Category Archives: pies & tarts

sms: chocolate caramel mousse tart

This week’s  SMS challenge – Chocolate Pie crust – offered us the chance to get creative using a filling from outside the book.  Based on comments from a few of the other bakers suggesting the crust lacked flavour, I doubled the cocoa powder as well as the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.  In a bid to spare the ol’ waistband after the gob-stuffing marathon I’ve indulged in over the past few months, I also opted to make it into a 7 inch tart filled with chocolate mousse made from tofu and agave syrup (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). That said, I went ahead and annihilated any health benefits by adding a chocolate caramel base layer with toasted hazelnuts (using my leftover caramel ‘sauce’ from last week). To be honest, the crust probably still lacked sweetness, but luckily my filling was so deadly rich that it worked out quite well.

Big thanks to Donna of L’Amour de Tarte for this one! Please check out what the other SMSers came up with too xx

6 Comments

Filed under caramel, chocolate, pies & tarts, sweet melissa sundays

holiday catch up: thanksmas leftovers

After stuffing my face for the past two months with cakes, pies, cookies, crumbles, crisps and cheesecakes, I seem to have come away with very few pictures to show for it (and all too many pounds..dammit). What follows are the only souvenirs I could find of some memorable bakes served at a ‘Thanksmas’ dinner we hosted for friends (on Dec 12th, hence the name..otherwise it was my 4th annual Thanksgiving do here in the UK) and at my family’s Christmas Day meal.  First up, a beautifully moorish sour cream pumpkin pie from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, followed by a sweet & gooey pecan pie made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  I can only offer the ‘before’ picture for that one because unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap the finished product before it was devoured.  Next up is an adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Gascon Apple Pie from the Pie & Pastry Bible.  This boozy treat is actually my You Want Pies With That? entry for December.  I got to choose the theme this time, woohoo!!! So please have a look at what the other lovely piemakers have offered up as their ‘holiday spirit‘ pies.  And the final picture is really the only  snap I’ve got of two phenomenal cheesecakes: my celebration stalwart, a luscious White Chocolate (Orange-) Cranberry Swirl number, and the Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book (with an oreo cookie crust, whipped cream piping and a gorgeous blackberry compote topping).

i suggest adding any leafy embellishments before you've got just 10 mins left on the timer.. ahem

pecan pie beginnings


Boozy Cran-Apple Pie

chocolate espresso cheesecake & white chocolate cranberry swirl cheesecake ...and another duck face pose.. i need a new look

You can find the recipe for the pumpkin pie here – this is the fourth time I’ve made it, and it won’t be the last.  Rose’s Pecan Pie can be found on page 302 of the P&P Bible and I think it’s earned it’s place as my new Go2, although (as I always find with pecan pies) I had to bake it about 20 mins longer than recommended.  Luckily my pie shield saved the crust from overbrowning.  The Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake was a recent SMS bake and you can find the recipe here on Shandy’s lovely site.  It cratered on me the first time around so I didn’t post in time (shame on me).  The one pictured above also cracked and fell slightly (I covered that up with piping and blackberry compote), but I think I figured out the culprit – I love crumb crusts so much that I always do enough to coat the sides of the tin too and that’s never been a problem with my stalwart.  But I’m pretty sure thatcheesecakes (without side crusts) usually pull away a bit from the tin, so I’m betting that with a crust and without the *give* offered by a fruit swirl for example, the poor cheesecake could do nothing but crack.  At least, that’s my guess…  I promise to post the YWPWT apple pie recipe after we get back from Dorset, as  I made some changes to Rose’s original based on what my liquour cabinet (haha, I wish) had to offer and what the holiday season called for – cranberries.

*RECIPE UPDATE*

Boozy Cran-Apple Pie

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Gascon Apple Pie

4 medium apples – peeled, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick

1 cup cranberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup brandy (or cognac)

