Category: spices

A pie for the ages: bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie!

I’m publishing this pie today, because I wanted to give you time to make it for Thanksgiving. I purposely didn’t post it too early, and I specifically waited until this date. I wanted to give you enough time to really absorb what you’re seeing. Then get up, go out to the store & get the ingredients you need to make this, then come home & plan to do so on/by Thursday. I felt it had to be done this way. So I’m giving you a few days, and I expect you all to make it. You must. Seriously.

It’s THAT good.

Don’t believe me?

Bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie, anyone?

It’s the pie to end all pies.

It’s a pie for the ages!

Bourbon. Sweet potato. Pumpkin. With toasted meringue. Toasted bourbon meringue, that is.

Sweet potato pumpkin pie with bourbon! And more bourbon in the meringue.

Say word.

A motherflippin’ bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie with toasted bourbon meringue! 

When I told Jay of my plans to make it, his jaw dropped open. And he doesn’t even really like pumpkin anything! I knew I was on to something. Although, in hindsight, it might have just been the mention of bourbon. Either way, I combined a few different recipes for a few different pies & came up with this: the holy grail of autumn piedom.

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I didn’t know what to call these, so how about ‘peppery orange ginger muffins’?

After a while, coming up with names for things gets old. And tiresome. And when I’m doing 600 million other things (like for example: painting 5 rooms, 1 ceiling & a hallway, refinishing hardwoods, installing new light fixtures, getting new appliances, redoing my bathroom- there’s literally NO walls just studs & insulation, and of course on top of all that figuring out what’s going on for Thanksgiving) I can’t really focus well enough to come up with a name thats either a) clever or b) makes sense.

See, there’s been a lot of work going on at the house. There are a lot of people working very hard- myself included. I need to have snacks & goodies on hand to feed the troops… or else they might revolt. And the revolt might include not finishing my house! So I try to throw together things that are unique and not just your average snack repeated over & over. Being that it’s been so chilly & windy, I thought a warm, spicy, gingery muffin would work. Then I’d post the recipe if they came out good. Which they definitely did.

Peppery orange ginger muffins. Or spiced orange ginger muffins with black pepper. Whatever they are, they're amazing!

So I just gave up.

Peppery orange ginger muffins it is!

They’re like gingerbread cake, but with orange to sweeten it up a little more. There are so many flavors going on in these, you’d think they’d be “messy” tasting, but they’re not. They’re right on target.

Side note: they came out so delicate & perfectly rounded. Not big or obnoxious or overflowing out of the pans. I don’t know why that is, but they’re good. And I guess it really doesn’t matter. So I eat two instead of one. Big deal.

Ginger muffins with orange zest, candied ginger & black pepper.

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Haulin’ oats.

Use steel-cut oats to make an easy 'overnight oats' recipe flavored with maple pumpkin butter.

Bad pun. Sorry. For those of you born after the early 90′s, I was making a pun referring to Hall & Oates, a 1970′s/1980′s duo who’s songs “Maneater”, “Kiss On My List” & “Private Eyes” are insanely well-known. But yeah. It was a bad pun.

On the plus side? This is a great idea.

I first saw it on This Homemade Life & I thought it was genius. Problem is, I don’t like oatmeal. I like oatmeal cookies… but not oatmeal. But I still wanted to try it anyway. Jay loves oatmeal, my parents love oatmeal, the whole world loves oatmeal. I was starting to feel like a leper. Truth be told, I’m not a breakfast person. If I’m away on vacation, I can maybe get in the mood for a breakfast or two. Especially on the road at an awesome Mom & Pop style diner. Otherwise, nope. I mean, I love breakfast foods. I’ve been known to have a bowl of cereal or two, & I do enjoy a good breakfast-for-dinner now & then. But I don’t want oatmeal when I’m having it- I want a big ol’ stack of buttermilk pancakes or waffles with butter & maple syrup. And don’t forget: lots of crispy bacon.

So to avoid the stigma of being the only person alive who doesn’t like oatmeal, I thought I’d do my own, more seasonal spin on the “overnight oats” in a jar: maple pumpkin oats.

An easy way to make maple pumpkin overnight oats using maple pumpkin butter.

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Spiced bourbon. Need I say more?

Last fall around this time, I posted a recipe for spiced honey; honey infused with spices & lemon. It was a great thing to have around last winter when I thought I’d die. No seriously. I was in the midst of two TERRIBLE bouts of severe cold/bronchitis & it really helped immensely. I added it to tea & I had spoonfuls of it straight from the jar. I’m still making a few jars of it for this winter. However this year… I’m also going with spiced alcohol.

