Pies & Tarts

salted caramel apple pie [SBA & smitten kitchen]

(Originally posted: March 14, 2014)

Hey guys.

Guys guys guys.

Guess what today is?

It’s PI[E] DAY!! 😀

I can’t be the only one who geeks out over this.

In celebration of Pi Day, my dorm does a large Pi Day Study Break that includes a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, and a pi recitation contest. And, of course, lots and lots of delicious pie for everyone to eat.

I’d never made a pie before, but I was feeling ambitious this year and figured I’d try my hand at one for the contest. Plus, looking at pie recipes is a lovely (read: dangerous) procrastination method when you’re spending upwards of 8 hours a day in the library.

Let me just say that I severely underestimated how long it would take me to make a pie for the very first time. My slight procrastination via baking turned into an entire afternoon of slicing, mixing, rolling, and carefully cutting, broken up by periods of waiting for the pie to chill again in the fridge so that I wouldn’t accidentally melt the pockets of butter in the dough.

Still, it was worth every second, as I realized when I checked on my pie in the oven and began shouting excitedly at my roommates.

Dear roommates: thank you for putting up with my sometimes loud, messy, and distracting baking endeavors.

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The final product was a mix of several recipes, parts of which I tweaked slightly, and other parts that I wish I’d tweaked.

I started with one of smitten kitchen’s staple pie crust recipes. Unlike most of the recipes I found, this one requires no shortening and still promises a tender, flaky crust.

The verdict? 10/10 would use again. Granted, I have a particular love of flaky pastry crust to begin with, but this one was actually fantastic. It’s very easy to make–only flour, butter, sugar, and salt!–even for a beginner. Plus it got nice and crispy on the outside while flaking perfectly on the inside and, arguably most importantly, did not crumble. I hate crumbly pie crust. It makes me feel like I’m eating a sad cheesecake hybrid.

Recommendations:
+ Get a pastry blender. Trying to cut cold butter into flour with a fork sucks from all perspectives.
+ No matter what recipe you’re following, keep the dough cold! Seriously, they’re not joking about this. I made a few mini pies with the extra dough, and the crust wasn’t as good because it had warmed up sitting on the counter for too long, melting all the cold butter chunks.
+ Make your dough early, both for convenience and because it’s ideally supposed to chill for a while. I did this on Wednesday night as my don’t-think-just-bake de-stressor after a CS final.

Behold: dough!

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For the filling, I went with salted caramel apple from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how much I love Sally’s recipes–trustworthy and always slightly offbeat. I knew I wanted to make an apple pie the first time around, but I wanted to make it unique, and this one fit the bill.

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Remember when I was raving about the salty sweet combination?

Yeah, really not surprising that I picked salted caramel. Or that I fell in love with this candy thermometer-free salted caramel recipe. The only change I made to the caramel was using sea salt instead of regular salt, adding an extra 1/2 tsp to kick up the salty edge. Other than waiting a while for the sugar to start caramelizing, this was incredibly quick and easy.

Changes I made to the filling:
+ 3 Pink Ladies and 3 Granny Smiths, but they were only medium-sized. Still, plenty of apples.
+ No cloves, and instead added about 1/8 tsp more nutmeg.
+ Instead of 1/2 cup granulated sugar, I used 1/4 cup dark brown and 1/4 cup granulated.
+ Thick lattice because I like how it looks. You can do whatever you want here, of course.

I kept picking at the apples and caramel as I mixed them.

No shame.

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Into the oven, cue some shouting and dancing around the kitchen in excitement, then lots and lots of dishwashing (if you can figure out how to do this without making a complete mess of your kitchen, please tell me), and finally…

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omg PIE.

That’s my proud pie face, you guys. I stood there for a good couple of minutes just staring at it.

(Sheena captured the moment. Thanks, Sheena. <3)

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I won’t bother with the step-by-step in between parts, because both the SBA and the smitten kitchen recipes describe them far better than I can. Not to mention both ladies actually know what they’re doing with a pie.

I will, however, tell you that this pie filling is not everyone’s favorite. Sadly, I did not win the pie contest. The lemon flavor was overpowering for some, while others weren’t fans of the more pronounced spices. Personally, I love lemon, and I loved how unexpected and noticeable it was with every bite. If you’re not as much of a fan, make sure you scale back the citrus.

Mostly, though, I was sad about how much of the caramel bubbled out of the pie. There was a puddle of it forming on the baking sheet after only 20 minutes in the oven. So much salty sweetness! Wasted!

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Changes I would recommend:
– Less nutmeg. As in, maybe only 1/8 tsp for the whole pie. And more cinnamon. And cloves, if you like them. (I usually don’t.)
– Less lemon juice, or maybe substituting some orange juice in there for a slightly different flavor.
– Layer the apples with the caramel when filling the pie to avoid losing so much of it in the oven.
– More strips for the lattice, also to keep the filling inside as best as possible.

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All in all though, super pleased with this pie. I poured the extra salted caramel over a slice and happily devoured it. There’s nothing quite like the warmth and comfort of a good apple pie.

I’m already looking for excuses to make another one. Something tells me that my mother wouldn’t appreciate an entire pie sitting in our kitchen, though. Must find a way to get rid of it first.

