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.

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.

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.

Caramelized Carrot & Leek Hand Pies

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I thought waking up at 3:30 a.m. for my baking shift would be the end of me. Turns out, I love getting home from working at approximately 9:15 a.m., caffeinated, with a day’s work under my belt and a cookie in my bag.

I also thought baking for a living would deter me from baking at home. Wrong again. I happily made these hand pies with half spelt flour, half all purpose. This has become my thing. I love the color spelt gives pastry, not to mention the nutty bite.

After biking to the Ballard Market last Sunday, I ate a hand pie with a salad made of the freshest, crispest greens. While the farmer bagged my greens, another woman broached the stand with a mellow baby flopped in a front pack. The farmer bagging my greens asked the mom if the carrots she was waiting to purchase were to make homemade baby food. The mom said yes, and the farmer gave her the carrots for free saying, “It’s a good cause.”

Makes 6 hand pies//Adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

For the pastry

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cups (7 ounces) spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, freezer cold, diced
  • 1/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) sour cream
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Begin the pastry by putting the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is crumbly and in the size of peas.

Add sour cream and pulse a few times. Add 3/4 cup of ice-cold water and pulse again. Remove the lid of the food processor and pinch the dough between your fingers to see if it will come together. If the dough seems too crumbly still, add more cold water a tablespoon at a time.

Dump the dough onto a floured work surface. Gather it together and form a flattened rectangle about 5 by 6 inches. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

For the filling 

  • 1 medium large leek (about 14 ounces), white and light green parts only
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup (4 1/2 ounces) soft fresh goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the leek in half lengthwise and run it under water to wash. Slice into half moons.

Heat the butter and two teaspoons of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced leek and stir with a pinch of salt. Continue to cook until caramelized and golden. If they are cooking too quickly, turn the heat down.

Put carrots on a baking sheet with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix. Roast until the carrots are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan and sprinkle with garlic and thyme. Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes.

Put half of the roasted carrots (about 1 3/4 cups) into the food processor and puree until smooth. Stir in leeks. Taste for salt and pepper. Gently fold in crumbled goat cheese, leaving it in crumbles as much as possible.

Unwrap the rectangle of dough. On a lightly floured surface, cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a 8 1/2 by 6 inch rectangle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put a rectangle of dough down with the short end facing you. Make an egg wash with the egg yolk and one tablespoon of water. Brush a 1-inch border of egg wash around the edges of the rectangle.

Place about 1/2 cup of the filling on the rectangle of dough, placing it closer to one of the short edges. Slightly flatten the filling.

Fold one short edge over the other, folding over the filling. Use a fork to crimp the edges to seal. Trim the edges with a knife if needed to make straight lines. Repeat until all of the hand pies are formed. Place them on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush the tops with egg wash and using a knife, cut two little slits into the tops to vent.

Bake the pies until they are golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.

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.