Cran-apple Pie for Pi Day
I haven’t bought a can of pumpkin puree in six to seven years but I decided to make my first ever pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, so I picked up a can. It was even on sale.
But before attempting the pumpkin pie, I made something that I haven’t tasted for even longer … pumpkin fudge. My first taste of that rather unique flavour came from the seasonal fudge that my brother made for my SIL’s chocolate store. It was an unexpectedly tasty candy and I hoped to be able to make something similar. My results weren’t bad but not as amazing as the one I remember. Of course, my cranberry fudge wasn’t as good as his either. Maybe one day.
Pumpkin Tart and Fudge
I made a couple of half batches (400-420 gm) of pumpkin fudge using this recipe. I over-cooked the first batch because I don’t have an accurate candy thermometer, so I had to use the soft ball test. It may have been a bit crumbly but it was tasty and I ate the whole thing in no time at all. For the second batch, I may have under-cooked it JUST a bit but some judicious stirring once I had poured the fudge into the pan and I got it to where it should be.
The half batch of pumpkin pie filling I made used Chef John’s recipe from Food Wishes, and filled a couple of mini pie crust shells (6 inch diameter) and two tart shells made in muffin tins.
And, lest you think that all I made with that pumpkin puree was desserts, I also made a batch of creamy red lentil and pumpkin soup using about a cup of the puree.
Once you can make a pie crust/pastry, the possible fillings are endless.
I thought I’d include both a fruit and a custard type pie in this post.
Nectarines are delicious … sweet and juicy and a very good price in season. Instead of making a pastry top crust, I used a crumble. It’s something I’ve got to work on. Delicious but not as pretty as I would have liked. I didn’t bother peeling the nectarines.
I have no idea where the name of this pie comes from … there are many explanations for how Chess pie got its name. But however the name came about, the result is tasty. I used the recipe I found here. Half the recipe for the filling was enough for two mini (6 inch diameter) pies. I had some extra filling so I baked the custard in a small oiled ramekin.
Because you can never have ENOUGH pie crust recipes, I gave this one a try … half unsalted butter and half lard. The blogger who posted the recipe, used shortening, which I didn’t have, as she claims that using the two different fats takes advantage of the best characteristics of each.
Sweet Pie … apple and quince filling
I haven’t bought quinces in years and at the exorbitant price of the imported ones ($2.49 each), I wasn’t about to make a whole pie out of them. But, I was able to combine one perfectly poached quince (green bumpy looking fruit on the right in the picture below) with three Braeburn apples (on sale at $1.15 a pound) to produce a tasty filling to test out my latest pie crust recipe.
The pie recipe I used was based on this one with some changes. I’ve included it below so it’s all in one place.
Apple-Quince Pie – makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 6 generously or 8 more moderately
pie pastry, enough for a top and bottom crust
1-2 lg quinces, peeled and diced *
1 cup water
3-4 tbsp honey
pinch of salt
Rest of Filling
3-4 lg apples, peeled and diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
* 1 quince (~250 gm)
** 3 apples (~675 gm), Braeburns
Poaching the quince/s
Combine the water, sugar, salt and diced quince(s). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the quinces are crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit to a large bowl and let cool. Continue cooking the liquid, uncovered, until it reduces to about 1/4 cup.
Preheat the oven to 500 deg F with a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf level.
Making the filling
In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Add the chopped apples to the bowl with the cooled quince. Sprinkle the sugar/flour/spice mixture over the fruit and gently stir in the thickened quince liquid. Pour the filling into the pie bottom.
Add the top crust, seal and crimp the edges. Cut slashes in the crust.
Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet, turn the heat down to 425 deg F and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 375 deg F and continue cooking until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, another 45-55 min.
Remove the pie pan to a cooling rack until it’s come to room temperature. Refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hrs and preferably overnight before cutting into the pie.
Savoury Tart … spinach and paneer (cheese) tart
Because I’m a cheap frugal home cook, I rolled out the trimmings from the apple and quince pie to form a top crust for a spinach and paneer tart. For the base, I used a mini pie shell from the freezer. It was made with the leftover pastry from my PREVIOUS pie bake … a nectarine crumble.
I wasn’t sure how much filling I would need so I threw together something that came out pretty well.