Finally, in true celebration of today, here are some really awful pi jokes.

And then this last one, because I just can’t help it.

Happy Pi Day, happy Friday, and happy baking! 🙂

vegan key lime pie [blogilates]

As the weeks fly by and my blog continues to be neglected, I realize more and more that I am probably doing too many things for my own good. For those of you still reading: thanks for sticking around. I’ll figure this out eventually.

On to pie!

Well…sort of.

With the holidays coming up quickly, my favorite food sites have been flooded with fall spices, apple crumble, and pecan and pumpkin pies. But while my stomach says hot damn yes, my jeans say NO, and I find myself looking for healthy alternatives to eating a different kind of pie every week.

Enter the vegan key lime pie, courtesy of Cassey Ho at Blogilates. While it looks like pie and feels like pie, it doesn’t quite taste like pie–but it is still absolutely delicious, and good for satisfying a sweet tooth.

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The wonderful part: this deceptive “pie” is made from wholesome ingredients that will actually make it good for your health to be eating a slice. What?! I know. There’s also no actual baking involved–just a freezer.

The less wonderful part: the prep requires a food processor. If you’re like me, that means digging around on the top shelves of cabinets and sorting through all the kitchen appliances your mom owns but doesn’t actually use. Which then leads to extra cleanup. This dish also doesn’t keep for very long, and some people will be incredibly disappointed at the lack of actual pie. But we don’t need to worry about those people.

The ingredient list is short and simple: avocados, dates, walnuts, limes, and sugar. You can add tapioca flour, but that’s not something I have handy, so I ground two tablespoons of rolled oats instead. (Feel free to omit the flour altogether, though.)

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After soaking the dates in water for an hour, blend them with the walnuts to make the pie crust.

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Slice up your avocados and throw them into a food processor with the sugar and (optional) oats/tapioca, blend it all, and pour it over your crust.

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Garnish with coconut flakes, lime slices, and whole walnuts–and you’re done! Just pop it into the freezer until it’s firm.

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My family and I worked our way through this pretty quickly. I felt no guilt whatsoever. 😉

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Avocados aren’t in season anymore, but let me know if you find some good ones and try this recipe out!

And to anyone who is less than thrilled about a healthy vegan dessert: fear not. Butter, sugar, and chocolate will return soon.

Happy Sunday! 🙂

mom’s old world raspberry bars [neighborfood blog]

Throughout my childhood, a good friend’s mom used to make one specific dessert for parties: jam tarts. They were her specialty, and truly, nobody could make a jam tart like her. (Still can’t!) Jam tarts–or just jam bars or raspberry bars, as I eventually realized most people refer to them–are one of the most comforting desserts I’ve come across. In fact, they probably top chocolate chip cookies in my mental list of perfect childhood-reminiscent baked goods.

Oh yeah. I went there.

In a wave of midterm sadness and Relay excitement, the thought of jam bars came popped into my head–and then refused to leave. So I scoured the interwebz and decided that this recipe for raspberry bars from Neighborfood Blog had the perfect proportions and the most convenient ingredients for my purposes.

Plus, the recipe describes them as “happy, homey, springtime comfort food”. Too perfect to pass up!

With limited time and no desire to overspend on ingredients, though, I had some tweaking to do.

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Thanks to my mom (who is frequently horrified by the dining hall food I eat daily), I had a stash of walnuts and almonds on hand, so I used those instead of the pecans.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t try to finely chop almonds by hand. (Unless, of course, you’re good at it, which I clearly am not.) If you want something quick and easy, stick to softer nuts like walnuts and pecans, or pulse the nuts in a food processor a couple times.

I did eventually get the almonds down to a reasonable size, though, thankfully, and tossed them into the bowl of a stand mixer. I halved the recipe–there’s a scary amount of butter in here, guys, 2 sticks even when it’s halved, but so worth it–and replaced half of the white sugar with more brown sugar. Because why not have more wonderful molasses flavor in your life? I also left out the oats and coconut and instead added half a cup of crushed graham crackers.

I coincidentally didn’t have anything but a muffin pan handy, so I decided to make individual jam tarts. The halved dough and a 10-oz jar of raspberry jam made 15 full-sized tarts.

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The raspberry jam slathered over the nutty dough and peeking through the crumbled top made me so happy. ^_^

Into the oven for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, and out came fifteen bubbling, golden, flaky and crunchy raspberry jam tarts!

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I usually prefer a lower crust-to-jam ratio so that the raspberry flavor really comes out, but I could honestly eat this dough on its own–especially fresh out the oven.

If I were to make them again, though, I would definitely add the oats, and a dash of cinnamon. Taste testing by my friends showed that yes, these tarts were just begging for a hint of cinnamon in the dough.

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These tarts are also definitely best fresh out of the oven. They’ll store in an airtight container, but they won’t have quite the same flavor the next day.

UofC friends: I know you’ve got finals coming up. I know you want some cupcakes. I am somehow magically free for a lot of finals week, which means you should all order cupcakes! I’ll happily deliver them to make your finals week a little bit brighter. 🙂 Get that last order in before the quarter is up!

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Saturday night! Happy June 🙂