Monday, November 23, 2020

Sister Pie's Salted Maple Pie

Ok, so, full disclosure, I can’t even remember when or where I first saw this recipe. Maybe it was on a TV show? I’m not sure. It might have been on a Food Network show called The Best Thing I Ever Ate, where a bunch of TV cooks and chefs tell you the where and when of some of their favorite foods. In this case, Sister Pie is the name of a bakery in Detroit, and this recipe was one of their stand outs. Honestly, though, I really can’t remember when I first saw it. I just remember thinking “that pie has my name written all over it.”
 It’s syrupy sweet, kind of like a Pecan Pie, but it uses cornmeal to thicken it, similar to a Chess Pie. And it has that salty/sweet thing going on, which I love love LOVE. I just knew I had to try it!
 So I made it for one of my Fall Dinners (where I get to test out a bunch of new recipes with my gang of friends) and everyone loved it! Actually, I loved it so much that I immediately added the Sister Pie Cookbook to my wish list, and it has since become a cherished addition to my cookbook collection. It’s also the perfect addition to your pie repertoire. It’s special enough for Thanksgiving, but easy enough for anytime you just want a nice piece of pie!
Oh, one other thing..
I’ve listed the entire recipe just as it’s printed in the author’s own words. Following the filling recipe is the entire recipe and technique for making their pie crust. Once again, full disclosure, I was short on time and I didn’t make the crust as listed. I just used a ready made pie crust. What can I say? Sometimes I’m in the mood to get my hands in there and be up to my elbows in flour, and sometimes I just don’t have the time. You do you! Use your favorite crust recipe, buy a ready-made, or use this crust recipe that was made specifically for this pie. No matter how you slice it, you’ll still get a fabulous pie!

Salted Maple Pie Filling:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup Grade B maple syrup*
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 9-inch crust made with All-Butter Pie Dough, blind baked and cooled (see below)
1 large egg, beaten
1 pinch flaky sea salt, for sprinkling top

All-Butter Pie Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge
1/2 cup ice-cold water-vinegar mixture (see below), or more if needed

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk in the brown sugar, cornmeal, and kosher salt.
Crack the eggs and yolk into another medium bowl. Add the cream and vanilla and whisk until combined.
Slowly pour the egg mixture into the maple mixture and whisk just until combined.
Place the blind-baked shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the crimped edge with the beaten egg. Pour the maple filling into the pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps.
Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the edges are puffed and the center jiggles only slightly when shaken. It will continue to set as it cools.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. Once fully cooled and at room temperature, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, slice into 6 to 8 pieces, and serve.
Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

All Butter Pie Dough:
In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and stir to mix well. Place the sticks of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in flour. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.
It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of the mixture feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese.
At this point, add the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.
Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and use your bench scraper to divide it into two equal pieces. Gently pat each into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping them tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. If you’re portioning for a lattice-topped pie, shape one half into a 2-inch-thick disc and the other half into a 6 by 3-inch rectangle. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the discs to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.
You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place it in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it. If you’re planning to make only one single-crust pie, wrap the discs separately and place one in the freezer.
NOTE: Icy water, now improved and with tang: While working at Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds for a summer, I learned a number of good tricks that considerably changed my pie dough–making experience. Here’s one of my favorites: Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with about 1 inch of water and freeze until completely frozen. Just after you mix your dry ingredients, grab it from the freezer and fill with water plus 2 tablespoons or so of apple cider vinegar. The ice-cold water-vinegar mixture should look just like apple juice. Let it chill on your counter while you mix the other ingredients for the dough.
NOTE 2: The addition of vinegar to pie dough was originally thought to tenderize the gluten (thus avoiding a tough crust), but there isn’t any good scientific evidence proving that it makes a difference. We keep it in our recipe for its tangy flavor and our respect for tradition.
NOTE 3: Not the pie-baking plan-ahead type? That’s okay! When you’re ready to make the dough, simply fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup about halfway with ice, then add water and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

*Note from Joey: When looking for different grades of maple syrup, I like to think of it just as I would think of olive oil. The one with the lighter clear color is Grade A, just like extra virgin olive oil. And just like regular olive oil, Grade B maple syrup is a little darker in color, and has a more robust flavor.

