Thursday, March 19, 2015


Last weekend I had a slice of Salty Chocolate Chess pie at Petee's Pie Company in the Lower East Side. It was love at first bite. Second generation pie baker, Petra "Petee Paradez, grew up in her family's acclaimed bakery, Mom's Apple Pie Company, in Leesburg, Virginia. I instantly recognized her Southern roots in her scrumptious chess pie. True to her promise - "damn fine pie for damn fine people." I can't wait to try the rest of her pies. 

Petee's Pie Company
61 Delancey Street
NYC 10002
(212) 966-2526
10am-11pm Su-Th / 10am-12am Fr-Sa

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


via food & wine / PHOTO © ANNA WATSON CARL
My favorite baking duo, sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen, of Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, New York make, hands down, some of the best pies I've ever eaten. The standard classics in their cookbook, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, make me feel all warm and fuzzy but the uncommon pies with their unusual pairings and flavor profiles inspire me to bake. 

As a Southerner I'm a huge fan of buttermilk pie but this recipe for Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie takes the slice! In a weird way the flavor reminds me of my grandma's homemade biscuits - piping hot from the oven - and topped with a swirl of melted butter and Winesett honey (orange blossom). Yum. This pie is worth every bit of time it takes to bake it. 

Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie

Cornmeal Crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie, partially pre-baked (recipe below)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon stone-ground white cornmeal
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 cup buttermilk

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Add the vanilla paste (or vanilla extract) and the sour cream and stir until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and buttermilk and mix until smooth.
  3. Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the pie shell, or strain it into a separate bowl and then pour it into the shell. (FYI: I was left with about 1/3 cup of filling that would not make it through the strainer.) 
  4. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking.
  5. The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly.
  6. Be careful not to over-bake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.
  7. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool. The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature for 1 day.
Cornmeal Crust (for a single-crust pie)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone-ground cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup ice
  1. Stir the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula. With a pastry blender (or using your fingers like we did), cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to over blend). 
  2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.
  3. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

How to partially pre-bake it:
  1. Once dough has been chilled in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, roll it out and shape it into a 9-inch pie plate. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom and sides, 15 to 20 times. Place the shaped crust in the freezer. Position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack, and preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. When the crust is frozen solid (about 10 minutes), line it tightly with a piece or two of aluminum foil. Make sure the edges are completely covered and there are no gaps between the foil and the crust.
  3. Pour pie weights or dried beans into the pan and spread them so they are concentrated more around the edge of the shell than in the center. Place the pan on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until crimped edges are set but not browned.
  4. Remove the pan and the baking sheet from the oven, lift out the foil and pie weights, and let the crust cool for a minute. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of egg white glaze (1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon of water) to moisture-proof the crust. Return the pan, on the baking sheet, to the oven’s middle rack and continue baking for 3 more minutes. Remove and cool completely before filling.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


When I thought about different possibilities for California's state pie, I considered two fruits - avocado and Meyer lemons. I chose the latter. Plump, smooth skinned and the color of canary yellow, Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than their sour cousins. Once hard to find outside of California, these aromatic lemons have become increasingly common in grocery stores. Originally imported from China about 100 years ago, Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a sweet orange. With their sweeter juice, thinner peel, less acid and a more floral scent and taste, Meyers are the perfect ingredient for desserts. 

Lemon meringue is a custard base pie with a fluffy meringue topping. Because of its few ingredients, be choosy - there's no substitute for fresh, juicy lemons. This recipe is topped with Swiss meringue instead of a raw French meringue topping. 

Ph: Lauren Weisenthal via Serious Eats 
Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
2 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
4 egg whites
pinch salt
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 425º F. Line the shaped, chilled, pie crust with parchment or foil and fill with weights and bake for 15 minutes on the lower rack. Remove the liner and weights and bake until the whole crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 
  2. Place the lemon juice, water, and zest in a medium sized saucepan. Whisk together the cornstarch, 1 1/3 cups sugar, and salt, and add it to the saucepan. Whisk the egg yolks then add them to the mixture and whisk continuously over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and bubbles, 7 to 8 minutes. Whisk for an additional two minutes once it's begun to bubble, without stopping, then remove from heat. Whisk in the butter until it is completely melted. Pour the mixture into the baked pie shell and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Allow the pie to come to room temperature, then chill for at least four hours (ideally, overnight) with the plastic wrap still on top. 
  3. Before serving: Fill medium saucepan on quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer. Combine egg whites, remaining sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing between your fingers. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Remove the plastic from the top of the chilled pie and top with the meringue. Place the pie under the broiler and watch it carefully, the top should brown but not burn, and it charges quickly. Chill for 10 minutes, then serve. 

