Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Outside it's cold, big fat snowflakes dusting the sidewalks like powdered sugar. Suddenly, I have a sweet craving and all I can think of is lemon pie. As usual I have absolutely nothing in the house but basic kitchen staples - sugar, milk, flour, eggs, and butter. And, wait a minute-- a bag of Meyer Lemons I purchased on Sunday. I dig around and find an old-fashioned recipe for Sponge Cake Lemon Pie, more popularly known as Lemon Sponge Pie, an easy and an economical pie recipe as it only requires seven ingredients, most of them staples in the kitchen. This pie cooks slow in the oven and the finished result is a scrumptious pie with a gooey bottom layer of lemon custard, and a top layer of fluffy sponge cake - what I call pie magic!

Sponge Cake Lemon Pie
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2 rounded Tbs flour
1 cup milk
grated lemon rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 pie crust, 10-inch, unbaked
  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. Mix the flour into the sugar. Beat the yolks until creamy, add the sugar and milk. Add the grated rind, juice and melted butter. 
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Fold into the other mixture. Pour into the pie shell, bake until golden brown. 
  4. Cool and refrigerate for at least an hour. The pie is served chill. Feel free to dust with powdered sugar.

Monday, January 30, 2017


Prep 30 Min // Cook 25 Min // Cool 4 Hours // Serves 12

7 whole chocolate graham crackers
1.5 Tbsp light stick butter
1 Tbsp beaten egg white
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup low-fat (1%) milk
1 large egg
2 cups fat-free half-and-half
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup aerosol whipped topping
2 Tbsp pomegranate arils
  1. Preheat ove to 350º F. Coat 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.
  2. To make crust, place crackers in food processor; process until finely ground. Add butter; pulse a few times to combine. Add egg white; pulse a few times until mixture is evenly moistened. Firmly press crumb mixture onto bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake for 12 minutes; transfer to wire rack and let cool. 
  3. To make filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa poser, and salt; whisk in milk and egg. 
  4. In a large saucepan, heat half-and-half over medium heat until small bubbles appear around edge of pan, about 8 minutes. Gradually whisk half of hot half-and-half into cocoa mixture until blended. Whisk hot cocoa mixture into remaining half-and-half in pan. Cook, stirring frequently with heat proof spatula, until mixture comes to boil, about 4 minutes; boil 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate and vanilla extract until chocolate melts; pour into cooled crust. Place plastic wrap on surface of filling; refrigerate until filling is firm, at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  5. Remove pie from fridge; uncover, garnish with whipped topping, and sprinkle with pomegranate arils. Slice into 12 pieces. 
PER SERVING (1 SLICE): 148 calories, 5 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 117 mg sodium, 24 g total carb, 14 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 3 gram protein.
SmartPoints value: 6

Friday, January 27, 2017


via piecaken
Ya'll, I just realized today is National Chocolate Cake Day! Now, this is a pie blog so what better way to compromise than to feature the piecaken - a pie nestled within a cake. 

Here's a Raspberry Pie Nestled in a Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake from Piecaken

Raspberry Pie Nestled in a Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake
For Pie:
The Perfect Pie Crust (recipe)
4 cups of frozen whole raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

For cake:
16 ounces of 70% dark chocolate, broken into 1 inch pieces
1 lb butter, chopped in cubes
1.25 cups sugar
8 eggs, at room temperature (place in bowl of warm water if cold)
1.5 tsp sea salt

For Topping/glaze:
8 ounces semi-sweet dark chocolate (50% to 65%)
1/2 cup cream or 1/3 cup water
1 tbsp corn syrup, agave syrup or honey

