Saturday, May 5, 2018


ph: slw

What's better than a boozy, refreshing no bake Frozen Margarita Pie with pretzel crust for Cinco de Mayo? Nada! Try this fairly easy recipe for a perfectly balanced sweet, tart and salty dessert. I happen to make mine gluten-free with Glutino pretzels and Kinnikinnick graham cracker crumbs for the crust but use whatever you like. 

Frozen Margarita Pie
2 cups of pretzel sticks
2 sheets of graham crackers (4 squares)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp kosher salt

1 cup lime juice (about 7-8 depending on size)
2 Tbsp lime zest
6 egg yolks (2 egg whites will be used for meringue)
1 1/2 tbsp arrowroot
1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temp
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup tequila
3/4 cup half-n-half

Meringue topping:
2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp zest of lemon
  1. For the crust: Line a 10-inch pie pan with parchment paper (leave some parchment paper hanging off the sides for easy removal). Set aside.
  2. Place the pretzels and salt in a food processor. Process until they resemble bread crumbs. Pour the melted butter, and using a spoon or your hand, mix the butter in thoroughly. Press these crumbs into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Freeze the crust in the freezer until completely hardened.
  3. For the filling: Place the lime, zest, egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a saucepan. Whisk to combine. Heat over medium heat while whisking continuously until the butter melts. Change over to a spatula and stir continuously to prevent the mix from curdling/scrambling. Heat the mixture further until it thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Make sure to stir at the edges of the saucepan as well, so that the lime curd doesn’t catch the bottom. This should take no more than 10 minutes.
  4. Cover the lime curd with plastic wrap (with the surface touching the plastic wrap), and let it cool down completely. Once cooled, remove the plastic wrap and stir in tequila and half and half. Refrigerate the mix to chill.
  5. Once the crust is frozen, pour the chilled margarita filling on top. Return to the freezer to let it completely harden (preferably overnight).
  6. When the frozen margarita pie has completely hardened, you can prepare the meringue. 
  7. For the Meringue: Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in a clean and dry (preferably metal) bowl. Bring some water to a simmer in a saucepan, and then place the metal bowl with the egg whites, over the simmering water. Whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved in the egg whites. Be careful not to let the water contaminate the egg whites.
  8. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove the bowl from the simmering water and using your hand mixer, whisk on high until you have thick glossy meringue with stiff peaks. Stir in lime zest. Use immediately.
  9. Top the margarita filling with the meringue, creating swirls and peaks with the back of a spoon. The margarita pie can now be stored in the freezer for a few hours with the meringue topping.
  10. Using a blow torch, caramelize the meringue just before serving. Slice the frozen margarita pie into slices (use a warm knife for clean, neat cuts). 


Today is the 144th annual Kentucky Derby in Louisville and what's a more fitting dessert for the horse races than Derby Pie? Unfortunately the name Derby Pie is trademarked by Kern's Kitchen the folks who invented the pie in 1950. They've been known to go after anyone using the name so various adaptations of the pie have been renamed Thoroughbred Pie, Not Derby Pie, or Kentucky Dirty Pie to name a few. The historic dessert is a crust filled with walnut and chocolate chip sweetness that when baked is reminiscent of melted, gooey chocolate chip cookie goodness. Make it "dirty" by adding a splash of Bourbon. 

Kentucky Thoroughbred Pie
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup semisweet-chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Par-bake the crust: Place the crust in a pie plate and prick the bottom with a fork. Cover lightly with a sheet of foil, pressing it gently into the crust and making sure the edges are covered. Place weights (metal pie weights or dried beans) on the foil to weigh down the bottom and hold up the sides of the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove foil. Continue baking until the crust is firm and has lost its sheen but is not browned, about 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. For the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Add the brown sugar and flour and mix until thoroughly blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the batter into the crust. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and place on a rack to cool. Serve warm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


The first time I made Crack Pie was in 2010. I saw the recipe in the Los Angeles Times and I wanted to know what a $44 pie tasted like. It was good, real good. Sweet and addictive. You couldn't help but go for more. Again and again. I made Crack Pie for the second time yesterday. The recipe yields two pies. Just in case you need a backup. You will. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. 

Momofuku's Crack Pie
Oat Cookie for Crust: 
2/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp (3 ounces) flour
scant 1/8 tsp baking powder
scant 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
3 Tbsp (1 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 egg
scant 1 cup (2 1/3 ounces) rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F. 
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated. 
  5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated. 
  6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust. 
Crumbled cookie for crust
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp (3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
  1. Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little bit of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling. 
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus a scant 3 Tbsp (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp (3/4 ounce) milk powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup plus a scant 2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
2 prepared crusts
Powdered sugar, dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla. 
  3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air. 
  4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells. 
  5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325º F and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack. 
  6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. 
NOTE: If you don't have 10-inch pie tins you can substitute with two 9-inch pie tins but the pies will require additional baking time due to the increased thickness of the filling, about 5 minutes. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018


photo: slw

What sounds more easy as pie than five ingredients, a blender, and a pie shell? A Whole Lemon Pie is exactly what is sounds like. That's right you use a whole lemon - peel, pith, and all. Blend and bake and you're rewarded with a sweet and tart custard-like pie bursting with lemon flavor.

