Friday, February 24, 2012

Radio C=2PiR presents...Pi(e) Day in D.C.!

It's that time of year again Pi(e) Day is on the way! I'll be celebrating again this year, this time not in NC, but in DC, where in 2009 the House of Representatives supported the March 14th designation of Pi(e) Day.
This year the event will be held as a benefit for Radio CPR, Washington D.C. community powered radio, and will all take place at St. Stephen's Church at 1525 Newton St. NW in Mt. Pleasant. Highlights of the party will include all-you-can-eat homemade sweet and savory pies, live old-time music, Radio CPR Djs a-DJin', and a Pi(e) Walk (walked in a circle of circumference 2piR) where you can win a pie to take home! You can find more information via our Facebook invite here.

The menu is looking fine, with banana cream pie with salty bourbon caramel, vegan avocado pie (a Pi(e) Day classic, 3 years running), a bacon onion tart, classic key lime, and a few surprises all on the list. To find out what might be in store, check out our Pi(e) Day last year in Carrboro, NC (be sure to watch the video!), and our 2010 celebration at Celebrity Dairy Goat Farm in Siler City, NC.

Circle up to the pi(e) and see you there!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Angel Tartlets

As I mentioned in the previous post, Valentine's Day for me is about baking and baked goods. Regardless of what our plans were for the evening, I wanted to make some kind of treat to share, and chocolate was requested! So I turned to Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies' "chocolate section" and settled on this inside-out chocolate angel pie.

Angel pie is an inside-out confection, where the meringue, which typically tops a chocolate cream pie, serves instead as the crust. A creamy chocolate filling sits atop it, with the addition of an extra dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Nancie says that the angel pie, a southern favorite, is kin to pavlova, the meringue-centric dessert named after dancer Anna Pavlova, and a traditional dish in Australia and New Zealand. She also notes that both are variations of the German/Viennese "schaum torte" a meringue "cake" that is also popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin (where there are many German immigrants). Growing up, my friend Suzannah used to make meringue cookies in this style, with the addition of chocolate chips.

Based on some quickie internet research, it appears that there are a few variations of angel pie. The lemon version seems to be a well-loved treat and I saw some recipes for other flavors, like grapefruit coconut; I think the meringue crust would be a delicious foundation for any light, cream-based filling. Though I followed Nancie's recipe pretty closely, I decided to make mine into little chocolate angel tartlets, to go with the mini savory pot pies I was making. Here's the recipe I used.

Chocolate Angel Tartlets
Adapted from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies

For meringue crust:
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. (2 oz.) chopped pecans

For chocolate cream filling:
4 squares (4 oz.) semisweet chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy cream
sweetened whipped cream and cocoa powder for garnish (optional--I didn't to this in the interest of time, but would recommend it!)

For the meringue crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Grease 6 mini tart pans and set aside.

2. In a kitchen aid with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat on high until the eggs are fluffy and hold their shape. While beating, add the sugar and vanilla to the egg whites gradually, until they are thick, shiny and form stiff peaks.

3. Scoop the beaten egg whites into the tartlet pans, dividing them evenly between the 6. Use the back of the spoon to shape them into crust-like shapes--high sides, extending slightly over the sides of the pan and thin in the center. Scatter the chopped pecans over the bottom of the meringue crust, dividing them evenly among the tartlets.

4. Place tartlet pans on a metal baking sheet and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 250 degrees F and bake until meringue is lightly browned, firm, and dry to the touch, 35-45 minutes more.

5. Once done, place the tartlets on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate the crust for 3 hours or overnight.

For the chocolate cream filling:
1. Melt chocolate in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 c. hot water and vanilla and stir until everything is combined and smooth. Set aside to cool completely.

2. When chocolate is cool, beat the cream until thick and holds firm peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate for a delicate and creamy chocolate filling.

3. Scoop the chocolate filling into the meringue crust and mound it so it looks nice. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Serve cold with extra whipped cream and cocoa dusting, if desired.