To make the pie:
  1. Thaw the raspberries in a medium mixing bowl in the fridge overnight or on the counter for 4 hours (or in the microwave from frozen for 1 minute).  Then pour out some of the juice from the bottom of the bowl (pour into a cup and drink it - it's healthy!).
  2. Add the sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice and stir well.
  3. Pour into your prepared pie shell (follow the recipe and be sure to pre-bake the pie crust for 10 minutes first before adding the filling).
  4. Add a top crust and seal with an egg wash (1 egg yolk and three tbsp. of water, milk or cream) and brush the top with the egg wash.
  5. Poke holes in the top crust with a fork.
  6. Place the pie on a flat cookie sheet or pan to make it easier to move in and out of the oven (it also catches drips and keeps your oven clean!)
  7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes
  8. Let cool on a cooling rack for 1/2 to 1 hour before putting into your cake mix.
To make the cake:
  1. Prepare a 10" springform cake pan with a round parchment paper in the bottom (you can use a regular 10" cake pan if you do not have a springform pan in that size).  Grease the paper and the sides of the cake pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Place the chopped butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a double boiler (a small pot with 1 inch of water in it at a low simmer) and stir constantly until melted. Remove from heat. You can use the stainless steel bowl from your stand mixer, if it does not have a thick-plated or rubber base.
  4. Add the sugar and stir well.  Let rest five minutes.
  5. Add all 8 eggs and mix with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) until well blended (do not over-beat, if it starts to get fluffy, stop mixing).
  6. Toss in the salt and mix for about 10 seconds more with your hand mixer or with a spatula.
  7. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the cake batter into your prepared cake pan.
  8. Flip your pie over, upside-down onto the centre of the batter in the pan.
  9. Pour the remaining batter over the pie.  Spread the batter around and into the edges to even out the top.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven for 50 minutes. Turn off oven when done baking.  Open the door, pull out the oven rack the cake is sitting on and leave the door open for 15 minutes until the cake cool and sinks a bit.  Remove carefully from the oven, then let cool completely on a cooling rack. Refrigerate for at least two hours before flipping onto a serving plate and topping the cake.
For the topping and cake presentation:
  1. Once completely cooled and chilled, run a hot knife around the edges and, if using, release your springform pan sides and remove. Place your serving plate upside down and centered onto the cake, then flip the cake and plate over so the cake is upside down on your serving plate (this means the pie inside the cake is now right-side-up!).
  2. Place your broken chocolate pieces into a heat-proof bowl.
  3. Boil the cream in a small pan on the stove top until it just reaches the boiling point. Pour it over the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon slowly until completely mixed and smooth.
  4. Add the tbsp. of syrup and stir. This will add a nice shine to your glaze. 
  5. Pour over the cake and, working quickly with an offset spatula, spread to the sides and run along the sides to smooth out. Wipe any excess off of the serving plate with wet and dry paper towels.


I had this dream the other night that a friend of mine opened a Pie Bakery that exclusively sold pie cookies. What?!! What a brilliant idea - all the deliciousness of pie but with the compactness of cookies! Because sometimes, let's admit it, we don't want the whole damn pie. We just want a taste. And although hand pies are a great option, sometimes there's just a little too much dough and not enough filling. But in cookie form I think it's possible to get the perfect ratio of filling to crust, and come on, folks, it's ROUND - just like a pie. So, I went digging around the internet thinking I was going to take the culinary world by storm with this new innovative pie treat, only to find out that pie cookies are already a thing! Oh, well... 

Here'a a recipe for Blueberry Pie Cookies from Building Butter Cream

Blueberry Pie Cookies
(makes approx. 32 3-inch cookies)

Pie Crust:
2.5 cups flour (whole wheat pastry or all-purpose)
6 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2.5 sticks cold unsalted butter
approx. 1/2 cup ice water

2.5 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar (lower if berries are ripe)
juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp cornstarch
  1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together with a fork.
  2. Cube the butter and "cut" it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until there are no butter bits that are bigger than a pea.  Make sure you don't go smaller than this, however, since you'll start to lose flakiness if the butter is too small.
  3. Add the ice water, a tablespoon or two at a time and use a fork to wet the flour/butter mixture. 
  4. Keep adding until the dough just starts to hold together.  You don't want the dough too wet, and you don't want to mix in the water too much.  I find it useful to just use my hands to mix at this point.
  5. Divide the dough in two, cover each half with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a couple hours at least (overnight is best).  This is especially important with the whole wheat pastry flour since it makes the dough a little easier to work with.
  6. Toss the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, butter, and cornstarch in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  8. Line the bottom of a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Remove one of the covered dough halves from the refrigerator.  Divide this in half and roll out on a floured board.
  10. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut eight circles out of the pie dough.  Place these on the parchment paper, evenly spaced.
  11. Spoon a small amount (5-6 blueberries and a little sauce) into the center or each pie circle.
  12. Cut eight more circles out of the pie dough (you may have to gather the scraps and re-roll it out).  Place each circle on top of the blueberry-topped bottom circles.  Press down the edges with something thin (the top of a paintbrush or pen would work).  Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut some small slits in the top.
  13. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly.  Cool on a wire rack.  Repeat in three more batches with the rest of the pie crust and filling.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Can you think of a more classic Americana nostalgia food than Twinkies? If you're one of the few who actually doesn't know what a Twinkie is (impossible) -- it's an American snack cake formerly made and distributed by Hostess Brands, and marketed as the "Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling."

