Just Pie

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Just pie.  Jest pie.  Jess pie?  Chess pie?!

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The origins of the name of the (unquestionably Southern) chess pie are shrouded in mystery.

Some believe that it’s called chess pie owing to a transformation/translation of “Just Pie” by Southerners’ drawls.
“Just Pie” comes from the pie’s similarity to pecan pie, minus the pecans.
The filling is gooey, sweet, and dense, but free of distracting additions.
It’s really just pie.

Alternately, some think that the name is derived from the fact that this pie saves very well– there is no fruit to mould, or uncooked dairy or eggs to go rotten– so it could be saved for a very long time in a pie chest.
A pie chest is a piece of furniture used to store pies and other food and keep them safe from vermin (and greedy children!).
Pie in chest= chest pie = chess pie.

I guess we’ll never know the true beginnings of the name, but honestly, who cares?! It’s pie.
It’s goooood pie.

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There is something so nostalgic and sweet about Southern desserts.
I thought I’d share a few recent ones from other blogs to get you inspired.
I know I’m crazy inspired and impressed by all these other talented bloggers.

Joy’s Bourbon Pecan Pie with Dark Chocolate blew my socks right off.
It reminds me of my pie that I deemed “the best ever.”
(Which, for the record, is still a stance that I am adamant about.  Go make it.  NOW.)

Beth’s amazing Beet and Goat Cheese Red Velvet cake for Valentine’s day is, without question, the most beautiful bundt/tube cake I have ever laid eyes on/drooled over.
I am continually awed by Beth.
She and her photographs make me want to pack up, move to Tennessee, and start wearing raw denim and drying herbs.
A true marvel of talent, this lady.  Honest and truly.

Speaking of red velvet, did you see this article?
It caught my attention in the Dining section of the NYT and hooked me.
It’s always intriguing to know the origins of your food (chess pie, I’m lookin’ atchu.)

Less on the sweet side, but just as delicious and homey: Tim’s dense Cornbread from Josey Baker Bread is being bookmarked for next Thanksgiving.
And by next Thanksgiving, I mean next week.
Or whenever I can get my grubby paws on some kamut flour.

Laura’s Lattice Top Strawberry Pie… No. Words.
Those photos! Simply breathtaking.  This is by far the most beautiful post I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m so glad she’s back from her short reprieve! Fabulous, fabulous work.

And how about Cindy’s Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Bread?!
Anything with buttermilk immediately connotes comfort cooking (read: Southern cooking) to me.
Buttermilk + butter + chocolate + chocolate + chocolate= comfort.  It’s a tried and true combo.
So dark and dreamy.

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This chess pie starts out with a perfect, flaky flaky all-butter crust.
I like to make my pie crusts by hand, smashing each little frozen butter cube into a sheet, rubbing the flour and sugar between my palms, getting a feel for the dough and all.
It’s folded a few times, rolled out thin, crimped and docked and weighted down, baked for a few minutes just until golden, then filled to the brim with custard.

The coconut custard (chess) filling is based on cream of coconut– you know, the thick, sugary glop they put in piña coladas?
I accidentally purchased some (ah, the perils of breezing over labels) and discovered that it is akin to sweetened condensed milk: thick, creamy, sweet.
I had a few tablespoons of desiccated coconut left in my pantry, and a cup or so of buttermilk.

Thus, this too-sweet cream of coconut mistake was elevated with brown sugar, cornmeal, buttermilk, coconut shreds, butter and coconut oil, and plenty of eggs.

The resultant pie is creamy and sweet, with the perfect amount of egginess and coconut flavor.
The smooth custard is a good foil for the buttery crust, and when topped with powdered sugar and extra toasted coconut, it’s a real treat.  You don’t need much else.
I suppose you could add a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and no one would object.
But this pie is a-ok with being eaten on its own.

Just pie is just fine.

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Also, pie, previously:
(Pie highlights? Pie-lights?)

This kickass-crazy-mumba-wumba-hubba-hubba-gimme-more-still-the-best-pie-I’ve-ever-made Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Pie.
MAKE THIS PIE.  It is all the good things, mushed into one.

This lime and honey apple pie with the cutest little crust decorations!

This arguably perfect but prissy peach pie, adapted from the arguably perfect but prissy Cook’s Illustrated.
SUMMER.  I’M COMING.

This healthy, homemade coconut-key lime pie which I almost lost a finger for.
The things we do for pie.

And there are others too, but they are deep in the archives and I don’t want to scare you off with bad photography.

Expect more pie this summer.  I am declaring this summer the summer of pie.
(…and ice cream, and tarts, and donuts, and pastry, and semifreddo, and cake…)

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Coconut Buttermilk Chess Pie

filling heavily adapted from Food & Wine
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (10 tablespoons) butter, diced and very cold
210 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) flour
1 spoonful (approximately 1 tablespoon) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
55 grams (3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) ice water, or as needed

for the filling:
120 grams (1/2 cup) cream of coconut
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
100 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar
heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon cornmeal
scant cup (approximately 225 mL, or 7/8 cup) buttermilk, well-shaken

directions:
Make the crust: whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Dump all of the butter chunks into the flour mixture and toss to coat.
Gently smash and rub the butter into the flour until all chunks are either flattened or the consistency of cornmeal; you want a variety of shapes, the largest being somewhere near pea sized.
Pour in the water and gently stir until dough comes together; add up to another tablespoon of water if need be.
Form the dough into a small rectangle and fold into rough thirds.
Pat the dough into another rough rectangle and fold into thirds again.
Repeat, patting into a rectangle and folding, then pat the dough into a disk.
Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
Remove dough from fridge and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness; place into 9-inch pie pan and fold the excess edges over and crimp as desired.
Dock all over with a fork and line with aluminum foil.
Freeze for at least an hour and up to 10 days very well wrapped in foil and plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 350.
Fill foil-lined pie shell with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly golden and set, then remove pie weights, dock in a few more places, and bake for 15 more minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile, make filling: whisk cream of coconut, sugars, salt, eggs, and egg yolks together very well.
Melt the butter and coconut oil together and quickly whisk into egg mixture.
Whisk coconut and cornmeal into the mix, then whisk in the buttermilk.
Pour filling into hot crust and place back in oven.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until center only slightly jiggles when shaken.
Allow to cool, then freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Allow to come back to room temperature before serving; dust with powdered sugar and serve with toasted unsweetened coconut, if desired.

