I made that!

In case you haven’t already met: The Crack Pie

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on February 1, 2011

So January was kind of a big month for me.

Construction for my new business, The Pantry, is in full swing. We’ve got all of the walls and ceiling ripped out of our space, and now begins the moment of building rather than destroying. We have a beautiful landscape plan (dreamed up by the talented crew at Fresh Digs), 3 sore backs’ worth of scavenged garden pavers, and lots of beautiful edibles in our future. We just launched our brand new website (check it out!), courtesy of the fantastic Wandering Works Design Co., as well as our first bit of press in Seattle Magazine. I am positively giddy. And if that weren’t enough, last week me and John took a trip to NYC, where we first met 8 years ago, and got ourselves engaged. Wow. Talk about a fun year ahead!

So to celebrate good times, as well as my trip to Momofuku Milk Bar on my first day as a fiancée, I give you the Crack Pie. If you haven’t heard of the Crack Pie, I am so happy to be the first to introduce you. Possibly the most famous slice of pie in Manhattan right now, it is a force to be reckoned with. It’s sweet. It’s salty. It’s oaty. Dare I say it’s over the top. It was exactly what was called for last night.

The crust. The crust is so much fun. It starts with a pretty straightforward oatmeal cookie dough. You press it into a sheet pan until it’s pretty thin. I actually found it a bit sticky to work with and ended up rolling it between parchment sheets.

You bake it until you have one gigantic golden brown oatmeal cookie.

Then you break it into crumbs and toss it with butter and brown sugar, to form an oat cookie pie dough.

That gets pressed into a pie pan, really tightly to prevent leaks.

Then the filling is poured in and the whole thing goes in the oven to set.

And Oh. My. It is insane. Kind of like pecan pie, without those pesky pecans. Wrapped in a crunchy oatmeal cookie. I will admit now that I made two. Friends came over last night and helped me devour the first pie. The second, well I’m regretting that one. It’s just too much crack for this little one. I suspect some staff at Delancey will be finishing it off if John doesn’t read this and hide it before I get there.

CRACK PIE RECIPE (Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar):

Oat Cookie Crust

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

4 1/2 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

5 1/2 TBSP (packed) golden brown sugar, divided

2 TBSP sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 tsp (generous) salt

– Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 TBSP butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 2 TBSP sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.

– Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 TBSP butter and 1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.


3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1 TBSP nonfat dry milk powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 oz unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

6 1/2 TBSP heavy whipping cream

4 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (for dusting)

– Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 10 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.

– Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.


The First Fruit Pie of Summer

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on June 14, 2010

And so it begins. I know, we’re a bit late, but fruit has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Every year I await with relish the first bloodbath of cherry pitting. Somehow I always forget just how messy it gets and stain everyone and everything within arm’s length of the kitchen. But having my kitchen look like a killing floor is a small price to pay when you’re fruit-starved in June. A visit to the Ballard farmer’s market left me carrying 3 lbs of local cherries (along with some of the teeny-tiniest sweetest little strawberries!) and I was determined to make pie. Because, well, it has just been too long.

As with any pie, I started with my dough. I wanted to make a lattice top, so I decided to use the smear technique (more detailed instruction here) for my pâte brisée dough. This dough gives plenty of flake without all the puffing up of a laminated dough.

I was pleasantly surprised at how quick pie-making has become for me. I have faint memories of spending all day on one pie and feeling it was too prized to eat. Now I can dig in knowing that if I run out, I can just make another!

Since cherry and almond are like peanut butter and jelly (and Pantea’s favorite, this pie is for you!) I whipped up some frangipane to spread on the bottom crust.

Then I loaded her up with cherries.

And got to work on some strips for the top.

It was my first time making a lattice top and now I can’t imagine what took me so long to try. So much pretty for such little effort!