These tarts were quite sweet, as the filling is essentially a chocolate mousse supported by a rather sugary crust. In the future, I'd like to experiment with using a darker chocolate infused with some other flavor--perhaps orange or lavender, but it was a night where a little sugar indulgence was allowed. I'd also recommend, if nothing else for aesthetics, adding an extra dollop of whipped cream and a cocoa powder dusting or chocolate shavings.

Though I had initially planned a winter picnic in the park, it was dark and a little rainy on the night of St. Valentine's, so we lit some Mexican votive candles, put some 1920s Cajun fiddle music on the record player, sat on the floor of my room and ate one of these delights (preceded by mini savory pot pies in personal ramekins). Then we went out for fancy whiskey cocktails at a joint called Jack Rose (R.I.P.) followed by a rock 'n' roll/rockabilly dance party at the Black Cat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tart of Gold--Found!

I've never really been one for Valentine's Day. I appreciate its pagan origins, and think it's always a nice thing to show and tell the people you care about that you do, indeed, care about them, but seeing all the cheap sentiment for sale in the grocery and drug store aisles makes my stomach turn more than my heart beat. What Valentine's Day has always been about for me, though, is baked goods. My mom and grandma always made the most delicious and cutest heart-shaped sugar cookies, glazed with red & pink icing--seriously the best you have ever tasted. They continued the tradition through college, where tins of these cookies with homemade valentines would arrive at my dorm room and I'd have to pawn them off on my roommates and neighbors so as not to eat them all.

So it seems right that this year, Tarts by Tarts did a special Valentine's Day event--offering up made-to-order tarts-- "hearts by tarts" if you will--and various other baked goods at the Tart of Gold Party at Treasury last Thursday.

In addition to our made-to-order tarts, we offered up various baked goods for snackin' at the party, or to take home to your sweetie. Here's the menu:
honey-hazelnut amaranth short bread cookies
maple orange sugar cookie sandwiches with vanilla & raspberry buttercream
chocolate cookies
salted vanilla-bourbon caramels in stamped muslin bags
yeasted doughnuts with chili spiced chocolate glaze
yeasted doughnuts with vanilla-bourbon glaze & toasted coconut
yeasted duce de leche-filled doughnuts
caramel nut tartlets
lemon-ginger meringue tartlets

Though I had recently made my grandma Eileen's lemon meringue pie, this time I used the lemon-ginger lemon curd recipe that we used for the ginger-lemon and bourbon orange tart. The recipe is as follows:

Lemon-Ginger Meringue Tartlets
Makes 6 tartlets

For crust:
Nothing-in-the house pie crust recipe or your favorite tart crust recipe

For lemon-ginger curd:
6 Tblsp. arrowroot starch (or corn starch)
2 cup + 4 Tblsp. granulated sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
finely grated zest from 2 medium lemons
2 Tblsp. of freshly grated ginger
4 Tblsp. white wine
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
6 Tblsp. of unsalted butter, cold

For meringue:
5 egg whites
6 Tblsp. sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
For crust:
1. Follow instructions for Nothing-in-the-House pie crust or your favorite tart crust recipe. Meanwhile, prepare your lemon curd (see instructions below).

2. Preheat oven to 400 and remove crust dough from fridge. Grease and flour 6 tartlet pans. Divide crust into six, roll out, and fit into tart shells. Place crusted tart shells into freezer for 15 minutes. 

3. Remove tart shells from freezer. Line each with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and bake for 5-10 minutes more or until golden brown and flaky. Let cool.

For lemon-ginger curd:
1. Place the arrowroot starch, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, grated ginger, white wine, eggs, egg yolks and salt in a small saucepan.

2. Turn the stove on low heat, and with a whisk, stir contents constantly as the curd cooks and thickens. Bring the curd to about 185˚F which should take about 7 or 8 minutes.