Spiced Buffalo Trace Bourbon; with cardamom, vanilla & cinnamon.

Truth be told, I am not  was never a bourbon girl. Not really. I’d drink it in an old fashioned, even drink it on the rocks. But it’s never been my favorite thing to drink alone. But lately, when it comes to infusions & whipped creams & baked goods & even pickles… bourbon has become my “boo thang.”

Jay loves him some bourbon. He’s my go-to bourbon guy. If I need it for a recipe, I ask him. Which one is best in this, which one would be good for that, which is too expensive to bake with (notice: don’t touch the Pappy Van Winkle, whatever you do), which one would go well in cake, you get the idea.

‘Tis the season for warming drinks. Bourbon, brandy, whiskey, etc. Fall & winter just screams for that kind of thing. Hot toddy’s, hot milk punch, hot buttered whiskey, all that. And like I said, while I’m not a fan of straight up bourbon, I do enjoy some infused varieties. I added that cherry bourbon to Cokes all winter, not to mention I made chocolate sauce with it. And listen: who wouldn’t love some vanilla-infused spiced bourbon?

Loony people, that’s who.

A recipe for spiced Buffalo Trace bourbon.

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Some stout pie shenanigans.

The Irish (and English, for that matter) love their pies. And I don’t mean fruit pies, I mean meat pies. Hot, cold, warm or room temperature, they love them some meat pies. It’s a famous pub dish; a flaky pie crust or puff pastry topping over a beef-stew like filling. You can make them in individual pie plates or as one big pie. Similar concept to Shepherd’s pie, except this pie actually has a crust on top, whereas the former has mashed potatoes.

meat pie is a pie with a filling of meat and/or other savoury ingredients. Principally popular in EuropeAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and South Africa, meat pies differ from a pasty in the sense that a pasty is typically a more portable, on-the-go item, as opposed to a more conventional pie.

-Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I went to a pub that Jay’s friend opened in Brooklyn, and somewhere around the third or fourth Guinness we decided to have a beef & stout pie. It was just a simple little pub with no kitchen, so the pie was an instant microwaveable one. But it gave me an idea: make your own, Marilla!  And at some point, in between then and now, I picked up this book, which conveniently had a recipe listed on the cover for beef & stout pies. SCORE.


How perfect is that?

Anyway, I decided I’d give ‘em a try this week, and they turned out pretty amazing.

And quite easy, actually. In the opinion of the Irish (according to the book), the only stout suitable for cooking with beef is Guinness. If you have another stout you want to use, then so be it. I stick with Guinness for this kinda stuff though- it’s sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect for a stew.

IRISH BEEF & STOUT PIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck steak or eye of round steak, cut into 1″-inch pieces
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups meat stock
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into “coins”
  • 4 or 5 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 pound store-bought puff pastry or store-bought pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then toss the (patted dry) beef in the mix until evenly coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.
  3. Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and carrots for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, potatoes and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish or oven over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for around 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed. Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, letting rest until cool. Preheat the oven to 425° F and put a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  5. Divide the meat mixture among four individual pie plates or 5 -5 1/2″ ramekins. Pour in enough liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the plates or ramekins with water.
  6. Cut your pastry into four pieces, each one large enough to cover the tops of the pies including a 1″ hangover.  Make holes in it or two or three slashes to allow air our and place them on top of the filling, pressing the edges down. I used a fork to push the dough onto the rim. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Places the pies on a the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so no one burns a tongue!

It isn’t the most attractive looking meal, but trust me. It’s way better than it looks! Potatoes, beer, beef, carrots… how can that be bad!?

If you wish, you can lessen the amount of carrots & potatoes, but add in some cremini mushrooms (just the caps, quartered- no stems). I’m not a big mushroom lover. I left them out. If you do choose to add mushrooms, add them with the onions and carrots in step 3. Also, I used frozen pie crust for the tops. Puff pastry will be puffier, obviously. You can also use homemade, if you’ve got a great recipe you like. For the sake of time I went with frozen. Sue me. 

I also made four ramekins, each one measures about 5″ across and 3 1/2″ high. I actually bought them at Pier 1 Imports, so here they are, the larger size. Vintage embroidered Irish linen napkins not included.

And that, my friends, is that. Serve with a hearty bread, or a bit of Irish soda bread, and a pint of Guinness! Or Harp. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what you pair it with, just so long as you enjoy yourself.

I hope you all have a happy & delicious St. Patrick’s Day!

Spice up your life!