Superstar

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Who wants to be a millionaire Thanksgiving superstar?

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Cause, like, this pie, yo.

GodDAMN.

Good gracious gravy!

Sorry.  I got excited.

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This pie… There’s just so much good stuff going on!  Yummy, delicious stuff.

First, let’s talk crust.  I know.  It’s the scariest part for most people.  But crust is your friend!

Buttery, flaky, tender crust.  How could it NOT be your friend?

The trick to a good pie crust is not a food processor, I’ve decided.

YesokokIknow, the food processor revolutionized pie crust because it shaved 5 minutes off the preparation time and allowed people to keep their hands clean.
Newsflash: you’re cooking and baking, your hands are going to get dirty sometime.  Pie crust is a good excuse to play around in flour and butter.
(BUTTER.  Not shortening.  As you can see in this pie, I’ve swapped my usual buttermilk for water to give a more sturdy crust, since it’s a custard pie that will not have par-baking.  That said, I could have swapped butter for shortening.  But why, oh why, would I want to sacrifice that flavor?  Oh, right.  I wouldn’t.  And neither would you.  I won’t have it any other way.)

By making your pie crust by hand, you get a good feel for the texture.  In a food processor, an extra 3 pulses gives you a gummy crust that will be tough and shrink during baking.  (Insert sad face here.)

Let’s take this chance to play with our food, no?  It’ll be fun.

Dump your flour, salt, and a pinch of sugar into a big bowl.
Cube your butter into little chunky chunks, then throw it back in the fridge for 5 minutes to re-chill.
Meanwhile, fill a small bowl with cold water, and chuck 2 ice cubes in it.  Keep a tablespoon near the ice water.
Stir the flour n’ stuff around with your hands.
Take your butter chunks and place them all in the flour, all snuggly and nested down in there.
Now, with your fingers and palms, start to smash the cubes into flat sheets.  Rub about half between your hands to create a coarse meal.  The others, leave as small, flattened chunks, the size of peas.
You should have a rough mish-mash of butter and flour and butter-flour meal.
Here comes the fun: dunk the tablespoon measure in the ice water and put 2 measures into your butter/flour.
Using your hands, gently stir the mixture together.  Some will stick to your hands.  Just scrape it off and put it back in the mix.
If there are still a lot of dry chunks at the bottom of your bowl, add up to 2 more tablespoons of water, but go slow.
When your crust is done, it will hold together and all of the flour will be hydrated, but it won’t be very sticky or gooey.  It should be smooth.
Give it a couple kneads, a little massage, and wrap it up nice and snug in some plastic wrap.
Back in the fridge she goes!

To roll the crust out, liberally sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, then place your crust in the middle.
Sprinkle the top with flour, and gently, starting from the middle, roll towards the edges, creating a rough circle shape.
Once it’s 3 inches larger in all directions than the bottom of your pie dish, roll it up on your rolling pin (like a roll of paper towels) and place it in the dish.  Crimp the edges by rolling the excess up underneath, then pinching to create pretty little ruffles.
Back to the fridge!  Keep it COLD, y’all!

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So you’ve got your awesome all-butter pie crust made and ready and chilling.

Let’s fill it with heavenly goodies.

Start with brown sugar and a friendly pinch of salt, and add the ambrosia of the gods nutty brown butter.

Whisk whisk whisk in warm, autumnal spices and six (6!) egg yolks to ensure a silky, custard-like texture.

Stir in 70% bittersweet chocolate, melted and luxurious.

Finish with a sprinkling of pecans and turbinado sugar.

You’ll smell this pie long before it emerges from the oven.  It’s fragrant with the best things in life: butter, spices, and chocolate.
Once it’s partially cooled, you’ll stick it in the freezer and it will thicken into a custard-y pie, the smooth and gooey chocolate interrupted only by crisp pecans.

Serve this pie sprinkled with a touch of powdered sugar, and unsweetened whipped cream or barely sweetened vanilla ice cream.

I might have to make this again for Thanksgiving.

It is among the 3 best pies I’ve ever made.

It is that good, people.

tl;dr: MAKE THIS.

P.S. I posted this on 11/11 at 11:11.  My wish is for you to make this (JK! Then it wouldn’t come true!!)

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Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
165 grams (1 1/2 cups)flour
8 grams (2 teaspoons) sugar
pinch salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces and cold
45 grams (3 tablespoons ice water, or as needed)

for the filling:
140 grams (scant cup) bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
220 grams (1 cup plus 2 scant tablespoons) sugar
150 grams (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) brown sugar
17 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or a big pinch each cloves, nutmeg, and star anise, plus 2 pinches each cinnamon and ginger
big pinch kosher salt
180 grams (13 tablespoons) butter, browned
120 grams (1/2 cup) milk
6 egg yolks
approximately 300 grams (2 1/2 cups) pecan halves, the pretty ones saved for garnish and the rest chopped roughly
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling, if desired

directions:
Make the crust: stir the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Add the butter cubes in and cut them in with a pastry blender or your fingers, flattening some and rubbing others into the flour.
Leave pieces the size of peas; the rest should resemble a coarse meal.
Stir in the water, starting with 2 tablespoons, until the dough comes together; it shouldn’t be sticky or crumbly, but just barely hold together.
Knead gently 3 or 4 times, then pat into a disk and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, make the filling: begin by melting the chocolate, gently; do this in a microwave on partial power or over a double boiler.
When the chocolate is 2/3 melted, remove from heat and stir until all melted; set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk the sugar, brown sugar, milk powder, spices, and salt together until no little lumps remain.
Whisk the brown butter in vigorously. Whisk the yolks and milk together, then vigorously whisk them into the butter/sugar mixture.
Finally, whisk in the melted and cooled chocolate and stir in the chopped pecans.
Set aside to thicken and rest while you finish the crust.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll the crust out, gently, to a 1/8 inch thickness.
Place it in a 9-inch pie pan that is about 2 inches in depth.
Flute or crimp the edges as desired, then place in the freezer until it is hardened, about 10 minutes.
Pour filling into the crust and decorate with the reserved pecan halves.
Top with a little turbinado sugar, then place on a cookie sheet in the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, until top is shiny and filling is set; you may need to cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent the pecans from burning (mine got a little toasty…).
Remove from oven and allow to cool almost completely, then finish the chilling in the freezer to make the filling extra dense.
Enjoy with unsweetened whipped cream and a little powdered sugar!