1/2 tsp orange extract

3/4 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

7 tbs unsalted butter, melted

12 sheets of filo

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

In a large bowl, gently toss the apples and cranberries with the sugars, salt and alcohol.  Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hrs (or overnight – in which case, refrigerate them).  Drain the fruit, reserving the juice.  You should have about 1 cup.  Using a small saucepan, reduce the liquid until you have approximately 4 tablespoons.  Add the orange extract then pour the liquid over the fruit and mix in the walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat the bottom of the pie pan with some of the melted butter.  Place the filo sheets between two sheets of plastic wrap and cover with a damp towel – re-cover each time you remove a sheet to stop the rest from drying out.  Remove 1 sheet and quickly brush it with unsalted butter (don’t worry about coating every inch, too much butter will just result in a greasy texture anyway).  Drape the filo sheet in the pan, molding it to fit and letting the excess drape over the sides.  Repeat with 7 more buttered sheets.  Empty the fruit mixture into the filo-lined pan, bringing the overhanging bits up and over to enclose the filling partially.  Brush another 2 sheets with butter and fold them crosswise in half.  Butter them again on both sides, then place them on top of the filling, covering it completely, and tuck the ends into the sides of the pie pan.  There will be a depression in the center.  Butter another sheet of filo and cut it in half.  Gather up each piece in loose ruffles and arrange it toward the centre of the pie to partially fill the depression. Butter the final piece of filo and fold it in the long way into thirds.  Coil it loosely to form a rose and place it in the center.  Bake the pie for 50 to 60 mins or until the filo is golden and a skewer inserted into the fruit filling meets with little resistance.  Allow the pie to cool to room temp as the moistened pastry can be a bit tough when warm.  Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

This was the perfect end to my family’s Christmas Day meal. Biting into the crisp pastry to find deliciously caramelized apples & cranberries made for a lovely treat – and the boozy kick made things all the more merry. Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under cheesecake, chocolate, fruit, holidays, pies & tarts, sweet melissa sundays, You Want Pies With That

Ginger {persimmon} spice.. zig-a-zig-ah

Apologies for the dead air folks.. I’m sooooo behind on SMS bakes at the moment, and I’m even struggling to find time (and space in the holiday baking calender) to get through my other monthly commitments.  A few days ago though, I opened the fruit drawer in the fridge to find a bucket load of soon-to-be overripe persimmons that I’d bought in a fit of madness a few weeks ago, so I made the time.  I baked a pie to celebrate Thanksgiving without spoiling my appetite for the numerous pumpkin and pecan slices I intend on devouring during TWO belated T-day celebrations I’m attending and hosting in the next few weeks.  I’ve never baked with persimmons before, but I have deliciously fond memories of kaki crumbles my mom used to make when I was growing up.  SO when I found a recipe for Persimmon Pie in the Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy-Beranbaum, I decided to pimp things up with a crumble topping.  I took the fact that Rose’s suggested crust was of the gingersnap cookie variety as implying that persimmon & ginger go hand in hand, so I also opted for the gingersnap crumble from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  (Just so I can pretend I’m keeping up with my SMS duties.. sort of…in some way…maybe?)

Now, I’m sure many of you savvy bakers, persimmon afficianados and gingersnap munchers are probably thinking – Gingersnap crust AND ginger crumble topping? Are you mad, June?  That subtle persimmon flavour will melt under so much heat! And you’re right.  Melt they did – into a creamy, spicy fruit layer which smacked more of ginger than persimmon, as one would expect, even though I doubled up on the persimmon chunks called for in Rose’s recipe.  But it worked.  Oddly, my boyfriend described the fruit filling as “chocolatey”, which made little sense to me – it tasted nothing like chocolate – but maybe he was referring to the smooth gooey texture..?  Plus, I can count the number of times I’ve seen him eat chocolate on one hand.. so there you go.   Anyway, this sweet & spicy pie was the perfect treat to warm things up as winter settles is – give it a try as written below if you love ginger.  You can find the gingersnap crumble recipe here on Jennifer’s lovely blog.  Alternatively, dial down the heat by leaving out the candied ginger in the filling or using a different crumble topping.

ignore the unsightly line across the crumble - that was the result of my crust cover..(which was completely unnecessary by the way)

Gingersnap Crumb Crust from the Pie and Pastry Bible – you can find the gingersnap nut crumb crust recipe that Rose suggested here

180 grams (1 1/2 cups) gingersnap crumbs

2 pinches salt

71 grams (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Process the cookies with the salt until you’re left with fine crumbs (about 20 seconds), then add the melted butter and pulse about 10 times, just until incorporated.  Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, begin by pressing the mixture into the bottom of the pie pan and partway up the sides.  To keep the crumbs from sticking to your fingers, it helps to place a piece of plastic wrap over the crumbs and press them through the wrap.  Be sure to press the bottom thoroughly so that the crumbs are evenly distributed.

