Archive for the ‘pies’ Category

I hope you all had a great July 4th weekend. We spent the entire Saturday at Great America, and another day in the sun at a barbecue with friends. And then there was time with family to round out the three-day weekend.

It’s been almost a couple of days, but I’m still recovering. I didn’t even want to write this post, but J said that he would punch me in the face if I didn’t. I kid, people. I kid. We like to joke around like that.

Here’s a joke for you (warning – it may or may not be funny): “What’s black and blue and creamy all over?”

A: “Someone who gets punched in the face with a cheesecake.”

Ha ha! Okay, maybe not. (Is it even physically possible to throw a punch and a cheesecake at the same time? This must be a two-handed exercise.)

The real answer to “what’s black and blue and creamy all over” is this blackberry and blueberry cheesecake.  J said it would be a shame if I waited until next year’s berry season to write about this cheesecake (I was trying to hold off until then. I am that lazy…I mean, um, tired.) So, here it is.


This cheesecake is a plain (vanilla) cheesecake topped with blueberry syrup, fresh blackberries, and blueberries. My original intent was to make a cheesecake with only fresh blackberries, but I thought a little something more was needed to hold the blackberries and cheesecake together. I had frozen blueberries on hand, so I cooked the juice of a large handful of blueberries down to a syrup. The top of the cheesecake was coated with blueberry syrup, and piled high with fresh blackberries. And then, to tie it altogether, some blueberries were dribbled on as well.

The black and blue cheesecake was a huge success with the family. It also passed the test of a ten-year-old who, without a doubt, knows his desserts. He didn’t eat much lunch that day, but interestingly enough, he did have room for two large helpings of cheesecake.

Graham Cracker Crust

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted (you can also use less than 1/2 cup; it should work)
15-16 cinnamon graham crackers from Trader Joe’s

First, take a 10 inch springform pan and wrap the bottom tightly with foil. (The pans are not leak-proof.) Place graham crackers in a large ziplock bag, and crush the crackers to a crumb by using a rolling and pressing with a large rolling pin. Press crumbs onto the bottom of the springform pan to form a tightly packed, smooth and even layer of crumbs. (Recipes I’ve come across call for baking the crust before adding the cheesecake filling, but I accidentally skipped this step and all was well).


Creamy Cheesecake

3 – 8 oz package cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
3 tbsp flour
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix first seven ingredients together, beating on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the flour and beat until incorporated. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is just blended together. Pour mixture on top of the graham cracker crust and gently tap the pan on the counter top to ease out the bigger bubbles in the batter. Bake cheesecake for 45 minutes at 350°F. Turn off the oven and allow for cheesecake to slowly cool in the oven. (If the cheesecake cools too quickly, cracks will form as it shrinks and pulls away from the sides of the pan.) Leave the cheesecake in the oven for about an hour before pulling it out. Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature. At this point, you can either refrigerate the cheesecake overnight and serve it the next day, or you can chill it just so that it is firm enough to withstand the weight of the berry topping.


Black and Blue berry topping

2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
squeeze of lemon juice
12 oz fresh blackberries

Make the blueberry syrup. Mash 1-1/2 cup of the thawed blueberries through a strainer over a bowl, using a spoon/spatula. The blueberry skins should be left in the strainer. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the resulting blueberry juice and heat over medium-high heat until a thick (but not too thick) syrup forms. Allow syrup to cool (the syrup will also thicken as it cools).


Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the pan. Spread blueberry syrup on top of the cheesecake. Pile on the fresh blackberries, and sprinkle on the remaining thawed blueberries (use fresh blueberries if you have them). Keep chilled until ready to serve.


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So the Lost Coast was AMAZING. We came home last night exhausted, but happy. I have a bunch of photos to get through, but hopefully I’ll be able to post them here soon. In the meantime, let’s get back to the food…

There’s an awesome *little* bakery nearby that is always packed near brunch time, and even well into the afternoon. The bakery makes the most amazing pastries, bread puddings, tarts, and quiches, so it is no wonder at all that it does so well. I myself am a huge fan of their morning buns and their light-as-air quiches.


While looking for a quiche recipe for Mother’s Day brunch, I delightedly came across Elisabeth Prueitt’s recipe on the Martha Stewart website. And better yet, I found not only ONE, but TWO recipes. Since both recipes use the same base for the filling, and the recipe for a single quiche calls for making an enormous quiche in a deep dish 10-inch tart pan, I decided to make two different quiches with just one recipe. Instead of a large tart pan, I used two smaller pie pans to make one bacon and zucchini quiche and one Swiss chard quiche.