I want so badly to have a beautiful picture of a perfectly baked cherry pie. Unfortunately we tore into this pie so fast I forgot to document! It was a lovely first pie: flaky crust, yummy almond undertones. My only complaint would be that the cherries were just not quite there. Hopefully they’ll sweeten up in the next few weeks. Rumor has it that all the fruit west of the Cascades is waterlogged this year, so it’s going to be a hunt for the good stuff. If anyone can recommend great cherry farms, please share! In the meantime, I’ll be gorging on those teeny tiny strawberries.

well, it’s about time.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on May 3, 2010

I know, there’s no excuse. The sad thing is that I actually have a stack (if digital files could stack) of photos from my meals this past month. I just haven’t found the motivation to park myself in front of the computer and look at them. Or write about them. There’s been delicious pasta, a rhubarb compote that feels like there’s a rhubarb party in your mouth, an all roasted Easter dinner. I’ve even been maniacally documenting my garden, to explain my away time. But none has made it to the interweb. Until now anyways. My friend Justin was in town from Ecuador for his birthday. Recently he asked if I would someday make him a key lime pie, so me and his girlfriend Meredith decided a surprise pie was in order. Since I like to make my life more complicated whenever possible, I opted for a pie vs. cake challenge. Forever the defender of birthday cakes, I decided this was my chance to convince the world of cake’s subtle awesomeness. Unfortunately my key lime coconut cake kinda blew (shocking, I know!), so I’m only going to share with you the pie. And what a pie it was. Key lime pie with coconut graham crust and a coconut whipped cream on top. Makes me miss living farther south where the key limes are actually green.

As with anything citrus related, there was a lot of squeezing.

Now as far as desserts go, the key lime pie is definitely in the easy category. So easy I even considered not sharing with you. And graham cracker crusts? I admit that I tend to snub my nose at them. But I had this vision of chunky coconut and graham goodness cradling that creamy tartness and I just had to go with it. Let me tell you, this pie, well, it won me over. Big time. There were people at the birthday party thanking me for letting them taste this. LETTING THEM! Ha! So. The crust. it involved toasting some shredded coconut.

And mixing that coconut in with brown sugar, melted butter and ground up graham crackers (I know, I should have made my own).

I pressed that into the pie plate and let it chill in the fridge before baking it.

Then I whipped up the classic key lime filling: egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice. I poured that into the cooled pie crust and baked in on low until it set up.

After the pie chilled for an hour or so, I whipped up some cream that I had earlier steeped with coconut flakes. I spread the coconut cream on top and sprinkled on some toasted coconut flakes. And it was promptly devoured at the party.



1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 TBSP light brown sugar

5oz unsalted butter, melted

pinch of salt

– Toast the coconut until lightly browned.

– Cool and add to the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, until everything is moist.

– Press into a buttered pie pan and chill for 15 minutes.

– Bake in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes.

– Cool completely.


2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk

6 large egg yolks

1 cup of freshly squeezed key lime juice

– In the bowl of a kitchenaid mixer, with the whip the egg yolks until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and beat until light and fluffy, 3 more minutes.

– Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the lime juice.

– Pour the filling into the crust and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

– Once cooled, place in the fridge until serving time. Just before serving whip the coconut cream.

COCONUT CREAM (Claudia Fleming):

3 cups heavy cream

6 TBSP sugar

1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

– Place cream and sugar in pot and bring just to boil.

– Pour in coconut and cover. Let steep for 1 hour.

– Strain out coconut and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

– Whip until thickened.

Homemade Pop Tarts!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on January 24, 2010

For the record, I am so tired of listening to myself talk about how tired I am. Lately it is so hard finding the inspiration to get into the kitchen and cook. Which is weird, because it is prime baking weather: dark, grey, wet. I should be tearing the kitchen apart. But instead (when not tearing up Delancey’s kitchen), I find myself slouched in front of the TV watching reruns of 90210. But a couple of days ago, I was hit hard (thanks Huong!) with an idea: homemade pop tarts. Bite-sized fruit-filled flakey happiness. OK, I know traditional pop tarts aren’t flakey, but if I’m gonna recreate, why not improve? Since it’s apple season galore in Washington, I decided to go with that as a filling.

I made a pie dough using the smear technique, making butter chunks a little smaller than usual. My goal was to have a flakey dough, but to keep the flakes a little tight. I also wanted to keep the apple filling really bright, so I decided to put the cinnamon (because you can’t have apple pop tarts without cinnamon) in the dough.

While my dough rested in the fridge, I started working on the apple filling. I diced the apples up pretty small in hopes of having a flatter pop tart.

