27. Lemon-thyme meringue

I don’t think I’d ever eaten a lemon meringue pie before making this one, so I can’t really contrast it directly to one that I didn’t just make up.   But this pie was super light and fluffy.  It was a very refreshing pie: both because of the controlled lemon taste and the cloud-like texture.  It’s also incredibly easy to make and is a perfect pie for that summer meal when you are already-too-full-but-gosh-darnit-you-want-pie!  (I feel this exact feeling often enough that I should really come up with a simpler way of expressing it).

LEMON FILLING:

  • 4 egg yolks (save the whites!!)
  • 3-4 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 lemons juiced, 1/2 lemon sliced paper-fine
  • leaves of 4+ fresh thyme sprigs

Put lemon pulp/juice, sugar, egg yolks, and thyme leaves into a pan over low heat.  Stir fairly constantly for about 3 minutes (until it becomes a curd/gel).

I dropped the spoon in 😦

Scoop lemon curd into a rolled out, uncooked pie shell.

  • 4 egg whites (from above)
  • a pinch of cream of tartar
  • ~4 Tbsp sugar (or to your taste)

Whip together egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  I did this by hand with a fork.  That qualifies as my workout for the day.  Fold in 4 Tbsp of sugar.

Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the lemon filling.  Set aside the rest.

Top with thinly sliced lemons, and a sprinkle of sugar.  Make sure the lemons are VERY thinly sliced.  This adds a tiny hint of the bitterness of candied rind, and looks so pretty! (not that anyone else actually sees this stage…)

Bake in the oven for ~25-30 minutes at 350.  Top with additional thyme leaves.

Add the remaining meringue, and place bake in oven until meringue browns (about 3-5 minutes).

Let cool (slightly) then slice and enjoy:

This pie has the right amount of tart lemon– it is balanced both by sugar and the springy lightness of all the filling.  Even the lemon layer is made light and cloud-like by the addition of some meringue.  Overall, it’s a really good pie– especially when (like in my case) you only have lemons, eggs, and sugar in your kitchen.  I would increase the thyme concentration a bit more, as it wasn’t quite as prominently featured as I’d hoped.  But overall, I’m quite happy with this pie.

Yum!

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26. Wild Michigan Berry Pie

After visiting my dad in Minnesota, I swung up to see my grandma in the UP.  It was a very short visit, but one that I really enjoyed. Despite the shortness of the visit, I made time to make a pie (at about midnight– proper pie making time).  I picked a few handfuls of wild raspberries and bought some wild blueberries from a little stand outside of town (the blueberries this year weren’t abundant and I didn’t find many at all when I looked up in MN).

First, the result:

 

As in the previous post (Peach Pie) this was pretty straightforward.  I destemmed/washed the berries, and mixed them with a couple teaspoons of cornstarch and a pinch of salt.

 

Contrasting standard berries (container) to wild blueberries and huckleberries (in the bowl). Wild are much smaller, usually darker (especially huckleberries), and can be much tastier.

I decided to use two mini loaf pans, as the only pie pan I had with me was very shallow and wide, and I wanted a high proportion of berries.   One of them I used only blueberries (with a drizzle of honey and butter), and the other I layered the raspberries on top.

 

I did, however, try something weird with the crust.  The only fat available was whipped butter, which wasn’t that odd certainly… but I saw a huge container of honey and, on a peculiarly sick whim, decided I’d replace the liquid in the pie crust with honey.  Now, before you choke on the sweetness of that statement, let me remind you that there’s not actually THAT much water in pie dough.

 

Now I can say that “replacing liquid with honey” is something I don’t recommend doing if you want to end up with a pie crust.  It doesn’t manipulate nicely, and turns into more of a hard shortbread than a nice flaky pie crust.  The honey also wasn’t actually a strongly present flavor anyway.  So I’ll cross that off the list of “potentially awesome” pie innovations.

Would you like a loaf of pie?

Cooking them in bread loaf pans was a bit challenging with this particular crust– but I like the dimensions of the pie better than a small pie pan, which tends to be rather shallow.

But even a non-great crust wasn’t enough to ruin the splendor of these berries.  Wild berries are remarkably good.

 

And, one more look at a slice of this pie:

 

Good fruit= good pie.

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25. Peach Pie

You knew this was coming… I moved to Georgia, and couldn’t go a summer without making peach pie.

I did eat many-a-pound of Georgia peaches this summer, and they were of course absolutely delicious.  However, they were so delicious that I never resisted eating them long enough to make a pie.  I also went out of town just as peach season was peaking, and I will admit to you that I never made a Georgia Peach pie.  I did bring a bushel of South Carolina peaches up north with me, however (they were what I found available at the last minute).  And some of those became the dessert that sustained me and my dad during my visit to Minnesota.