It’s Not Delivery

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It’s Delgiorno!

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That was an uncharacteristically long break from posting, y’all.

Sorry.  I brought pie.  (This is becoming a pattern… Remember when and why I made this peach pie?)

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This past week was craziness.  I slept very little, was very sick (I sounded like I had whooping cough…), had a midterm and a paper and not enough time or attention to sit and write a post.

I had time to bake, of course.

Yet again proving that it is words that elude me, not recipes or ideas.

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In other news:

I got a new mug (from Turtle Island Pottery, back home in Ithaca), which makes me miss my hometown dearly

I got new glasses from Warby Parker, which make me feel like a hipster

I woke up at 12 today

I received my first place plaque from that marathon that I ran that one time

I’ve rediscovered that I still have a problem with biting my lips when I’m stressed- anyone else have this?

Last night, I put my toothpaste on my toothbrush in the dark and got shaving cream all over my toothbrush.  I don’t know what’s worse- that it happened, or that I still brushed my teeth with it.  Shaving cream.  I brushed my teeth with shaving cream.

This list is nonsensical idk I’m sew tiyad.
Also I’m just realizing that I also made a list in that last post about pie… It probably made just as little sense.  Oh well.

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I’ve had the idea of decorating a pie with little cutout pie pieces instead of a lattice or top crust for a while, ever since seeing pretty maple leaves and polka dots topping pies.  When I got around to cutting out the little DGHs, though, I realized that it wasn’t feasible, because my letter cookie cutters are REALLY small.  So I changed angles and instead decorated the lattice with letters.

Why DGH?  Many of my friends who saw a picture of this pie on instagram thought it was a sorority (it’s not)… In reality, it’s the abbreviation (abbrev) for my house, Delgiorno.

Housing at uChic is broken up as such: we all live in residence halls (like dorms), and each of these is broken up into houses, which are like little communities.  Each house has a lounge and a kitchen, and we have house activities and competitions.
It’s really great; it made the transition to college much easier to have moved directly into a community.

Anyways, in a spurt of house pride, I made this pie.
It makes sense, actually, because the apples for it came from a house trip to go apple picking (which I missed due to a yoga workshop); my roomie brought me back tons of great apples!

In return, I promised her a slice of this apple-honey-lime pie.

While it is a twist on a classic, it doesn’t deviate too much- the main swap is lime juice where you’d usually see lemon, and the main addition is a few tablespoons of honey into the spice and brown-sugar spiked apple marinade, if you will.

Top it off with flaky, crisp, and sugar-strewn pastry, and you done got yourself a right nice pie.
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Lime and Honey Apple Pie

ingredients:

1 recipe of flaky buttermilk pastry (enough for a double or lattice crust) (recipe here)
2 pounds fresh apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons honey
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch each cloves, nutmeg, anise, ginger, etc. (sub pumpkin pie spice blend)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar (adjust according to the ripeness and sweetness of your apples)
1/4 cup flour
big pinch sea salt
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
Sugar for sprinkling, if desired

directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll out the bottom crust and place in pan.
Toss thinly sliced apples with lime juice right after slicing.
Add spices, sugars, honey, and salt to the apples.
Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then drain off the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, roll out your top crust and prepare it either for a lattice or full top crust.
Place your (drained) apples in the bottom crust and top with the top crust (here’s a tutorial for lattice).
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until the top has a dark golden color, then place aluminum foil over the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 350.
Bake until your home smells like heaven and the juices are burbling and thickened, about 1 hour.

Peachy Keen

 
Okay, I left you again, my beloveds.  But I am back, and I am not leaving in the foreseeable future (until college.  Eep!!)
(And I brought pie!)
 
 
I was in NYC and also Connecticut at the ESPN campus (so cool!), tagging along with my dad for the last half-week.
Then, I was enjoying a beautiful, sunny day and evening with friends at Taughannock.
Now, I am here.
Home.  And back on le blog.
 
^The always beautiful S and the charming français, Emile.
(That last link is scary… two birthdays ago!  Laughing/cringing at the photography.  Don’t laugh at me.  
On second thought, don’t click through that link.)
Um, with lack of anything more interesting to say about my trip, here are some things I observed, because I love lists:
 
Things I Saw in Park Slope and Beyond:
a discarded and seemingly brand new cherry wood spoon
a dozen oyster shells, mixed with
broken ceramics of many colors
an unattended child, sitting quietly in a stroller
thirty thousand vespas
a stroller with 12 wheels (12!)
a sizeable bamboo grove on West 14th, with canes that were 20 or so feet tall
killer fro-yo at Culture (two words: mochi topping)
and a million and one other things but I’m tired of this list so let’s move on.
 
Highlight of my day: I discovered that two of my photos got published on Tastespotting!
I am very pleased.
However, these exact same photos were rejected on foodgawker.
I am not pleased.
“Composition too tight.  Please make more room around the ____ and resubmit.”
If I had more room, don’t you think I would have already tried to cram it into that tiny little square?
Wah.
Okay I’m tired of whining so let’s move on.
(Wait… that’s a first.  Tired of whining?  Me?  NEVER.  Can’t stop won’t stop.)
 
