Saturday, December 24, 2011

May Your Christmas Pie Be As Full Of Plums

Little Jack Horner in the Christmas PEZ
There are no plums planned for Christmas pies here in the Nothing-in-the-House kitchen, but the sentiment still stands. Last night, for a music holiday party at my parents' I made a Shaker clementine pie, a salty honey pie (upon my dad's request) and collaborated on a green tomato pie with my dad. For Christmas dinner tomorrow, I'm making my grandma Eileen's lemon meringue pie, and perhaps another. 

What will your Christmas pie be full of? Whatever it is, I hope it is as full of that as Jack Horner's is of plums.

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Grandma Georgette's Apple Pie

My grandma Georgette is Belgian. When my brother and I were growing up, our family celebrated St. Nicholas Day, on the eve of the 5th/6th of December, in an adapted Belgian tradition. We'd leave out our wooden shoes overnight, and in the morning they were filled with little treats, "shoe stuffers" and a new ornament for our miniature trees. In the evening our grandma would come over and we'd eat Belgian chocolates, and speculoos (windmill cookies) & pizelles she had made.

Now my brother and I don't live close enough for "St. Nicholas" to put gifts in our shoes, but my grandma and mom still carry on the tradition. This year my grandma made a beautiful apple pie for my mom to take home and share with my dad.

My grandma's beauteous apple pie, which she put in a trompe l'oeil pie tin for transport. She is cute like this.

I'm excited to go home and visit with her over Christmas. This year I plan to make some audio recordings of us in the kitchen together, with her talking through some of my favorite recipes of hers, including her chicken soup, sugar cookies, speculoos, and apple pie. I'll be sure to include it here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dark Chocolate Sea-Salt Tart with Candied Pecans

It's the busiest baking time of the year, what with holiday celebrations at the office, screenings of It's A Wonderful Life at my house, and music-and-dinner parties at my parents', not to mention Christmas Eve, morning, dinner, AND New Year's Eve. But it's okay, because I've got a long list of things I want to bake (keep checking back here for what they are!). 

Yesterday we had a going away/holiday party at work, and my co-workers/party planning team asked if I would bake a pie and some cookies for it. They were already ordering a carrot cake from the caterer, so I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to make something rich and chocolatey, namely, this chocolate sea-salt tart with candied pecans I had been eyeing over at Food Republic.

As I mentioned before, I've been on a salty-sweet kick, and this tart is no exception. Though I am always a bit dubious of other crusts, I went out on a limb and tried the one in Paul A. Young's recipe-- he is a master chocolatier after all. In the end, I think that the tart is SO rich that it doesn't really need a chocoalte crust, and that a normal pastry crust would help to temper the intensity of the bittersweet chocolate and salty pecans. But I'll let you decide for yourself. Here's the recipe I adapted...

Chocolate Sea-Salt Tart with Candied Pecans


Crust (You can use Nothing-in-the-House standard recipe, or as below):
12 Tblsp. unsalted butter,  kept cold and cut into pieces
1/3 c. sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7 oz. Madagascan
60-70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pecan halves

1. If using the Nothing-in-the-House standard recipe, follow those instructions. If using the cocoa crust, mix together flour, sugar, and cocoa powder, the cut in cold butter pieces with a knife and fork or pastry cutter. Stir in beaten eggs, until dough comes together into a ball. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour. Can be made 2 days ahead or frozen and thawed.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll out pastry until it is about 12 in. in diameter. Grease and flour 10-in. tart pan and transfer crust to pan, trimming off excess crust. Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes to help prevent shrinkage during baking.
3. Remove crust from fridge and line with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans, and blind bake for 20 minutes. Take out paper and weights and bake for 5-8 more minutes until tart is fully baked. Let cool.

1. Put all ingredients into the top of a double boiler. Put water in the bottom of the boiler and place on medium heat until filling is melted, glossy, and thick. 
2. Pour filling into the cooled, baked crust and refrigerate for 2 hours.

1. Heat a saucepan on low heat until warm and gradually add the sugar, stirring constantly until melted into a golden liquid caramel. Add salt, then the pecans, mixing well. When fully combined, quickly pour the hot mixture onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Spread with a spatula.

