Mincemeat hand pies with cinnamon whipped cream

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This is the final pie for the month of October. Clearly, we are no longer in October. I chose sanity over pie, which is why this is late. Sanity is overrated, I know. Forgive me?

I had a bit of a hard time with this one from the beginning. The first challenge was to think of a pie that was just a bit different, something that wouldn’t bore me while dreaming it up. I also wanted to make something that reminded me of Christmas and had a nostalgic feeling. Then, with Kevin and Jill coming from England to visit, it occurred to me: mincemeat pie. Every Christmas, they send us a care package with things quintessentially British. Last year, along with orange marmalade, tea, and Cadbury Dairy Milk, we received a box of mini mincemeat pies. I had been hesitant to try such a thing before because they have the word “meat” in them. (Traditionally, they are made with beef suet. Hence, the “meat”.) I was pleasantly surprised when I bit into the muffin-sized pie. Spiced, dried fruit spilled out as I dug into a thick, rich crust. Slightly rehydrated by some booze, the fruit was moist and tangy. Out of the six pies in the box, I may have eaten four of them. And no, I didn’t eat all four the same night. I only ate three.

Once I had decided which pie I was going to make, I needed to figure out how to go about making it. Many of the recipes I found either called for beef suet, (eww) or store bought jars of mincemeat filling. No way was I going to buy a jar of mincemeat filling.
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So what I ultimately decided was to put together my favorite dried fruits and see what worked. Fortunately, all the fruits I chose liked getting boozy and juicy together. And then it happened. I got overconfident. I thought, Pshhhh, I don’t need no stinkin’ recipe. I can make pie better than John Boehner can run the House! So I spooned all the Christmas goodness into the pie crust, laid the second crust, and popped it in the oven. The smell! Y’all, it was heavenly. My house was perfumed by the smell of spiced cider or mulled wine. I half expected carolers to show up at my door in authentic Victorian garb. I was so excited to sit down to a piece of my own mincemeat pie. There was only one problem. I couldn’t sit down to a piece. The moment I cut into the pie, everything fell apart. Crust crumbled everywhere. The fruit made me chase it around the plate with my fork. That took me down a peg. On the plus side, though, it was absolutely delicious. All I needed was a method of containment. Hand pies!

This method perfectly contains the filling and remains intact while eating it. The turbinado sugar adds a little crunch, while the cinnamon whipped cream helps cut the sweetness. Something to keep in mind when choosing your fruit: balance is key. If too many of your choices are sweet, your pie will be cloyingly sweet. Using tangy cranberries, tart apples, and acidic lemon will brighten up the sweet figs, currants, and dates.

Mincemeat hand pies

Ingredients

2/3 cup diced dried apricots
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup diced dried figs
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup dried dates
1 apple, peeled and diced*
1/4 packed light brown sugar
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of coarse salt
1/4 cup brandy
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

*I used gala because it’s what I had on hand, but you can use your favorite baking apple. I suggest something on the more tart side.
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“Don’t they look like little jewels?” she said in her best Connecticut accent.

Combine all ingredients, except for turbinado sugar. Place in an air tight container for 2 hours to 3 days. If you’re leaving your filling to sit for more than a couple of hours, place in the refrigerator. The longer the mixture sits, the spicier and juicier the fruit gets.

Prepare your favorite pie dough. I used this recipe, which is the same one I used for my apple pie. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and divide. (I got five hand pies out of one pie dough recipe.) Form each piece into a ball and roll out to a 1/4 inch circle.
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Using a slotted spoon, place about two spoonfuls of filling in the middle of the circle. Don’t place the filling too close to the edges or it will spill out when you fold your dough. Be careful not to overfill, or you’ll rip the dough.
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Fold the dough over the filling toward you, joining the edges. Use a fork to crimp the dough together so your dough doesn’t come apart while baking.
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Cut a small slit in the top of the pie for venting. Spray your baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Once you’ve placed your pies on the baking sheet, brush pies with egg wash, (add a bit of water to one egg and lightly beat) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow pies to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with cinnamon whipped cream.