Everything about this quiche (or these two quiches) was wonderful, from the flaky crust to the fluffy, light and savory filling. What I did not anticipate was how crazy delicious the Swiss chard quiche would be. By making two quiches, we scored some leftovers too, which made me a VERY happy girl.


The flaky pie crust that holds the quiche together takes awhile to prepare, but it can be made ahead of time. Don’t forget to allot time for the blind baking. The blind baking helps the crust get nice and flaky before you add the liquid filling. While the blind-baked crusts cool, prepare your egg mixture and filling. This is the easy part. Combine the flour eggs, creme fraiche, milk, and seasonings. Have your bacon cut into smaller pieces, zucchini ribboned (I used a vegetable peeler), chard roughly chopped, and gruyere grated. Load one cooled crust with bacon and zucchini, and the other with Swiss chard. Top each off with the egg mixture, filling the crusts to the brim. For the Swiss chard quiche, try to submerge the chard leaves in the egg mixture as much as possible — it is okay to have a few sticking out here and there, but you don’t want to burn most of the chard before the quiche is done baking. After about an hour in the oven, you’ll have two beautifully puffed, golden quiches.


One Bacon-Zucchini & One Swiss Chard Quiche

Recipe makes two 9-inch pie dish quiches
adapted from here and here

6 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 recipe flaky crust dough
10 large eggs
2 cups creme fraiche
2 cups whole milk (I used reduced fat milk)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
(3 slices center-cut bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces and
2/3 medium or 1 small zucchini, peeled lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick ribbons – for one quiche
AND 2 cups roughly chopped Swiss chard leaves, excluding tough stems – for the other quiche)
1/2 to 2/3 cup gruyere

1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 16-inch round. With a dry pastry brush, sweep off any excess flour; fit dough into a 2-inch deep-dish tart pan with a removable bottom, gently pressing it into the sides. Using a sharp knife, trim the dough evenly with the edge of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; chill tart shell until firm, about 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the tart dough with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Transfer to oven and bake until light brown, about 25 minutes. Remove weights and parchment paper and continue baking until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1 egg and flour on high speed until smooth. Add the remaining 9 eggs and continue mixing until well blended.
4. Place creme fraiche in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth; add milk and continue whisking until well combined. Add to mixer along with salt, pepper, and thyme; mix until well combined. Strain mixture into a large bowl through a fine mesh sieve (I skipped this part).
5. Place bacon and zucchini ribbons into one prepared pie shell. Place chopped Swiss chard into the other prepared pie shell. Divide the 1/2 cup grated Gruyere between the two pies, sprinkling the cheese on top of the fillings. Pour over egg mixture until tart shell is full (you may not need to use all of the egg mixture). Bake 20 minutes; reduce temperature to 325 degrees, and continue baking until filling is slightly firm, rather than liquid, and crust is a deep golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes more. Transfer quiche to a wire rack to cool until set, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. To reheat, cover quiche with aluminum foil and bake in an oven heated to 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Note: One of the best things about serving quiche is that you don’t have to worry about serving it piping hot when your guests arrive. You can even make it way ahead of time and reheat it in the oven (as mentioned above, or for a longer time if the quiche has been refrigerated).

Flaky Crust Dough
Makes enough for two 9- or 10-inch tart shells
from here

1 tsp salt
2/3 cup ice water
3 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 5 tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. In a small bowl, mix together salt and water. Keep very cold until ready to use.
2. Place flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly until mixture forms large crumbs. Add the salt water mixture and continue pulsing until a dough has just formed but is not smooth.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, evenly divide dough. Form each piece of dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

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Hmm. I think I see a pattern here.

I must really love lemons.

I was waffling between making a lemon meringue pie or a lemon cake for dessert one day, and thought to myself, “Why not have both? Surely, there must be such a thing as lemon meringue cake.” And it looks like I was right.

Courtesy of Nigella Lawson, I present to you the lemon meringue cake.


This cake’s got personality. It’s upside-down, it’s right-side-up. It billows like a cloud and oozes with delight. At its surface are turbulent waves; at its center, sunshine.



