over it and toss again.

Roll out the top crust. Pour the filling into the bottom crust. If a lot of liquid has accumulated in the bowl, you can leave some of it out. Place the top crust over the filling, and seal the edges decoratively if you’d like. Cut steam vents with a knife in the center of the pie.

In a small bowl, mix the egg white and 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the whole pie with the mixture. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes on a sheet pan, until the crust is “blistered and blond.” Rotate the pie 180 degrees on the pan to ensure even cooking, and lower the temperature to 375. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden and the juices start to bubble. This will take longer if the fruit is frozen.

Cool on a wire rack before serving.