Then I sauteed them in butter, sugar and vanilla. After they started to take on a bit of color I poured in some apple cider. I cooked them on medium high heat, until the cider reduced to a glaze. I poured the cooked apples on a tray and placed them in the fridge to cool.

I rolled the dough pretty thin (slightly under 1/8″) and sliced it into squares. I piled some apples onto half of the squares.

I cinched the two pieces together with a fork and poked holes in the top. I brushed butter on and popped them into the oven.

I baked them until they were golden brown and let them cool while I made the glaze. Which was hard because they smelled like pure heaven.

I poured on a glaze of powdered sugar and apple cider and let it set up. And then me and John tore into these little flake bombs. He says they remind him more of toaster strudels, but I will admit that I have never experienced one of those. Either way, I am very excited that I finally got my butt back in the kitchen. Because these guys were worth it.



9 oz pastry flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

6 oz cold butter, chopped

3 oz water

– Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Dump onto pastry board.

– Place half of the butter on the flour mixture. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into the flour until it is pea sized chunks.

– Place the other half of the butter onto the flour mixture. Using the bench scraper, cut the rest of the butter into the flour until it is in bean sized chunks.

– Use fingers to flick the water into the flour mixture while tossing it around with the bench scraper. Keep sprinkling until it comes together in a shaggy pile. It should hold together as a dough when pinched.

– Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough on the pastry board. This creates sheets of butter in the flour, which turns into gorgeous flakes in the oven.

– Smash the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge to rest.


3 medium apples, diced into 1/4″ pieces

2 oz butter

1/2 vanilla bean

2 TBSP sugar

1/2 apple cider

– Heat the butter  and vanilla bean seeds in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and sugar and cook until the apples start to take on a bit of color.

– Add the cider and cook over medium high heat until the cider reduces to a glaze.

– Spread the apples on a sheet pan and place in fridge to cool.

Assemble and bake:

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

– Roll out the dough and slice into squares.

– Spoon piles of apples onto half of the squares.

– Cinch edges together with a fork and poke holes in top.

– Brush on melted butter and bake until golden brown.

– Cool.


– Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of apple cider. Whisk together and pour into cooled pop tarts.

Well Hello, Cute Little Butterscotch Pudding Tarts

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on December 22, 2009

This one had me with the oat wheat crust. I know, not a typical starting point for feeling giddy about butterscotch, but I was so intrigued. Oats in a pate brisee? With brown sugar? And whole wheat flour? It sounded like a divine mess and I had to have it.

I was so smitten that I even did the unthinkable (in my dough snobbery world), I pulsed the dough in the food processor. Sin! But I was feeling it. It was what the authors said to do, so I was trusting them. Just this once. And I have to say it was a little tricky. I err on the side of large butter chunks, and was nervous about pulverizing the beautiful oats. But this recipe doesn’t have a lot of liquid. Translation: if I didn’t incorporate the butter well, the dough would be dry. And it was. So here’s what I learned: Next time I will put half of the butter in the machine with the flour, sugar and salt. I will work that in really well to coat the flour. I will then add the rest of the butter and oats and just barely pulse those in to give me the texture I want. I will also use pastry flour next time, because I found the crust to be not quite as tender as I like.

Since my dough was a tad dry, it was a bit of a pain to press into the shells, but I got there eventually.

While the shells were relaxing in the fridge, I got to work on the butterscotch pudding. The other thing that made my ears perk up about this recipe was the pudding. Most butterscotch recipes just have you cooking brown sugar and butter until it takes on a caramelly flavor. Not this one, here you actually MAKE a caramel sauce and then blend that into a brown sugar and milk mixture. And the depth of flavor was so awesome! And vanilla bean, I am such a fan of real vanilla beans in lieu of vanilla extract. Oh my lord, it was pure torture not drinking the entire batch.

But I didn’t. I went back to the crusts, which by now had spent 30 minutes in the freezer to prep them for the oven. The instructions for this dough said to bake it for 12 minutes, but that was SO not long enough. I think I ended up baking these for 25 minutes to get a good brown. This was key, the caramelization of the brown sugar in the dough is what balanced out the oaty wheaty-ness. The recipe also said to bake them at 325, I’m thinking that they MUST have been talking about a convection oven, because that just doesn’t make sense. I ended up going with 350. I was a bit disappointed that once baked the shells developed not so tiny cracks on their bottoms.