In just a few short days, February will have arrived. The winter is far from over, of course, but with February comes the new onslaught of holidays: Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover, etc, etc, etc. Before you know it, websites & blogs will be proclaiming “SPRING!” while you look out your window & see 2 feet of snow or frost-covered cars.

Not me, however.

I am fully aware that there’s a lot of winter left to go, and that you need some warming up. As do I. So on this, my last post of January, I present you with the following: spice-infused milk.

It’s a goddamn revelation, I tell you. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and I’m sorry I never thought of it before. It’s genius. Leave it to Martha to come up with something so stupidly simple it makes you feel positively soft in the head for not thinking of it yourself. It’s basically the same concept behind flavored coffee creamers. Duuuuh.

Last week when I went to Mystic, CT, in a little shop called the Franklin General Store I found Dave’s Coffee Syrup. It’s basically an all-natural, preservative free version of Coffee Time syrup. The ingredients are simply cold brewed coffee & cane sugar; no high-fructose corn syrup or coffee flavor. It’s typically used to make “coffee milk”; a Rhode Island tradition, but there’s a tag on the label that encourages you to get creative with it. I bought the regular coffee syrup, Jay got the Madagascar vanilla coffee syrup. I decided that I wanted to use my infused milk with my new coffee syrup… and so I did. But first I tried it with a regular coffee.


SPICE-INFUSED MILK (via Martha Stewart Living, Dec. 2012)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Spices of your choice; i.e. star anise, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, freshly grated ginger, vanilla, cloves, etc (see below for recipe ideas)
  • 16-oz. jar for storage

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan with the spices you choose, stirring just once or twice. Heat JUST UNTIL STEAMING.
  2. Cover pan and let the spices steep in the milk for 1 hour.
  3. Strain and reheat if necessary, or refrigerate in a jar (up to 3 days). Reheat gently before serving.

There are tons of ideas & possibilities here, and not just for coffee! For example:

OATMEAL: Infuse 2 cups milk with 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick or the pod & seeds of half a vanilla bean. Add to oatmeal.

SWEDISH COFFEE: Steep 18 lightly crushed cardamom pods in 2 cups whole milk, add to coffee. Alternately or in conjunction, you can use 1 cinnamon stick or freshly grated nutmeg.

MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE: For a spicy Mexican-inspired cocoa, infuse 2 cups whole milk with 1 or 2 dried chiles (smoky chipotles or anchos), 1 cinnamon stick and the pod & seeds of 1 vanilla bean. Mix with cocoa.

INDIAN: Use 10 cardamom pods, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 star anise petal and 1 cinnamon stick. Use with coffee or cocoa. This is also good over muesli or with oatmeal.

GROWN UP MILK PUNCH: Mix milk with 2 tablespoons caramel, 3 teaspoons maple syrup, half a vanilla bean (scraped), 2 pinches ground cinnamon. Cook as directed, let cool. Once cooled, mix with 2 shots of brandy in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain before serving.

I made Swedish coffee milk, but I added half of a vanilla bean & a cinnamon stick to the cardamom. So maybe that wasn’t really a Swedish coffee, but I don’t care. It was delicious. I highly recommend it. Do whatever you want! Add whatever spices you like! Chiles, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, vanilla bean, Chinese 5-spice, etc. Go nuts.

And of course, what’s a Swedish coffee without a Swedish book?

Winter warmth in the form of… squash.

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Christmas is over. The cold weather is just kicking into high gear here in New York, as is expected.

I’m guessing most people in your house are preoccupied with new gadgets or toys right about now. That’s the best part of the week after Christmas: playing with your new toys! And sleeping late, too, if you’re able. Because pretty soon it’s back to business. Back to work, back to school… and it’ll be cold out there. So when it’s blustery & cold, and the hubbub of Christmas has worn down, and even when the new year doesn’t feel so new anymore, it’s important to have something warm & comforting to look forward to. Or to come home to. You know, a reason to turn on the oven. And of course, for me, that warmth almost always comes in the form of desserts. Although a beautiful new coat & some boots doesn’t hurt either… this is about pie.

Black pie plate from Longaberger, black appetizer plate from Ikea, little cocotte from Le Creuset

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I found this recipe way back in November when I bought a little book that contained a variety of best-loved pie recipes; all kinds, for all seasons, from frozen to fruity to creamy to nutty. I originally made it for Thanksgiving, and since it was such an enormous hit, I felt lucky to have some leftover frozen squash in the freezer so I could make it again. And that I did, just this week. The beauty of it is that you can use any of the following squash:

  • Acorn Squash
  • Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cheese Pumpkins
  • Delicata Squash
  • Hubbard Squash
  • Kabocha Squash
  • Red Kuri Pumpkins
  • Rouge Vif d’Etampes Pumpkins
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash
  • Turban Squash
  • White Pumpkins

Depending on the kind you use, your pie will have a slightly different color. I used butternut squash, myself, so my pie has an orange-y brown color that isn’t quite a pumpkin-y color. A white pumpkin might yield a more yellow color, a rouge vif d’etampes would give a redder color, etc. Also, while you can in theory use any of the aforementioned squash, depending on the variety you use you may have to puree the flesh or dice it more finely before using it- especially the varieties that hold their shape while cooking.

