Monday, November 16, 2015
This is the first time in ten years I'll have spent Thanksgiving with my family. This past decade of Friendsgivings, celebrated from Maine to Maryland, have always been a rowdy delight and have taught me about how to do holidays at the grown-ups table right-- I hope there are many more in store. But this year I'm looking forward to spending the day at home in Indiana. In the past few years, my family has become particularly fond of Hoosier Mama's Cranberry Chess Pie, so I expect to fulfill a request for one of those, but I'll also likely venture in to new territory-- a Pumpkin-Pecan Pie, Aurora Tart, or Apple Cider Cheesecake, perhaps? If you're also still deciding, here are a few suggestions for your Thanksgiving table-- both savory and sweet. If you don't find quite what you're looking for, check out the Recipe Index, as well as past guides from 2014, 2013, and 2012.
Pumpkin, Squash & Sweet Potato
Delicata Squash Pie (pictured, top right)
Drunken Pumpkin Bourbon Pie with Mascarpone Cream
Pumpkin & Chai Spice Nut Butter Pie
Sweet Potato Pie with Cornmeal Crust
Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie
Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Cranberry Chess Pie
Red Wine-Poached Seckel Pear Tartlets (pictured, top left)
Chocolate & Nuts
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie
Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie
Chocolate Chess Pie
Cranberry Chocolate Chess Pie (pictured, bottom left)
Pine Nut & Honey Tart
Custard & Cheese
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Kentucky Lemon Chess Pie
Maple Bourbon Buttermilk Pie with Apple Syrup
Pumpkin-Ginger Cheesecake Pie
Salty Honey Pie
Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladière
Gordy's Cherry Pepper Spread Galette
Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies
Puff Pastry Hand Pies with Goat Cheese & Hot Pepper Jelly (pictured, bottom right)
Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette
And whether from this list or not, I'd love to hear what you'll be making this Thanksgiving-- I may even have to borrow your idea.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Nabs. Peanut Butter Crackers. Lance's Toast Chee. Whatever you call them, you are likely familiar with the unnaturally florescent "cheese" crackers that are sandwiched with peanut butter and wrapped in cellophane-- six to a pack. For me, they were the stuff of after school snacks, bought with quarters out of the teacher's lounge vending machine or pulled from my mother's desk drawer while my brother and I waited for her to finish her classroom work. I hadn't thought about those sandwich crackers much since until my friend Emily Wallace, a Nabs devotée, made some illustrations of them for bookmarks. Then a few months ago, while interviewing Richmond chef Travis Milton for a story for Gravy, he mentioned that he'd made some Nabs-crusted pork cutlets and began to wax poetic:
It’s kinda like a fried pork chop pounded up and you just grind up Nabs and the sugar and the peanut butter gets real real crispy and kinda caramelizes and the cracker meal gets good. I’ve also rolled sausage balls or boudin balls in that too. Nabs are one of my favorite things in the world.
This got me thinking-- could I use Nabs in a sweet dish, perhaps as a pie crust? I started talking about it with some friends, but quickly realized that many did not know what "Nabs" were, calling them instead "Toast Chee" or "Cheese and Peanut Butter Crackers." "Nabs" are a shortened version of "Nabisco," who along with Lance, produced varieties of the sandwich crackers in the early 1900s. Nabisco adopted the shortened name used by customers, however in the late 70s and early 80s, they discontinued their "Nabs," leaving those made by Keebler and Lance to become the prominent brands. The "Nabs" moniker is particularly prevalent in North Carolina, as according to Our State Magazine, both Lance and Nabisco had factories in the state, and the crackers were a common quick snack for mill workers who often did not get a break for lunch.
Regardless of what you call them, my rigorous testing proved that Nabs can indeed make a fine pie crust, similar to a graham cracker, saltine, or Oreo crust. I adapted the filling from this Peanut Butter-Pretzel Tart, as Nabs seemed to demand a milk chocolate pairing rather than semi-sweet. The result resembles a Butterfinger, both in richness and flavor. Rather than a peanut butter swirl, you could also do a chocolate covered peanut filling, which would add a nice crunch.