Cinnamon whipped cream

Ingredients

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

Combine ingredients. Beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Mint hot chocolate pie

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I’m sorry I’m late with this pie post. I made it on Friday, but haven’t had a chance to blog about it. I’ve been busy with planning decorations for the school costume dance and getting Girl Scout ducks in a row. We also finally had a chance to go to the local farm Fall Festival this weekend. It was rained out last weekend, so pretty much every young family in Northern Virginia was there. Fortunately, we had absolutely gorgeous weather. The irresistible smell of kettle corn permeated the cool breeze while bluegrass and honky tonk played over well-hidden speakers. We gave loves to bunnies, baby chickens, and cows. Those milking cows are super patient. They have a cow you can just walk up to and milk, (under supervision, of course.) I think random people walking up to me and squeezing my boobs would make me….cranky. The girls had fun on giant slides, a hay ride, and inside a hay fort, (and I only lost Zoë once) while I was roped into a do si do with one of the farmers while he sang Thank God I’m a Country Boy. We ended the day with buying giant pumpkins. I’m going to Pinterest project at least one of those bitches!
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And now for something completely different…

So…..pie. The flavors of Christmas inspired this pie. Peppermint and chocolate fill our stockings and candy bowls in a nod to the first meal Mary ate after birthing the baby Jesus. One of my favorite things to do is to sip hot chocolate through peppermint straws while watching claymation Rudolph and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I wanted to make a pie that brought those flavors together. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find any recipes that did what I wanted. I initially thought I’d somehow incorporate peppermint candies into an Oreo crust. But just like John Boehner, I decided that was just going to be too dangerous for the public and pulled the plan from consideration at the last minute.

So I turned to a cookie I make every year for Christmas, chocolate Andes mint cookies. I knew I was going to make the crust from Oreos, and decided to add melted Andes mints on top of the crust. But what to do for the filling? Mousse seemed too light. I then remembered a pie I had made a couple of years ago that had a chocolate pudding-like thickness that seemed like it would be perfect. The results were not quite what I had envisioned, but were delicious nonetheless. The crust was crunchy and minty, thanks to the mint Oreos and layer of Andes mints. The chocolate custard filling is thick and creamy, adding to the textural experience and complimenting the flavor of the crust. The crust is definitely the star of this pie.

Mint hot chocolate pie

Crust

25 Oreos, original or mint (35 for a 9 1/2 inch pie plate)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (5 Tbsp for a 9 1/2 inch pie plate)

Pulse cookies until you achieve a fine crumb and the filling has been fully incorporated into the cookie crumbs. Place crumbs in a bowl. Melt butter and add melted butter to cookie crumbs. Mix with a fork until well incorporated. Press crumbs into the pie plate bottom and up the sides. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Turn off oven. Place 20-25 Andes mint candies on the bottom of the crust. Place the pie back in the oven for about two minutes. Spread melted candies evenly over the bottom of the crust. Let crust cool completely on a cooling rack. Candies will harden as they cool.
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Filling

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp instant espresso
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 3/4 cup 2% milk
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Whisk together sugar through the egg yolk in a bowl. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-high; cook until the milk forms tiny bubbles around the edge of the pan. Do not boil. Stir frequently to avoid scalding the milk. Very slowly, add the hot milk to the egg mixture. (You’re tempering the eggs so they don’t cook while you add the milk. Otherwise, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.) Return the milk mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat until it becomes thick and bubbly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in dark chocolate until smooth. Pour into crust and let it cool for 20 minutes. Cover surface of filling with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours, until set.
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Crust adapted from Pioneer Woman. Filling adapted from Cooking Light.

Pumpkin Pie

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This morning began spectacularly! After I got home from the bus stop, I realized I had gone to and from the stop with my fly down. Seriously, my awesomeness is all natural! A friend suggested that it was a classy way to advertise. I’m considering a sign in neon that says, Prime gunt location. Inquire within. That, coupled with all the rain we’re getting from Karen, made it seem like a good day for my next pie month installment. See last week’s installment, here.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with pumpkin pie. While I liked eating it, for a long time I couldn’t figure out what my problem with pumpkin pie was. Was it the texture? Was it the flavor? Was is just years of holiday pie overload and I craved something different? I figured out it was probably a combination of all three. I hated how a regular pastry crust didn’t stand up to the spicy custard. I didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t any texture; it might as well have been a pudding, rather than pie. And while I like the warm, fragrant spices that come with pumpkin pie, I felt like they needed something to accompany them and brighten up each bite.