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual vegetable,[1] representing several species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.

Winter squash is a low-calorie, good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C[citation needed], potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).[2]

It is also a source of iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta carotene content.

-Wikipedia

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WINTER SQUASH PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 single 9″ pie crust (frozen works just fine if you need to use it, just defrost according to package directions)
  • 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) frozen (or fresh) winter squash, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (thawed & drained first if frozen)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (for topping)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° degrees F. Prepare your pie crust, place it into your pie plate and crimp the edges. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the squash, sugar, vanilla, egg & sour cream thoroughly. Add in pumpkin pie spice and salt, and whisk. Then whisk in the evaporated milk.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until set (mine took about 55 minutes).
  4. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream and top with toasted hazelnuts, if desired.

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It was so quick to make, the hardest part (and the longest part) was making the pie crust. May I just say, I think this is one of the best pies- visually- that I’ve made so far. The crust came out great, which is usually a problem for me. I’m so impatient I have a hard time making a pretty crust. I just wanna get it into the pie plate and start baking. But this time I ended up with a beautiful pie.

And what’s pie without whipped cream!?

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I decided to make a brandy whipped cream, a spin-off on that bourbon whipped cream I made before Thanksgiving. It was absolutely perfect with the pie. Regular whipped cream would be just fine, but you know me, I always have to be different. Besides, my grandma always used to say that brandy was “warming”… so it just makes sense to use it at a time when everyone wants to be warm & escape the cold. Not for anything, but check out that big, billowy brandy whipped cream. It’s to die for. I prefer to serve the whipped cream & hazelnuts on each slice individually, but you could also pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the pie and then sprinkle the nuts on top of it before you bring the pie out to serve it. That is, if you’re sure there won’t be much leftover, if any- the whipped cream doesn’t hold up well in the fridge (it’d have to be re-whipped due to lack of stabilizers & preservatives). It would make a lovely presentation that way. I know my audience, though, and that they can’t finish a pie like this in one sitting. So I keep everything separate.

It’s also easier to eat the whipped cream by the spoonful that way. But don’t tell anyone I told you that. Stay cozy & well-fed my friends.

Sources & credits: Recipe from Best-Loved Pies, Longaberger black 11″ pie plate, Ikea black plate, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (black shown).

Maple + pumpkin + bourbon = happiness!

Yeah, you read that right. Motherjumpin’ MAPLE PUMPKIN. And do you know what the maple & pumpkin have done with themselves in this particular instance? They’ve put themselves into little maple pumpkin pastries, or pasties. And yes- it looks as good as it sounds. And it’s all really easy!

See, it all started like this: I had a load of pumpkin in my freezer that I had to use up before Christmas kicks in & everything becomes peppermint-y and not so much pumpkin-y. But I was stumped. Cupcakes, been there done that. Bread? That, too. However, randomly, while looking for something else, I found something that gave me an idea: orange ramekins. I know, you’re thinking, “What do ramekins have to do with anything?” Well, see, I had forgotten all about them. I bought them last year and never used them. I shoved them in a cabinet and forgot all about ‘em. But when I saw them this year I immediately thought of pumpkins… and I was originally going to come up with a pumpkin spice pudding, or a pumpkin-y bread pudding. But then… to add to my excitement over having ideas again… I saw this.

How the hell was I supposed to ignore a recipe that has both pumpkin and maple in the title?

However, while custard tastes delicious, it doesn’t look all that delicious, especially pumpkin custard. Pumpkin custard resembles something wonky that babies do when sick. It tastes amazing, but does not photograph well; unless of course, you’re working for Bon Appétit & have professional lighting & backdrops & such at your disposal. I do not. I live in a house, not a photography studio. My life is not ruled by food photography. I do not have professional lights & reflectors set up just so my custard photographs well. So I made the custard, and it was eaten up super quickly, but the photos left a lot to be desired. And that’s when I decided to hell with it. I’m going back to an old standby- mini pies.

Or pasties.