2. Allow topping to cool thoroughly, then chop into bite-size shards and sprinkle over the tart. Keep tart refrigerated, until just before serving. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

This tart went over quite well with my co-workers, with a lot of raving feedback--- "YUMMMMM" and "NAILED IT!"-- along with some and some "you KILL mes!" paired with a head shake (like I said, it's rich). Personally, I thought it was an excellent blend of flavors, and the slightly soft chocolate was perfect with the hard candied pecans, even though I admittedly couldn't finish my slice. It would probably best be washed down with a hot cup of coffee, or as once co-worker suggested, a cold glass of milk.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Apple Pie

While researching archival pie images and literature, as I am wont to do, I came across this version of a nursery rhyme A Apple Pie, estimated to be from 1870, and published by Kronheim & Company. This nursery rhyme seems to have missed me as a a child, but maybe some of you know it? Here's the illustrations, though you can see a pdf of the entire book here.

A apple pie  B bit it  C cut it  D dealt it  E eat it  F fought for it  G got it  H hid it  I (invisible?)  
J joined it  K kept it  L longed for it  M mourned for it  N nodded at it  O opened it  P peeped at it 
Q quartered it  R ran for it  S stole it  T took it  U (understated?)  V viewed it  W wanted it
XYZ& amperse and all wished for a piece in hand.

I think my favorite is the girl (Q) using the compass to exactly quarter the pie, though the baby (B) taking a bite and dogs (F...foxes?) fighting for it are also quite humorous. I also came across this edition, c. 1886/1900 (?), by Kate Greenaway. More about her classic and slightly different version coming soon...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Texas Thanksgiving Pies

My friends Stacy and Chris are the official Nothing-in-the-House Texas correspondents (though let's not forget our friend Shannon!), always sending photos of pies they eat and bake. This year, Chris sent me three pics of Stacy's Thanksgiving pies-- all fall classics of pecan, apple, and pumpkin.

The pecan pie recipe is from Homesick Texan, though Stacy likes to toast her pecans first for added flavor. The apple pie was "grandma" style, with Granny Smith apples and Grandma Ople's recipe, which calls for pouring the sauce/filling over the apples as opposed to mixing the apples with the sauce.

 Stacy and Chris also had another pie at this year's Thanksgiving--cutie pie Hudson, who helped roll out the crust. Baby's first pie crust--looks like he did a great job!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Salty Honey Pie

Salt 'n' caramel, salt 'n' chocolate, buttered popcorn ice cream with bacon and pecans (believe!). Salted sweets are so in right now. I've fallen in to the fad too because you know what, it's delicious (I'm making salted caramels for Christmas gifts--spoiler alert!!).  I saw this recipe on the South Brooklyn Post from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Shop in Gowanus, and thought it sounded like a different (yet familiar, see maple pie, and sugar pie) yummy take on the sweet 'n' salt. Oh boy, it was. Here's my version.

Salty Honey Pie
adapted from Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tablepsoons white or yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup honey (I used raw, local honey)
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract, in a pinch)
1 or 2 tablespoons flake sea salt for finishing (pink salt looks quite nice!)

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving 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. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Mix melted butter, sugar, salt, and cornmeal to form a thick paste. Add honey, vanilla, and vinegar, then beaten eggs and cream. Blend well by hand or with an electric mixer.  Pour filling into pie shell, flute crust (or apply crust design) and brush on an egg wash. Bake  for 50-60 minutes or until fillings is puffed, only slightly wobbly in the middle, and golden brown on top. Cool for one hour. Sprinkle with flake sea salt and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

For the crust design, I cut leaves using a Williams-Sonoma crust cutter I got at a local church sale, and overlapped them, securing them to the bottom crust with an egg wash. To make sure they stayed put in the oven, I froze the crust for about 30 minutes before adding the filling and baking.

Gotta say, this pie is sooo goood. The top of the filling gets a bit crusty, while underneath it is smooth and oozy, like a creme brûlée. The small amount of cornmeal gives it a little grit, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was not too too sweet (I mean it does consist mostly of honey), but more smooth and floral.

For the salt flakes on top, I used Himalayan pink and white, which adds a nice contrast. I took the pie to a music party and potluck with some new friends and strangers.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Nothing-in-the-House First Annual Gift Guide!

I know I still haven't posted about our Thanksgiving pies (though you can see some pictures of the day on the host MAV's blog here), but I've been admiring holiday gift-guides out there in the blogosphere-- Lottie and Doof, Tomboy Style, and Well Spent to name a few-- and thought the pie blog should have one too. 

Here's Nothing-in-the-House first annual gift guide--for the pie baker on your list.

First for some literature...