It was invented in 1930 by James Alexander Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company in Schiller Park, Illinois. The original Twinkie was filled with a banana cream but when bananas were rationed during WWII, the company switched to vanilla cream, which proved more popular than the original flavor. 

In 2012, Twinkie's parent company, Hostess, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and production was suspended at all plants. Then in 2013 Twinkies, along with other famed Hostess Brands, were purchased out of bankruptcy by an investment company, and soon returned to U.S. supermarket shelves. 

When the news first hit the media that Twinkies would disappear from our shelves forever, a little part of America died. Not only had these yellow packaged snack cakes become a mainstay of our supermarket shelves, they had also persevered to become a cultural and gastronomical icon. Suddenly social media networks lit up with grief-stricken sentiment. 

It's funny how nostalgia clouds the mind. Most of us traded in the highly-processed snack cake for a healthier option eons ago, which is probably why they were going out of business-- low sales. However, Twinkies do play a supporting role in some idealized time in most of our lives, so that the mere sight of them brings up a host of childhood associations we're loath to part with. 

'Twinkies have been baked into our national pop culture for generations, making this simple confection of sponge cake and creme filling into a national icon.' 

For throwback Thursday I present the Twinkie Pie!

Twinkie Pie (recipe via bellyfull)
9" deep pie crust
1 box (10 count) Twinkies
3 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp vinegar
whipped cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. 
  2. Unwrap all the Twinkies; cut each on lengthwise in half and then horizontally to give you 6 pieces per Twinkie.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, and vinegar until well combined. Gently fold in Twinkie pieces with a rubber spatula. Mixture will be thick. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 40 minutes; until set and the top is golden.
  4. Let cool, slice, and serve with whipped cream. 
If you want to try your hand at making homemade Twinkies then, here's a recipe from Averie Cooks. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Homemade pie crust is hands down the best option in terms of flavor, texture, capacity, and handling, but we don't always have the time. So, I did a little digging and gathered up the best of the best of ready-made pie crusts from sources like Cook's Country and Good Housekeeping. The benchmark is homemade crust: buttery, tender, and flaky. Ready-made pie crust may not be like the kind grandma made, but it is convenient and a time-saver. 

A frozen pre-made and pre-shaped pie crust sold in disposable aluminum pie plates should be easy to use - just fill and bake. But there are numerous drawbacks-- first, the standard pie plate is 9-inches in diameter, and most pans claiming to be the same measured at 8½ to 8¾ inches, which means about a third of your filling doesn't make it into the pie shell. Second, double-crust recipes. The instructions recommend flipping a second pre-shaped shell on top of the other filled bottom crust but tricky when most already have molded edges. Plus the top crust may not stretch over the pie filling even if you're able to flute the edges together. Third, heat will penetrate faster through flimsy aluminum pans causing burnt spots as standard recipe baking times no longer apply. You may think, aha! I'll transfer the crust to my favorite glass, ceramic, or metal pie plate, but as aforementioned, the crusts are too small for standard pie plates. Rolling out the crust larger isn't recommended either, as the dough can be finicky and difficult to work with. 

There's another style of pre-made crust, the ones that come rolled, two in a package, in the refrigerated section of the your grocery store. A few brands are frozen but these need to be thawed for 3 hours and need coaxing to unroll without tearing. The refrigerated brands roll out easily and can be used immediately. 

But convenience isn't the only factor when it comes to pre-made crusts; taste and texture matter as well. Manufacturers use different types of fat in pre-made crusts: shortening, margarine, lard, palm or canola oil, or a combination. Each fat has a different melting point and crystalline structure, which affect the taste and texture of the crust. Brands using all shortening yield a light and flaky crust, but also the bland, fatty taste of shortening. Some blend shortening and margarine, which gives a flaky texture and a wanna be butter flavor, but also tend to be dense with a processed after-taste. Lard has a neutral taste and makes for a very flaky crust but the seasoning is off - either too salty or too sweet. The best crusts used palm oil for a tender, flaky texture and didn't taste artificial. 