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Are they an “old standby” at this point? I don’t know, but somewhere between my Nutella pop-tarts and my mini-apple pies, I came to love the portable pie. And it became a fall-back for me when regular pies hate me, or, apparently, when custard doesn’t look appetizing. I had all this pumpkin left & I didn’t want to do a pumpkin pie, ’cause that’s boring. So I made little pies. This time, though, they look more like pastries, or pasties, more so than miniature pies… so I’ll just dub them maple pumpkin pasties (Harry Potter, anyone?). You can call them mini pies, or pumpkin pop-tarts, or pumpkin littles, or whatever cutesy name you like. They’re pie crust, cut into circles, filled with a maple pumpkin filling, folded over, brushed with egg… and then baked. When done, they’re a hand-held heavenly little cluster of amazeballsness. Or a pasty.

And before you go off thinking I’m talking about those little items strippers use, get your minds out of the gutter:

A pasty (play /ˈpæsti/, Cornish: Hogen; Pasti), (sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States)[1] is a baked pastry associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. It is made by placing uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular end-product.

The traditional Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe,[2] is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as a yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall, it is regarded as the national dish, and it accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.

The origins of the pasty are unclear, though there are many references to them throughout historical documents and fiction. The pasty is now popular world-wide due to the spread of Cornish miners, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

-Wikipedia

So a pasty is just like a hand-held pie. Cute, easy, convenient,  and so much better than a regular ol’ pumpkin pie, especially with the addition of maple. But you might be wondering where the bourbon comes in. That part is the perfect example of how I can’t leave well enough alone. I thought some bourbon whipped cream (thanks for the excellent idea, Tanglewood Baked Goods) would be amazing with this. And I was right. As usual (kidding). But seriously, the bourbon whipped cream really gives it something. It elevates it, makes it more grown-up.

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 MAPLE PUMPKIN PASTIES (adapted extremely generously from a recipe by Joy the Baker & from these)

Ingredients:

  • 1 double pie crust recipe of your choice; made, chilled, rolled out to 1/4″ thickness & ready to cut
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • cinnamon sugar (just mix together 2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a little bowl), optional (I didn’t do it)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the filling: whisk together in a small saucepan the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and spices, then, on medium-low heat, heat the mixture just until it’s fragrant. Remove from the heat. Add the egg & flour, whisking quickly. Set aside in the fridge to cool.
  3. Cut your pie crust into whatever shapes you want. I used fairly large circles that I then folded over in half to create half moons/crescents. You can also do rectangles, or do squares and fold them over in half to make little triangles, or make smaller circles and use two to mimic a teeny pie (like thus). Do as thou wilt, just know the bigger the shape, the less pasties you’ll get.
  4. Make sure you poke holes or slice little cuts in the top half of the dough; meaning whether it’s folded over or it’s a separate piece of dough, it has to have airholes to release moisture, gases & heat. You don’t want these little ones bursting open in your oven after all your hard work. Assemble your pasties by spooning the filling in, sealing them, and creating a crust with a floured fork. DON’T OVER-FILL THEM! They most definitely will burst open if you do. I definitely got a little over-zealous & had a few messes to clean up.
  5.  Place them on the baking sheet, leaving some space in between. Let them breathe! If this takes you a while and you notice that the dough is getting super soft, chill the pasties you already have made until it’s time to bake them. It’ll help them keep their shape.
  6. Brush the pasties with either a whole egg beaten, or just egg white, to create a nice brown crust. sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with bourbon whipped cream.

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 I know, they’re so messy. I don’t even know why none of my mini-pies ever come out even. I just can’t do anything 100% perfect, it always looks a little off and uneven. As a matter of fact, I gave up measuring my dough with rulers & shit, because it just never works out! But whatever they look like, I don’t care, they taste good. Isn’t that what’s important, anyway? It isn’t important how perfect they look, or how beautifully they’re shaped. What matters is if they’re edible, delicious, and if people love eating them.

And that, my friends, is exactly the case with these.

You can use any size cookie cutter you want, or you can make a larger calzone-sized pasty by using a cereal bowl as your shape. It all depends on what you plan on doing with them or how you want to serve ‘em.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or bourbon as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get bourbon butter!

You can also save the whipped cream overnight, but you’ll definitely have to re-whip it before you eat it again. It kind of re-softens and loses it’s whipped character the longer it sits. Remember- this is fresh whipped cream, not store-bought. There are no preservatives! It has to be re-whipped after it sits for any lengthy period of time. Also, just as an FYI- this would work with any liquor of the following: brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and vodka. Which wouldn’t really give it much of a flavor, unless you used flavored vodka. Which might be interesting.

