Week 8: rustic apple crumb crostata (near)perfection


Funny that given I’m a perfectionist, the more I bake, the more I tend to fall in love with rustic baked goods. This is why pie suits me well I think. A gorgeous pie might have edges that are a little uneven here and there, and juices that bubbled up out of the crust unexpectedly while baking, and a little sag someplace or other and still, someone will look at it and say, “That’s one beautiful pie.”  Rustic perfection. That’s what I’m after every time I bake a pie.

The apple crumb crostata I made this week might have ended up near perfect, but along the way, I had my doubts. The dough was a little tricky to manage, very sugary and so quite granular and hard to manipulate without cracking. I had more crumb mix than I needed so some was fed to the compost troll and I had to add a bit of cornstarch to the apples to thicken the buttery liquid as it cooked. As the crostata baked, it spread quite a bit, leading me at one point to say upon opening the oven, “Man, you aren’t much to look at, are you?”

I am sorry apple crumb crostata. You proved me wrong. You proved that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge because you are in fact quite lovely to look at, in that rustic way I hope for whenever I send a pie into the oven. Not only that, you are exactly what I felt like making with my first basket of Ontario apples of the year. Can we be friends after all?

Before:

After:

I might be tempted to make this with the hazelnut crumb topping from my pear pie, just because I don’t think you can beat it, but this was pretty delish, as is. Thanks Martha. Continue reading

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Week 7: it might be square but it’s still a pumpkin pie

Last weekend I escaped the city and went up north to a friend’s cottage. I had my first feelings of fall nostalgia, so I decided to nurture them with a pumpkin pie. Wanting to keep things simple (no pie crust fuss + no big mess = more time for reading under a blanket in front of the fire), I decided to go with a no-bake pumpkin filling courtesy of Martha.

I was not happy that the “easy” graham crust was actually super annoying. For whatever reason it wouldn’t seem to stick to anything but my fingers and there was nowhere near enough of it (plus I was using a smaller pan than the suggested size so technically I should have had more than I wanted). After a whole lot of finickity pressing and caressing and a little cursing, I had a crust. A thin crust. I recommend making more crust mix than is suggested below. It ain’t enough folks, I’m telling you. The filling was as easy as promised. I like my pumpkin pie a little more assertively spiced, so I upped the spices a little and I think I could have added more. The texture of the filling is lovely and silky and rich – and it’s deep, which makes for a more decadent experience than I’ve had with pumpkin pie in the past. I wanted to take a picture of the whole thing in all of its rebellious squareness smothered in whipped cream, but then I wouldn’t have been able to bring home the leftovers afterwards. I discovered later that this pie doesn’t keep very well. The crust gets soggy and uninteresting and then what with all of the filling, you just feel like you’re eating a slice of pumpkin pudding.

Crust (remember this doesn’t make enough, so just play with it)
16 graham crackers
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Filling
1 tbsp unflavoured gelatin powder
1/4 cup ice water
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
3/4 tsp coarse salt
29 oz can pumpkin puree
12 oz can evaporated milk

Topping
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
freshly grated nutmeg

1. Crust: Preheat the oven to 350º. Process the dry ingredients for the crust and then add the butter, mixing to combine. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch square tray. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Bake until the crust is deep golden, about 15 minutes, and let cool completely.

2. Filling: Sprinkle the gelatin over the ice water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, spices, and salt until smooth over medium speed. Add the pumpkin and beat. Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the softened gelatin and stir until it is dissolved. Pour the milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture and whisk until it is completely smooth. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and chill until it is set, about 4 hours.

3. Topping: Whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Dollop on top of the pie and grate nutmeg over.

No pie music this week. Imagine instead the sound of crickets and woodpeckers.

Blue ribbon for creamiest pudding-like pumpkin filling

week 6: super simple copycat blueberry cheesecake pie

Hello there blog.

Yes I know. You are still here.

I am still here too. Making pie.

(Even though yesterday my fella said that we are going to have to find people to give the pies away to because otherwise he is going to get chubby. Shouldn’t be a problem, I’m thinking. I will still make pies. Not giving up. But I will not be eating them alone. My jeans will not allow it).

I have been so busy getting my brain around a new job, a job that involves reading stories to a whole lot of tiny and medium-sized people. My new job is wonderful. So I think the pies for the next little bit will be very, very simple pies.

Enter this pie, which is really more like a cheesecake pretending to be a pie (and who wouldn’t go for that?) I found the recipe here, and I stuck to it because clearly it was already perfect.

Here is another picture of my pie:

I didn’t enjoy it as much as my classic blueberry from a few weeks back, mostly because I’m not as into a cookie crust. I’m into how easy they are, but the taste just doesn’t compare to the flaky and a-little-bit-salty loveliness of conventional crusts. Still, if you are looking to eat a pie that is secretly pretending be a cheesecake, look no further. This one is pretty, tangy, not too sweet, and as easy as can be.

I am going to keep this short, because I had to get up at 5 in the morning in order to have time to post this week. It’s so dark out and the only one in my house who knows I am here is my Siamese cat, ever-faithful.

Here’s some pie music, also great for 5am:

Blue ribbon for best cheesecake performance in a pie role

Week 5: pear pie with a whole heap o’ hazelnut crumble topping

I wasn’t even aware that people were in the habit of making pies with pears. Fancy French pear tarts, yes. I made plenty of those through my years in the Belgian bakery. Pear pies, though, this I had never experienced. So I went looking for some help and I found it here:

Ken Haedrich has more than a dozen recipes for pies with pears in them. Pear and fig pie. Pear and apple pie. Pear and cranberry. But I went pure this week. Just pear. Pear with hazelnut crumble topping. This combo said September to me. I also tried Ken’s basic flaky crust recipe, which I didn’t find to be as flaky or as tender or as easy to handle as Good Egg’s. I guess sometimes you get lucky and you come across something pretty much perfect the first time. I couldn’t wait for the pears to ripen, so I just went ahead with them, crunchy as they were. I treated it as an experiment. Would this pie still taste pear-ish, even with unripe fruit? Answer: yes. Next time I’d try to be patient and wait for juicier pears, since I think it would improve both the flavour and texture of the filling, but in a pinch, it works. And the crumble topping? I think I might just need to bake off a batch of it on a sheet tray and eat it by the handful. The hazelnuts add a whole extra layer of richness. You may find yourself stealing bits off the top of the pie as it cools. Maybe.

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