Posts Tagged ‘Pies and Tarts’

Summer is almost here and there’s finally a wide variety of fruit in season again.  I went to a barbeque last weekend and decided to be brave, and not only make pie crust, but attempt a lattice crust.

I survived and the finished product actually looked pretty good, if I do say so myself.  And, even better, it tasted delicious.  There’s not a lot of ingredients here, so it has a very fresh, summery taste to it.

Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Enough pie crust dough for two crusts (I used a double batch of Martha Stewart’s pate sucree, because I’ve had luck with that in the past, but use whatever recipe you feel most comfortable with)
6 cups of fresh (or frozen) blueberries, rinsed and stems removed (if using frozen, defrost and drain first)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for thickening)
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (which I forgot to add)
2 Tbsp butter (unsalted), cut into small pieces
Plus 1 egg and 1 tablespoon milk for the egg wash

I found my pie to be a little runny, so next time I’d probably add a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it up a bit.  If you want a really thick filling that gels, I think its worth a try.

Prepare the crust.  Roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch-thick circle on a lightly floured work surface, about 13 inches in diameter.  Mine of course didn’t look like a circle, but this part is going on the bottom so it doesn’t matter if its ugly and a little cracked or weird.  Place the dough over a 9 inch pie pan, rolling around a rolling pin to transfer, if its falling apart or too difficult to move.  Trim the edges so you’ve got 1/2 inch or so hanging over all the way around.  Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Gently mix the blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Pour them in the chilled bottom crust of the pie pan.   Dot with butter pieces.

Roll out remaining dough to the same size and thickness as the first.  If you want to make a lattice crust, cut the crust into one inch thick strips. Place four or five of the strips on top of the pie in vertical rows.  Weave the remaining strips through horizontally.  The crust isn’t really wet or messy so its easy to fix mistakes and work with the dough on top of the filling.   If I can do it, you can do it.  But, if you don’t wan to try it, just place the entire crust on top of the filling.

Seal the edges of the top layer with the bottom layer and crimp with your fingers or the tines of a fork.  Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk egg and milk together to make an egg wash.  Brush the top of the pie with the wash.  If you didn’t make a lattice crust, score the pie with a few cuts or prick with a fork so the steam can escape.  Place the pie on the middle rack on the oven with parchment paper or a silpat on the lower rack to catch any filling that bubbles over.

Bake for 20 minutes at 425°. Reduce heat to 350°F.  Cover the edges with tinfoil if they are starting to burn.  Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes until juices are bubbling and have thickened.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before serving.

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As I’ve said before, I could take or leave chocolate.  What I really like in dessert is ginger.  I keep bags of candied ginger on my desk at work, and I eat Trader Joe’s Ginger Cashew Almond granola every single morning for breakfast.  So, if there’s a way to get more ginger into a dish, I will do it.

Which brings me to my pumpkin pie.  I use a basic pumpkin pie filling, but I add in some fresh ginger.  Instead of a pastry crust, I use gingersnaps.  Then I top it all off with pepitas, candied with cinnamon and ginger.

I use the pumpkin pie filling from Joy of Cooking, plus 1/2 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger.  Feel free to use whatever you like.  This would even work well with a pumpkin cheesecake. 

Gingersnap Crust

5 ounces gingersnaps
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar

Using a food processor, grind the gingersnaps into fine crumbs.  Add the sugar and mix.  Add the butter and mix to combine.

Press into a pie pan and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.  When it comes out, you may need to use a rubber spatula to smooth the crust out a bit, in case the sides slip down a bit into the bottom.

Let cool, fill with filling, and bake as directed.

Candied Pepitas
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup (approx 6 ounces) raw pepitas
6 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg white, beaten
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together all ingredients in a bowl.  Spread mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake until pepitas are golden and slightly puffed, about 10 minutes.   Stir gently, leaving some clumps.

After they have cooled completely, crumble them up.  Sprinkle over pumpkin pie when you are ready to serve.  Or, sprinkle it over just about any dessert, or just serve in little bowls as a snack.

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Last night, I got all Top Chef on this soup recipe.

I made it a bunch of times last year, and it is so delicious.  However, in a stunning act of stupidity, I somehow managed to break my hand blender and I haven’t replaced it.  So, no soup for me!

Instead, I deconstructed it and baked it.  All the ingredients, just wrapped up in a pie crust (the crouton!).  Delicious.

Butternut Squash and Apple Galette

Approximately 5 cups cubed butternut squash
2 apples, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 shallots (I’m sure some onion would work too)
4 ounces shredded smoked cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Olive oil, salt & pepper
1 pie crust (I use Martha Stewart’s pate brisee – you just need half this recipe)

Preheat the oven to 400.  Place the butternut squash in a baking dish and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, until it just starts to soften and brown.  When it’s done, take it out and turn the heat down to 350.

Meanwhile, saute the shallots or onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil on medium heat for 3-4 minutes until soft.  Add the apples and saute for another 5 minutes or so.  Add a pat of butter and some salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Roll out the pie shell to about a 12 inch circle or so, and sprinkle the center with half of the grated cheese, leaving a 2-3 inch or so border all the way around it.  The nice thing about galettes is that no precision is required…think rustic-chic. 