Major thanks to both my orange ramekins & that maple pumpkin custard recipe (which really is delicious, and I highly recommend it) for inspiring me to create these. Maple & pumpkin, & bourbon. Nom nom. Although… I do think it might be time for me to make a full-size pie again. Soon.

And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s only 3 days away. Time is flying…

Chai concentrating.

Pinterest has taken over everyone’s life lately. It seems as if everyone is either making something they found on Pinterest or talking about something they found on Pinterest. And I’m no different. My Pinterest page is filled with amazing things; some of which I’ve made, some of which I’ll never make, and most of which I just gush about. I even wrote about it at textdrivebys.com twice…

This chai concentrate from Tasty Yummies is one of the ones I’ve actually both pinned and made.

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November is doing it’s best to get fully settled in. It’s been very, very cold, and as a matter of fact in addition to hurricane Sandy hammering us last week, tomorrow we’re getting a Nor’easter! Gusty winds, heavy rains and even snow in some places. So it’s time for warm drinks & spicy flavors. Hot cider, hot chocolate, hot tea. One chilly Sunday I was browsing Pinterest, looking at things I had been pinning for something interesting to create, and I noticed this chai concentrate that I had pinned way back in August. As soon as I saw the stunning photo of it in a Mason jar (how could I turn away!?) I pinned it. I’m not a massive chai person, but I do enjoy it every now & then. And it’s worth it to me to try a homemade version because I really never buy it when I’m out. I usually prefer a coffee. So when I do have chai, it’s at home. And I love some pre-made brands, and some tea companies versions of it. But sometimes it’s just not the same.

The history of chai is quite a rich one, despite most people only knowing it from it’s existence in lattes at Starbucks.

Masala chai (literally “mixed-spice tea”) is a beverage from India made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs.

Plain chai

By itself, chai or cha is merely the generic word for “tea” in many European and Asian languages. The widespread form chai comes from Persian چای chay. Street vendors called “chai wallahs” (sometimes spelled “chaiwalas”) are a common sight, although coffee is a more popular beverage in some southern parts of India. Chai is also a popular item in restaurants known as Irani cafés or the genre of South Asian restaurants known as Chai Khanas or Ghahve Khane.

Spiced tea

For many English speakers, the term “chai” is synonymous with masala chai, as further described below. The redundant chai tea is sometimes used to indicate spiced milk tea as distinct from other types of tea. Numerous coffee houses use the term chai latte for their version to indicate that the steamed milk of a normal latte is being flavored with a spiced tea concentrate instead of with espresso, without necessarily implying the addition of coffee. Some coffeehouses and brand names refer to their product as chai tea latte.

The beverage is locally known as Chai karak in the Middle East.

And might I add… DELICIOUS. And this homemade concentrate is also easy. Cheap, too. But at the same time it’s quick- it takes no time at all, and it makes your house smell absolutely amazing. The smell alone is worth it! Just like the homemade pumpkin spice latte mix I posted about last month, if you’re a chai lover who buys a lot of chai lattes, this could totally save you some money.

HOMEMADE CHAI CONCENTRATE (adapted minimally from Tasty Yummies)

Yields: 1 batch of concentrate, approximately 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 8 bags black tea – I used PG tips
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

  1. Add the water and sugar to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and put in the tea bags, cheesecloth pouch and cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat strain the concentrate through a sieve, separating the large pieces (tea begs/cinnamon sticks/cardamom pods/anise/cloves/etc) from the mix. At this point, add your vanilla extract & honey. Stir to combine.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into an airtight jar or container. This amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

To use it, mix one part concentrate with one part milk or milk-like product of your choice. Heat the concentrate for a hot version, pour over ice for a cold version.

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I used ground cardamom & ground ginger, I had fresh ginger but it was frozen & I didn’t feel like defrosting it so I could cut it (it’s a pretty large hunk, and yes I freeze my extra ginger). I didn’t have any cardamom pods but I had a large jar of it ground, so I opted to substitute that. Also, the original recipe called for a whole vanilla bean, coconut sugar & raw honey- I only had regular sugar, brown sugar, a small amount of German rock sugar (for my tea) & sugar cubes myself, so I made an executive decision. If you want to use another kind of sugar, go right ahead, but you might want to read what she says her results were first. My honey wasn’t raw either, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference taste-wise. All of my vanilla beans were being made into homemade vanilla extract at the time, so I had to use some vanilla extract instead. If you like a spicier chai, add more peppercorns. If you like a sweeter chai, add more sugar. Likewise… if you prefer a less sweet chai then just use less sugar/honey. What you use in it is totally up to you. And as a matter of fact, this mix makes a nice hostess gift, too. Tie some raffia around the top with some cinnamon sticks & handwritten instructions, and you’re good to go. And if you know someone who was in the path of Hurricane Sandy who has no power but still has a gas stove to heat it up with, maybe bring them some, along with some food.