Persimmon Pie – adapted from the Pie and Pastry Bible

5 small Fuyu persimmons, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks (Rose actually suggests using 2, but I wanted a chunkier texture)

247 grams (1 cup) persimmon puree (I scooped out and processed the pulp of 3 overripe Fuyu’s, but you could also use ripe Hachiyas as Rose suggests)

160 grams (2/3 cup) milk

108 grams (1/2 cup) light brown sugar

1 large egg

94 grams (2/3 cup) bleached all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

14 grams (1 Tbs) unsalted butter, melted

33 grams (1/3 cup) walnut halves, chopped

2 tsp candied ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F (or 325F if using a pyrex pie plate).  Set an oven rack just below the middle of the oven before preheating.
Process the persimmon puree with the milk, brown, sugar and egg for about 8 seconds or until smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk toether the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add it to the food processor and pulse about 8 times or until incorporated.  Add the butter and pulse about 4 imes or until incorporated.  Add the chopped persimmon, walnuts, candied ginger and pulse twice, just to incorporate.  (You’ll have bout 3 1/2 cups of filling).  Immediately pour the filling into the prepared pie crust (the acidity in the persimmon reacting with baking soda will cause the mixture to stiffen quickly.)  The filling will reach almost to the top.  Smooth the surface and sprinkle the crumble over the top (I probably had double the amount of crumble needed and although I managed to pat it all into a giant crumble mount, you might want to halve Melissa’s recipe..)
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the crumble has browned a bit and a thin knife blade inserted about an inch from the centre comes out clean.  The filling will have puffed out slightly but on cooling it will all settle.  Serve warm or at room temperature accompanied with creme fraiche or whipped cream.  (The pie can be reheated for 10 mins at 350F.  Be sure to keep the crust shielded with aluminum foil.)

1 Comment

Filed under crumbles, fruit, pies & tarts

Berry Blossom Pie

Berry Blossom Pie {take 2: Mochiko...madness?}

You want pies with that… spoonful of nostalgia?!

This month’s YWPWT theme – VACATION PIE – was chosen by Jenn of Piccante Dolce, and our mission was to bake up a sweet (or savoury!) treat inspired by vacations we’ve taken or hope to take.  Initially, I was at a loss as to where to even start with this one because there are loads of places I hope plan to visit someday…But it also got me thinking about the brilliant holidays I’ve been lucky enough to take already, and suprisingly – out of all the more exotic vacations (Reunion, Peru, Thailand..) – I kept coming back to..{drumroll here}….. family trips to the lake every summer.

I lived in Tokyo for 7 years as a child, and each summer we fled the hot, sticky city for a few weeks of rustic cabin-dwelling and lakeside lounging.  So my entry is an ode to those vacations:

..to the  tortuously boring 5-hour car journey from Tokyo, the lack of tv (!), the smell of musty sheets on a rickety bunk-bed, the injustice of having to share a room with my younger brother, and the sickening stench of outhouse drop-toilets… unforgettable.

But I’ll also never shake the memory of trekking up windy mountain paths to the tiny local store (the only store), just to collect the best blueberry pies I’ve ever known.  “Blueberry pie??! In Japan??!” you cry.. yeah, it seems odd. to me anyway.. I’ve always associated blueberries with New England (although they’re grown in virtually every US state apparently), so when the YWPWT challenge sent me on this trip down memory lane I googled & learned:

“The Nojiriko area has numerous roadside stalls and farmers’ markets where you can buy great local produce for a quarter of the price you would pay in Tokyo. The tomatoes and peaches are renowned and the region grows blueberries, apples, pears, corn, edamame and dozens of other fruits and vegetables, as well as all sorts of local specialities such as Scotch thistle preserve, walnut jam and aloe vera honey.”  [from this site]

Who woulda thunk it. (Not the bit about the insane prices in Tokyo..that I remember clearly).  So my entry to this month’s YWPWT challenge is a blueberry pie inspired by the ones I stuffed my face with each summer up in Lake Nojiri.  I tried to add some Japanese elements using cherry blossom cutouts, but the first version I made was VERY juicy and unfortunately the juice seeped out of the cuts, completely obscuring the blossom shapes. doh. (Apologies for the crappy pic – it’s mine..)

