Pies and Tarts

Too much pie to eat? Just drink it up!

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Alright, so this idea might be due to too much booze.  Or too little booze.  Whatever the case, it’s not the exact amount of booze that I needed.  But I started thinking that after the holidaze, sometimes you have just had your fill of pastries, and sweets, and candy, and — well, you get the picture.  So I think this is what brought this recipe about.  That, plus booze.

I’m sure some folks have thought about something like this.  Whether it be some hazy lapse of judgement, or hunger, or boredom, or you might just be reminiscing about the “Super Bass-o-matic ’76“, or maybe you just got a blender for Christmas and are just looking for stuff to pulverize. . . or all of the above.  To me, coming up with something like this isn’t too weird.  For example, I’ve made “cake soup” before — that’s where you mash up some slightly melted ice cream and a slice of cake together (don’t judge!).  After my post on Cheez-its and Rum, are you surprised?

So again, this isn’t all that scientific.  I had a couple of slices of my Apple-Rhubarb-Ginger Pie, some milk, and I added some yogurt and oatmeal to make it healthy. . . at least healthier. . . or rather, less unhealthy.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2  slices of pie, whatever you have around is fine
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. yogurt
  • 2 T. steel-cut oats

Place the oats in the blender and blend until fine.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  You can adjust as you see fit.  A little kiss of bourbon is nice in this, but then again, when isn’t it 🙂

Apple, Rhubarb, & Ginger Pie

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I know I declared 2012 the year of the cake, but when you have a 4-tiered double ganache Orange Devil Cake (I’ll post on that later) to eat between just 2 people, you can only eat so much.  My prescription for Cake Overdose (it’s real.  look it up 🙂 ) is pie!  If you’re like me, you should have lots of rhubarb in the freezer from the summer harvest.  And I’m sure you have lots of pâte brisée in there as well!  Actually, it’s just dumb luck that I have all that in my freezer.  In fact, I almost I forgot that I had all that rhubarb; it was rediscovered when I was looking for those frozen raspberries that I had from raspberry picking when my family came up a couple of months ago (and I still haven’t posted on that raspberry pound cake. . . probably cuz I didn’t make it yet, and now I can’t cuz I have no raspberries. . . and yes I do realize that there is a grocery store just 2 seconds away from my driveway).  Guess I used up all my raspberries making yogurt smoothies.  But I digress. . .

There’s no real recipe here; just change my Dutch Strawberry Rhubarb Pie a little.  For the topping, replace the sugar with some loosely pack brown sugar and add 1/4 c. chopped pecans.  For the filling, instead of 4 c. chopped rhubarb and 2 c. strawberries, use 5 c. rhubarb and 1 apple, chopped.  Now add 1/4 c. crystallized ginger and you’re good to go!  You will have to tent this with foil because the pecans in the topping will burn if you don’t — I got distracted with barking dogs so there is some slight “crispiness” on mine.  No problem because I like a little, er, caramelization on my pastries.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

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The holiday season is time for cranberries.  And whenever we see some fresh cranberries, we must bake something!  Usually it’s some Cranberry Bars with a nice cream cheese frosting.  But we tried something new this time.  This recipe was taken from the Tasty Kitchen.  It’s a little bit different from what you may consider to be a “pie”.  Honestly, I think it’s closer to a cobbler than a pie, and it was made in a cake pan.  So, really it’s kind of an upside down cake.  Actually it’s closest to a buckle, which is one of the many types of cobblers (I should do a post on the different types of cobblers).  But the recipe calls itself a “pie” and who am I to make a pie conform to my definitions of what pie should be?  Well, it’s tasty, whatever the name is.  Plus it’s very simple to make so you can have a nice dessert in about an hour!

Here’s what you need:

  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • 2 c. (heaping) cranberries
  • 3/4 c. pecans, chopped (measure, then chop)
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 c. sugar, divided
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 t. almond extract
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 T. (sanding) sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Butter and 9-in. cake pan.  Add cranberries to the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle on chopped pecans, then sprinkle with 2/3 c. sugar.

3.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 c. sugar, melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and salt.  Stir gently to combine.

4.  Pour batter slowly over the top in large “ribbons” in order to evenly cover the surface.  Spread gently if necessary.

5.  Bake for 45 – 50 minutes.  5 minutes before removing from the oven, sprinkle surface with 1 T. sugar for a little extra crunch.

6.  Let cool and slice into wedges.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

St. Ignace — Land of Pasties and Smoked Fish

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Well, not really.  It’s actually the Magical Harbor!  But pasties and smoked fish are the two things that I need to buy when I am visiting, and it’s been some time since I’ve been up north.  It seems like those two things are everywhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) so sorting through all the different kinds can take some time.  Here’s where I can help!

Time for some coffee!

But first things first — a quick stop at Java Joe’s for some coffee.  This place is a fun little cafe that serves a nice selection of breakfast items.  Everything is good, but I’d have to single out the crepes as something to try.  They can be tricky to make yourself, and you just don’t find those in every restaurant.  Plus the decor is fun, especially the mural on the outside.  And the coffee is great as are the people who work there!