3. Once the curd has reached the right temperature turn off the stove and remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour the curd into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 30 seconds to cool the curd. Then turn the speed to low and add one tablespoon of butter. Beat until it is melted and fully incorporated. Add the second tablespoon beating until it too is incorporated. Repeat with the final tablespoon.
4. Let the curd come to room temperature and pour it into a bowl or tupperware. Cover bowl and place in the freezer for at least two hours or overnight.

For meringue:
1. Once curd has been chilled sufficiently, divide curd into baked tart shells (I had some leftover curd, which was just fine with me--try it on toast, pound cake or ice cream!). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add sugar gradually and pinch of cream of tartar. Spread meringue over lemon curd in each tartlet, using the back of a spoon to create curls and peaks. Place tartlets in the oven and brown, 13-15 minutes. Let tartlets cool to room temperature and place in fridge. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.


Cathy of Treasury called it "the best meringue tart of my life! I loved the crust too and I normally like that part the least." Thanks so much to Treasury gals Joyce, Katerina and Cathy, our friends who helped out and took audio recordings and lent us supplies, our customers who ordered tarts and bought baked goods, and to my awesome tartner Kari! We ended up getting a lot of really nice write-ups from blogs and sites**, including Refinery29, The President Wears Prada (who also graciously provided these pictures), and Panda Head--so thank you to those writers and bloggers too!


Hope you had a sweet Valentine's day! Look for Tarts by Tarts next at the D.C. Square Dance on March 3rd, where we'll be hawking Southern-inspired treats for all the ladies and gents. Of course, that will include pie (maybe even some fried ones too).

Our friend DVD made this adorable and hilarious audio piece about the party--a "little synapse of deliciousness for your ears". Have a listen.

Thanks to TPWP and Kari for the photos.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vintage Pie-Themed Valentines

Still not sure what to do for Valentine's day? Doughn't pie-ne away! What's butter than getting some "flours" and whipping up somethin' sweet--whether for your special someone, that crush you've got your eye on, or alone on the couch in a union suit, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and a bottle of cheap wine (been there). Might we suggest a dark chocolate & salted caramel pie? salty honey? or lemon meringue? And lord knows, if there's one thing I like more than pie, it's puns. Pair that pie with some of these punny vintage Valentines, and you'll be sure to get things rollin'...



The last Valentine comes from the Montana Historical Society and was delivered to a young resident of Ollie, MT in approximately 1930. Happy hearts 'n' tarts!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dark Chocolate & Vanilla-Bourbon Salted Caramel Pie

I found myself at the grocery store one evening last week, realizing the moment I walked in that I needed to make something (ok, a pie) to bring to a friend's farm I was visiting the next day. I was caught defenseless, though, there among the cabbages and screaming babbies, unarmed without a list of ingredients, recipe ideas, or ability to obtain them (my phone is not smart). I scoured the aisles for cookbooks, considered asking a man texting on his iphone in the bulk nuts section if he would look something up for me, and finally called Brent and had him frantically google searching Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies to see if any appropriate recipes were posted anywhere. No luck. I ended up not getting any ingredients for pie, but on the way home, had a sudden jolt of inspiration--all those salted caramels I'd been making (for our upcoming Tart of Gold party) would be just fine in a pie crust! Not to mention with dark chocolate on top...

I had all the ingredients, having made vanilla-bourbon salted caramels the night before and remembering I'd spotted a leftover bar of baker's chocolate on my shelf. So I improv-ed this guy, combining elements from two favorite recipes as of late--the chocolate from this dark-chocolate sea salt tart, and the salted caramel from Judicial Peach. I threw in some vanilla-bourbon my friend Lora had given me as a housewarming present, and we had ourselves a winner.