Monday, March 16, 2015


The pie that just about shows up on Arkansas menus everywhere is known as "possum" pie. So named because it "plays possum," in that it represents itself as something else. It's also known by a lot of other monikers in Arkansas such as Four-Layer Pie, Striped Delight, and Chocolate Layer Pie. The traditional pie starts with a sandy bottom, a mix of flour and pecan pieces pressed directly onto the pie pan and blind-baked before assembly. The rest of the pie isn't baked. The filling consists of a cream-cheese layer, followed by a layer of rich chocolate pudding, topped with a layer of whipped cream toasted pecan bits. If you don't know the chocolate is in there, it looks like some sort of strange pecan-cream pie hybrid.

ph via cookbook wall

Possum Pie 
Pecan Shortbread Crust:
1  cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter, grated
3/4 cups finely chopped toasted pecans
pinch of salt
  1. Toast pecans first by baking whole nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet for about 8 minutes at 350 F. Stir once or twice while they bake. Keep an eye on them, nuts burn easily. 
  2. Pulse all of these ingredients together in a food processor. Alternatively, mix thoroughly with an electric mixer or by hand.
  3. Press into the bottom and up the side of a 10-inch pie plate. Place in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Preheat oven to 350º F. Bake crust for approximately 12-15 minutes until lightly golden; set aside to cool completely. It can be frozen at this point.
First Layer:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Evenly distribute this filling over the graham cracker crust - OR -  pecan shortbread crust. 
Second Layer:

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding *alt homemade pudding
1/4 cup instant chocolate pudding *alt homemade pudding
1 3/4 cups cold whole milk
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, vanilla, and pudding mixes for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Sprinkle chopped pecans over cream cheese layer, then spoon pudding over both. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
    - OR for homemade pudding-
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, flour, cornstarch, and salt. 
  2. Combine the eggs yolks and milk, breaking up the yolks with a fork, and then pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the saucepan. Whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens and boils, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla. Scrape into a shallow bowl, smoothing the top of the pudding, and press a piece of waxed paper over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool for 30 minutes. 
Third Layer:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
12 -16 pecan halves, toasted
  1. Spread whipped cream over the chocolate layer. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and grate some of the dark chocolate bar over the top. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015


It's been way too long since I checked in but the new year started with a bang and I haven't had a second to call my own. However, Sundays are pie days so I've got a Fig Buttermilk Pie in the oven and am prepping the filling for Shoofly Pie, both of which I plan on sharing with my new co-workers tomorrow. 

Last week I baked Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie and Cranberry Pie, both recipes from my favorite baking duo, sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen, of Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, NY. I'll share those recipes another day. 

Buttermilk pie with its Southern roots isn't a pie most folks outside the region are familiar with but it's a custard pie made with eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk. In this variation I've added dried figs and Grand Marnier for a slightly fruiter and boozy flavor. 

Shoofly pie is a molasses and brown sugar pie traditional to the Pennsylvania Dutch. 

For each of the two pies I used a single 9-inch cornmeal crust. Adding cornmeal to a crust gives it a toothy body that pairs nicely with almost any fruit pie, and custards as well. You will need to par-bake the crust. 

Cornmeal Crust (Single-Crust Pie )
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice
  1. Stir the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain. 
  2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix with a spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water, one tablespoon at a time until dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining (approximately 6 tablespoons). 
  3. Squeeze and pinch with your fingers to bring all the dough together to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to give crust time to mellow.
If you're pie is only going to have a bottom crust, you can blind-bake the crust than moisture-proof it. Blind-baking is when you partially or fully-bake an unfilled pie shell. This is especially key for custard based fillings, or for fillings that are cooked separately or not at all. 

To blind-bake, follow these easy steps for a par-baked (partially baked) crust:
  1. Once you've placed your crust in a pie pan, dock the dough. Docking simply means to prick the dough all over with a fork to keep it from puffing. Make sure to not only get the bottom but the sides as well.
  2. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes or longer, before baking. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  4. Butter shiny side of aluminum foil, and butter side down, place the foil tightly against the crust. Since the crust is frozen there is no need to add pie weights. Bake on baking sheet on center rack for 20 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press down on it gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust another 10 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool crust to room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
  6. As an optional step, if you're worried about the filling leaking through the holes you can apply an egg white wash to the bottom and sides of the crust with a pastry brush (although, the holes usually close up during the blind-bake process.) Pop back into the oven for another 2 minutes until the egg glaze sets. Remove once again, and allow to cool before adding pie filling.
Note: Some bakers only use parchment paper and are adamantly against using aluminum foil because they feel the dough doesn't bake the same.

Fig Buttermilk Pie
9-inch Pie Cornmeal Crust
6-7 dried figs
1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted until browned
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. 
  2. To make filling, place dried figs into a small bowl, cover with 1/2 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier. Let sit for 5 minutes. Place the figs (water and Grand Marnier included) into food processor and process for 3 minutes until mostly smooth, lots of small bits will remain. Set aside.
  3. Add sugar and lemon zest to a medium bowl. Rub the two together with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs and whisk until thick and well combined. Add flour and salt and whisk to combine. Add butter and stir to incorporate. Last, add the buttermilk, lemon, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Fold in the fig mixture to the pie filling. 
  4. Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell.  Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pie is puffed up and center no longer jiggles in waves. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. 
  5. Serve room temperature. Store pie, well wrapped, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Shoofly Pie
9-inch single cornmeal crust
 1 egg white mixed with 2 teaspoon of water
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
a two-finger pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. To make the streusel, combine the flour, butter, salt, and brown sugar. Use your hands and rub the ingredients through the palms of your hands until everything is combined.
  3. In another bowl, combine the molasses and corn syrup with the boiling water. Add the baking soda and, while whisking, add half the streusel and the beaten egg. 
  4. Place the other half of the streusel into the bottom of the par-baked crust then pour molasses mixture over the top. 
  5. Slide the sheet tray with pie on it into the oven and bake it for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 300º F and bake for another 35 minutes. At the end of the baking time, give the sheet tray a gentle shake. Is the pie wavy or is it like Jell-O? If it's wavy, bake it another 5 minutes, otherwise remove it and cool completely on a rack. Serve with whipped cream.