1. Pieminister cookbook by Tristan Hogg and Jon Simon, $22. I discovered this new cookbook when perusing the fine selections at Rabelais cookbook store in Portland, ME. The authors, Tristan and Jon, started a small pie shop in Bristol, England in 2003. Their company has since exploded, and pieminister now has multiple shops and sells at markets across the UK. I've been exploring British pies (which may mean having to start eating meat?!) lately, and this book is on the top of my own Christmas list.

2. Bike Basket Pies Recipe Booklet by Natalie Galatzer, $12. I found out about Bike Basket Pies simultaneously--from my friend Valeda in San Francisco, and when Nothing-in-the-House joined Twitter (follow us here @housepie!). Though Natalie has since moved on from her bike-delivered pie company, she wrote this adorable pie recipe booklet to commemorate her two year run. I can't wait to get mine in the mail, and we'll be featuring an interview with her here soon.

3. PIECRUST Magazine: Sugar & Salt, $7. You may have read our interview with PIECRUST's founders Megan Collins and Lauren Cardenas a few weeks ago. Though the content of their handmade letter pressed literary and art magazine is not limited to pie, they use pie crust as a concept-- a foundation for creativity. Keep up to date with news about future issues here.

4. Pie Contest In A Box, by Gina Hyams, $9. Gina, the author and creator of Pie Contest In A Box contacted me through her delicious pie site, Pie Takes the Cake . She asked if she could do an interview with me about the pie blog, AND asked if she could send me a promo copy of the Pie Contest-- yes, please! Though I am more into communal baking than competitive baking, this would be a great way to get kids or your friends into pie-- and this box provides everything you need, from ribbons, to scorecards, to labelling flags, and a cute hand book full of interesting pie tidbits.

Now for some supplies...

5. Rectangular tart pans, $9-$18. I'd been seeing a lot of beautiful rectangular tarts all over the food blogosphere (here, here, and here are a few examples). So I ordered some on Amazon (and tried them out with this ginger lemon & bourbon orange tart a few weeks ago) but lots of companies seem to be riding this tart trend--the one pictured is from Wiliams-Sonoma.

6. Pastry scraper, $2-$10. My housemate and fellow Tart Kari (of Tarts by Tarts and Tanglewood Baked Goods) has a pastry scraper in our baking drawer, and it's become one of my favorite tools of the kitchen--I'm not sure how I managed without it before. Great for chopping pastry, positioning crust, and scraping dough off of counter tops. An must-have for the pie baker on your list--the one pictured from Chef Tools.

7. Vintage Tupperware pastry mat, $9-$20. Nothing really says pie baking to me like this era Tupperware rolling mat. My mom and grandma both have them and always use them to roll out any dough that needs a-rollin', be it crust, biscuits, or cookies. Though any mat will do the trick-- providing a clean work surface and crust-size guidance-- I'm partial to this one for mainly nostalgic reasons. I got mine from a friend, but they are available on Etsy, Ebay, and likely your local thrift or vintage shop. 

Some artful supplies...

8. Herriott Grace hand-turned cherry rolling pin, $70-$80. Yes, alright, that's a lot for a rolling pin, and granted, mine was a very very sweet and unexpected gift from my dear friend. But hear me out. Herriott Grace is the company of Nikole and Lance Herriott, a father-daughter team who live 3,400 km apart from each other. After years of Lance sending his daughter hand-carved spoons in the mail, they decided to launch their small business. More functional art than ordinary kitchen tool, this rolling pin is beautiful solid cherry, has a heavy weight, great feel, and will last forever.

9. Double-decker Amish pie carrying basket, $45-$70. My parents got me one for Christmas a few years ago from our local Amish market and it is one of my favorite things I own (mine is very similar, pictured here). Perfect for carrying not just one but TWO pies (or other dishes) to a potluck or party--there's a tray that fits inside so you can stack them. Beautiful crafted--mine is signed by the woman who made it-- Loretta Miller.

And some supplying art...

10. Measurement poster by Hatch Show Print, $12. Last on our list is this very useful letter-pressed poster by Nashville's famous Hatch Show Print, available in black online and in an array of color at their shop. With its list of useful measurement conversions, its perfect for any baker's kitchen. Just need to get mine framed (its light blue) and it will be hanging next to our sink.

Hope you can find something useful for your favorite pie baker, or to put on your own list! And never underestimate the power of a gift you make yourself...even pie bakers like to get a homemade pie sometimes!

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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