Monday, February 24, 2014

Vote Nothing-in-the-House in the Kitchn Homie Awards!

The Homies

Late last week, just before The Kitchn's Homie Award nominations closed, I tossed the pie blog's name into the Best Sweets & Baking Blog category and asked some friends to vote. I didn't think anything would come of it, but figured it might be a nice way to get some new readers. So I was completely surprised when on Sunday morning, my friend Morgan texted me, "HEY HOMIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (At first I thought she was just saying hi). Then when I caught her drift, I loaded The Kitchn to find that Nothing-in-the-House had been named a finalist--one of ten and a judges' pick!! So unexpected but such a delightful honor.

The judges say, "Nothing in the House: A Pie Blog: A lot of talk about pies focuses on Grandma’s favorite recipe or a pie that won a blue ribbon at some county or state fair. It’s about the past. In her prettily photographed and smartly written Nothing in the House, Emily Hilliard gives us lots of brilliant ideas, both sweet and savory, like Chocolate Orange Pie with Mascarpone Cream and Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies, that nod to the past but prove that the pie category has lots of room to grow." How nice.

So if you have a moment, please head over to the ballot here and cast your vote for Nothing-in-the-House and if you have an extra minute, help spread the word to your friends. It's a bit of an underdog (or underblog), but every little bit helps! I'd so appreciate it and as I do your support and readership in general. THANK YOU, ALL!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Friday Pie Slice

Pie Slice by Kate Lebo

1st slice. It was so much fun to be a part of the DREAM TEAM with Elizabeth Graeber and Morgan Hungerford West to put together this Design*Sponge guide to 24 Hours in D.C. Big thanks to the Design*Sponge gals, and to Refinery29 for sharing it.

2nd slice. My friend, talented writer and fellow "pie lady" Kate Lebo has her smart and provocative "The Pie Lady's Manifesto" up at The Rumpus. Bakers, feminists, everyone should read it.

3rd slice. I've been getting in on the Food52 #f52grams fun lately (here and here). Look out for their new theme each week and post a corresponding instagram with hasthtag #f52grams. They might just share your photo.

The tasty crumbs. And speaking of instagram, my pal Jess of Witchin' in the Kitchen was recently featured on the instagram blog. Check out the lovely post and her beautiful and serene photos here.

Past Friday Pie Slices.

Photo by Kate Lebo via The Rumpus

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust

Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust

Late last year, my friend Alison Baitz put out a zine entitled ON FLORA. It is a stylish little collection of photographs of flowers and plants, with no words (though there are some photographs of print) that convey humor and camp and craftiness while still managing to be beautifully shot, designed, and printed.

Just before Valentine's Day, Alison had an ON FLORA release celebration in the form of a Galentine's Day party at Meeps. There was an activity table--flower crown and corsage crafting and valentine making, a treats table with edible flower-infused punch and cupcakes and sweets, and all the floral print you can imagine.  To add to the treats table, Alison commissioned me to make two floral-inspired pies. This was an exciting challenge--I love when I'm given a framework for a creative project-- baking or otherwise. I did a lot of recipe browsing and brainstorming, and settled on a Hibiscus-Poached Pear & Cranberry Pie and this Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart, adapted only slightly from Desserts for Breakfast. I was tempted to make more floral-infused treats-- with jasmine or orange flower water, or this Chamomile Buttermilk Pie, but they'll have to wait until ON FLORA's second issue.

This Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust is a dream. It's not too sweet, and in my opinion you can never go wrong with a chocolate and cardamom combination. For those who don't like the taste of lavender, this one's definitely not for you, but I love it.

Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust

Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust
Adapted only slightly from Desserts for Breakfast

Makes 1 9-inch tart

For the crust:
260 grams all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom
1 Tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
1/4 cup sugar
7 Tablespoons salted butter, cold and cut into pieces (if using unsalted, salt to taste)
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons water, cold

For the filling:
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dried lavender buds, plus more for dusting
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Coarse salt and fine sugar, for dusting

For crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, cardamom, lemon zest, and sugar until combined. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal and peas.