You gotta love a place that features a hopping winged unicorn carrying a steaming cup of smiling peace coffee on its back.

Now on to some pasties.  I think I may have talked a little bit about them in my post about the PastyFest 2011 in Calumet, MI.  Recipes can vary, but there are those who are adamant that the filling must include rutabagas and not potatoes.  In my opinion, it is the crust that makes everything shine.  And Bessie’s Homemade Pasties does it the best.  It’s a little bit further from the main strip downtown; just drive down the road, and up the hill until you see the giant sign.  Like a lot of restaurants in the Upper Peninsula (UP) the inside of the restaurant is simple and unassuming, with charming guestbooks that visitors can sign.  But in there, you will find some of the best pasties in the land.  These are my favorites by far — the filling is delicious (even if they don’t use rutabagas) and the crust is top-notch.  Plus, the pasties look happy to be there!  Luckily I planned ahead and brought a cooler so I could take some frozen pasties home.  Hopefully I can make them last for a while because I have no idea where to get pasties in SE Michigan.

Bessie's!
See? I told you they have some happy pasties here!
I cannot wait to dive right in!
One last step -- Gravy!!!

And finally a stop at Manley’s Smoked Fish.  You’ll pass it on the way to Java Joe’s and Bessie’s.  If you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, you will definitely see it.  You’ll probably notice it even if you’re not a fan of the Pack since the complex is painted in the team’s green and yellow colors.  But it’s not all for show — they have great quality smoked fish, homemade beef jerky, pasties, whitefish, lake trout, among other goodies.  We picked up a few smoked whitefish to bring home.  I don’t know exactly what they do in their smoke house, but they definitely know what they are doing.  There are lots of other purveyors of smoked fish in the northern reaches of the state, but this is worth a stop.  And the prices are extremely reasonable; respectable smoked whitefish down here can be around 5 times the price at $25 a pop.  I will be using these golden formerly swimming packets of goodness to a make smoked fish dip which I will be posting soon.

Gotta make a stop

Exploring Traverse City and the Great American Cherry Pie War

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Now I know I’ve been relatively quiet for the past few weeks.  But it’s the weird transition in the house between taking down Halloween decorations, leaving up Thanksgiving decorations,  and putting up Christmas decorations.  Plus I’m in vacation recovery mode (I went to the Traverse City [TC] area and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan).  I promise not to bore y’all with all my vacation escapades.  I will just share some of the food-related finds.

If you don’t know where Traverse City, MI is, I will show you on your handy Michigan map.  Just take your right hand and look at it palm-side-up; looks like the lower peninsula of Michigan, right?  Traverse City is just to the right of the tip of your pinky.  Don’t believe me, just check out this map.

Traverse City is actually a great foodie town.  Chef Mario Batali spends his summers just north of the city; Chef Jacques Torres opened up his first chocolate shop outside New York and Las Vegas in Traverse City (it has since closed); it is home to the National Cherry Festival; and prime Michigan wine country is just a stone’s throw away.

Speaking of cherries, have you heard of the Great American Cherry Pie War?  Well, I don’t know if it’s called that, but that’s the moniker I’m using.  TC and rival town just up the road Charlevoix, MI engaged in a heated battle vying for World’s Largest Cherry Pie.  Charlevoix fired the first volley by baking a pie that was over 14 feet across and 2 feet deep.  It weighed over 17,000 lbs and was baked in 1976 to help celebrate the US bicentennial.  It held the title until TC took the title away with a pie that was over 17 feet across and over 28,000 lbs.  Some town in Canada broke the record several years later, but you can visit the pie pans for the Michigan record breakers.

They make them big in Charlevoix, MI!
They make them even bigger in Traverse City!
TC's pie did not appear to be as manicured and celebrated as the one in Charlevoix, as evidenced by the disrepair.

I had actually come across this by accident when I noticed a giant pie pan on the side of the road while taking the scenic route up to St. Ignace, which is just over the Mackinaw Bridge in the Upper Peninsula.  That triggered a memory of the duel between the two rival towns that I had read on the Roadside America website.  You can read about quirky tourist attractions all over the country.  Just type in a city and find out what’s nearby.  This website also brought up another interesting TC landmark.

TC is home to a memorial to Colantha Walker, “The World Champion Cow of the Insane”.  She was born in April 1916 and was under the care of staff and patients of the Northern Michigan Asylum.  While living on the farm on the Asylum grounds, she produced 200,114.9 lbs. of milk and 7,525.8 lbs. of butterfat.  Now I have no clue as to how this compares to non-world champion cows, but it was sufficient enough for her to be immortalized with a rather sizeable granite tombstone after her death in January 1932.  But after doing a little research, her landmark year was 1926 when she produced almost 23,000 lbs. of milk, which earned her “World Champion” title.  According to census records, the Michigan average for dairy cows was just over 3,900 lbs. a year.