Sadly, these SC peaches were nowhere as delicious as the Georgia peaches I had the rest of the summer.  But they were still tasty enough to make a pretty good pie.

This pie was really straightforward- a basic butter crust, peeled peaches, some cinnamon, and pecans on top.  I’m not even sure what to put as a recipe, so instead I’ll just load up pictures.  The toasted pecans were the simple touch that made this pie unique and worthwhile.  Toasted, spiced nuts are just about the second best thing in the world, and they also gave a nice textural contrast.

Peaches on vacation in the unfrozen north.

Sliced peach. The peaches were set in hot water for a brief time to make skin removal simple. It just rubs off after this dowsing.

Placing the top crust on the peach pie.

Baking the pie in the oven. The metal ring is a crust guard, which prevents the outer rim from overcooking while the rest of the crust cooks thoroughly.

 

Baked Peach pie. The juices weren’t yet cooled/congealed here.

 

 

 

 

Essentially this is a Georgia pie– made in MN, with no ingredients from Georgia.  It was a solid pie.  Simple, effective, and improved drastically by toasted pecans.  Those will definitely be making more appearances on top of my pies in the future!  I wish I’d  been more on top of things– I really wanted to make that Ginger Pie with peaches instead of rum soaked strawberries. And I wanted to make a pecan “frangipane” with peach.  And… well, I guess I just wanted to eat a lot more peaches.  They make Atlanta summers worth the heat.

 

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Missing Pies…

I know, I know.  I had over a month with nothing posted before the “rosehip pie”. Fear not, I was still making pies… just not writing about them.  Here’s a few pictures.  I’ll hopefully create posts for each pie individually.

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24. Rosehip pie

Urban foraging prevails again.

This time I found a bunch of roses growing unchecked on a roadside public property.  I’d been eating a super delicious rosehip jam for a week–and finding a surplus of rosehip right in front of me, my mind immediately went to pie (as it is wont to do). I filled up a little bag full of rosehips and pedaled home– ignoring the fact that I had absolutely no clue how to cook with rosehips.

Pick rose hips when they’re red, but no spines are poking through them.  The bigger the rose hips the better, because each one has to be de-seeded, and doing that with miniature hips is more hassle than it’s worth (I found this out and ended up just tossing half my supply of rose hips because they were too small… alas).

Wash the hips well (you never know what they’ve been sprayed with).  Cut off the ends, and cut each hip in half from stem-side to sepal-side.  Put all the halves in a big bowl of water, and (using your fingers) scrape out seeds from each one.  The seeds are buoyant enough that they make the hips float– once deseeded, the hips will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Then just pour the seeds/water out, double check your hips for seeds (nope. not just one hip-check), and rinse again.  I felt awesome when I thought up this method.

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INGREDIENTS (for one mini pie):

  • 2/3 cup rosehips- deseeded
  • 1/2 peach
  • 1/2 Tbsp rosehip jam
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp tapioca starch
  • 1 pat of butter.

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Roll out a bottom crust, place in mini pie tin (or several cupcake tins…), and smear some rosehip jam (or other jam…).  As you’ll note, my rosehip jam looks disturbingly like ketchup. I was tempted to make little “fries” out of the remainder of my dough and simply dip them in rose jam.  Unfortunately for us both, I didn’t.

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Put the hips in a bit of water and microwave for 2 minutes, until softened. Pour off the water (I’m sipping mine as I write this– it’s oddly grassy, but super high in vitamin C)

Mix the starch and honey into the hips, then put mixture inside a mini pie tin with bottom pie crust. Line the edges of the pie with slivered peach, then top with the butter pat, and top crust.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in 350F oven for 25-30 minutes.

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The flavor of that rose hip jam was in the rose hips… but not quite as epically.  Perchance because I picked a less flavorful type of rose hip, or picked them too early, or didn’t cook the rose hips down.  They (thankfully) didn’t taste grassy like the juice; rather they reminded me of a mildly citrusy fruit snack flavor.  Certainly not bad, but much lighter and fruitier than the rich berry-like flavor of the jam.  I was thinking that the peach would be a high-note contrast to the deeper rose hip– instead they were about equally as tart.

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It was pretty fun to eat, and an extra drizzle of honey on top solved some of the flavor troubles (I don’t think I put enough sugar in the pie to overcome the acidity of the rosehips and get to that sweeter flavor). But it still wasn’t quite the rich flavor I was hoping for, and I don’t love the grittiness the rosehips had as they broke down in my mouth.  Honestly my favorite part of the pie was the crust with that sliver of peach and a dab of rosehip jam.  That part was awesome.