Spinach and Paneer Tart – makes 1 mini pie, enough for 2 generous servings
pie pastry, enough for a bottom crust, divided in half
1/2 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (~64 gm)
140 gm paneer cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
2 tbsp whipping cream, or regular milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.
Preheat oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit. Adjust the shelf in the oven so it’s at the lowest position. Place a baking sheet in the oven so that it will preheat as well.
Roll out the dough for the base. Line a disposable aluminum mini pie tin leaving about 1/2 inch of excess pastry. Roll out the top so there’s about an inch of excess pastry.
Assemble the filling ingredients. Fill the base, add the top crust, folding over and crimping closed. Cut several slits for the steam to escape.
Place the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
REVIEW: I found that the pie crust recipe lived up to its name … it IS both flaky and buttery. It’s easy to make, tasty and will remain in my recipe collection. The fillings of both the sweet and savoury variations were delicious as well.
E.D. Smith is my favourite brand of pie filling and, around the holidays, it often goes on sale. I’ve had a can (540 ml in Canada) of cherry pie filling in the pantry for four to six months. Originally, I had planned on making a New York Style vanilla bean cheesecake and using the pie filling to top it. Even individual mini cheesecakes made in a muffin tin with a base of ‘Nilla wafers were a possibility.
And then … I changed my mind.
I ended up with a couple of scaled down cherry desserts designed for a single person or a couple to enjoy, each using half (a bit over a cup) of the filling.
This coffee cake was originally made in a 9 by 13 inch glass baking pan but I used a small disposable aluminum pie tin.
Cherry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping – cut into 9 squares
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
4-6 tbsp sugar (use the lesser amount if you prefer less sugar)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1-1 1/4 cups cherry pie filling (or flavor of your choice)
2 tbsp finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds), optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease a 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch aluminum baking pan with shortening or margarine.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and melted butter in a medium sized mixing bowl, stir together with a fork until crumbly. Break up by hand if necessary.
Take 1/4 cup of the crumbs out and place into a small bowl. If you’re using nuts in the topping, add the finely chopped nuts to this portion of crumbs and set aside.
In a small bowl whisk the slightly beaten egg and milk together, add the milk mixture to the large bowl of crumbs and stir until incorporated. (There will be small lumps in the batter.)
Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan. Spoon the cherry pie filling over the cake. Sprinkle the reserved crumb topping over the pie filling.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the batter comes out cleanly. Cool for at least 15-20 minutes, cut and serve.
Instead of a full sized cherry pie, I used the pastry from a single crust pie, to make six mini cherry pies in muffin tins and used the leftover pie filling from the coffee cake above to fill them, making sure to reserve least 3 cherries per mini pie.
Mini Cherry Pies – makes 6 mini pies
1 disk of single crust pastry
1-1 1/4 cups cherry pie filling (or your favourite pie filling flavour)
1 tbsp whipping cream, to brush over the the pastry decoration on each mini pie
coarse sugar for sprinkling over the pastry decoration (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll out the pastry to about 1/8th of an inch thickness. Cut six 3 3/4-4 inch diameter circles out of the pastry. Use the leftover pastry to cut out six mini stars or hearts for decorating the tops of your mini pies. Fit the pastry circles into large sized muffin tins.
Distribute the pie filling evenly among the muffins tins, making sure there are 3 cherries in each tin. Decorate each mini pie with one of the pastry cut-outs.
Brush some whipping cream over each pastry decoration and sprinkle some coarse sugar over each.
Bake the mini pies until the filling is hot and bubbling and the pastry crust is set and golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Let the muffin tin cool on a wire rack before removing.
Serve on their own or with a scoop of vanilla or cherry ice cream.
This is the coconut dessert I was going to make originally, but with a busy work week I didn’t have the energy to make the filling, crust and topping needed. I found it online and rewrote the amounts and instructions to reflect the pastry making technique I used.
Mini Coconut Cream Pies
Pie Crust – makes enough pastry for a single 9 inch diameter pie top and bottom, or 6 x 5 1/2 inch diameter bases
1 cup very cold unsalted butter**, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup to 1/3 ice water (use just enough to allow the pastry to hold together
** I used half butter and half lard
Using a food processor, or a pastry blender in a large bowl, cut the cold butter (and lard) into flour and salt until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Small pieces of butter should still be visible.