Since giant holes are not good for puddingy fillings, I painted the insides with melted chocolate. This created a nice seal and in the end made for a nice counterpoint in the overall flavor.

And oh yes, we were some happy little campers when these puppies arrived on the table for dessert. While I will definitely adjust some of the technique for next time, I LOVED the flavor of these.  The oaty flavor of the crust went so well with the sweetness of the filling. It sounds weird, but the combination reminded me of wheaties cereal. In a good way. Love it.

BUTTERSCOTCH PUDDING TARTS RECIPE (adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking):

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup pastry flour

¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

½ tsp salt

6oz cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¼ cup whole milk

– Put the flours, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add half of the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are small and the dough looks crumbly, like coarse sand. Add the rolled oats and the rest of the butter in and pulse until the butter is mixed in, but still in decent sized chunks.

– Add the milk and pulse for a few seconds. Add a tad more milk if the dough is still dry.

– Scoop the dough out of the food processor and form it into a large disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

– Dust a work surface with flour. Unwrap the disk of chilled dough and put it directly on the work surface. Cut the dough into eight equal pieces, about 2 1/2 ounces each, and gently shape each piece into a smooth disk. The dough will be sticky. Make sure to turn the dough over as needed and keep the working surface floured. Put the dough disks in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

– Using a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into a 6-inch round just over 1/8-inch thick. Place a round over a 4-inch tart pan and very gently press the dough into the pan. Trim off the excess. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds. Use any excess dough trimmings to make a ninth tart shell or freeze for another time.

– Preheat the oven to 350F.

– Put the tart pans in the freezer for 30 minutes.

– Remove the tarts from the freezer, then arrange on a baking sheet and gently prick the dough with a fork.

– Bake on the baking sheet until golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking time. Start checking for doneness after 20 minutes.

– Transfer the tart pans to wire racks and let cool completely.

– If there are large cracks in the shells you can paint them with melted chocolate to seal the crust.

For the Butterscotch Pudding:

6 large egg yolks

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted

1 tsp salt

3 cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean

2 TBSP unsalted butter

– Put the egg yolks in a large heat proof bowl and set aside.

– In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, and ¼ cup water and stir gently with a heatproof spatula. Brush down the sides of the pan to melt any loose sugar crystals. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high heat and cook until the mixture begins to turn dark amber color. Swirl the pan, if necessary, to create an even color, but do not stir. Remove from heat and use the heatproof spatula to stir in the cream. Pour the caramel into small bowl. Set aside.

– In another small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the milk and whisk to combine.

– Add the seeds from the vanilla bean and the vanilla bean pod. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the caramel. Whisk together until combined, then slowly pour one third of the mixture over the eggs, whisking continually. Keep whisking the egg mixture and add another third of the hot milk mixture. Transfer the egg mixture back to the saucepan with the milk minute and, whisking the whole time, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 3-4 minutes, or until very thick and a bit darker in color.

-Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously for about 1 minute to cool the pudding slightly. Let the pudding sit for about 15 minutes.

– Now that the pudding has cooled a tad, add the butter. This will keep the butter from losing it’s emulsion as it melts.

– Chill the pudding in the fridge for an hour, to thicken it. Stir every 10 minutes or so to release the heat.

– Whisk the pudding one more time until smooth. Divide the pudding equally among the tart shells and put them in the refrigerator for about 2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, garnish with some chantilly cream and chocolate shavings.

Pie Dough. The Movie. Except Without Pictures.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja, Don't BUY it, MAKE it! by brandi on December 13, 2009


Remember that hole Orangette fell down? I was warmly welcomed into it this week! I have been working every single day and therefore have had literally no time for cooking at home. It’s my first day off in 7 days (and we’re talking 11 hour shifts here! (which I LOVE, in case Brandon or Molly are reading)), so I will be spending the day with John, exploring this fine city (finally!) and shopping for things to fill up our house. But people want some pie dough! So pie dough it is. Except my pie dough is kind of labor-intensive, so I’m just gonna tell you about it rather than actually make and document it. I think I can get away with this, and you’ll understand how in a second.