These photos being published on Tastespotting have only aided in my ever-expanding online sharing of photos.
I now have a flickr, facebook, twitter, instagram, blog, and Tastespotting account, through all of which I share photos of food. (I rarely put food photos on twitter or facebook, though.)
And I guess I have a foodgawker, but EVERY PHOTO I have ever submitted gets instantly rejected.
Like this.
My instagram is all food and cats and up-close selfies of my face.
Stop judging me.
 
Let’s talk about pie.  
Pie, pie, pie pie.
Pie pie pie.
Peach pie.  Om nom nommedy nom.
We’ve talked about peach pie once before.
As well as peach pie cake
and two peach tarts.
But when I discovered 7 very ripe-borderline too ripe-peaches in the back of my fridge today, I knew the universe was telling me something important.
And it involved pie, so.
See, the most recent Cook’s Illustrated (I have a love/hate/love relationship with this mag, but let’s not get into that) featured their most recent recipe for peach pie.

Obviously, I had to make it/test it for myself.
Fussy magazine instructions be damned.
So let’s talk about this pie.
 
It ain’t easy, that’s for damn sure.  But then again, of course it’s not.  
It’s Cook’s Illustrated, for God’s sake, and they can never let anything be easy.
There’s always ten million steps and I usually find there are ways to improve upon what they have given, despite all of their in-depth testing in their test kitchen.
(This may a poorly timed question… but that job sounds awesome.  Where do I apply?)

Thus, another list: Things I Wish I Didn’t Have to Do to Make This Pie:
peel the peaches (Said it before, and I’ll say it again: I never peel peaches for pie.  I love that fuzzy skin, and I totally approve of this message what it does texture-wise when cooked)
use 3 pounds of peaches (this just seems excessive because you have to peel each one like WHAT)
quarter and then thirds all the peaches (there has to be a more efficient way to do this.  Peeled peaches are so very slippery and go shooting off the cutting board like soap)
macerate the peaches (I thought we wanted the juice to stay in)
cook down the resulting juice with pectin (thank God we canned the other weekend… or I would have been out of luck)
mash some of my macerated peaches that I worked SO HARD cutting up (not that hard, but whatever I’m trying to make this list long and dramatic)
use cornstarch (jk I love cornstarch)
ok I’m done

Plus, they gave me some lame-ass pie crust with shortening, giving an excuse about lattice pie crusts needing to hold up or something along those lines. I’m not sure ’cause I stopped reading when I saw Crisco.  
I don’t know about you but I am really not down with shortening in pie crusts, but you probably know that because one of my earliest posts was dedicated just to all-butter all-good pastry doughs.
The low down: you can make flaky, flavorful, workable, pliable, tender pie crusts with just butter.  You just gotta have the right technique.  
And I’m going to share my super-secret method for getting flaky, flaky, flaky pastry.
(Scroll down through the recipe and you’ll see it, as well as a poorly-lit shot meant to demonstrate how flaky the crust is.)

So to wrap this up:  their pie filling was good.  The texture was perfect, the flavor was too lemony and too sweet for my palette. 
I generally use next to no sugar in my pies, but since I was trying to review the recipe, I made no changes to the filling and how it was prepared.
I used my own crust recipe, which has taken a lifetime to develop (practically), because I will always stay loyal to butter and buttermilk.

This was a fussy recipe.  But altogether, I would recommend it.
I think I have to say that, because I had two fat wedges of this pie today.
Om nom nommedy nom.

 

^I ate that piece.  Without a fork.
 
Cook’s Illustrated Peach Pie (with my flaky buttermilk pie crust)
for the buttermilk crust:
makes enough for a double or lattice crust
ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour (315 grams)
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar 
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons (225 grams) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup buttermilk, cold (leave it in the fridge until just before you need to use it)
directions:
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. (Or whisk them together in a large bowl)
Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture has small chunks of butter the size of peas, about 5 2-second pulses or so. (Or cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender.)
Slowly drizzle 1/2 cup of buttermilk into the mixer while giving 1 second pulses. (Or drizzle it over the butter/flour mixture and fold with a spatula)
Feel the dough- when you’ve added adequate liquid, it should be slightly tacky and hold together.
Add up to 1/4 cup more buttermilk if necessary.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Fold the rectangle into thirds and reroll into another rectangle.
Fold the new rectangle into thirds and reroll into another rectangle.
Fold the rectangle once more into thirds and then roll it into a rough rectangle.
Cut the block into two pieces, one slightly smaller than the other.
Chill for at least 30 minutes, wrapped well in plastic.
When you are ready to use the dough, roll the larger piece out until its diameter is about 4 inches larger than your pie pan, then gently place it in the pan, allowing the excess to drape off the edges.
Roll out the other chunk of dough into a rectangle and cut it into long strips.
Chill the strips and the dough in the pan before filling (roll them out before you start the filling).
Once filled, weave the strips into a lattice over the filling. (here is a picture tutorial)
 
for Cook’s Illustrated Peach Pie Filling:
ingredients:
3 pounds peaches, peeled, quartered, and pitted, each quarter cut into thirds
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons low- or no-sugar-needed fruit pectin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
directions:
Toss peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest and juice and salt in a bowl; allow to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
Combine pectin, 2 tablespoons sugar, and spices in a small bowl.
Transfer 1 cup of peach mixture to a bowl and mash into a coarse paste.
Drain the remaining peaches and measure out 1/2 cup of the liquid; discard the rest.
Place the juice into a pan with the pectin mixture and cook over medium heat until thickened and pectin has dissolved (3-5 minutes).
Toss the remaining peaches with the cornstarch, then add in the peach paste and the peach juice.
 
to assemble and bake the pie:
ingredients:
cream
turbinado or coarse sugar, or regular sugar
directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chilled bottom crust from the fridge and pour the filling into it.
Weave the chilled lattice strips over top of the filling.
Brush cream gently over the pie top and sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes at 425, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake 35-40 minute more, until the top is deeply golden brown and the filling is bubbling in the center.
 

Dirrrty

Ahh… Sorry to burst your bubble, but this post is not about Xtina.
I know.  I’m sad about it too.
 