2. Add the egg yolk and gradually add the lemon juice and water until a dough begins to form. Do not overmix. Form the pastry into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove pastry ball from fridge and press the dough into the greased and floured 9-inch tart pan. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, cover with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. If dough has softened, return to the freezer for a few additional (10-15) minutes.

4. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the edges begin to turn golden. Remove the beans and parchment paper and continue to bake for 3-5 minutes more, until the crust has turned completely golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

For the filling:
1. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the cream and dried lavender buds just until simmering. Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the chocolate and honey in a heat-proof bowl and place a fine wire mesh strainer on top. Set aside.

3. Add the butter to the cream and lavender mixture and return to a simmer. Once it simmers, remove from heat and pour the mixture through the strainer onto the prepared chocolate, making sure to press all the liquid from the lavender buds. Discard the lavender buds.

4. Let the chocolate sit for 2-3 minutes, then whisk until it is completely melted and the mixture is homogeneous. Immediately pour the mixture into the cooled tart crust. Let tart sit at room temperature until completely cool, about 1-2 hours. Then store in the fridge. When ready to serve, sprinkle with additional dried lavender buds, coarse salt, and fine sugar. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust

Related recipes:
Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Tart with Candied Pecans

Monday, February 17, 2014

Abra Berens' Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladière

Abra Berens' Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladiere
I'm very excited to have this guest post and recipe from my friend Abra Berens, a talented chef and farmer who splits her time between Chicago (where she's worked in some of the city's top bakeries like Floriole and Hoosier Mama Pie Company) and Bare Knuckle Farm in Michigan's Leelanau Penninsula. I've always loved being a guest at Abra's dinner table ever since we became friends in college, so I'm glad to be able to share some of her work here with this Celery Ham Tart. From Abra...

Years ago I worked at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have a vague recollection of Rodger Bowser making these tarts for a daily special. When I asked him why he made it, he said, "Celery is really good right now and it is what I wanted for lunch."

When our friends Matt and Carissa showed up next to us at the Sutton's Bay market with beautiful, dark green celery, I knew what I wanted for dinner. Then work got busy, I forgot I had tomatoes that needed to be roasted that day and I never made my tart. Luckily that Sunday, our neighbors Gene and Kathy Garthe were having a party and asked me to bring an appetizer. "Aha, I'll make the tart and cut it smaller!" I thought. There was also an avid mushroom forager at this party, so I made one tart vegetarian, substituting our recently harvested wine cap mushrooms for the ham. Any sort of rich mushroom would work.

Abra Berens' Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladiere

I like taking regular pie dough, which I try to keep in the freezer at all times, and treat it like puff dough to make a slightly different texture. It won't puff like true puff pastry, but it is nice and makes me feel like I'm doing something extra for my friends.

The only nerve-racking part of this recipe is inverting the tart onto the platter. The tart is usually greased enough with lard to avoid sticking, but if some sticks, just scrape it out and add it back. No one will be able to see the difference.

Abra Berens' Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladiere

Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladière
From Abra Berens of Bare Knuckle Farm

Nothing in the House pie dough, halved
1 head celery*
1 long leek
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup white wine
5 strips unsmoked ham of bacon**, smoked is okay but can overpower the delicate leeks
2 Tablespoons lard or butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions (freeze the other half for a future pie, or make two tarts!). Once chilled, roll the pie dough into a rectangle and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll it to the same size as the original rectangle and fold into thirds again. Repeat one more time to mimic puff pastry. You could also use puff pastry if you like making your own.

2. For the final rolling, roll pie crust into a circle about the same size as your cast iron skillet (slightly larger is okay, but you don't want it smaller). Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes after all the rolling.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Thinly slice the celery and leeks and wash them in cold water. I like to slice them on a long bias so that the leeks are in long ovals and the celery doesn't look like it came out of a can.