Exciting stuff!  Like I said, I promise to try not to tire you with yarns about my trip.  I’ll post on some great budget-friendly restaurants, a couple local breweries, a bake shoppe that makes the best pumpkin donuts that I’ve ever had, and throw in some smoked fish and pasties (the pastry, not the adornments worn to cover up your unmentionables).  I’ll even work in a recipe or two.  Stay tuned!

Rhubarb Pie

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As y’all may already know, I had some family visiting for several days and I remember my brother saying that he’s never had rhubarb.  So I thought why not let him try it in a pie!  It is the “pie plant” after all.  And I do have all that frozen rhubarb, if you remember from a while back.  Now he’s very concerned with nutrition and fitness so I will use the whole wheat pâte brisée for this one.  Although this doesn’t quite qualify as healthy, but at least it is healthier.  And rhubarb is a vegetable.  Plus I use some coconut flour in the topping which is high in fiber and protein (just eat around the butter and sugar).  As an aside, using flours like this in baking is what you need to do if you need to make something gluten-free.  To top it all off, it smells like coconut!  According to the directions, you can substitute up to half the flour in a recipe with this.  But you could combine it with other flours, like bean, rice, or tapioca.  Bob’s Red Mill is a nice resource for different kinds of flours.

For this recipe you’re supposed to cut the rhubarb into smaller more manageable pieces, but it was already frozen and I didn’t want to have to try to chop all that up.  I can admit I was being lazy, but I was busy trying to get the house ready for my family visit.  Priorities priorities!.  But be aware, if you don’t chop it into smaller pieces, things can get a little fibrous.  Here’s what you need:

For the topping:

  • 1/2 c. coconut flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into pieces

1.  Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk to combine and break up any lumps.

2.  Add the butter.  Cut into the flour with a pastry knife or your hands until crumbles form.  Set aside.

For the pie:

  • 1/2 whole wheat pâte brisée recipe (or prepared pie crust)
  • 6 c. rhubarb, cut into about 1-in pieces
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 T. cornstarch

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the oven rack on the lowest wrung in the oven.

2.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough enough to cover a 9-in. pie pan with a 1-in overhang.  Cut to fit and tuck the ends of the crust underneath to from a nice rim.  Refrigerate for about an hour to let the dough rest.

3.  Place rhubarb in a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl combine the sugars, salt, and cornstarch.  Pour the sugar mixture over the rhubarb and toss.  Pour the entire contents into the rested pie dough.  Top with the prepared crumbles.

4.  Put the pie in the oven and reduce the temperature to 375.  Bake on a lined sheet pan for about 1 1/2 hours, until bubbly.  Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Updates, plus a Whole Wheat Pate Brisee

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I know I’ve been a little quiet for the past week or so, but there are lots of reasons for that.  As some of you know, my family made the big drive from down south to visit me up here in Michigan for the Labor Day holiday.  Just keeping them entertained

should have kept me busy enough!  Now, I had planned a big celebration with all the fixin’s, but if you follow college football, you probably know that some bad weather came rolling through this area.  Long story short, I ended up losing power for three days.  So the menu was scrapped (along with a whole refrigerator of food) and some alternative plans had to be made.  At least I did get a chance to try a couple of things before all the chaos happened.  This is one of those things.

Now I had no idea if this would work.  I’m guessing that it wouldn’t because there’s a whole lot more gluten in whole wheat flour.  But I’m out of regular flour so why not try it!  In theory it should be fine since you cut the fat right into the flour and that limits the amount of gluten that’s formed (long strands of gluten are formed once you combine the flour with water)

Let’s begin!  I just followed my old pâte brisée recipe but just substituted in whole wheat flour.  Again, this is enough for a double 9-in crust.  Here’s what you need:

  • oops! some of the maple syrup leaked out.

    2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 T. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cubed
  • 4 T. shortening
  • 1/3 c. ice water, give or take a couple of tablespoons

1.  Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse for a couple of seconds to combine the dry ingredients.  Add the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture forms a course meal.

2.  While pulsing, drizzle water over the dough until it just comes together.  The dough must not be wet or sticky.

3.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.  Kneed until the dough just comes together.  Press the dough out into a disk and wrap it in some plastic wrap or wax paper.  Let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the dough can relax.  It’s then ready to use or it can be put in the freezer.  It can last for a couple of months or so.

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So to test things out, I pinched off a small amount to make a small galette.  The filling was very simple — after rolling it out, I just spread on some chocolate-hazelnut spread, then some blueberry jam, topped it with shredded coconut, and drizzled it with a little bit of maple syrup (wow, that sounds sweet now that I wrote everything down).  But the filling wasn’t important; I was testing the crust.

The crust was somewhat difficult to form.  Maybe I was overly concerned with making too much gluten that I didn’t make enough.  But it was still workable.  There were some breaks but it was easy enough to glue back together.  After baking, the crust was very tender, and it held together nicely.  What I loved was the flavor; you get the nuttiness and texture that the whole wheat imparts.  It does make a nice alternative, but the flavor can get a little distracting, overpowering even.  I’d prefer to have the filling be the star, not the crust.  Maybe making a blend (half whole wheat, half AP flour) would be better — easier to work, but you still get the greater depth of flavor.  Just my thoughts.