 Let’s talk about my OCD.
Because everybody loves a crazy person, right?
Today, I cleaned my entire KitchenAid with a toothpick.
Cleaned as in burrowed into every nook and cranny and crevice to pry out any old cookie dough, flour, and other nasty residue.
 
It was the single most horrifying and awesome thing ever.

 
Do you clean your appliances often?
Let me tell you right now, it’s probably not often enough.
I’m scarred after today.
 I mean, sheesh, I go at my stand mixer every so often, when the spirit so moves me, with a toothpick and a warm, wet paper towel, but not to the extent that I dug today.
How does all that even get all up in there?
All up in there in the weirdest places.  
Have you ever unscrewed the little button thing where the meat grinder attaches to your stand mixer?
DON’T DO IT.  JUST LEAVE IT.
TRUST ME.
Okay, new subject, same topic.
You know what my favorite commercials are?
Cleaning product commercials.
Ranging from face wash to shower cleaners.
I just love the feeling I get from watching dirty things become magically clean.
I get all of the satisfaction, and don’t have to get my hands dirty.
It’s like a wonderful dream.
 
Glad we talked about this.  I’m done rambling now.
This turned out to be a lot more about dirt than I meant it to be.
See, I was more thinking mud.
Because that’s what I’m sharing today.
Mud pie.
Mississippi Mud Pie, to be exact.
Only, this isn’t any ol’ Mississippi mud pie.  It’s MY Mississippi mud pie, redesigned and shined up a little bit by my imagination.
 
Traditional mud pie is comprised of a chocolate cookie crust and a chocolate pudding filling, topped with marshmallows and/or whipped cream.
(No, no, I know.  Quit your whining.  We all made gross-ass mud pies in puddles after the rain- those are not what I’m preaching about up in here.  You want that, you can walk yoself out of this fine establishment.)
 
I took it to another gut-busting, button-bursting, chocolatized level.
Because yes.
 
(Chocolatize me Cap’n!  Yes, Chocolate Cap’n Crunch is a thing.  I know.)
I was inspired in part by the Baked guys, because I saw a snapshot of their Mississippi Mud Pie and decided to make it my way.
Then, Russell of Chasing Delicious made this amazing Mississippi Mud Cake, and I decided it was high time to get back on the chocolate wagon.
It had been so long.  Summer just doesn’t always seem to be compatible with chocolate, which melts and makes a mess.  I usually stick to fruit.
But here we are, with a giant chocolate pie to talk about.
I’ll talk you through the layers- it’s not as hard as it seems, I promise.
Come your next chocolate craving, make this.  It will satisfy every bone and tooth in your body.

First up: chocolate cookie crust.
I used Oreos, because for some reason all the regular chocolate cookies were out of stock in all of the grocery stores near me.  Whatever.  
Smash up some cookies, add a little seasoning (sugar+salt) and bind the whole thing with a stick o’ butta.  Yum.  
Next: my favorite brownies.
These are a one-pot, one-spoon, super simple affair.
They come together in 5 minutes and bake in 15.

They’re fudgy and perfect to line the base of the crust.  
Simply cut off the top of the brownie base and lay it right in your crust.
Third: milk chocolate mousse.
This stuff has two major steps, but neither is difficult.  
You come away with the smoothest, fluffiest mousse, one that is very light on the tongue but is completely sliceable.
This would usually be a pudding, but I wanted something a little more sophisticated than chocolate puddin’.
A mousse is perfect for this type of molded dessert!  
Spread it over the cut side of the brownies and chill until it’s completely set.
Next: salted chocolate ganache.
Rich, dark, and so, so deeply chocolaty.  Need I say more?
Finally: Italian meringue.
These marshmallow-y clouds on the top of the cake are the perfect foil for all the chocolate they’re sitting on.  Traditionally, these would be marshmallows or whipped cream, but I prefer the lightness and softness of meringue.

One slice of this will do in your chocolate cravings in just the right way.
Mississippi Mud Pie just done grew up.

Mississippi Mud Pie
 
Assemble everything in the order shown here: crust, brownies, mousse, ganache, meringue.
Chocolate Cookie Crust:
ingredients:
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used about 40 Oreos, after I had scraped the cream filling out)
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted
directions:
Mix the cookie crumbs with the sugar and salt, then gently stir in the butter.
Press into a 9-inch springform pan and chill until solid, then begin layering.
Classic Brownies
same recipe as here
ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
9 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
directions:
In a heavy pot, melt butter, shortening, chocolate, and cocoa powder together.
Once they are all melted, add the sugar and remove from the heat.
Whisk in the eggs vigorously one by one.
Add in the salt and vanilla and whisk.
Finally, stir in the flour.
Spread the batter in a greased and floured 9-inch cake pan and bake for 20 or so minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
To use in the cake, allow to cool completely, then cut off the shiny, crackly top along with about 4 mm of brownie.
Gently place in the bottom of the chilled crust, cut side up.
 
Milk Chocolate Mousse
adapted from Cannelle et Vanille
ingredients:

 

For the pâte à bombé:

 

56 grams sugar

 

14 grams corn syrup

 

28 grams water

 

1 medium egg yolk plus 1 large egg yolk or 1.5 large or extra large egg yolks

 

For the mousse:

 

56 grams (2 ounces) pâte à bombé

 

4 grams gelatin

 

84 grams (3 ounces) milk chocolate

 

8 ounces (1 cup, 235 mL) heavy cream

 

directions:

 

Make the pâte à bombé: place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer.

 

Begin to whip them on high while you combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small pot and heat to 240 degrees F.

 

Once the syrup comes to temp, slowly drizzle it over the whipped egg yolks while the mixer is running.

 

Allow the yolks to whip until they cool to body temp.

 

Weigh out 56 grams (2 ounces) and set aside.

 

Melt the chocolate gently, then set aside to cool slightly.

 

Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften.

 

Set aside 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and whip the other cream to stiff peaks.

 

Once the gelatin is softened, microwave it with the 1/4 cup cream until melted. Gently stir into the cream; the mixture will become loose.

 

Stir in the pâte à bombé and the cooled melted chocolate, and gently mix until homogeneous.

 

Mixture will be loose.