4. In a large cast iron skillet, heat the lard or butter until melted. Add the leeks, celery, and thyme with a hefty pinch of salt and black pepper. Let sweat until the celery is softening. Add the white wine and allow to reduce until syrupy.

5. Lay the ham strips over the leek mixture. Then lay the dough circle over the whole lot and bake until the dough is golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Now your ready for the flip. Place your serving platter over the skillet and invert, flipping the tart out of the pan. Scrape any clinging celery bits from the pan and place on top of the tart. Slice and serve warm.

Recipe notes: *Abra recommends using local celery for this recipe, available in late summer/early fall in most places of the country. But I made mine in winter with grocery store celery and it was still delicious. **To make this tart vegetarian, substitute any rich mushroom for the ham.

Abra Berens' Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladiere

Related posts:
Floriole's Milk Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart
Hoosier Mama's Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Peach Apricot Raspberry Wedding Pie

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cranberry Hand Pies

Heart-Shaped Cranberry Hand Pies with Elizabeth Graeber illustration

As I've said before, I don't really believe in Valentine's Day. I do, however, always believe in telling the people you care for that you love them. I also believe in heart-shaped sweet treats. February 14th then, does present a good opportunity for both of those things to occur. Growing up, my grandma and mom always made heart-shaped sugar cookies this time of year, decorated with pink and red frosting. I still take guilty pleasure in that childhood treat, and decided to re-envision it in pie-form. 

Stacked Cranberry Hand Pies

These cranberry hand pies use a quick homemade cranberry-orange jam filling. If you don't favor cranberries or have any on hand, you could substitute them with your favorite jam. The heart-shaped pies are all cranberry-filled, but for the circular pies, I spread a thin layer of goat cheese on half for a bit of savory flavor. Those cran-goat cheese pockets would make wonderful snacks or appetizers, while the pure cranberry hand pies are better suited for breakfast or dessert. No matter the time of day, slip these little pies in your pocket and pass them out to the ones you love-- a Valentine's Day celebration I can believe in.
Elizabeth Graeber illustrated heartsElizabeth Graeber illustrated hearts
Cranberry Hand Pies

Cranberry Hand Pies
Makes about 1-2 dozen, depending on size

Nothing in the House pie crust
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
Juice of 1 medium naval orange
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier, if desired
1 egg, whisked with 1 Tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk (for egg wash)
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
4 oz. goat cheese (for savory pies, if desired)

1. Prepare Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Once chilled, roll out dough onto a floured surface and cut into circles or hearts of equal size. Place cut crust on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and return to chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, stir and simmer cranberries, orange juice, zest, sugar, and Grand Marnier, if using. Stir occasionally until cranberries begin to burst, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5-7 minutes more, until a thick sauce is formed. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool. 

3. Remove cut dough from fridge and mound cranberry mixture into the center of half of the circles or heart. If using goat cheese, spread it on the other half of the pie. Brush edges of dough with water and place a matching piece of dough on top. Press the edges with a fork to seal. Brush hand pies with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and cut a steam vent in the top of each.

3. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, bake hand pies for 35-45 minutes, rotating cookie sheet half-way through. Filling will be bubbling and crust will be golden brown when done. Transfer pies to a wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Red Elizabeth Graeber hearts
Heart-shaped Cranberry Hand Pies

Thanks to Food52 for featuring these in their #F52grams!
Related Recipes:

Illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blood Orange Chess Pie

Blood Orange Chess Pie

I'm writing this from a lake house in Michigan. The lake is frozen over, the high today is 18, the low is -6, and there's over 2 feet of snow on the ground. I'm loving it now while it's novel (though wishing I had my cross-country skis), but remember those college-era long Michigan winters when long underwear was obligatory, causing us to move across campus like marshmallows and making dance party dressing a conundrum. We were all hoping for spring-- because classes would be over, yes, but more so because it meant our bodies would be warm again. 