In the end, the two winning pre-made crusts were made by the same brand - Wholly Wholesome. For single-crust recipes, use pre-shaped Wholly Wholesome Organic Traditional 9" Pie Shells. And for double-crust recipes, or if you just prefer using your own pie plate, or want to avoid extra filling - Wholly Wholesome 9" Certified Organic Traditional Bake at Home Rolled Pie Dough. It's slightly less flaky than the pan version but is "subtly sweet, rich," and "tender." This is sold frozen and requires 3 hours of defrosting on the counter rather than the fridge; you may need to microwave it for up to 10 seconds for easier rolling if the center isn't fully thawed. 

Now, there is a third option when it comes to pre-made crusts-- the box mixes. If you have to bring out the mixing bowl, you may as well make a crust from scratch. However, this pie crust box mix won Good Housekeeping's honorable mention, and I happen to love the brand itself. Jiffy Pie Crust Mix! Surprised? This classic blue box of JIFFY yields two crusts for $0.75. It produces crisp, crumbly results with a good balance of salty and sweet - just add water. Viola! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


via Anthropologie
Over the last month or so I've been using skim ricotta in a lot of make-over recipes, specifically lightened-up versions of delicious Italian dishes like lasagna. So when I came across this recipe of award-winning chef and restaurateur Marc Vetri's favorite Ricotta Pie (via Anthropologie blog), I couldn't resist sharing it. Ricotta pie is his food nostalgia, reminding him of Sunday meals at this grandparents' home in South Philadelphia. Mine is my grandmother's homemade southern biscuits smeared with butter & honey. What's your food nostalgia?

Ricotta Pie
3 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
10 medium eggs or 8 large eggs
2 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
About 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter a 2-to-2 1/2- quart glass baking dish. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, sugar and lemon juice until well combined and free of lumps. Pour into the prepared dish and dust with enough cinnamon to cover the entire surface lightly. 
  3. Bake the pie for about 1 hour, or until set. It will puff up like a soufflé in the oven, and when you remove it, it will fall and form a delicious top crust. Let cool completely, cut into wedges and serve. 
  4. To vary the flavor, use 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice in place of the lemon juice. 

Monday, January 23, 2017


Today is National Pie Day! So happy to celebrate with an old-fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie. The recipe is from Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook. I hope everyone partakes and eats a slice of their favorite pie today. Pie is life; nothing sweeter. 

Best-Ever Lemon Meringue Pie
Baked 9" pie shell (see recipe below)
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp grated lemon peel
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
  1. Combine sugar, 1.5 cups water and salt in saucepan; heat to boiling.
  2. Mix cornstarch and 1/3 cup water to make smooth paste; add to boiling mixture gradually, stirring constantly; cook until thick and clear. Remove from heat. 
  3. Combine egg yolks and lemon juice; stir into thickened mixture. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles again. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and lemon peel. Cover and cool until lukewarm. 
  4. For meringue, add salt to egg whites; beat until frothy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until glossy peaks are formed. Stir 2 rounded tbsp of meringue into lukewarm filling. 
  5. Pour filling into cool pie shell. Pile remaining meringue on top and spread lightly over filling, spreading evenly to edge of crust. 
  6. Bake in slow oven at 350º F about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on rack at least 1 hour before cutting. 
Flaky Pastry for 1-Crust Pie
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp vegetable shortening or 1/3 cup lard
2 to 2.5 tbsp cold water
  1. Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives until mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal or tiny peas. 
  2. Sprinkle in cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, tossing mixture lightly and stirring with fork. Add water each time to the driest part of the mixture. The dough should be just moist enough to hold together when pressed gently with a fork. It should not be sticky. 
  3. Shape dough in smooth ball with hands, and roll. 
  4. On lightly floured surface roll Pastry for 1-Crust pie. Roll it lightly from center out in all direction to 1/8" thickness, making a 10" circle. Fold rolled dough in half and ease it loosely into pie pan, with fold in center. Gently press out air pockets with finger tips and make certain there are no openings for juices to escape. 
  5. Fold under edge of crust and press into an upright arm. Crimp edge as desired.
  6. Baked: Prick entire surface evenly and closely with a 4-tined fork. Refrigerate 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450º F. Bake pie shell in very hot oven from 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned the way you like. Cool before filling.