 

Pour over the brownie in the crust and refrigerate until set.

 

Salted Chocolate Ganache
ingredients:
230 grams bittersweet chocolate
130 grams heavy cream
40 grams corn syrup
Small pinch kosher salt
directions:
Heat the chocolate until half melted in a microwave or over a double boiler.
Add the cream, syrup, and salt and heat until the chocolate is 2/3 melted, about 20 more seconds on medium power in a microwave.
Stir gently, increasing speed, until the mixture is shiny and homogeneous.
Use right away- spread over the chilled and firm mousse.
 
Small-Batch Italian Meringue
ingredients:
38 grams egg whites

 

Pinch cream of tartar

75 grams sugar
25 grams water
Directions:
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Combine the water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to stiff peaks.
Slowly pour the hot syrup over the meringue with the mixer running. 
Allow to whip until completely cool, then pipe onto the cake.

Worth It

It’s rainy sunny zebra weather, as I called it when I was little.
Boy, I thought I was a clever little imp.
Either way, it is h-o-t.
And very humid.
(And damp.  Note the photos.)
The last thing I want to be doing in this kind of weather is cooking running to urgent care to get my finger mended.
Alas… While making this pie, that is exactly what I ended up having to do.
Was it worth it?
Definitely not.  But the pie is all kinds of awesome, so that’s at least a plus.
I love key lime pie.
It’s one of my favorite kinds of pie.  It’s up there with peach and apple and nutmeg-maple cream.  
(And crack.)
So, while meandering through the grocery store, when a bag of key limes caught my eye, I had to snatch them up.
 
Side note: it still amazes me how cheap produce gets in the summer.  
Ataulfo mangoes are 2/$5 in the winter.  
Now, they are piling up in giant mounds and being sold 5/$5.
Key limes are cheap, too.
I guess it’s just funny because I always think of winter as the citrus/tropical fruit season, but that’s only because nothing else is in season- it’s just a default!
Anyways, back to pie.
This pie is healthified- just a little.  
Instead of butter, there’s coconut oil (which gives a boost of flavor as well as health).
Instead of egg yolks, there’s neufchatel.
The graham crackers are homemade with 100% whole wheat flour.
But you know what?  You wouldn’t know it.
In fact, my family didn’t know it.  The pie was gone by the next day.  There are only 4 of us in the house.  It went quick.

This pie tastes better than many key lime pies and is so much easier without the baking of the interior.  It’s quick and has some health boosts to boot.  I’ll take it!
(And it’ll take my finger.)
 
P.S. A note about the coconut graham crackers- you could make them vegan by swapping golden syrup or agave for the honey.
Icebox Key Lime Pie
ingredients:
about 2/3 batch of graham crackers, recipe below
4 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
6 ounces neufchatel cheese
1/2 cup key lime juice
zest of 3 key limes, optional
directions:
Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until they are crumbs.
Add in the coconut oil and pulse until the crumbs are all moistened.
Press into a 9-inch pie pan and chill while you prepare the filling.
Whip the sweetened condensed milk, the neufchatel, and the key lime juice together until they are homogeneous.
Stir in the zest.
Pour into your prepared crust and allow to chill in the fridge until set, about 3 hours.
 
Coconut Graham Crackers
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
ingredients:
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) white whole wheat flour (you could sub 2 cups AP and make the rest regular whole wheat)
1 cup (176 grams) brown sugar
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (100 grams) coconut oil, solid but not hard
1/2 cup (171 grams) honey
2 tablespoons (27 grams) vanilla extract
directions:
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Cut the coconut oil into small chunks and add it into the mixture.
Once the mixture resembles coarse sand, add in the honey and vanilla extract and mix just until combined.
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut it with a knife into rough squares (they don’t need to look even mildly good/accurate, since we’ll be grinding them up).
Poke each square with a fork and put onto baking sheets.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
Let cool before using in any recipes.

Yes, Chef

I’m still in shock, guys.  

I managed to weasel my way into getting an interview with Christina Tosi.

 

 

Every time I say that, I do a double take.  She has long been a source of inspiration and recipes for me.  Her book, Milk Bar, is a wealth of ideas, and chock full of helpful hints (hello, 10 minute creaming?  Best.  Cookies.  Ever.).  

The pages of my cookbook are dusted with flour and occasionally stuck together with butter and bits of caramel.  (Savin’ dat for later.)
 
Confession time: I read Milk Bar.  Read as in, sit down with a cookie and read each and every recipe blurb and recipe.  I don’t know how many times I’ve done this.  It’s at least fifty.  I still laugh at all of the jokes and funny memories written between those pages.
Thus far, I’ve only found one teeny-tiny typo.  (This coming from someone who scours the Sunday NYT for typos and who usually finds one on the front page of the Style section…)  Color me impressed.Sigh.  I’m star struck.  
The not-so-photogenic pie you see in the photos was the famed crack pie.  What a fabulous recipe!  My god, it’s like buttery gold.  Worth every single calorie.
Without further ado, here’s the interview.

(I’m not including the recipe for crack pie as I want to encourage those who have any mild interest to purchase the book… Honestly, it’s one of the more useful and inventive cookbooks I own, and while it is no encyclopedia of baking, it still manages to pack in plenty of information and sugar.  You can find the recipes online, I’m sure, but I for one am a proponent of cookbooks.)

Chef Christina Tosi is the pastry chef of the Momofuku line of restaurants, which are owned and run by Chef David Chang; she herself runs the Momofuku Milk Barline of restaurants.  Her cooking style is self-described as “loud, delicious, textural, and fun.”  She is a genius when it comes to flavor pairings; she invents combinations like thai tea, lemon, and marscapone, or celery root and white chocolate, which are surprising and arresting in a most delicious sense.  In 2012, the James Beard Foundation named her Rising Chef of the Year; she was the only pastry chef in the category!

Rachel Sally: I think of you as America’s favorite pastry-chef-next-door, and as such, you have a huge influence on food trends; who or what do you view as your biggest influences?
Chef Christina: I think working in a broad range of bakeries, restaurants and food settings and situations really shaped me as a whole. I approached every job, even the ones I worked at for free as an opportunity to learn.  Also, my grandmas, the sweet toothed ladies that recognized my love for baking and my genetic sweet tooth!
 