So. My pie dough technique is not a traditional one. If you’ve spent some time with sweet doughs (of the non-yeasted variety), you know they basically differ in 2 areas: the ratio of fat to flour, and how that fat is incorporated. Traditional pie dough involves a ratio of 3:2:1, with the fat cut into small chunks (it’s called the biscuit method). Those fat chunks will melt into pockets when the dough bakes, causing flakes. Puff dough involves a ratio of 1:1, meaning there is exactly the same amount of fat as there is flour. That’s what makes it so sinful and delicious. That and the fact that the butter is encased in the dough and then rolled out and folded repeatedly, stretching the butter into sheets, which cause the dough to rise up as the butter melts in the oven. There is also what’s called a “quick puff”, which is a tad less work than traditional puff. In a quick puff dough, you mix large chunks of butter into the flour and mix with just enough water for it to clump together. Then you roll and fold it as if it were puff pastry.

My pie dough falls in the middle. I use the 3:2:1 ratio, but I treat the dough like a quick puff. There are other techniques (I use this one when making galettes, because I don’t want such intense flakes there), but I like this one the best for pies. I also use a 9″ fluted quiche pan, because A) I don’t have the patience to shape beautiful edges and B) those beautiful shapes will melt out of a truly flakey dough anyways.

Quick notes: Since quiche pans are quite a bit larger than traditional pie pans, you’ll need more dough than a normal recipe, and a bit more filling. Also, since this dough gets worked more than a traditional dough, I HIGHLY recommend using pastry flour rather than all-purpose, to keep it from getting tough and chewy. Because this technique takes a while and is pretty labor-intensive, I usually make rather large batches that I portion and freeze for later use. Just pull the dough out of the freezer and into the fridge 1 day before you want to bake it.

So. Let us begin. At the beginning.

PIE DOUGH RECIPE (one 9″ pie):

9oz pastry flour

6oz unsalted butter, cold

3oz water, cold

1/2 tsp salt

– Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized chunks and place in the fridge to firm back up. It should be VERY cold.

– Dissolve the salt in the cold water and place in fridge.

– Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.

– Put half of the chunks of butter into the flour and mix in medium low speed. Using the paddle attachment, mix for 1-2 minutes, until the butter starts to break down into small pieces. At this point you are trying to coat the flour with the butter, which will help shorten the gluten in the dough, making it more tender.

– Put the other half of the butter in the flour-butter mixture. Mix for only 15 seconds, just to coat the butter.

– Pour in the water in a quick stream. Mix JUST until there isn’t a lot of dusty loose flour. I sometimes mix the rest of the loose flour in by tossing it around with my hands. You may need to add a bit of extra water, like another tablespoon or so. You want to see big butter chunks, but you want the dough to hold together.

– Pour the dough onto a parchment-covered sheet pan and pat into a rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

– Roll the dough into a long rectangular strip. Try to keep neat corners by using a bench scraper. Fold the strip into a book fold – there are picture directions for that here. It is OK that the dough looks all crazy right now, it will get smoother with each fold. Place back on sheet pan, wrap in plastic and put back in fridge for 30 minutes.

– Do that last step 2 more times.

– If you are making dough for more than 1 pie, chop up the dough into portions now. Let the dough rest in the fridge for an hour.

– Roll the dough into a disc that will fit into the pie pan. Gently place in the pan and smooth out the bottom. Use fingers to press sides into fluted edge. It is important to work fast while being careful to not stretch the dough, which will cause to shrink up. Place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. This will also help prevent shrinking. Go ahead and turn on the oven to 400 (375 convection). At this point I’m going to pull pics from old posts…

– Pull the pan out of freezer and place an 8″ round piece of parchment on top of the dough. It should fit neatly in the dough shell. Put an 8″ cake pan on top of the parchment. You should have just a little bit of space between the cake pan and the dough, because the dough will expand to hug the cake pan as it bakes. Fill the cake pan with beans. Then place something heavy on top of that (I use a round pizza stone). I know this seems excessive, but seriously that pie dough wants to puff up.