You can find Grade B maple syrup at Trader Joe’s or even online, but even if you can’t find it, be sure to use a PURE maple syrup. You don't want the corn syrup based products you’d put on pancakes. I mean, yes, of course you could still use that, but you’ll wind up with a different end result.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Chocolate Chip Pie


Usually, when you think of pie recipes for Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to mind is a pumpkin pie, correct? And if not pumpkin, then maybe sweet potato, or apple, or some kind of fruit mincemeat with lots of warm Fall spices like cinnamon and ginger and cloves and allspice, am I right? But here's a question for you, what about CHOCOLATE? I know we always think of chocolate for other holidays like Valentine's Day or Halloween, but I think chocolate deserves a place at our holiday dessert table just as much as anything else. There. I said it.
 Actually, it’s become a running joke with my brother in law, Gregg. Every time my sister, Cathy, makes a dessert, Gregg always says “it would be better if it had chocolate chips in it.” Well, Gregg, this one’s for you! It's from Nestle, so if you love the classic Nestle Toll House cookie recipe, you'll love this one too.
 It’s rich and chocolatey through and through, and it’s enough to satisfy the biggest chocolate cravings. It's super easy too! And yes, it’s special enough for your holiday dessert!
 So, as you plan your menus, keep your chocolate lovers happy and add this one to your holiday table. The chocoholics in your life with thank you for it!

1 (9 inch) unbaked
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.


Before the pie is finished baking, I added a few extra chocolate chips on top, just to make the pie look a bit more like a chocolate chip cookie. Of course, this is completely optional, but doesn’t it look better that way? Who's with me?
Also, I should note that the original recipe specifically said to use a deep dish pie plate. But I didn’t think it looked like enough filling, so I only used a regular 9” pie plate. It filled it perfectly!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Joey's Creamed Spinach and Potato Casserole


 I was recently trying to think of something interesting to do with a basic creamed spinach recipe. Yes, of course, I love it just as it is, with its delicious cream sauce, and the onions and garlic, but I wondered what else might go in with it. In my family, 2 little boxes of frozen chopped spinach wouldn’t go very far, so I was thinking of what else I could add to it, to stretch the dish and make it go a little further.
 Then I thought of my Dad. It was always a running joke that whenever any of us brought friends home for dinner, my Dad would tell my Mom “I guess you’d better throw another potato into the pot!”  I thought “Ah! potatoes! of course!”
So that’s what I did. Just some par-boiled potatoes, added to your basic creamed spinach, baked into a casserole, and now you’re ready to feed an army. It’s quite economical too, because it doesn’t cost all that much and fills a lot of bellies.
 Then I thought, ooo this would make the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, just as an alternative to the usual mash. Why not? It’s always  nice to have a variety!
 Even if it’s not Thanksgiving, keep this recipe in your back pocket and serve it up with some baked chicken or a roast beast. Super delish!

3 lbs red potatoes, peeled and sliced to bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tbs butter
2 (10oz) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs flour
2 cups milk
1 cup cream or half and half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese

Place potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You want to simmer them until they’re almost cooked through, but not quite. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauce pot, sauce the onion with the butter. Add the spinach and garlic and continue to saute. Let any excess moisture evaporate, then sprinkle the flour over all. Give it a good stir until there flour coats everything for a good minute or two.Add the milk, cream, grated cheese, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Stir all together until it thickens. Add your potatoes to the pot, and stir to combine well.
Pour into a 13x9 casserole dish. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.