The first time I ever ate a blood orange was on an escape from one such Michigan winter. On my senior year spring break (which for the University of Michigan is in February), my friend and I took a trip to Southern California-- to visit her sister in Santa Barbara and some of my high school friends at Caltech. When my pals were in class or solving complicated mathematical proofs, my friend and I roamed the campus, pillaging citrus from the trees that surrounded the lecture halls and libraries. I was surprised when I plucked an orange from a tree and peeled it to reveal a bright red interior, with dripping juice that made me wonder if I'd unknowingly gotten a paper cut.  I didn't know what to expect flavor-wise, but I bit in and found it tarter than I'd imagined, in a good way--a classic navel orange's more interesting yet slightly sinister step-sister.

Blood Orange Chess Pie with Slice

This tartness and vivid hue make blood oranges a fruit well-suited for baking, lending more complexity than standard oranges. The brilliant pop of color and flavor are also ideal for mitigating winter's doldrums.

Ever since I made Hoosier Mama's Cranberry Chess Pie, I've been wanting to "chess" everything (more on what Chess Pie is here). This recipe is adapted from the Lee Brothers' Grapefruit Chess Pie. This time I used my standard pie crust, but you could also use the sweet rye crust which is in their original recipe.

Blood Orange Chess Pie slice

Blood Orange Chess Pie
Adapted from The Lee Brothers' Charleston Kitchen

Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
4 blood oranges
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 large egg whites
2 large egg yolks
1/2 c. heavy cream, room temperature
4 Tblsp. (half stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. fine cornmeal, plus more for sprinkling.

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 for 15 more minutes in the freezer.. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Place a sheet of parchment paper inside the pie crust and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and take out the parchment and weights. Brush crust with the egg yolk, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

3. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, finely grate the zest of 1 of the blood oranges (it will yield about 1 tsp.) and set aside. Segment 2 of the blood oranges by trimming off the top and bottom so each end is flat. Then peel the fruit by placing a sharp knife at the point where the pith meets the fruit and cut with the curvature of the fruit.  

4. Over a medium bowl to catch the juice, cut along the segment membranes of the oranges to separate each segment. Strain the segments and reserve the juice and segments separately (you'll have about 1 c. segments and 1/3 c. juice). Whisk the zest and salt into the blood orange juice.

5. Whisk the egg yolks and egg whites together in a large bowl (I used a standing mixer) until they are light and cream-colored, then whisk in the cream and melted butter. 

6. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and cornmeal. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in thirds, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the orange juice mixture until incorporated.

5. Pour the filling into the pie crust and arrange the blood orange segments in the custard (they will float to the surface as they bake). Place the pie in the oven and bake 35-45 minutes until the top has browned and the center jiggles stiffly. Cool on a wire rack at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Blood Orange Chess Pie

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Decorative Crust with Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking

Decorative Pie Crust by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @bakerhands

Tara Jensen and I both lived in Burlington, Vermont around the same time and had many of the same friends. I had heard about her and her art through various pals, but strangely our paths never crossed. Then she moved to North Carolina, and I moved to North Carolina and then left North Carolina, and  unknowingly we gathered more common friends along the way. Then somehow through the small mediated world we know as Instagram, we made a connection. It took a few weeks of oggling the rustic bread loves and incredibly artful pie crusts of "bakerhands" before I realized who was behind it all, and then it all seemed to make sense.

Tara now owns and operates Smoke Signals Baking in Marshall, NC, just outside of Asheville. Tara comes to baking from a background in art (as evidenced by her beautiful work in pastry), and approaches her bakery as "a living entity that combines food, writing, and photography." I asked Tara if she would share a tutorial on her decorative crust tops and tell us a little bit about her baking practice. You can find her lovely and inspiring words and photographs below.

Decorative Pie Crust by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @Bakerhands

What is it about pie making that's inspiring?