– Bake it at 400 for around 45 minutes, with a rotation after 25 minutes. It should be set up and almost cooked through, so that when you pull out the cake pan it doesn’t start rising or sinking at the sides. Lower the temperature by 50 degrees and bake for another 5-15 minutes, until the dough is fully baked and golden brown. It should look something like this.

– Let it cool on a rack and then fill it up with yummy stuff!

WHEW…That was a lot of typing! Good Luck!

The Henderson Family Chocolate Meringue Pie

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja, Southernness by brandi on November 28, 2009

It’s not so big here on the west coast, but in the South every family has a chocolate meringue pie recipe. It’s a source of pride, even if it involves cool whip and instant jello pudding (yuck!). This pie has been in my family as long as I have (I suspect longer), and I am proud to say that it is about the only thing my father makes from scratch — well, except for the crust, but one day I’ll show him the light. It’s a fairly simple pie, but it does take a little while to set up, so it’s best to be made in the morning or the day before it’s to be eaten.

First, since this pie will not be baked, a completely baked crust.

Then I made a chocolate pudding, which mostly involves a lot of stirring. Since there are egg yolks in the pudding, I poured it through a sieve.

And then filled my pie shell.

Then I made a meringue (actually my friend Pantea made the meringue, because it was Thanksgiving and I was doing 13 other things).

We used our fingers to pull strands of meringue into points, and then torched them until they were nice and golden. A word of warning: this is a messy pie. But it’s worth it.


1 single crust pie pastry


2 cups sugar

6 TBSP flour

6 TBSP cocoa

1 tsp salt

6 egg yolks

4 cups milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 oz unsalted butter


5oz egg whites

10oz sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

– Roll out pastry into a 12-13 inch circle, transfer and center into 9 inch pie pan. Place in freezer for 20 minutes.

– Line with foil, fill with weights (dried beans) and then bake in 400 degrees oven for about 20 minutes, or until beginning to brown and look set. Lower temperature to 350 and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, until fully baked. Set on wire rack to cool.

– Mix sugar, flour, cocoa and salt in medium bowl. Mix in egg yolks. Mix in milk 1/2 cup at a time, to prevent lumps.

– Pour mixture into heavy bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. How long this takes seems to depend on whether the gods are smiling on you that day. But it should be really thick and starting to boil.

– Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract. Pour through sieve into bowl.

– Pour into cooled pie shell and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours to firm up.

– Place sugar and egg whites in kitchen-aid bowl. Place bowl in pan of simmering water and heat, stirring constantly, until the whites reach a temperature of 140. Remove from heat and whip on medium high until the meringue has cooled and tripled in volume. Beat in vanilla extract.

– Spread over cooled pudding and shape. Use a propane torch to toast meringue edges. Keep in fridge until ready to eat.

Thanksgiving Peanut Pie

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on November 27, 2009

Ahhhh…Thanksgiving. I just love Thanksgiving. The whole ritual of spending a whole day (sometimes 2! sometimes 3!) planning and creating a meal to eat with your loved ones, it just makes me glow. Like everyone, I have my traditions, particularly in the pie department. But this year I decided to try something new. I had bought this can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup ages ago, in a sentimental moment (it was big in Australia). I, of course, never used it because, well, it’s British and I don’t have any British cookbooks. Several years ago a peanut pie recipe caught my eye. I mentally bookmarked it, but never found the right time to make it. It’s funny, I’ll try all kinds of things with cakes, but I tend to get a little rigid with pies. They’re just SO much work! But anyways, this year I decided would be the one, the year I made peanut pie for Thanksgiving instead of pecan pie. It was a bold move. John was terrified since he feels a deep and personal connection with my pecan pie. I almost backed down, until I ran across a recipe for a peanut pie that called for golden syrup. It was basically a sign. So I made it.

First I pre-baked a shell. I tossed some dry roasted peanuts inside.

Then I made the goo filling, which I poured on top of the nuts.

And then I baked it for 45 minutes or so, until it was set in the middle. To be honest, I wasn’t totally in love with this pie. It kind of tasted like a Baby Ruth candy bar. After years of oohing and aahing at the idea of peanut pie, I had some serious expectations. But in the end, I had a hard time fighting off the “I’d rather be eating my pecan pie” feelings. But then again, I make a mean pecan pie.