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups (about 6 packets) Nabs aka "Cheese" and Peanut Butter Crackers, crushed
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
8 ounces milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (Use run-of-the-mill salted and sweetened peanut butter. If you use natural, make sure it's smooth, and you'll want to add sugar to taste--probably 1/2 cup)
1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place Nabs in the bowl of a food processor and process until fine crumbs form. Add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse until well mixed.
2. Pat the buttery crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan, pressing mixture into the bottom and sides to form a pie crust. Place in oven and bake until crust is set, about 10-12 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before adding the filling.
3. For the filling: Put chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside. Combine cream and butter in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat until it just comes to a boil. When it begins to boil, pour it over the chocolate, cover the bowl, and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Remove the lid and whisk in the chocolate until it is completely melted and has a ganache-like consistency. Pour it into the cooled pie crust and smooth with a rubber spatula.
4. Meanwhile, warm the peanut butter in the microwave or on the stove until it is slightly runny. Pour it over the chocolate ganache, and drag a butter knife through it to create swirls. Chill for at least 25-30 minutes to set. Serve at room temperature and enjoy.
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart
Chocolate and Strawberry Pocky Pie
Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate Ganache
Speculoos Icebox Pie
Monday, October 12, 2015
Since the very early days of this blog, I've asserted that if you're going to make a "pumpkin" pie from scratch with purée from a fresh vegetable, you should make it with squash, not pumpkin. Not only is the flavor generally better-- sweeter and more potent-- the consistency is much preferable-- less watery and less stringy than a pie pumpkin. My favorite squash to use is delicata. The long tubular gourd that's striped dark green and cream, indicates its taste via its name, which means "sweet". Delicatas can be harder to find than butternut or acorn squash (unless you live in Vermont, where they seem to be everywhere), but the quest is well worth it for the resulting pie.
This recipe, which I first made for a Burlington, Vermont "Seamonster Potluck" in 2006, was one of the four from Nothing in the House selected by King Arthur Flour to appear in their fall issue of Sift, alongside my article on the anthropology of pie. It's fitting, particularly as I'm not sure I'd had a delicata until I moved to Burlington, where my friend Andrea cut thin coins of them, topped them with masked celeriac, roasted them, and called it a "delicata cookie"-- one of my favorite savory treats to this day.
Here's the recipe that appeared in Sift, adapted from my original. King Arthur's lovely cream swirl didn't quite work out for me, so instead I whipped some extra cream just slightly, and drizzled it atop the baked and cooled pie.
Delicata Squash Pie
Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
3 medium (1 3/4 pounds before cooking) delicata squash
Additional evaporated milk or cream, for swirling
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Let chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Halve the squash lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Bake, cut side down, in a 9 x 13-inch pan with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. After 30-40 minutes, press the squash with your finger; when it's soft, it's done. Remove from the oven, and when cool enough to handle, scoop out 2 cups of the flesh. Purée until smooth. Increase the oven's temperature to 425 F.
3. For the filling: Combine the evaporated milk or cream, sugars, spices, salt, and eggs. Add to the squash and blend until smooth with a hand mixer or immersion blender. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Add a swirl of cream or evaporated milk on top, or sprinkle with cinnamon for decoration, if desired (you could also drizzle with cream and/or sprinkle with cinnamon post-baking).
4. Placed the pie on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 425°F. Reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, until the pie is mostly set, and a 1-2 inch circle in the center still wobbles a bit when you nudge the pan. Remove the pie from the oven and cool it completely before slicing. Sprinkle with cinnamon and/or drizzle with whipped cream, if desired.