Pour cold water over the mixture through the feed tube, pulsing until the mixture begins to clump together. If using the bowl, sprinkle a few tablespoons of water over the flour/butter mixture and toss with a fork until dough begins to form. Take a handful of the mixture into your hand and squeeze gently. If it holds together, stop adding any more water. (Use your hands as little as possible as the heat will melt the butter and work the dough as little as possible as it will develop gluten and your pastry will toughen.)
Divide the dough into 2 even sized balls, flatten into 2 round discs, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes. You can freeze the second disc for another time. (My pastry weighed about 600 gm.)
For the 5 1/2 inch mini bases, roll the pastry out about 1/8 of an inch thick and about 8 inches in diameter. Drape over the aluminum pie dish leaving some overhang. Finish the edges as desired. With the tines of a fork, prick all over the pastry and bake in a preheated 375 deg Fahrenheit oven until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
Cool the pie shells thoroughly.
Coconut Cream Filling – makes 2 cups of filling, enough to fill 3 of the 5 1/2 inch diameter bases above
1 1/2 cups milk, scalded
5 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, finely ground**
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
** I ground the coconut in my coffee grinder with about 1 tbsp sugar
Scald the milk in a sauce pan or in the microwave.
Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt In a medium sized sauce pan. Pour in half a cup of the scalded milk and whisk until smooth. Make sure that you don’t leave any dry flour/sugar in the corners by using a large soup spoon. Place on the stove over medium/medium-low heat and cook, whisking all the while, until the mixture starts to thicken. Add another half cup of the milk and continue cooking. When thickened, add the last of the milk and continue cooking until it has thickened again. Take the sauce pan off the stove and reduce the heat to medium-low, if needed.
In a small bowl lightly beat the egg yolks. Add about 1/4 cup of the hot custard mixture to the beaten eggs and whisk in to temper the eggs. Add another half a cup of the hot custard mixture to the eggs and whisk well. Pour the egg/custard mixture into the custard in the sauce pan. Whisk well and return to the heat. Cook while whisking until the custard mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat.
Whisk in the butter and the vanilla and almond extracts. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Whisk a final time and fill the cooled pie shells. You’ll need about 2/3 cup of filling per mini pie shell.
Lay a sheet of food wrap on top of the surface of each pie and refrigerate for 4-6 hrs or, optimally, overnight, before topping.
Vanilla Whipped Cream – makes enough whipped cream to top 3 x 5 1/2 inch diameter mini pies
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp icing/powdered sugar, sifted
3 tbsp toasted shredded coconut for garnish
Combine the whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Spread on top of the cooled coconut cream filling. Garnish each mini cream pie with toasted coconut and serve.
Just a quick review … the filling was very tasty and I’d make it again but I’d use one of my other pie crust recipes for the shell. I may have rolled the crust too thick, and I certainly under-baked it, but I found the resulting crust heavy (not flaky) and bland. NOTE: I did substitute half the butter with lard so that may also have affected my results.
NOTE: I corrected the amount of flour listed in the recipe below as I realized I had written it incorrectly as the full (rather than the halved) recipe amount.
I had plans for a coconut dessert this weekend, as well as the chili etc., but it didn’t happen. I still had a coconut craving when I got home from work today, though, so I made a “Magic” coconut pie.
What does the term refer to, you may ask? Well, it’s one of those dishes in which all the ingredients are whisked together and then, during baking, they separate into a crust, filling and some sort of top. And because I didn’t want to be eating it daily – and doesn’t that sound familiar – I decided to scale down the recipe, which supposedly serves six, to half that. I had to do a couple of adjustments since my shredded coconut was unsweetened, and I used melted margarine instead of butter. I’m posting the revised recipe below.
Mini ‘Magic’ Coconut Pie – serves 3 (2 is more realistic)
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut*
6 tbsp (1/4 cup and 2 tbsp) milk
2 tbsp melted butter**
pinch of salt**
1 tsp vanilla extract
* Replaced the sweetened shredded coconut with unsweetened coconut and an additional tbsp of sugar
** Replaced the melted butter and salt with just melted margarine
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium sized bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a whisk or hand blender. Pour into a buttered and floured 5 1/4-inch wide pie dish. Place on a baking sheet in case of spills.
Bake in a 350 deg F oven for 35 min or until golden brown and set. (You may want to test with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.)
Let cool, slice and serve with a scoop of sweetened whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream or gelato.
Chocolate Variation: Substitute 1 tbsp of cocoa powder for 1 tbsp of the flour in the recipe above.