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So before I cook with rosehips again, I’m going to need to take some time to find out how to get the right flavor from them, and also cook them down properly.  Apparently it’s not quite as simple as I’d hoped.

Verdict: promising flavors, fun to make, not quite there.

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23. Blueberry Lavender Pie

This hardly feels like a full post, since I didn’t include precise measurements or particularly pretty pictures: but I figured I’d put it up here anyway.

If it seems my experiments are getting tamer recently, the surplus of amazing fruit is to blame.  Summer fruit offers such good flavors that hiding it in “out there” concoctions would be an absolute waste.  So lately I’ve taken to adding subtle complimentary/complementary flavors.

I visited my sister this weekend and we made crepes for breakfast one morning.  I’d brought down some of that lavender butter from last week’s cream failure. One spread of blueberry jam and lavender butter on a crepe and I knew I had a new pie.

I didn’t have my camera with me (hence the non-standard pictures), nor my equipment.  So everything was eyeballed.  This is honestly my preferred method for making pie anyway.  I’m more comfortable going by look and texture than anything else.

This is a simple pie– just blueberries, lavender, butter, and a bit of lemon.  I’ve added a bit more lavender to the recipe, as what I used was noticeable, but not quite enough.  I wanted the ratio from that crepe…

The crust has (approximately) 1 a stick of frozen butter, around 8 ounces of flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tablespoons chilled vodka, 1 Tablespoon vinegar, and 4+ Tablespoons water.

I did the rough-puff pastry layering with lavender butter as the fat here, though this didn’t add much.

The filling consists of about 3 cups of blueberries, the zest of 1 lemon (plus 1 Tbsp juice, if  a tarter pie is desired), 3 Tbsp of tapioca (starch).  And 1 tsp of crushed lavender + 2 Tbsp butter sprinkled over the blueberries (I used my lavender-agave butter).

Pie construction: chilled blueberries go into a rolled out crust, keeping it cold as I sprinkle in tapioca and zest in some lemon. The top is filled with more berries, zest, and then butter patties before covering with a crust.

Cookie cutters make for great pie decorating tools. Instant cute. Sprinkle on some sugar, crinkle the edges, and then bake!

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until crust is lightly golden brown.  Protect the rim of the pie with foil or a pie guard.

Because moose and blueberries are inseparable, and I didn’t feel like putting actual moose in the pie. Though blueberry pie with some mousse…. that might be awesome.

A little slice of heaven. Perfect level of juiciness here: the juice is there, but the pie itself is not runny. The crust holds everything together nicely, was fairly tender, and baked perfectly. I really enjoyed this very basic crust.

Yum!  I’m becoming a huge fan of blueberries.  I love pie for which I don’t feel the need to add sugar to the fruit, and blueberries definitely stand on their own.  Also, I think my pie crust is doing well when I have someone ask if there’s any extra pie crust so they can just eat it plain– sans delicious filling.  When pie crust moves from the obstacle between the eater and the eaten, and starts becoming a desired object of its own– that is success.  And success, like a good pie crust, is delicious.

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21-22. Seared Apricot Pie, and Frozen Mango Pie (with lavender-agave cream)

I’m a sucker for seasonal/rarer fruits. On my last trip to the Dekalb Farmers Market I came home laden with a large box of ataulfo mangos (the small yellow ones, not the green/pink mangos), a couple pounds of fresh apricots, some kiwi, and a sack of lychees… along with my standard fruit purchases.  That may sound to you like an absurd amount of fruit for one person to eat in a week and a half. If so, you clearly underestimate my fruit eating capabilities.  But even so–I recruited help this time.

Shockingly, some of that fruit even lasted long enough to find its way into pies.  Although I think lychee and kiwi pie has promise, this post is about apricots and mangos.  Both pies used the same ginger crust, which came out flavored a bit like those teddy grahams you eat as a child.  I don’t really know how that happened, honestly.

There’s really no surprises here.  Except for the lavender-agave cream.  That was a very happy surprise.

CRUST

  • 10oz flour
  • 3 oz butter (frozen and cubed)
  • 3oz shortening (chilled)
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ~1/4 cup mix of vodka and ice water

Mix dry ingredients, then cut in the fats.  Sprinkle in a bit more flour.  Add liquids by the tablespoon-full just until the dough sticks together when stirring, and there are few dry crumbs.  Knead the dough gently into a ball.  Roll out 1/3 of it, and lay in a pie pan.

Seared Apricot Pie

While doing a bit of research to see how apricot pies generally succeeded, I skimmed through a recipe and saw “browned butter”.  I immediately thought the apricots were cooked on the stovetop in browned butter before being baked in the pie, and thought this was an awesome recipe that I’d use as a base.  Then, on closer inspection I noted that my conclusion was incorrect– the browned butter was instead for a crumble topping.  I’m sure their pie is great.  But pan-searing the apricot halves in browned butter gives this pie the special flavor that I think sets it apart.