Drunken Pumpkin Bourbon Pie with Mascarpone Cream
Pumpkin & Chai Spice Nut Butter Pie
Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie
Saturday, October 10, 2015
A few weeks ago, I attended an American Folklife Center symposium at the Library of Congress, celebrating the release of the new book Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason Dixon Line by fellow folklorists Henry Glassie, Cliff Murphy, and Doug Peach. The book, which I highly recommend, is based on fieldwork by Glassie and Murphy and relates the story of a group of southern musical families who moved to Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in search of jobs during the Great Depression. Placing Ola Belle and her relatives and descendants at the center, it examines the community of southern traditional music that took hold there and its modern iterations, namely in the music of Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, and Zane and Hugh Campbell.
As a big fan of Ola Belle, Hugh, and Zane, as well as the book's authors, the symposium a lovely and insightful gathering. My one critique is that I wish there had been more women's voices on the stage. Upon talking about this with my coworker Greg, he suggested I get in touch with Judy Marti, a banjo player, orchardist and last student of Ola Belle's, who also self-published a biography of her that's often quoted in the new book. I emailed Judy and said I was interested in meeting her, learning about her music and farming, and possibly playing some tunes, and she invited my bandmate Nadia and me up to her orchard in Biglersville, PA on a Saturday afternoon.
I wanted to make something to bring to Judy and her husband, and figuring they already had a glut of apples, my eye turned to the quart of Seckel pears I'd bought at the farmers' market the weekend prior. I don't believe I'd baked with them before, and felt they were so remarkable in their size and flavor, that I wanted to preserve and showcase that as much as possible. I remembered seeing a beautiful wine-poached pear recipe on David Lebovitz's blog and figured I could poach these mini pears whole and place them on individual tarts. I found a similar recipe via The Telegraph, and baked these Saturday morning after poaching the pears the night before.
As usual, I was in a rush to finish baking before I head to drive up to Biglersville, but I made it out in time, and it was the perfect crisp and sunny fall day for a trip out of the city. When Nadia and I arrived, Judy took us for a tour of her orchard, which she called a "homestead farm," mostly supplying just enough for her and her family, plus some barter and sales. Then we sat on the deck of her sauna, and she showed us Ola Belle's distinctive picking technique, told us stories about their friendship, and we passed instruments around, sharing tunes with each other.
In the end, I felt a little silly bringing pear tarts to an orchard (that it turns out, also grows pears), but after I left, Judy sent me an email, saying they were "quite good." The tartlets would also do well paired with creme fraiche and could even be brought to the savory side of things with some thyme and goat cheese spread on the puff pastry prior to adding the poached pear. You can make it with store-bought puff pastry or homemade-- Food52 has a great and fairly easy recipe. Either way, the tartlets would be wonderful as appetizers or dessert, for fall dinners or a fancy Thanksgiving feast.
Red Wine-Poached Seckel Pear TartletsAdapted from The Telegraph
1 dozen seckel pears
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup Merlot (or another fruity red wine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 broad strips lemon rind, pith removed
1 cinnamon stick
8 black peppercorns
11 ounces puff pastry (store-bought or homemade-- recipe here)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Turbinado sugar for dusting
1. Pour water and wine into a stock pot or saucepan large enough to hold all pears and whisk together with brown sugar. Hit on low, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add lemon rind, cinnamon stick and peppercorns and let simmer on very low-- do not let boil.
2. Meanwhile, peel pears without removing the stalks and place in the saucepan with the wine mixture. Bring liquid just to a boil, then reduce heat to a vert low simmer-- you want the fruit to cook slowly. Gently cook pears, turning them occasionally so every side comes into contact with the wine. They should be tender, but still hold together. Once tender, remove pan from heat and let cool. When at room temperature, transfer wine mixture and pears to a bowl, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. This will allow the pears to absorb both color and flavor.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Remove pears with a slotted spoon and place on a cutting board. Return wine mixture to pot or saucepan and boil until thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool.
4. With a sharp chef's knife, make lengthwise cuts in pears, about 1 cm apart so slices can fan out slightly.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass just slightly larger than the pears. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush each pastry round with melted butter, then place pear in the center of each round. Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
6. Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden. Serve tartlets individually with wine syrup drizzled atop.