This pie solves many of those problems. A gingersnap crust adds some texture. It was a bit chewy on the upper edges, in a good way. I was hoping for something more crunchy. But I think that’s going to require adding nuts, which isn’t going to happen. The flavors in the crust did not get in lost in the custard of the pie. Adding the orange zest brightens up the pie, making it taste fresh and light. The added bonus of this pie is that it’s one of the easiest I’ve ever made. The crust can be whirled together in a food processor, (if you don’t have a food processor, you can use the “bang the shit out of it” method with a rolling pin and bag, but it’s harder to get a fine crumb since the gingersnaps are so hard) and all the ingredients for the custard can just be whisked together in one bowl.

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Crust
6 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 2 cups crumbs)
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
Zest from one large navel orange
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted (about 2 Tbsp)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cookies in a large plastic bag and break up cookies with a rolling pin. Place pieces in food processor bowl. Add brown sugar, ginger, and orange zest to work bowl. Run processor to combine and until the cookies are fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse processor until butter is integrated, about 10 pulses.
Place crumbs in a 9 inch pie plate and gently press into the bottom and up the sides. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Allow crust to cool for at least 10 minutes on a cooling rack.

A couple notes…
My pie plates are 9.5 inches. I added 1.25 ounces, for a total of 7.25 ounces, to the gingersnaps. (About 3 cups of crumbs.) I added 1/4 tsp brown sugar. You’ll need about 3 1/2 Tbsp of melted butter. Don’t worry. You won’t need to adjust your filling recipe.
I found it’s easier to get the crumbs pressed in and evenly distributed if you drop crumbs in one handful at a time. Start by covering the bottom. Once you’ve pressed the crumbs where you need them, you can drop in your next handful. I spent much less time keeping the crust from breaking using this method.

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Pumpkin pie filling

15-oz can canned solid-pack pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk ingredients together and pour into cooled crust. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Cool completely on cooling rack. Store covered in the fridge.

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Tips about your final product
1) Jiggliness
Your pie is still going to jiggle a little when you pull it out of the oven. If it doesn’t, it’s been overcooked. But you also don’t want it to be undercooked, with the custard still looking soupy in the middle. To put it another way: You want it somewhere between a mild Miley twerk and a Beyoncé bootylicious bounce. A Shakira shake is right out.

2) Color
You want your pie to be uniform in color. You’re going for a nice George Hamilton browrange. If it’s still John Boehner orange in the middle, it’s not quite done. (New challenge: work John Boehner into all my pie recipe posts!)

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I’m a fan of whipped cream on my pumpkin pie. Please please PLEASE just make your own whipped cream at home. I understand it’s easy to buy a can, but it’s super easy to make your own whipped cream. Just remember, it’s a 1:1 ratio: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 Tbsp sugar. (I don’t like my whipped cream too sweet, especially since it’s usually going on something already sweet.) Beat with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form, which should only take a few minutes.

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No peak-ing
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Soft peaks
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Twin peaks
Seriously, if you buy Cool Whip, I will come punch you in the face!

Crust recipe adapted from Alton Brown for Food Network. Filling recipe from Epicurious.

Apple Pie

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My second batch of dough turned out perfectly. It’s amazing what happens when you follow the recipe.

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Pulse together dry ingredients. I prefer using a food processor. It just makes it easier.

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Cube your butter. Make sure it’s straight out of the fridge cold, otherwise it won’t melt correctly in the dough to make a flaky crust.

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Pulse the butter in your dry ingredients until the dough looks like wet sand, 5-10 pulses. Pulse the ingredients as few times as possible so you don’t overheat the butter or overwork what will be your dough. The butter should be about pea sized.

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Open the chute in your processor lid, turn on the processor, and add the water one tablespoon at a time. Make sure the water is super cold. (For some reason, Ice Ice Baby is stuck in my head.)

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Once your dough comes together, it will be a bit wet and you should be able to see the marbleized butter in the dough. Place dough in plastic wrap and pat into the shape of a disc. This will help with even cooling and rolling out the dough later. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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Good way to check you have enough dough for the pie plate.

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Roll your dough onto your rolling pin so you can pick it up and transfer it to your pie plate.

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You should have plenty of leftover dough once you have laid your dough in the pie plate. Gently make sure the dough is pressed up against your pie plate. Do not stretch your dough. It will just break. When trimming excess dough, make sure you leave about 1/2 inch past the pie plate. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

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Tuck both pie layers under and press against the pie plate.

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If you want to crimp your pie edge, make a V with your pointer and middle finger and scrunch dough together. (If you want to krump, I can’t help you.) Then, use your thumb and create an indentation in between your two other fingers. And if it doesn’t turn out totally right, just snottily refer to your pie as rustic. Also, don’t forget to cut vents in your pie. Otherwise it will steam the pie and you’ll have soggy dough.