Spread the apple-shallot mixture on top of the cheese.

Toss the butternut squash with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Then spread the squash down on the gallete.  Finish with the rest of the cheese.

Wrap up the sides and seal everything in.  Gently beat an egg and brush it over the pastry dough.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.



My experiment paid off.  It really did taste like the soup.  It might be a little neater to eat if the squash was mashed up and spread out, but it was good with the chunks.  I think a bit of sage tossed in during the roasting stage would have also been nice, as would replacing some of the squash with parsnip.  In any event, a delicious dinner and would make a lovely vegetarian main course.


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I have an irrational phobia of pie crust.

Actually, it’s not entirely irrational.  When I first started learning some basic cooking techniques, I watched an Alton Brown episode on pie crust.  Inspired, I decided that that year, for Thanksgiving, I was going to make the best damn pie crust anyone had ever eaten.  So that Wednesday night, I got home from work, and armed with Alton’s meticulously researched directions, set about on my pie crust adventure.

And two hours later, my kitchen was covered in a crumbly, buttery mess, and I was in the grocery store buying Pillsbury frozen crusts.

Ever since then, I have pretty much stayed away. I keep frozen ones in my freezer for quiches and other quick meals.  I’ll do pies with cookie-type crusts to press into the pan, but I don’t think I’ve attempted a proper pie crust since then. 

Until now.

I’ve been seeing beautiful fruit tarts popping up in others’ blogs and I was getting the itch.  When I went to the farmers market on Saturday and saw some gorgeous peaches and lovely organic lavender, I knew my time had come to conquer my pie crust fear.


And I am so glad I did.  I used Martha Stewart’s pate sucree recipe, which wasn’t too difficult.  And the nice thing about a galette is that its shape is free form and rustic looking so when the directions call for you to roll the dough out into a circle and your flattened dough looks more like the shape of Michigan, you don’t have to resort to Pillsbury.

Peach Lavender Galette
Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Plum Galette and Food and Wine’s Peach Lavender Cobbler

For the Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling
5 cups peaches, pitted and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (approximately 5 peaches)
2 teaspoons lavender blossoms (just tug the little bulbs off the stem, they should come off pretty easily)
1 Tablespoon flour, plus more for work surface
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar), plus more for sprinkling (Martha suggests turbinado, I used vanilla sugar again)
1 egg white


To make the crust
In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

With the machine running, add ice water, drop by drop and slowly add egg yolks, until the dough just holds together without being wet or sticky; about 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is too crumbly, add a bit more water.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press dough into a flat circle with your fists. Wrap dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

To make the galette
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle a lightly floured work surface with flour.  Roll out dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour. 

In a large bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon flour, sugar, and the lavender.  Gently toss in peaches until evenly coated with the flour mixture.

Transfer to the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over plum mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds.

Brush edges of dough with reserved egg white, and sprinkle with either turbinado sugar or vanilla sugar.  Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.


It was really good.  The lavender works perfectly with the peaches, which are slightly floral themselves.   And yes, I am posting two pictures of it because I am so pleased with my crust.  You would never know that that dough was once shaped like Michigan.


 We brought it over to some friends’ place, where it was a hit.  The only bad thing about it was parting with the leftovers, but my friends gave me something very exciting in return.  Something I’ve been wanting for a while.  Stay tuned, as I’ll be cooking with it later this week…

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As you know by now, I’m obsessed with putting herbs in desserts. And who doesn’t love lemon tarts? Sage makes it seasonal. Though I’m sure this recipe would be equally good with rosemary or thyme.

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart. It’s somewhat involved, so if you want to make it, plan ahead. I’ll definitely make it again, but with two changes. First, I would not use coarse ground cornmeal, but something more finely ground. The crust had a nice flavor, but it was too grainy with the larger cornmeal flecks in it. Second, I would add a bit more sage. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t very pronounced. Another teaspoon or two would do the trick.

Sage Cornmeal Crust

Makes enough for two 9-inch tarts

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
3/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal (Don’t do it! Use medium or finely ground.)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage (more if you’d like a stronger sage taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons ice water


Pulse flour, cornmeal, sugar, sage, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whisk egg yolks and ice water in a small bowl. With machine running, add to flour mixture through feed tube; process until dough just holds together.

Turn out dough onto a work surface. Divide in half, and shape each portion into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 10-inch round.

Fit into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges flush with rim. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Reserve remaining dough for another use (it can be frozen up to 3 months).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick bottom of tart shell with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool.

Lemon Curd

1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons


Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl, and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in lemon juice. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisk constantly until mixture has thickened and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Whisk in gelatin mixture.

Remove from heat, and whisk in butter, a few pieces at a time, until smooth. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Prepare an ice-water bath. Place bowl of yolk mixture over bath, and stir until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Assembling the Tart

Spread curd into crust; smooth top.

Dollop 3 tablespoons of creme fraiche in small drops on top. Using a wooden skewer or the tip of a knife, swirl creme fraiche into curd to create a marbleized effect. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours (or up to overnight).

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