Instead of peeling and slicing the potatoes, you can just use baby potatoes and cut them in half. The skins are tender enough that you don’t need to peel them!
To remove the most moisture from your thawed spinach, place a clean tea towel flat on the counter. Plop your drained spinach onto the towel in one mound in the center. Gather all four corners of the towel together, making a little bundle of spinach. Now twist the bundle until it squeezes out all of the excess water. You’ll be amazed at just how much more water can be extracted!
If your sauce pot is not big enough to accommodate adding the potatoes to it, just toss everything in a large mixing bowl before transferring it to the casserole dish.
When adding the nutmeg, you only want just a tiny pinch. It’s a classic addition to any cream sauce, but you don’t want it to come out tasting like egg nog. Just a tiny pinch is enough!



Monday, November 2, 2020

Onion Roasted Carrots and Potatoes

 Have you ever used onion soup mix to make roasted potatoes? If you haven't, where have you been your whole life?????  It's one of those tried and true recipes that has been on the back of the box of Lipton Onion Soup mix for a million years. For me, it's one of those classic recipes that I'll always love, kind of like the favorite Green Bean Casserole or Libby's Pumpkin Pie.
 But this time, I thought, why not add something else to it? How about carrots? YES! That sounds fabulous. (Wait, why have we never done this before??)
 So I tried it, and just as I figured, it was amazing! It’s literally just the exact same Lipton recipe with added carrots. Normally, I’d think “eh, not exactly ground breaking”, but I’m telling you, it was so good that I needed to share. It’s good enough for a holiday dinner or just a Sunday roast beast.
I think this just might be the new way I make this recipe from now on. LOVE it.

2 lbs potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine all ingredients in 13 x 9-inch baking, roasting pan, or sheet tray.
Bake, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Top with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

If you want to do a mix of root vegetables, go for it! I would absolutely add diced sweet potatoes, butternut squash,  and/or turnips to this. Make it your own! Are you feeding a crowd? Double everything!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies



 My sister Cathy, and her daughters, Casey and Carly and I have an ongoing text thread. Just a simple conversation that has been going on for literally years. Sometimes it's just a funny little meme, sometimes it's just an "I hate Mondays" need for some extra support, but usually it's some version of "Look at this amazing recipe!" or "Doesn't this look good?" or "When are we making this?" along with a link to the website from where it was discovered. That's exactly what happened when Casey texted us with this recipe. She was torn between this recipe and another recipe using pumpkin butter, but we picked this one! So this comes to us from a blog called Half Baked Harvest via Casey Case with the Pretty Face. She baked them up and even took the picture for us! Thanx Case!! Pumpkin pie spice? Cinnamon sugar? Chocolate chips? Yes please! We're definitely adding them to our cookie rotation for the holidays! YUM!

 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup pumpkin butter, homemade or store bought
1 egg, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate chunks
1/3 cup cinnamon sugar


Add 1 stick butter to a small saucepan set over medium heat, cooking until the butter begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Stick in the freezer to chill, 10-15 minutes, but no longer.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
 In a large mixing bowl, beat together the remaining 1 stick butter, the cooled browned butter, brown sugar, and sugar until combined. Beat in the pumpkin butter, egg, and vanilla, beating until creamy. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.
Roll the dough into 1 tablespoon size balls and then generously roll through the cinnamon sugar and place 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and tap the baking sheet on the counter 2 times to flatten them down. Return to the oven and bake another 1-2 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to set on the edges, but still doughy in the center. Remove from the oven and tap the baking sheet on the counter 1-2 times to flatten them down again. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. They will continue to cook slightly as they sit on the baking sheet. Eat warm (highly recommended) or let cool and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


You can make LOTS of these, and then store them in your freezer! To freeze cookies, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, remove them to a ziploc bag, and then just take out as many as you need as you navigate the holidays. They thaw in no time at all!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Apple Dapple Cake

 Have you ever heard of an Apple Dapple Cake? I must confess that until very recently, I had never heard  of it, but apparently it's a thing. Who knew? I searched and searched for the origin of the recipe, but unfortunately didn't find many answers. All I could find is that it's an old-timey recipe that has been around for decades, and everyone's Grandmom had her own version of it. Works for me!