Pear and Cardamom Fig Pie
Pear, Gruyère, and Caramelized Onion Hand Pies
Pear Tarte Tatin
Quince Biscuit Pie
Sunday, September 20, 2015
I've been paying annual visits to my friends Nathan and Clara and their little ones on their farm in Brooklin, Maine since 2008. But I've always visited in the spring or early summer, when the wild blueberries are blooming, but not yet ripe. This year, though, I made my yearly pilgrimage in early September, in what I discovered to be the most glorious season in Maine, with sunny days, perfect temperatures, and the wild blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries all ripe for the picking. Even the early apples were ready to be pressed into cider.
One afternoon, we walked out to their blueberry fields with rakes and pails and Nathan taught us how to harvest the berries by running a hand-held rake through the shrubs. The wild lowbush blueberries, vaccinium angustifolium, that are native to Maine and other northern regions of the United States, were a staple of the Native American diet in those regions. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, native peoples ate the berries fresh or sun-dried them to be used in puddings or cakes or ground them into meal to flavor meats and soups. New England colonists called the berries "hurtleberries" or "whortleberries"-- if you come across a period recipe that calls for them, you now know what it's referring to.
The more widespread highbush blueberry was not cultivated until the early 1900s and is generally a combination of highbush, "rabbit-eye," and lowbush varieties. Low-bush berries can be about four times smaller than their domesticated highbush counterparts and lack the tartness, instead packing a sweet, potent punch. Because of this, they are ideal to be enjoyed just fresh as is-- and by the handful.
After we raked several bushels, we lugged our full pails back down to the barn, where Nathan put them through the winnower-- a sort of steampunk contraption composed of various belts and gears, designed to separate the stems and sticks that collect with the berries while raking.
Clara and Nathan like to make this Fresh Blueberry Pie, layering a quick jam with fresh berries on top, in a baked pie crust topped generously with whipped cream. Their recipe offers the best of both worlds-- cooked and fresh berries, and aside from the pie crust preparation, it comes together quickly, so you can get to eating faster. It would be suitable for any type of berry-- huckleberries, blackberries, raspberries, or maybe a combination for a "Maine in September Fresh Berry Pie."
From Clara & Nathan of Stoneset Farm
Nothing in the House pie crust recipe, halved
1 quart fresh low-bush blueberries (can also use high-bush blueberries or any kind of berry, really)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Turbinado sugar, for dusting
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Prick crust with fork all over the bottom. Place pie pan in the freezer for 1 hour to set before baking. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Remove crust from freezer, line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake crust for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove paper and weights, brush with egg wash and dust with Turbinado sugar. Return crust to oven and bake for 5-8 more minutes more or until fully baked, puffed, and golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.
3. In a saucepan, mash 1 1/2 cups of the berries with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Bring sauce to a boil and stir until thick. You're essentially making a quick jam, so it should be about the consistency of thick sauce or heated preserves.
4. Gently stir in another 1 1/2 cups of berries until incorporated. Pour into baked pie crust and smooth. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups of berries and chill until set, at least 1 hour. Serve, as Nathan and Clara say, with "scads of whipped cream."
Blueberry Hand Pies
Blueberry Icebox Pie
Saturday, September 12, 2015
The 1828 Webster dictionary defines biscuits as "a composition of flour and butter, made and baked in private families". Though they've historically been found in home kitchens across the country in varying styles, biscuits are especially a known southern staple. According to Food Timeline and the Southern Foodways Alliance, they've been part of the daily southern meal since the mid-1700s. In some rural communities, particularly in the mountains, biscuits were associated with class, however. Professor and southern food historian Elizabeth Englehardt says that in those communities, cornbread stood in as a cheaper, quicker, and less labor intensive alternative for biscuits.