Berry Blossom Pie - take 1

Berry Blossom Pie - take 1 {the runs}

So I made another pie (some call this as madness, I call it ‘seconds’).  This time I decided to live on the edge and embrace the Japanese theme more fully by substituting Mochiko for the cornstarch. I’ve posted about Mochiko before, but just in case you don’t know: it’s a glutinous sweet rice flour used in Japan for making mochi..and as far as I know (not far), it’s not traditionally used as a thickener in pies.. (er, pies aren’t really ‘traditional’ Japanese desserts  anyway I suppose).

you say wonky, I say rustic..?

Berry Blossom Pie - take 2 {you say wonky, I say rustic..?}

So the Mochiko experiment has just come out of the oven and I have no idea whether it’ll work taste-wise.. but I’m going to take a risk and offer this one as my YWPWT entry.  The first pie hasn’t been sampled yet either, so I’m planning to bring both over to a friend’s house tomorrow evening for a blind taste-testing and I’ll post the verdict + recipes once judgement is passed.

Big thanks to Jenn for picking such a fun theme! Please check out the YWPWT blogroll to see what she and the other creative tartelettes came up with this month Xx


11 Comments

Filed under fruit, pies & tarts

Going nuts over filberts & frangelico

Bonjour! actually it’s bonne nuit I guess – past midnight here in the UK.. I got back from a gorgeous holiday in the south of France yesterday and the come down has been excruciating.. it just feels wrong not to be sitting pool-side (or burning, in my case) sipping rose while munching on cheese & olives every eve.. instead, it’s back to sweating myself silly on London tubes, getting drenched by thunderstorms and cursing the relentless gray skies. yay.

SO to distract myself from wallowing in too much self-pity, I turned to the monthly You Want Pies With That? challenge.  I’ve been following this amazingly talented group of bakers since they set up shop about a year a go – and after drooling over their luscious creations for so long, I was really excited to have a go myself. This month’s theme, chosen by the fantastically talented Jacques at Daisy Lane Cakes, was ‘Nuts about Pie’ – meaning the mission was to come up with a one-of-a-kind pie to showcase any kind of nut in any (edible) way that took our fancy..

I’m slightly embarrassed by how long I spent obsessing over – er, I mean dreaming up – my entry, but I really enjoyed the creative challenge.  So big big thanks to Jacques and the rest of the YWPWT bloggers for letting me join in!

…And I now present my nutty take on this month’s theme:

Tipsy Truffle-Nut Tart

IMG_1184

As a big fan of pecans (it’s those Texan roots I suppose) and a lover of anything peanut buttery, I had a tough time choosing my nut.. But I wanted to try something new, so I opted to make the not so humble hazelnut my star performer this time, and decided to go all-out with something nutty in every layer..

IMG_1174

I made a toasted hazelnut pastry shell, a rich hazelnut truffle filling, and topped it all off with a mascarpone-frangelico mousse sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts..  I threw in quite a lot of frangelico – in the truffle filling as well as in the topping – hence the ‘Tipsy’ title..   (Because frangelico is just that good.)  The tart shell smelled amazing from the moment I started baking & the filling was luscious.. The whole combination was deadly to be honest, so even I came away satisfied after just 1 piece (and that’s unheard of)… well, it was 1 1/2 if I’m being totally honest..

IMG_1201

IMG_1208

The tart shell was based on a recipe for ‘Rich Nut Pastry’ by Regan Daley from In the Sweet Kitchen, while the mascarpone frangelico mousse was adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Cherry Brownie Torte’ topping in Baking: From My Home To Yours.  The filling was adapted from a lovely recipe for hazelnut truffles by Melissa Murphy, which is soon to be a Sweet Melissa Sunday challenge so I won’t go into details it here – you can check out the SMS  blogroll in a few weeks..

IMG_1212

Being a relatively new baker, I  usually try to stick to recipes pretty closely, but I really loved coming up with my own random combinations for this event – so big big THANKS again to the lovely YWPWT group for this fantastic call to creativity! From what I gather, the roundup of entries will be posted August 8th, so check out the blog then to see what these amazing bakers have come up with!

IMG_1205

PS. Apologies for the quality of the pics – I was playing photographer this time and the lighting was rubbish… unfortunately, that’s not just an excuse – it’s crappy weather..boo

7 Comments

Filed under pies & tarts