Whole Lemon Pie
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1 lemon, medium
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp salt)
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powered sugar for dusting

NOTE: I like to take the time to macerate my lemon(s), otherwise when baked the pie may taste slightly bitter. I also use two medium lemons instead of the one the recipe calls for. To avoid a "chewy" filling I zest the lemon, trim the ends, skin the white pith, then thinly sliced the lemon, removing all seeds. Repeat with second lemon. I put the lemon slices and zest in a bowl and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, macerating at room temperature for at least 6 hours (or overnight). 
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. 
  2. If you didn't macerate your lemon (see above) then trim the ends of the lemon. Cut into thin slices and remove the seeds. 
  3. Add the lemon slices (or macerated lemon sugar mix), butter, salt, sugar (if you macerated the lemons, do not add more sugar), eggs, and vanilla extract into blender or food processor. Blend completely smooth and creamy. 
  4. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. 
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top starts to turn golden. You may need to cover the edges of the pie crust if it starts to brown before the pie is done. 
  6. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool before slicing. 
  7. Dust with powered sugar. 
  8. Store pie in the fridge. 
NOTE: Avoid using large lemons. They typically have a thicker pith which can make your pie too bitter. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


photo: slw

First of all, what is chess pie? You might not be familiar with it if you're not from the South. The simple filling is made from pantry staples of eggs, sugar, butter, and a small amount of flour or cornmeal (or even vinegar) to hold it together. You can change the flavor of this base filling by adding vanilla, lemon juice, nuts, spices, or even chocolate. The variations are limitless. If you're curious about the origin of the name, there's a bit of folklore around the name. Some believe the word "chess" is an Americanization of the English word "cheese," referring to English Lemon Curd pie (chess pie is a cheese-less cheesecake). Another explanation suggests that "chess" is just a drawn-out drawl for "chest," which is how the very sugary pie had to be stored to keep the flies away (pie chest). And then my favorite is the folklore a plantation cook was asked what she was baking that smelled so good, and she replied, "Jes pie." Whatever the truth, chess pie is a southern staple that must be tried by all. 

I baked chocolate chess pie that doesn't require a tablespoon of flour or cornmeal, probably because of the cocoa powder. For the crust I used the "stir and roll" Wesson oil recipe I blogged about yesterday. This is one of my favorite pies -- delicious. 

Chocolate Chess Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 heaping Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch fine sea salt
1 (5-ounce can) evaporated milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. 
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the evaporated milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract, whisking well to combine. 
  3. Pour the filling into an unbaked pie shell. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the filling is set around the edges but slightly jiggles in the center. 
  4. Cool the pie on a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. 

Monday, April 16, 2018


I've experimented with dozens of pie crust recipes over the years. My tried and true method consists of both butter (for flavor) and shortening (for flakiness) for a delicious and tender crust. However, it does take practice and a sure-hand, and even then you're not guaranteed perfect results. I've had years to refine my methods and making pie crust is second-nature to me but I was intrigued when I came across a recipe that was as simple as pour, stir, and roll. I collect old cookbooks so it wasn't the first time I'd heard of an oil-based crust but it was the first time I was tempted to try it. I didn't think it could possibly compete with traditional crust methods, but the idea of simply "stir and roll" was just too tempting to pass up. The results were mind-boggling; the crust turned out both tasty and flaky. Far from perfect there were downsides, the dough can be difficult to rollout and handle. It wasn't easy to keep in one piece as it kept breaking off. However, it was easily fixed by pressing bits of the dough into the pastry to cover holes in the pan, which you can't really do with traditional crusts, lest over-handle the dough. Also, there was the oiliness. But overall, it's an easy and quick pie crust recipe that doesn't require expensive ingredients, a lot of elbow grease, or rest period for the dough before rolling out. I'd definitely use it for single crust pie recipes.

Stir and Roll Single Pie Crust
(makes one 9" crust)
1 1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt (adjusted, original recipe called for 1 tsp)
3/8 c. (1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp) Wesson Oil
3 Tbsp cold whole milk
  1. FOR PAR-BAKED CRUST: Preheat oven to 475º F, a very hot oven. 
  2. In a bowl, start by sifting the flour twice. Whisk in the salt and create a little well in the flour mixture. 
  3. Pour oil and milk into one measuring cup, but do not stir. Pour into the well of the flour mixture; mix with fork until cleans side of bowl. 
  4. Finish by gently kneading the dough together into ball, flatten slightly, and place between two pieces of wax paper. Roll out gently until circle reaches edges of paper.
  5. Peel off top paper, then pick up pastry and bottom paper by one edge (they will cling together). Place, paper-side up, over pie pan. Then loosen pastry at edges and carefully peel off paper. Ease pastry snugly into place. Finish edge as desired. 
  6. FOR PAR-BAKED CRUST: prick bottom and side thoroughly with fork. Bake on lower rack in pre-heated oven 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. 
Stir and Roll Double Pie Crust
(makes two 9" crusts)
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt (adjusted, original called for 1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 c. Wesson oil
1/4 c. cold whole milk
  1. Follow single crust directions for mixing. Round up dough. Divide in half, flatten slightly. 
  2. Roll out halves between pieces of waxed paper (as above). 
  3. Line pie pan with bottom crust, fill, cover with top crust. 
  4. Seal by pressing edges gently with fork, or fluting. 
  5. Snip 3 or 4 small slits near center.
  6. Bake pies, such as apple, in pre-heated hot oven, 425º F, for 40-45 minutes.