It's basically an apple cake with chopped nuts and a caramel glaze. Sounds amazing, right? I found many versions, and all of them were very similar. There was only a slight variation here and there. Some use walnuts, some use pecans, one even added shredded sweetened coconut (which I wouldn't mind at all). It also seemed that everyone had a different version of the caramel glaze that gets poured over the top. Another variation in all of the recipes was the kind of pan in which it was baked. Some used a tube pan, some used a bundt pan, some used a 9x13 pan. I decided to use the tube pan because it reminded me of the apple cake my Mom always made. And as much as I usually don't like using a 9x13 pan for cakes, I can see how using one for this recipe might be the smartest choice. It would work kind of like a poke cake, where you pour the glaze over a still-warm cake, and then let it sink in. YUM.

 I chose this recipe from a blog called A Family Feast. And it's delicious! The diced apples make it SO moist and the nuts added a little extra crunch. And the caramel turned out really buttery and decadent. AMAZING. Also it's a really easy cake to make! Honestly, I think dicing the apples is the hardest part. You can handle that, right??  I will definitely be making this cake again. I think you should too!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 3/4 pound)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

3 tbs butter
3 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
3 tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Place rack in upper third of the oven. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl then sift a second time. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix vegetable oil with both sugars until well mixed. With mixer running, add one egg at a time and once mixed, add vanilla and mix and scrape the bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients with mixer running on low. Scrape the bowl again and mix. Peel, core and cut the apples into bite sized pieces and fold into the batter. Fold the walnuts into the batter then spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake in top third of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, put all glaze ingredients into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil and stir with a wooden spoon continuously for one minute. Remove from heat and pour over the top of the warm cake.


Full disclosure, I didn’t sift the dry ingredients as the recipe directs. I just whisked them all together in a bowl. And, like I said, I didn’t use a 9x13 pan.
I used pecans  and honey crisp apples instead of walnuts and granny smith apples, Why? Because I like them better! You do you!


Monday, October 12, 2020

Peanut Butter Apple Crumble


 So, I was recently cleaning out my pantry, and I discovered a forgotten half jar of peanut butter. Just sitting all the way in the back, thinking no one loved it anymore.  Of course, I instantly thought "what can I make with this?" Yes, I could absolutely do something with chocolate. That's a no brainer, but not exactly ground breaking. Then I thought, how about something apple? A crisp, maybe? Yes, that's exactly the right note I want to hit. But, to me, a crisp has an oat topping, and I was out of oats. I did, however, have a can of slightly salted peanuts. What if I swap out the oats for peanuts and call it a crumble?  THERE's the A HA moment! Then I found a recipe on a blog called Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt. (This is my tweaked version.) A little bit of peeling and coring and mixing, and the next thing I knew I was smelling the heavenly scent of apples baking. YUM. It really is one of life's simple pleasures, you know. So there we have it. Apples and peanut butter, with a peanut crumble topping. Add a little vanilla ice cream on top, and you're having a party! Definitely a keeper. Absolutely delicious!


6 apples
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs flour
pinch salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped peanuts
3/4 cup flour
4 tsp butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
pinch salt

Heat over to 350ºF.

For the filling:
Peel, core, and slice apples set aside.
In a large bowl, combine remaining filling ingredients. Tossing filling with apples. Place in a large baking dish.

For the topping:
In the same bowl as you tossed the apples, (no need to wash), combine all topping ingredients. Pour topping all over apples in an even layer. Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes. You MUST serve this with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I'm pretty sure it's a law.

The usual “baking” apple is the Granny Smith. It’s tart so it stands up to the sweetness of the sugar, and it doesn’t turn to mush while it bakes. But I like Honeycrisp apples better, so that’s what I used. Use what you like!
If you’re using salted peanuts, omit the pinches of salt.
If you want your apples to be a little bit more saucy, sprinkle them with the sugar, and let them sit for a while until the juices form, then toss with the remaining filling ingredients.