Dark Chocolate & Vanilla-Bourbon Salted Caramel Pie

For crust:
Follow Nothing-in-the-house pie crust recipe (I used half whole-wheat pastry flour, mainly out of necessity, but the grainy texture of the whole wheat flour was a nice compliment to the smooth & rich chocolate caramel)

For caramel:
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1 c.heavy cream
4 Tblsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 teaspoon bourbon barrel-aged vanilla

For chocolate:
7 oz. 60-70% dark chocolate (unsweetened), broken into pieces
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt

For crust:
1. Follow instructions for Nothing-in-the-house pie crust. Chill crust for at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll out pastry until it is about 12 in. in diameter. Grease and flour 10-in. pie pan and transfer crust to pan, trimming off excess crust. Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes to help prevent shrinkage during baking.
2. 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. 
For caramel:
1. In a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and sea salt to a simmer, over medium heat. Do not let boil.  Once it has reached a simmer, turn off the heat, and set aside.

2. In a deep saucepan, combine water, corn syrup, and sugar.  Over medium-high heat, stir only until the sugar has dissolved.  Then allow the mixture to boil, without stirring, until the mixture is a warm, golden brown. This takes at least 10 minutes, but  make sure to watch it carefully, as the caramel can burn quickly toward the end. 

3.  When the sugar mixture is done, remove from the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture.  Be careful as it will bubble up violently.  Stir in the vanilla-bourbon.

4.  Return the mixture to heat and cook over medium until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees F, about 10 minutes.  Pour the caramel into the baked pie crust and let cool. Once it is cooled to room temperature, refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until caramel is firm and set (it can still be a little tacky to the touch). Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate ganache.

For chocolate:
1. Put chocolate, sugar, heavy cream and salt 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 chocolate ganache over the chilled, set caramel and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.

I packed this baby up in my double decker Amish pie carrying basket, hopped in the truck, and we were off, braving the Friday D.C. rush hour traffic en route to a farm outside of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Though the evening set in quickly, I got a glimpse of Virginia wine country and its dreamy stone cottages on the way up. It was dark by the time we arrived, but the stars were bright, and we were greeted by a home-cooked dinner in a wood stove-heated farmhouse. It didn't take us too long to cut into the pie. I was nervous because of its improvised nature, but it was a real hit--and as one taster commented, was like a homemade Heath bar in a crust. I'll take it...and I'd better make it again--among five eaters, only one slice remained, and it was hard to save it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tart of Gold Valentine's Day Party!

We've got more where that came from! Part deux of the heart tarts in D.C. news is that Tarts by Tarts is teaming up with Treasury to bring you the Tart of Gold Valentine's Day Party! It's happening this Thursday from 5-9pm at Treasury, located at 1843 14th St. NW. We'll have treats aplenty--doughnuts and tartlets, cookies and caramels, delicious cocktails and vintage treasures! 

You can pick-up your ordered tart at the party, or order one for delivery on Sunday and we're also running a special cross promotion. When you order a tart from Tarts by Tarts, you'll receive 20% off one item at Treasury, and when you buy from Treasury, you'll receive $5 off of your tart! Now that's a pairing we can get down with.

We've had so much excitement leading up to this event-- from planning with the lovely ladies of Treasury, our doughnut & vintage styled photoshoot, to recipe selection and promotion--we hope you can be a part of it. And look! We're been written up in Refinery29 and been called a "local baking supergroup!" Love at first bite, indeed!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Hearts By Tarts!

This Valentine's Day, my baking venture, Tarts by Tarts, with my friend Kari (you'll remember our stand at Crafty Bastards in October) is serving up some special made-to-order tarts for your sweetheart in Washington, D.C.

You can pick-up your tarts at our Valentine's Day party, Tart of Gold, this Thursday, February 9th at Treasury (more on that later), or have them delivered anywhere in the District on Sunday, February 12th.