NORTH CAROLINA PEANUT PIE RECIPE (adapted from Scratch Bakery):

1 fully baked pie crust

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1 vanilla bean

2 TBSP all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup golden syrup

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

1 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts

– Preheat oven to 350.

– Rub seeds from vanilla bean into brown sugar to break up clumps.

– Whisk brown sugar, flour, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, cinnamon, and cayenne in medium bowl.

– Whisk eggs in another medium bowl to blend.

– Add brown sugar mixture to eggs.

– Add golden syrup, apple cider vinegar and melted butter to eggs and whisk to blend.

– Pour peanuts in pie crust. Pour in filling.

– Bake pie until filling is set, about 40 minutes.

PreThanksgiving Day Pie Camp – Part 3

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on November 11, 2009

This was my 3rd pie for PreThanksgiving: A browned butter pecan pie. I made this one because according to John, it would be mean to NOT make it. I think it’s safe to say that this is HIS favorite pie. I start this pie the same as the others, by fully pre-baking the crust. Since my dough puffs up quite a bit when baking, I hold it down by placing inside a cake pan filled with beans (and I think there’s some rice in there too) on top of a parchment circle.


Once baked and cooled I pour in some pecans that I roughly chopped, since it helps the pie slice a little neater.


Then comes the gooey filling. I take pride in this recipe, I’ve tweaked and tweaked it until I think it’s just the right balance of sweetness, saltiness and nuttiness. They key is in the browned butter, which I think adds depth.


Then I pour the filling onto the pecans.


And since it is thickened with eggs a custard, I bake it at 350 instead of the higher heat some recipes call for. It’s finished when it just starts to show signs of cracking, and when it feels firm in the middle.



1 single crust pie pastry

4 oz unsalted butter

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 vanilla bean

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

– Roll out pastry into a 12-13 inch circle, transfer and center into 9 inch pie pan. Place in freezer for 20 minutes.

– Line with foil, fill with weights (dried beans) and then bake in 400 degrees oven for about 20 minutes, or until beginning to brown and look set. Lower temperature to 350 and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, until fully baked. Set on wire rack to cool.

– Using a shiny skillet or saucepan to melt the butter over medium heat. Stir butter and keep an eye on it as you wait for it to brown. You want the butter to be a good dark brown, but you need to catch it before it burns. Use your nose as your guide, it well smell nutty as it begins to brown. Once browned, transfer butter to a bowl to let cool slightly.

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use fingers to rub seeds from vanilla bean into brown sugar, breaking up any clumps. Combine eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well to blend. Add the browned butter and whisk again until evenly combined.

– Place the nuts in the cooled pie shell and pour in the filling.

– Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake until the filling, including the center, is set, 35 to 40 minutes. Rotate pie 180 degrees about halfway through. When done, the pie will have puffed slightly and developed cracks around the perimeter.

– Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool thoroughly.

PreThanksgiving Day Pie Camp – Part 2

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on November 9, 2009

This is about my second (and favorite!) pie for PreThanksgiving this year: Ginger Almond Pear Pie. While most people gravitate to the sweeter fall pies, the fruit pies always get my vote. I am a freak for pear pie, and the addition of ginger and vanilla bean takes pear to a whole other level.


I started (as always) with a fully baked crust. Then I chopped up my pears. I like them pretty large, so they don’t turn to mush when baked. I tossed the pear chunks with sugar, the seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean, some shredded fresh ginger, cinnamon and cornstarch. I stuffed those into the pie crust, keeping in mind that they will lose about 50% of their volume when baked and cooled.


I then covered the spiced pears with some almond crisp topping that I had waiting for me in the freezer.


Then I baked it until the topping was browned and the pears were bubbling, which was about an hour. Once again, I don’t have a photo of the slice, but it was a mighty fine pie.


Nut Crisp Topping

7 oz AP flour

3 oz brown sugar

3 oz sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cups ground nuts

6 oz cold butter, cut into cubes

– Stir the dries together.

– Add the butter and mix in with your fingers. As the butter warms up, the mixture will begin to come together with a crumbly, but not sandy texture.

– Store in freezer until ready to be baked.