NOTE: Visual progress of the pie
After 20 minutes, the pie showed little change.
After 25 minutes, it’s puffed up to almost double in size, there’s cracking on the surface, which is pale. The custard inside seems moist.
After 30 minutes, the surface of the pie has darkened somewhat and the custard seen through the cracks seems more set.
After 35 minutes, a toothpick inserted into the ‘custard’ filling comes out clean and the top is nicely browned.
Upon removal from the oven, the pie slowly deflates and about half an hour later, there is a definite depression in the central 2/3 of the pie.
The crust is defined but a bit soft and not like a ‘regular’ pie crust. Taste-wise, it’s delicious. And not overly sweet.
This Italian Easter ‘pie’ has many names and several variations as to crust and fillings. This is the version that I decided to make, but if you want to look for others, here are some names to look for: Italian Easter Ham pie, pizzagaina (or chiena,chena,cena), pizza rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza piena.
Italian Easter Ham Pie for Two – makes 2 4-inch diameter mini deep dish pies
pastry for a pie crust bottom only
140 gm dry curd cheese or cottage cheese or ricotta**
40-50 gm grated Mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten, 1 tbsp removed for egg wash
1/2 tsp dry parsley
1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6-8 slices diced deli meat (pepperoni, Genoa salami, capocollo or smoked ham)
Egg wash – 1 tbsp beaten egg and a splash of cream or milk
** Home made paneer cheese (an Indian dry curd cheese) was used. I got 290 gm (10.44 oz) of drained cheese from 2 liters (8 cups) of milk and 1/4 cups of white vinegar.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll out two bases (8 inches in diameter) and two tops (5 inches in diameter) and line two deep dish disposable aluminum pie tins with the bases. Set aside the tops.
Mix together the filling ingredients and fill the pie tins. Press down a bit on the filling to compact it.
Moisten the edges of the bases, put on the tops, seal and, with the tines of a fork, seal again. Place the pie tins on a baking sheet for convenient transfer to the oven.
Brush the top of the pies with the egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the two pie tins to a cooling rack. Cool for 30 minutes to set the filling.
The pies may be eaten warm, room temperature or cold with a salad for a complete meal or on their own for a snack.
Lots of pictures but I think the results are worth it.
First, I want to say that I HATE blind baking.
I know how to do it. I HAVE done it. I have a jar of chickpeas set aside for the purpose. A single layer of the chickpeas over a round of parchment paper works pretty well.
But I don’t LIKE the concept.
I’ve attempted the alternative … DOCKING.
Here’s what I started with. Now, using the tines of a fork, prick the pie crust all over. The base AND the sides. (Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.) And then bake as long as your recipe calls for. Then cool and fill.
And here’s the result … shrinking and bubbling up of the pie crust resulting in a shriveled up pie shell. NOT pretty.
But there’s a THIRD option. I found the technique on the King Arthur Flour website.
Blind baking using a second pie pan of the same size and laying it over the pie crust.
Then you FLIP THE TWO PANS OVER and bake.
Here’s a picture of a mini aluminum pie plate and a regular sized metal pie plate ready to go into the oven.
After your chosen bake time, flip the two pans back over, remove the pie plate on top and THEN dock. (I forgot to do this in this case.) And complete baking. I covered the full sized pie crust with a round of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the pie plate on top
I probably baked this a bit too long but I forgot that it continues cooking when you take it out of the oven.
Flip/dock or just docking … which would YOU use?
I haven’t made lemon meringue pie in ages, but after my LJ friend, Spikesgirl, mentioned making one, recently, I got SUCH a craving that I couldn’t resist making one too. Of course, that meant that I was going to have to eat an entire pie before it went bad … or I got so sick of eating it that I had to pitch the leftovers.
Then I had a BRILLIANT idea.
Scale down the recipe and make a couple of mini pies.
Well, the best laid plans and all that.
I tried a new recipe for the filling/meringue since it was easier to halve but it still made more filling than would fit into the two mini pies I had pre-baked, so I filled a 7 1/4-inch pie shell, and snacked on the rest of the filling.
Lemon Meringue Pie – baked for 20 minutes until the meringue tips were golden brown.
I lasted a bit over an hour and then I just had to cut into the pie. Conclusion … DELICIOUS.
PS: I did NOT know it was Pi Day.