R.S.:  Which cookbook or book has influenced you the most?
C.T.: The Magnolia Cookbook was one of my first favorite cookbooks as a teen when I was getting into the kitchen on my own terms. They had so many versions of cheesecake in there, breaking all the rules, adding whatever flavors and textures they wanted. I thought it was the coolest cookbook, and the best way to approach a classic like the cheesecake with reckless abandon!
 
R.S.:  What one word would you use to describe yourself and your cooking style?
C.T.: Soothing with a sense of humor.
 
R.S.:  Do you work well under pressure?
C.T.: I love working under pressure. I love being in just a little over my head. It’s how I function best. If you don’t like the same, you probably won’t like working at Milk Bar, but my feeling is if you can make IT happen under pressure, the sky is the limit.
 
R.S.:  Where do you find inspiration for flavor combinations?
C.T.: Everywhere and anywhere. The grocery store, the bodega on the way home. The dinner around the corner. Magazines, airplanes, fancy restaurants, Dairy Queen, T.V. You never know when inspiration can strike!
 
R.S.:  What is the most underrated flavor combination, in your opinion?
C.T.: Salt and pepper.
 
R.S.:  What one ingredient could you not live without?
C.T.: Salt!
 
R.S.:  What is your favorite food?
C.T.: Depends on my mood. I’d say this winter it’s acorn squash with butter, cinnamon and breakfast sausage!
 
R.S.:  What is your favorite composed dessert that you’ve ever made?
C.T.: Cereal milk panna cotta with avocado puree, chocolate hazelnut, cornflake crunch. [Editor’s note: Ohmagah]
 
R.S.:  How do you respond to negative criticism in regards to a dessert?  
C.T.: I take every opinion seriously and to heart. Not in a negative way, but in a double check myself way. Is there truth in the comment, is there something wrong, could it be better, do I really stand behind this dish or dessert? Humility and the ability to curb your ego, especially when under criticism, are very important.
 
R.S.: What tweaks do you make?
C.T.: Doesn’t mean you have to change a thing. Just means you have to be open and willing to check yourself and/or stand up for yourself.
 
R.S.:  Do you edit already existing and successful desserts?  
C.T.: We always edit existing desserts.
 
R.S.: Why do you?
C.T.: [We] always look for room for improvements, updating inspiration points. Sometimes we change elements, depths of flavor. Sometimes we’ll test a ton of stuff and never change a thing.
 
R.S.:  What is your best tip for dessert success?
C.T.: Stay true to yourself, your taste buds, your inspiration, your approach. But be open minded about feedback and criticism.
Still in disbelief.  Thank you, Chef!

Saranghae

 

You saw me standing alone;
I belonged nowhere.
I wanted only to escape the brutal limits
of that incongruously beautiful town,
its mustard-bitter flowers tangled in roadside ditches,
wavering in heat lines,
motes of dust swimming in the air
lazily suspended in streams of sun.
I saw you standing alone,
and I found within you a common course.
I fell for that which I had uncovered.
I was in love young—
emotion, sharp as cayenne pepper,
danced out toward its object, eager and nimble—
free! at last.
From that hour, freedom!
I reveled in your glory, fleeting as it was to be.
I clung to you while you forced me down
until I fell to my knees
and crouched at your feet.
And go you did then.
I was powerless against your withdrawal;
I found myself naked and shivering
without the warmth of your skin.
Now it’s dark and the house is still and I’m awake,
and I am alone,
enveloped by a shadow.
Only shadows and echoes.
-Rachel Sally, Fall 2012
 
I wish you the happiest of Valentine’s days, my dears.
May it be filled with love, chocolate, and pie.
(And not necessarily in that order.)
May it be pink, red, and all that you may have hoped for.
 
Je vous aime, mes chéries; je vraiment vous aime.
 
Sour Cherry Hand Pies
dough lovingly adapted from smittenkitchen
ingredients:
120 g sour cream (~1/4 cup)
20 g lemon juice (~4 teaspoons)
112 g ice water (~1/4 cup) (weigh out 112 g, then add a couple of ice cubes and let ’em mingle)
225 g butter (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces), cut into small pieces and frozen
300 g flour (~1 1/4 cups), plus some for dusting
2.5 g kosher salt (~1/2 teaspoon)
good quality sour cherry preserves, or use your favorite jam; I’ve also made these hand pies with real pie fillings (chop a couple of apples, stew them with some maple syrup or sugar, salt, and thyme, etc.)
directions:
In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar together.  In a small bowl, mix the sour cream and lemon juice.  Put in freezer to chill out for a little while.  Scatter the butter in the bowl of the food processor, and pulse 3 times, or until the butter pieces look pea-sized.  Add in the sour cream mixture and pulse once or twice, then slowly drizzle in the ice water, pulsing every 2 seconds or so.  Be sparing with the pulsing; don’t drop the ice cubes in the machine.  Once the dough has come together into a relatively cohesive ball, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
When the dough is chilled, take it out of the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface.  Roll it out into an even thickness around 1/8-1/4 inch thick.  Cut out desired shapes; I used a circle and a heart cutter.  Re-roll scraps and repeat.  Chill dough again, for at least 1 hour.
Beat one egg with 1 tablespoon milk for about 1 minute, until frothy and no clumps of egg white remain.  Take dough circles and hearts, etc. out of cooling area, and brush the edges of half of the shapes with egg wash.  Your egg wash should extend about 1 cm into the center of the dough.  Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of jam into the center of each egg-washed shape, then press another cut out on top.  Seal the edges by pressing firmly but gently with a fork.  Save your excess egg wash.  Chill the pies again, for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Egg wash the outside of your pies, cut a small slit in the top for steam, and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until puffed up and deeply golden brown.  
Enjoy!
Above was a “found” or “collage” poem that I wrote. 
Word phrasings and works cited:
Line 1.  “You saw me standing alone…”  Blue Moon, Lorenz Hart
Line 2. “I belonged nowhere…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 3.  “I wanted only to escape the brutal limits of that [incongruously beautiful] town…” Coleman, Mary Karr
[“incongruously beautiful…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips]
Line 4. “mustard-bitter flowers tangled in roadside ditches…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 5. “wavering in heat lines…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 6. “motes of dust [swimming] in the air…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 8. “I saw you standing alone…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 11.  “I was in love young…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 12. “…emotion, sharp as cayenne pepper…” Close,Lucia Nevai
Line 14.  “…[danced] out toward its object, eager and nimble, [free!] at last…” Close, Lucia Nevai
Line 15. “from [that] hour, freedom!” Song of the Open Road, Walt Whitman
Line 19. “crouched at [your] feet” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 20.  “…go [you] did…” The Boat, Alistair MacLeod
Line 24.  “It’s dark and the house is still and I’m awake…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 26. “enveloped by a shadow…” Blue Moon, Jayne Anne Phillips
Line 27. “only shadows and echoes…” The Boat, Alistair MacLeod