APRICOT FILLING

  • 6-7 apricots , halved and pitted (leave skins on)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1-3 Tbsp sugar (depending on the sweetness of the apricots)
  • 2 tsp (tapioca) starch
  • a dash of nutmeg

Put 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet on medium to high heat, and wait until it has browned.  Then  place in the apricot halves.  Cook until slightly browned, then flip and cook for another minute or two.

The browned and (lightly) spiced apricot halves.

Toss with the dash of nutmeg, then set in the pie tin (you may need to cut up some of the apricots to make them fit.  Use any remaining browned butter for the topping.

Mix together the starch and sugar and sprinkle this mix over the top of the apricots.

CRUMBLE TOPPING

You can use your favorite crumb topping here.  I didn’t want the apricots competing too hard for attention (they needed to focus on just being delicious), so I simply melted butter, then stirred in a mixture of flour and white sugar until all the butter was absorbed and the mixture was dry and there was extra flour.  Then I cut in some cream cheese because it sounded good.  Sprinkle your mixture over the top of the apricots, then bake the pie at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

Seared apricot pie with cream-cheese crumb.

What you get is a very simple apricot tart.  Apricots bake very well, and the searing helped to pre-cook them while also enriching the flavor (butter tends to do that).  At the end of the baking period the apricots still held together nicely, but were softened and easily cut with a fork.  In other words they were the perfect pie density.  The pie made for a really great breakfast.  I felt a bit like I was eating the worlds best pop tart when I cut a piece, simply picked it up (this crust is quite robust) and ate it like a slice of pizza.  After 21 pies in 5 months you get a bit indelicate about how you eat them.

A bit blurry, but nonetheless this picture depicts a (large) piece of apricot pie ready to be lovingly shoveled into my mouth.

Frozen Mango Cream Pie with lavender-agave cream drizzle.

Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures of this one.  Nor did I really master the texture– it froze to be too full of ice crystals due to the high water content of mangos.  However, heating it up for about 10 seconds in the microwave led to a delightfully smooth slice with a fun temperature gradient. Also, this pie (except in the crust and cream topping) contained no additional sugar: the mangos are plenty sweet on their own)

Prebake the crust by laying it in a pan, covering with a sheet of foil or parchment, and weighing it down, then cooking at 350 for approximately 25 minutes, or until the crust is cooked fully.

No, this is not a bean pie. Those are simply acting as weights to keep the crust from rising (and hence not fitting the pan) during pre-bake.

FILLING

  • ~5 ataulfo mangos (depending on their size), skinned, pitted, and blended to a smooth pulp
  • 2tsp nutmeg
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 3oz cream cheese
  • 3oz labneh yoghurt (this is just thick plain yoghurt.  More cream cheese can be substituted).

Beat the cream cheese until soft and creamy. Pour in the whipping cream and whip until firm.  Mix all the ingredients together.  Pour into the prebaked pie shell and freeze.

LAVENDER-AGAVE CREAM TOPPING

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp dried lavender
  • 1Tbsp agave nectar (or 2(?) Tbsp honey)

After attempting very unsuccessfully to use an alcohol solution and make lavender extract, I simply took whipping cream, crumbled ~3 Tablespoons of dried lavender flowers into 1/2 cup of whipping cream, then poured in a Tablespoon of agave nectar for sweetening, and then whipped away.  Unfortunately I think fat free cream cheese has a strange reaction with the fats in whipping cream.  When I tried to add some in to the whipped cream (something I’ve done with normal whipped cream to get a firmer and more lasting topping), and continued whipping I couldn’t get the cheese to really blend in.  It seemed to be precipitating chunks immediately.  I kept trying, but soon ended up with separated lavender-agave butter and lavender-agave milk.  So I gave up, and used the liquid as a drizzle over the frozen pie.

This is the one picture I took of this pie, and it’s pretty darn crappy. But the quality of this picture does not reflect the enjoyability of the pie.

Although the flavor was phenomenal, it’d be the same (and better both texturally and aesthetically) with the proper whipped cream. On the plus side, however, I have a block of lavender and agave nectar butter in my fridge.  And my goodness, it’s delicious.  I wish I had some sopapillas to eat it with.

Of the two pies, the apricot was more technically successful (and I enjoyed it more).  This primarily arises from the fact that the mango pie became so icy upon freezing.  However, I also think fresh apricots have a more complex flavor that was allowed to shine in this baked form.  So of the two, the apricot pie wins.  I think a more nuanced/quirky pie is possible with apricots.  But this was a really tasty, simple showcase for apricots.  And it worked really well.

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