Here's a look at our offerings:
Salty Honey Pie
A savory-sweet romance pie with a crusty top and gooey insides. made with local, organic honey from Takoma Park, MD! (read more here)

Simple Apple Tart
"I wish I was an apple a-hangin’ on a tree, and every time my true love passed she’d take a little bite of me,” the old song goes. Whether it's with your true love or not, take a bite out of this classic apple tart, with sugar on top. (middle picture, and more here and here)

Raspberry Goat Cheese Tart
The kissin’ cousin to cheesecake with a goat cheese twist, topped with raspberry preserves to remind you of sweet summer love.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Tart with Candied Pecans
Dark chocolate with a bite for that cutie who digs on sweet 'n' salty crunch as much as we do. (top picture and more here)

Honey Caramel Walnut Tart
A sticky, crunchy, chewy tart with a pinch of anise and a twist of orange, for the babes with a dash of spice in their blood.

Savory Roasted Garlic Tart
In the land of kissing, the garlic tart is king. Say what? Well, your honey is sure to come back for seconds when there's this much flavor. Made with goat cheese, herbs, and a whole heap of garlic. (bottom picture and more here)

You can place your orders online via the form here, or in person at Treasury, located at 1843 14th St. NW in D.C. from now until Friday, February 10th.  Order a tart for that sweetheart, crush, pal, or just for you!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Williamsburg Peanut Butter Cream Pie

As I child, I was obsessed with Colonial Williamsburg. On our first visit, my brother and I collectively got to play harpsichords, fire a cannon, don revolutionary garb, make cheese and polish silver (fun!). On a subsequent vacation, when our parents' offered us a choice between Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg, we chose Williamsburg, hands down. And when we got back home, we put on a living history demonstration in our backyard with hoops and fifes, bonnets and tri-corner hats, to show off all we had learned.

So when I finally picked up a copy of the long coveted Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies, the first recipe I tried in it was naturally Williamsburg Peanut Butter Cream Pie. The recipe is a variation on a peanut butter pie served at Williamsburg's Shields Tavern. I'm not sure if it's an original 18th century recipe--we figured it probably wasn't when we remembered that George Washington Carver had, in fact, invented peanut butter and was born in 1864--but perhaps there was some variation of ground peanuts used in the Virginia colony. Nonetheless, there's something about this pie that gives it a nostalgic quality, whether through childhood memories jogged by the peanut butter flavor, or via the old-timey custard like-grandma-used-to make filling, I'm not sure.

Here's my take on Nancie's recipe, altered slightly...

Williamsburg Peanut Butter Cream Pie
from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies

For Crust:
1 1/2 c. crushed chocolate wafer cookies (I could not find plain wafers, so I ended up using whole Oreos, as in the crust for Nutella Icebox Pie)
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 Tblsp. sugar (could probably do without since Oreos are quite sweet)

For Filling:
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch (I used tapioca flour, as we were out of cornstarch)
2 c. milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter (I used natural, which added a nice texture, but chose according to your preference)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. heavy cream
1 Tblsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. Bourbon (optional)
3/4 c. coarsely chopped, dry-roasted, salted peanuts

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the crushed cookies (also crushed with a food processor), butter, and sugar in a food processor and blend until well incorporated. Pat filling into a 9- or 10-inch greased pie plate. Bake crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool. 

For filling:
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch (or tapioca flour). In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and egg yolks, and stir well. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture to the egg yolks and milk and stir to mix them well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the filling is thick and smooth (will coat the back of a spoon), 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, set aside and let cool.

When the custard has cooled to room temperature, beat with an electric mixer or whisk until creamy and thickened. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, beating until well incorporated. Scrape the filling into the baked pie crust and smooth the surface. Cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least one hour. 

For topping:
Combine the cream and sugar in a medium bowl and whip with an electric mixer (or whisk, if you are fast and strong!). When it has thickened enough to hold stiff peaks, beat in the vanilla and bourbon (if using), and cover or partially cover the peanut butter filling with the whipped cream. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over top and serve cold.

This is a delectably rich icebox pie that capitalizes on the perfect synergy of peanut butter and chocolate.  I brought mine to a show (hence the bad lighting for the photos--apologies!) and we enjoyed it late-night in January at the bar with beers and honky-tonk. It would also work just as well, though, at a summertime afternoon tea, or as a special treat at two nerdy kids; backyard living history demonstration...