As for me? I’ll be drinking some later tonight watching the 2012 Presidential election returns. Make sure you registered U.S. voters get out there today & do your duty! It’s a privilege to be able to push that little lever or fill in that circle on paper, so get your lazy, apathetic asses out there. And to everyone who already voted; good for you. It’s not even 8 a.m. & you’ve already made more of a difference than most people will all day. And if you’re one of those people affected by Sandy, you can still vote. Download a mail-in ballot or call your local elected officials to find out where to go to vote in New Jersey, or if you’re in NY you can click here & find out where to go (and in turn pass it on!). I know you’re all dealing with so many other things, but voting is going to continue; no matter what election day will not be suspended. And it’s so important to get your vote in. So please, try and get as many folks as you can to the polls today.

And if you remain unaffected, if you’re safe, warm & dry today, and you know where you’ll be voting & that you’ll be coming home afterwards… then especially be thankful for that.

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An apple pie a day…

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Apples are my favorite fruits ever. That might be another reason why I live for fall. I can’t get enough of apples- a cold apple right out of the refrigerator is awesome. Especially if it’s a juicy, crisp one. Macintosh, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Empire, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady… I love ‘em all. I don’t care for other fruits as much as I care for the apple. And I live in (or close enough to) the Big Apple, so how appropriate is that? New York is famous for it’s apples, actually. We’re not only the second largest apple-producing state in the country, but we grow some of the best you can get!

And so therefore it wouldn’t be this time of year without apple desserts. Apple strudel, caramel apple syrup, baked apples with sweet ricotta, apple dumplings, caramel apples, apple turnovers, apple muffins, apple cupcakes, apple cider donuts and apple pie.

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Apple pie is one of those classic desserts that, in my opinion, is best made by pie-people. You know who those people are, right? Pie-people? Tania is a pie-person. Her pies are always beautiful, with perfectly rolled, evenly baked crusts. I’m not a pie person (as is evidenced by my horrendous crust-rolling & uneven pies). I’m a cake-person. That’s not to say that pie-people can’t bake cakes or cake-people can’t bake pies… no, not at all. I can make a successful pie, and Tania can most certainly make a beautiful cake. It’s just for me personally, my specialty isn’t in the area of piedom. I can make ‘em, but they’re far from perfect. Yes, they taste delicious and most people don’t notice the imperfections I do. But are they going to win any prizes at a county fair?

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Hell to the no. But my mini-apple pies? They just might.

I love that they look like little shrunken mini versions of apple pies!

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See, I really, really wanted to make an apple pie this year, desperately. Despite my inherent lack of pie-making skills. I have this great vintage “apple pie” pie plate (above) that was my mom’s, and it’s super cute. It’s got a recipe for apple pie written right on the bottom! I’ve always loved it and wanted to use it, but I just felt like it wasn’t right to make anything but apple pie in it. So this year I decided I’d use it. And I bought a new pie bird (isn’t he adorable!?) just for that reason. I was going to get all old school and make a big ass apple pie with my little ceramic black bird in the middle in my vintage pie plate. But then I looked up some recipes, and I thought about it… and I decided no. I was going to go an alternate route. A more me route.

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‘Cause, like I said, I’m not really a pie-person, you know?

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But I am a hand-held pie person. I’m a Pop-Tart person. I like my desserts portable, easy to bring along with you. Cupcakes, brownies, cookies, you get my drift. So how about a mini pie? Better yet… how about a portable mini apple pie?

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And while I’m sure the hand-pie has been done a thousand times before, so has the pie itself. How many times have you seen an apple pie recipe on a blog? And how many variations are there? And… how many of them proclaim themselves the BEST? Lots, I’m willing to bet. And I’m betting you, yourself, have a pie recipe that you boast as being the best. And everyone is probably correct: pie is such a comforting, familial thing. Our family pie recipes are always going to be the best. They’re never totally new or completely original, but that’s what makes them fantastic. Pie is a concept as old as the concept of food itself, and has been incarnated in hundreds if not thousands of ways since the beginning of pie-creation.

Pie has graced our kitchens for thousands of years, and not just as a holiday treat. Pie once offered cooks a practical way to bake and store all kinds of perishable ingredients. Meat, game, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, and spices, along with more familiar fillings like berries, nuts, and custards, were mixed and matched in piecrusts that could be more than an inch thick. If fat was poured into a hole in the crust’s lid after baking, the contents could be preserved for months. Small, folded-over hand pies were given to travelers and field laborers, who kept them stashed safely in their pockets or rucksacks until mealtime—a messy-sounding practice, until you realize that the crusts were probably more like papier-mâché shells than the flaky delicacies we admire today.