I came into making pies a few Thanksgivings ago. I wanted to offer my customers something special so I started making sweet potato pies from the potatoes we grew on the farm. After a long day of difficult bread baking I turned towards my pie orders and felt a sense of relief. Pie was the kind friend I was looking for in the kitchen. I find pie to be a forgiving and creative process with the pleasure of immediate gratification. Bread feels so rugged and demanding, yet pie proposed a chance to be delicate, feminine even. And of course, sweet.

How has your background as an artist influenced you?

I enjoyed success as an artist through my twenties, but when I decided to turn my life over to baking and farming, making art took a back seat. This wasn't a painful transition; I was ready to welcome a new chapter of my life. I began to feel strongly that my entire life became my creative project and what made me an artist was not so much what I made materially in the world, but rather my perspective.

It's been a few years now since I've painted or attempted a drawing, but when I hold the pastry wheel and slice through a nicely-made dough I feel the same thrill and expression as when I would strike out on a fresh piece of white paper. There are movements of the wrist and body that I will always go to when making a shape or a line. Treating the pie dough like a creative material, rather than food, was helpful to making all kinds of patterns, designs, and forms. I also think there is no wrong way of making a pie or any kind of way a pie should be, which frees me up to experiment, fail, and learn about myself along the way.

Decorative Pie Crust Tutorial by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking

Decorative Crust: A Tutorial
The top crust of your pie affords you a moment of reflection. The bottom crust is done, the filling has been prepared and you are left with a final canvas of flour and butter. When I would paint my favorite creative time was after the majority of the legwork was done and I got to sit back and decide where to put that final speck, that last mark which was going to tie it all together. I love the top crust because it's that special space, when most of the heavy lifting is done, when one can look with a discerning and excited eye.

Cutting Decorative Pie Crust Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @bakerhands

I get really jazzed about decorating my pie tops. I like to clean up the kitchen first. Maybe make another pot of coffee. Definitely find the right song. Step outside the hot kitchen and look at the sky. And then just r e l a x. After I roll out the initial top, upon which I'll assemble different shapes, I imgine I'm cutting paper and let my hands guide me to whatever shapes they want to make. Think of pie dough as your material and egg wash as your glue. You can be literal or abstract. The goal is to have a little joy and embrace the process. There's no right or wrong here.

Things you'll need: 
Egg wash
Pastry brush
One fully filled pie ready for a top!

Things you might also want: 
Pinking shears
Cookie cutters
Pastry wheel

Apple Pie by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @bakerhands

1. When you roll out your pie crust for the bottom, save any scraps.

2. Fill your pie. Now you can either make a top with a traditional cover boasting fun shapes or cut outs, or you can make a top by assembling many small pieces to cover the filling.

3. I like to put on a whole top-- makes it feel like a blank page to me. Be mindful when rolling out the dough for your decorative pieces to roll it relatively thin. That way you can do several layers and you won't end up with a top crust three inches thick and hard to bake thoroughly. Also keep in mind that shapes or pieces that stand tall above the rest of the pie will brown quickly.

Pie Crust Shapes by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @bakerhands

4. Roll out the extra dough you've saved and go to town! Let your hand make whatever shapes it wants. I go for long lines and organic looking leaves. If you need a warm up try drawing on a huge piece of butcher paper to get your wrist in the mood. You can cut the dough with a knife, with scissors, cookie cutters, or with a pastry wheel: choose one or try them all.

5. Brush wherever you are going to lay down dough with an egg wash. The possibilities here are endless. I don't start with an idea; I just start cutting up the dough and place it randomly, letting a pattern, design, or image emerge. Express yourself!

6. I give the final pie one more light brush of egg wash and dust it with coarse sugar to add some sparkle. Bake it and eat with friends or alone, in between dance breaks to your favorite song*.

Pie Crust Leaf by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @bakerhands

*My current favorite song: Take this Waltz by Leonard Cohen

Decorative Pie Crust by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking

Thanks so much to Tara Jensen for sharing this tutorial, photos, and bit of inspiration . You can find more of Tara's words and photos via her website, tumblr, and instagram.

Decorative Pie Crusts by Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking @bakerhands

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