T-Minus

Soft snowflakes are floating down outside my window as I type this, landing gently on vibrant evergreens and vivid red berries.
 
 
Something is stirring in me as I take in the peaceful scene outside…
 
By Jove, I think it’s the Christmas spirit.

My stomach is still bloated has barely regained its balance from Thanksgiving, and I’ve already got the next holiday on the brain.  
Exactly one month!

I gots problems, people.
Why, just last weekend, I spent an entire day raking with my family, greedily anticipating Thanksgiving, and appreciating the beautiful fall weather.
How quickly times change, no?

I had a very beautiful, very long, very poetic post written to go along with this.  

Only problem?  I wrote it using the blogger app on my phone.  What a Big Mistake that was…  (Picture me shaking my fist at the blogging gods right now.)

I’m sorry that I’ve been away from the blog for some time.  Thanksgiving really took it out of me, as I decided to undertake the prep and cooking of the entire meal myself.  

 


The last few weeks, in terms of Thanksgiving prep, have gone something like this:

I ordered the turkey (no, I don’t eat meat, but my family does).
I went to my local butcher at an ungodly hour in the morning, to make sure I got my hands on some good local meat products: fresh bacon, fresh cranberry-sage sausages, and freshly-rendered lard.
I went grocery shopping (by meself) after a long basketball practice; I spent a ridiculous amount of money and could hardly push the cart, and I’m no weakling.  I must have purchased 200 pounds of food that day.

I went and got the turkey from the farm, a trek that ended up being far harder than me going out and hunting a damn turkey myself.  As it turns out, there are multiple “Creamery” Roads, complete with “ninety-degree turns” right near house number 200s in the nearby Slaterville Springs.  Can you guess who went to the wrong one?  What turned out to be the completely wrong one?  Yes, me.  And don’t laugh.  I had to drive 5 miles in a state forest OFF-ROAD in my Volvo to get to the wrong farm, only to discover that the house numbers went from 194 to 204.  What the…?!?  Yes, I went 45 minutes past the correct Creamery Road.  Upon this realization, I cursed, cried, and punched my steering wheel, à la Shit Girlfriends Say (go to 2:07).  I’m kidding.  But I did wheel my car around and speed back through the forest as fast as I could, suspension be damned.  

I cooked.  A lot.  The menu?

Sourdough bread, gluten-free cheese crackers, cheeses, and grapes 
Roasted squash, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, and sweet potatoes
Roasted lemony brussels sprouts with cranberries, roasted garlic, and maple-balsalmic glaze
Quince and brown-butter basted turkey
Smashed fingerling potatoes with scallions and bacon
(Gluten-free) Cornbread stuffing with sausage, apples, onions, and sage
Apple cider cranberry sauce
(Healthy) Pumpkin pie in an almond-date crust
Salted caramel apple thyme pie in a cheddar cheese and lard crust with maple whipped cream
Maple crème fraîche tart 
Copious amounts of Prosecco, Champagne, and wine


It was all delicious; I was very happy.  And exhausted.  Still am.

The night before Thanksgiving, we celebrated my oldest brother’s birthday.  I made him a French toast cake, which consisted of a brown sugar, brown butter cake filled with cinnamon cream cheese, frosted with a brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream, topped with a maple caramel glaze, and finished with candied bacon.  Yowza.

I’ll be around more often; I promise.  After all, I have some serious holiday baking calling my name.  
P.S. I’m thankful for you guys!  It seriously awes me that I even have readers.  Love y’all.

 
French Toast Cake
for the cake:
ingredients:
3 sticks unsalted butter, browned
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks (save the whites)
2 whole eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup, topped off with buttermilk to equal 1 1/4 cups
directions:
Let the butter cool until barely warm to touch.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a half sheet pan.  Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla to the butter and beat until combined. Add in the eggs and egg yolks and mix to combine.  Add in the maple syrup-buttermilk mixture and mix to combine.  Dump in the flour and baking powder and beat until homogeneous.  Spread into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch.
for the bacon:
2 strips bacon
brown sugar, as needed
directions:
in a preheated oven, bake bacon, covered in brown sugar, until crispy, about 15 minutes; flip halfway through and coat with more brown sugar.
for the filling:
ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese
big pinch cinnamon and nutmeg
big pinch salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, or as needed
directions:
Beat all ingredients together until fluffy.
for the frosting:
ingredients:
4 ounces egg whites
4 ounces brown sugar
big pinch salt
12.8 ounces butter, room temp
directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix egg whites, salt, and sugar together.  Heat over a pan of steaming water until the egg whites reach 145 degrees F, whisking all the while.  Remove from heat, and beat until stiff meringue forms and bowl is cool to the touch.  Slowly add in the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, and continue to beat until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth.
for the caramel:
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
big pinch salt
1/4 cup maple syrup, plus 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons cream
directions:
Melt butter together with salt, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup maple syrup over medium heat and cook until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in cream and last tablespoon maple syrup.  Use immediately or refrigerate and reheat and recook until smooth before use.