When I moved to the south, my consumption and production of biscuits probably tripled, but personally, biscuits have always had some northern ties too. Don't tell my southern friends, but my go-to biscuit recipe is actually called "Yankee Biscuits" and I got them from a New England community cookbooks via my friend Clara in Maine. True to regional taste, it contains sugar, but I leave it out unless it's for a sweet biscuit or cobbler top.
While living in Vermont and just getting in to pie baking, I was introduced to the magic of King Arthur Flour. I especially took advantage of their diversity of flours when my friends and I embarked on a month-long "eat local challenge," where as an experiment, we were limited to consuming items from the state of Vermont or within a 100-radius of where we lived.
A few weeks ago, King Arthur sent me a bag of their self-rising flour and some other goodies (including a $25 gift card-- see below) as part of their Better Biscuits Campaign. While their recipe for self-rising biscuits still bears yankee origins, it's produces fluffy, flaky golden biscuits-- all the stuff that can transcend regional differences.
I adapted theirs and Joy the Baker's recipes for these sweet Peach and Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze. They're suitable for breakfast or dessert and could easily accommodate some ice cream or whipped cream, shortcake style.
Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze
Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Joy the Baker
For the filling:
2 ripe peaches, sliced thin
1-1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (I used bourbon barrel-aged vanilla)
For the biscuits:
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
2/3 cup cold buttermilk
For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2-2 1/2 Tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients: sliced peaches, raspberries, melted butter, ginger, brown sugar, and vanilla, and stir with a wooden spoon. Set aside.
3. For the biscuits, place flour in a medium bowl and whisk in the sugar. Cut in butter cubes with a knife and fork until mixtures the texture of cornmeal and peas. You want to work this as little as possible so the butter chunks remain cold.
4. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon until it is moist but holds together.
5. On a clean, floured (use all-purpose flour) surface, pat biscuit dough into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick and about the width and length of a piece of paper (8.5x11). You may opt to use a well-floured rolling pin for this instead of your hands. Spoon the filling over half of the biscuit dough, then fold the bare side over top (this will get a little messy). Press the edges and pat into a 6x8 inch rectangle.
6. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into a dozen squares. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, using a spatula. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown and puffed.
7. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by whisking together the confectioner's sugar, milk, ginger, and salt.
8. Once biscuits are done, remove from oven and let cool at least 7-10 minutes. Drizzle with glaze and enjoy! Biscuits are best served slightly warm and eaten within 2 days of baking. They also freeze and reheat well.
I've pretty much shied away from giveaways for the entire life of this blog, but this one is a pretty sweet deal for bakers from what I consider the best widely available flour mill and baker's resource in the country. King Arthur Flour has generously offered a $25 gift card to their online store, where you can purchase their flours and other baking essentials. To enter, you can either leave a comment below or on Instagram, 1. follow @thehousepie 2. like this photo and 3. tag a friend who would also benefit from some fine baking supplies. We'll give this giveaway thing a shot.
Peach Blackberry Pie
Peach-Sorghum Pandowdy with Cornmeal Biscuits
Quince Biscuit Pie
Friday, September 11, 2015
Earlier this year, I was given the dream assignment of writing "The Anthropology of Pie" for the fall issue of King Arthur Flour's baking magazine Sift. As I could write chapters on the subject (and maybe some day I will), I decided to zoom in on historical moments where pie has displayed its economy, ingenuity, and scrappiness to reinvent itself in contexts both urban and rural; commercial and domestic; individual, and communal.
Sift also included four of my pie recipes (three original, one adapted from the excellent First Prize Pies by Allison Kave), all of which first appeared on the blog: Cranberry Chocolate Chess Pie, Passion Fruit Meringue Pie with Macadamia Crust, Delicata Squash Pie (from the early days!), and Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie.
Thank you to the kind folks at King Arthur flour, especially editor Susan Reid, photographer Mark Weinberg, and stylist Erin McDowell for making my pies and words look so good. Sift is available online and in many book and grocery stores around the country.
Photos via King Arthur Flour