America didn’t invent pie—ancient Egypt gets credit for that. We didn’t even come up with the most outrageous ones, a distinction that belongs to medieval Europe, where, for the delight of dinner guests, piecrusts were baked hollow in fanciful shapes, then filled with live birds or frogs that would burst out when the dish was cut into. “Four and 20 blackbirds…” isn’t just a nursery rhyme after all.

But America is the country that truly embraced pie. Over open hearths and in cast-iron stoves, New World cooks baked partridge pies, lobster pies, squirrel pies, macaroni pies, and quichelike fiddlehead-fern pies. They’d follow a meal of savory pie with a dessert of, say, buttermilk pie. Or raisin pie. Or gooey, molasses-rich shoofly pie. So ubiquitous was pie that a character in a 19th-century tale griped about sitting down to “pie 21 times a week.” And a British journalist visiting the United States in 1882 wrote, “Almost everything that I behold in this wonderful country bears traces of improvement and reform—everything except pie…. Men may come and men may go…but pie goes on forever.”

-Oprah.com: “The History of Pie”

So what’s one more hand-pie recipe out there, right?

MINI HAND-HELD APPLE PIES

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of double pie-crust dough OR one box frozen pie crust (defrosted according to package)
  • 3-4 apples, one kind or any combination you like, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces (about 1/2″- 1″)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice OR
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 375° degrees.
  2. Mix apples & lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir in the sugar, flour & spices until the apples are evenly covered. Set aside.
  3. Roll out the pastry crust and cut out your circles (or whatever shape you’re making), placing them on the baking sheet. Spoon a teaspoon or a teaspoon and a half of the mixture into the center of each circle.
  4. Cut out the same amount of circles from the dough, making an X in the middle of this batch. Brush the egg around the edges of the “bottom” circles (the ones on the baking sheet), and place the X circles on top. Gently press to seal the edges, then crimp them using a fork.
  5. Brush the tops of the pies with the egg, and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. After removing from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack. Pies are best when eaten warm or room temperature the day they’re made, but are quite decent the next day. Longer than that, I don’t know- mine were all gone!

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This one isn’t particularly groundbreaking or unique, it’s just a simple, straightforward apple hand-pie. You can spice it up a bit by adding some spiced rum or gold rum or even bourbon to the filling if that tickles you. You can also add a cream cheese-y cheesecake type filling to them along with the apple. You can add an icing or “glaze” on top, you can even cut out bits of dough to look like apples and “glue” them on top with the egg wash before baking. Cut them into a square shape and then cut out a jack-o-lantern face on the top dough layer. Fill it with a jam filling, a fresh fruit filling, a Nutella filling, a Shoo-fly pie filling, a pecan pie filling, or a canned pie filling. Make them pumpkin hand pies! Do whatever you want. That’s all up to you.

I prefer to use the whole egg to do an egg wash; I find it creates a more attractive & shiny golden brown color. But if you’d rather skip using the yolk, then you can.

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I’m just giving you the basic idea. Run with it.

Some people will be bossy about what kind of apples you should use. I won’t be. I’ve made this just as successfully with Red Delicious apples as well as Braeburn or Granny Smith. These aren’t real apple pies, they aren’t baked for an hour. So if you use a softer apple it won’t turn to mush like it would in a pie. The best pies are the ones made with things you enjoy eating… so if you like Fuji apples then use them! Don’t be concerned about how it’s going to turn out. Save the worries about whether or not the apples will be firm enough for the contestants on Master Chef. I guarantee no matter what you do, you’ll be fine with these. And yes- pears work well in this recipe too, with minimal adaptation.

Even Mr. Blackbird here enjoyed them… and his day off.

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While I didn’t make an actual pie… I did make many pies, and I still got to use the pie plate!

Shortcut tip: like I said in the recipe above, you can use frozen pie crusts for the dough. Just use a good quality one. Let them defrost or come to room temperature (according to directions on the box) and roll them out as needed to 1/4″ thick, then cut your circles, or whatever shapes you’re using, and go from there. If you do this you’ll cut a lot of time out of the creation of the pies, so it might be worth it to you. I don’t know about using frozen puff pastry, but I don’t see why not. I’d love to hear about it if that’s what you decided to use.

Sources & credits: Royal China by Jeannette “apple pie” pie plate; vintage, Norpro black pie bird.

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