You start by making two lemon cake layers, spread thin onto the bottom of each lined cake pan. Then, you top the layer off with a fluffy meringue, one decorated with peaks and one without. Bake. After these meringue cakes are cool and ready, turn the undecorated layer up on its head, onto the cake platter. Slather on some lemon curd (see lemon curd recipe from a previous post), and then some whipped cream. Top with remaining meringue cake. What you have now is pure whimsy and deliciousness, crisp at the edges.


Nigella Lawson’s Lemon Meringue Cake
adapted from here (measuring units converted)

1/2 cup (1 stick) soft unsalted butter (left to soften at room temperature)
4 eggs, separated
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar (original recipe calls for caster sugar, which is a finer sugar)
3/4 cup flour
1-3/4 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
zest of 1 lemon
4 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 cup whipping cream (I only had 1/2 cup on hand, so ended up with less whipped cream than desired)
2/3 cup quality lemon curd

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line and butter two 8 to 9 inch cake pans.
2. Whisk egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, butter, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest. Mix in the lemon juice and milk.
4. Divide the mixture between the prepared pans. You will think you don’t even have enough to cover the bottom of the tins, but don’t panic. Spread calmly with a rubber spatula until smooth.
5. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and then slowly whisk in remaining 1 cup of sugar. Divide the beaten whites between the two sponge-filled tins, pouring or, more accurately, spreading the meringue straight on top of the cake batter.
6. Smooth one flat with a spatula, and with the back of a spoon, peak the other and sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the peaks. Put the pans into the oven for 20–25 minutes.
7. With a cake-tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all through. (It will have risen now but will fall back flattish later.) No sponge mixture should stick to the tester. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let them cool completely in their pans.
8. Unmold the flat-topped one on to a cake stand or plate, meringue side down.
9. Beat the whipping cream until thick but not stiff and set aside. Spread lemon curd onto the flat sponge surface of the first (upside-down) cake, and then spread whipped cream over the curd. Top with the remaining cake, with peaked meringue facing up.

Note: This cake is best eaten the same day. The meringue flattens out over time, and tends to get a little soggy.

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peach pie

I am running behind on my blogging, but I thought it would be a shame not to include a post on this peach pie.

We live one and a half blocks away from a neighborhood farmer’s market that opens every Saturday. It has been so wonderfully convenient for us to get the freshest organic fruits and vegetables of the season on a weekly basis. We have been hoarding and eating peaches, nectarines, and apricots, and remembering just how long ago it was when these stone fruits came and went, taking summer along with them. Fragrant and ripe, we’ve best enjoyed these fruits by eating them whole over the kitchen sink, with juices dripping. At one point, however, I set my eyes on making a fresh peach pie.

I followed a recipe that I found in Gourmet magazine for Honey Caramel Peach Pie, except I left out the honey. I was afraid that the strong flavor of honey would overpower the natural sweetness of the peaches, and thought that the caramel portion would itself be enough to add a hint of sweetness. In the end, the peaches were the star of the show, aided by a touch of caramel — sweet but still slightly tangy. Honey may have added some flair, but it was certainly not needed.

This may sound a bit crazy, but one of the most satisfying steps in this recipe involves cutting slits in the peaches, and then blanching and peeling them. Especially the peeling part — how the slithering peach skin so easily slips off the flesh, revealing a glossy, smooth, orange-blush of naked peach. It is quite fun, actually. I recommend trying this out if you ever need any summer stress relief.



The peeled peaches are then sliced and mixed with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and later on, the stove top-made caramel syrup. The coated peach slices are nestled in the bottom half layer of pie crust, and covered with the top layer of pie crust. (To be honest, I have not made many pie crusts in my lifetime, but I absolutely love this pie crust. I see myself using it again and again in the future.)



After a few slits on top, a smudging of milk (I don’t have a pastry brush) and a sprinkle of sugar, the pie is baked to a bubbly, hot crisp. Despite the instructions, we ate this pie about an hour after it came out of the oven, still warm.


Caramel Peach Pie (adapted from the above Gourmet recipe)
3 lb ripe peaches
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
All-butter pastry dough
1 tablespoon milk

1. Cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch peaches in batches in boiling water 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges.
2. Toss peaches well with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
4. Bring 1/2 cup sugar and water to a boil in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour over fruit and toss (caramel may harden slightly but will melt in oven).
5. Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out remaining dough.
6. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.
7. Transfer filling to pie shell, mounding it. Cover pie with pastry round. Trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Brush top all over with some of milk, then sprinkle with remaining Tbsp sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a paring knife.
8. Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours.

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