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Egg wash browns your crust. It’s also great glue if you want to affix leftover pie dough shapes.

Results
The flavor was spectacular! The crust was light and flaky. The filling was slightly tart, but sweet. It was quintessential apple pie. Unfortunately, the filling didn’t set up. Like, at all. I think next time I’ll use some cornstarch to act as a thickening agent. I heard Alton Brown say in his podcast once that perhaps the reason a caller’s tomato something or another was too watery was because her tomatoes were from the garden, and they tend to have more water content than store bought. While I certainly didn’t grow my own Granny Smiths, I figure that water content must account for how watery the filling ended up being. It’s too bad. I guess I can’t send in the pie with Mike to work and will have to keep it all for myself. Mwuahahahahahahahaha *cough cough*. Ahem.
ETA: Pie set up after letting it sit for more time, about 3 hours. It is completely cohesive now, the next morning.
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Butter pie crust

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust*
INGREDIENTS
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp. very cold water
*Double recipe for a double crust

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to blend. Add in the butter pieces and pulse 5-10 times to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are not much bigger than peas. Pour in the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, through the lid chute just until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (This dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.) Remove from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Use as directed in your desired pie recipe.

Apple pie

INGREDIENTS
Double crust pie dough
5-6 medium/large Granny Smith apples (about 2½ lbs.), peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water (for egg wash)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pie dough into approximately a 12-inch round. (Keep the other half of the pie dough chilled for now.) Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the excess. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Position an oven rack in the upper-middle position. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples, sugars, flour, spices and lemon juice. Toss well to combine. When the bottom crust is finished chilling, pour the apple mixture and accumulated juices into the bottom pie crust and use a spatula to even the top out slightly. Dot the surface of the apples with the pieces of cold butter. Roll out the remaining pie dough on a floured work surface. Place dough on top, trimming excess. Turn edges under and gently push together against the edge of the pie plate. Crimp edges if you choose. Cut vents into the top layer of dough. Brush the top and edges of the crust with the egg wash.

Place a baking sheet on the lower oven rack. Place the pie on the upper rack and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, about 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

John Boehner ruins pies

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Image from seriouseats.com

October is Pie Month. At least, it is for me. The interwebs say Pie Day is January 23rd. And did you know there’s an American Pie Council? *nod*

Like it or not, the holidays are looming over us, clenching us by the throat, and banging our heads into food, decor, and gifts, while slowly and painfully draining our bank accounts will be upon us soon. This year, I will probably end up doing a lot of cooking. We’re spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws, and unfortunately my mother in law’s back doesn’t allow her to stand very much. We’re spending Christmas at home, and I’d really like to the make the dinner. That will probably end up in disaster, as I’ve never roasted a turkey before but, go boldly, right?

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Image from The Bloggess

I have a tendency to like to practice big deal things that I’ve never tried before. People make fun of me for my trial runs, (Mike) but do I hear complaining because a cake is awful and has imploded? No. So, before the craziness of the holidays gets here, I decided I wanted to do pie trial runs. I tend to shy away from pies, especially if it involves making my own dough. Dough seems all easy and innocent until you find yourself on the floor with fragments of dough in your hands crying, Why, God? Why? My last attempt at pie dough didn’t end well. The recipe called for vinegar, and you could taste it in the final product. So I wanted to find an easy, butter crust recipe that even I couldn’t fuck up. (I couldn’t bring myself to do a lard crust.) And I found it. It had a grand total of 5 ingredients. I thought, how hard could this be?

Um, really fucking hard….if you, you know, don’t follow the recipe. I doubled the recipe because I wanted double crust, and I accidentally didn’t add enough water to the dough. I realized this at the time but thought, The dough came together and looks like it should. It’ll be fine. And then, of course, it wasn’t. I went to roll it out, and the dough just kept splitting on me. I tried mushing it back together, but to no avail. The dough was too dry. I really didn’t want to start all over, so I did the only logical thing: I held the dough under the kitchen faucet and added water to the dough. At this point I’ve probably overworked the dough, but hopefully it can be saved. I stuck the dough back in the fridge to harden up, so we’ll see here in a minute.

I’m going to go ahead and blame all of this on the government shut down. I think that seems reasonable. So… Fuck you, John Boehner.