Friday, March 4, 2016

Three months of Catch-Up

First up: reporting in on Thanksgiving pies.

The Caramel Apple pie via Four and Twenty Blackbirds was a huge fail. It was unbelievably watery. And it wasn't just because I'm bad at caramel. I tried it a second time using storebought caramel. Still watery and didn't taste at all of caramel. My conclusion: if you want Caramel Apple Pie, make regular Apple Pie and pour some caramel sauce over it.

This Pecan Pie from smitten kitchen however? I'm never using another recipe. It's perfect. A little smoky, not too sweet, not gooey. I'll say it again. PERFECT.

December was busy but I did manage to make a Stump de Noël for our family Christmas party per my mother (The Pie Queen)'s request. Upped my decorating game by making these pine cones (or are they hedgehogs?), some with fudge centers, some with marzipan.

I thought I'd try rolling the cake while it was warm and using kitchen towels (a trick I probably saw on The Great British Baking Show--if you're not watching it, mend your ways!). Obviously, it still cracked like crazy, and, what's more, it stuck to the towels.

 Ah well, it all comes out okay in the end.

January brings my best girl's birthday. She requested a vanilla and chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese icing. I complied and it was delicious. Those balls you see around the bottom of the cake? Those were meant to be candied hazelnuts with tall strings of shattery caramel that could sit on top of the cake and look dramatic and beautiful. As I think I've mentioned, I'm bad at candy. SO BAD. So they ended up being toasted hazelnuts with a soft sugary coating, dusted with cocoa and powdered sugar. They actually tasted good, but looked far less dramatic than I wanted.

When I was looking for a new Pecan Pie recipe around Thanksgiving, a friend recommended I try Kentucky Derby Pie. I finally got around to doing so in January. And I'm so glad I did. Wow. One of the few desserts that has disappeared pretty quickly from my house. My kids call it "cookie pie" because it tastes like chocolate chip cookies with pecans. I used half the amount of bourbon called for, and replaced with vanilla extract. I know, ME? *I* added less bourbon? Yes. And yet, it was the perfect balance of buttery and smoky and sweet and nutty and chocolatey.

February, at last. I was asked by the director of a play I'm doing later this year to make some pies for a read-through. He wanted pies with red fillings (if your stomach isn't weak, look up the plot of Titus Andronicus, know that I'll be playing Titus, and you'll understand). I have never really liked baked berry pies, and when I've made them they've been watery. But I wanted to do something other than cherry, so. I found this recipe for raspberry pie and was completely surprised (and delighted) at how easy it was. Not only that--not watery in the least. And not too sweet. I made this one with only raspberries but used the same recipe with a frozen triple berry mix for another pie. Both were completely delicious and have changed my mind about baked berry pies.

TGIP Ratings--lots of KEEPERS here. The fails I should have seen coming. 

Next up: Spring has sprung and I want something lemony. I'm debating between this, this, and this. Help me decide.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Nothing in the House's Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie

This was ridiculously easy. And turned out to be so delicious that I'm making it again for Thanksgiving. There's something about the spices in the cookie butter that are reminiscent of the spices in pumpkin pie. But the slight difference in flavor makes it much more interesting than pumpkin. It's like amped-up pumpkin pie. My crust was a little soggy, and I'm not sure why. When I make it for Thanksgiving, I'll try a different kind of cookie (I used Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps, next time I'll use their Speculoos cookies), and I'll try baking it slightly longer before filling.

TGIP Rating--Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie--KEEPER. Big time.

Next up: The pinnacle of pie holidays is upon us next week. I have plans to try two new pies, so that should be interesting. I've been looking for a more traditional (but still not gooey or cloying) Pecan Pie recipe, and smitten kitchen posted this the other day, so I'm giving it a try. And a friend asked me to try a Salted Caramel Apple Pie she had heard about. Turns out it was from Four and Twenty Blackbirds, so, I was immediately sold. Plus this Sweet Potato Speculoos, and my personal fave Cherry Chocolate. My mr. is disappointed that I'm not making a traditional Pumpkin, and I really should take this opportunity to try out my No Meat Mincemeat on the Pie King, but goodness knows I can't do everything! What pies are you making?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

6 Months in Limbo

I have no other explanation.

So, how about 6 months in one post?! Pics and brief thoughts, here we go:

I have no idea when I made this or what the recipe was. But it looks pretty, doesn't it?


Fairy Bites. I thought they were perfect for Easter. Along with the Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies (I think they qualify as Whoopie Pies) below. Both were truly delicious.

Ordered this, but have yet to make anything out of it. I also have intentions to order just about every sprinkle she has in her etsy sprinkle store.

Chocolate Strawberry Oasis Pie. Another super delicious thing.


mr just wanted a simple chocolate cake for his birthday, so I made smitten kitchen's 'i want chocolate cake' cake. Yes, simple. Yes, delicious.

Think what you like, I'm not apologizing for that word up there. Cancer took my friend Mike, who gave me the recipe for this Texas Buttermilk Pecan Pie. I made this as a cheer-me-up in his last days.

JUNE (I have no idea what I did)


This amazing Tomato Pie. What an unexpected delight. I halved the amount of mayo and cheese and it was still creamy and unbelievably delicious. Tastes like summer.

I'm >this< close to perfecting my Rhubarb Pie recipe. I have succeeded with fresh rhubarb, now I have some experimenting to do with frozen to see if I can get acceptable results. More to come...

I made myself the most amazing birthday cake. This Blackberry Chocolate Cake that I've ogled for ages but was afraid of because it was a food styling challenge, so I didn't know if it would turn out well. IT DID. Seriously.


Sangria Cupcakes for my sister-in-law's birthday. I'm not big on baked fruits (other than cherries), so I was completely surprised and pleased with how yummy these turned out. Fresh tasting and perfect.

Seconda turned 13. This turned out to be WAY too much cake for a gaggle of teenage girls.

*phew* August is a big birthday month. My best boyfriend turned 40 and he's a manly man, so I made him this super dark, masculine cake. Cake portion of this Midnight Sin Chocolate Cake, topped with my own Coffee Buttercream. Just about the richest thing I've ever baked.


I'm acting in a play right now about a woman who bakes to battle her "nerve-riddled insomnia" (she's managing the care of her mother, who is dealing with Alzheimer's). She recites the recipe for a Coconut Cake in the play and I decided I should try to make it. A few altitude alterations, plus a frosting recipe I threw together and it turned out delicious. Also super rich, but worth it. Here's a picture of the recipe, printed in the program (note, "unsalted butt" is a typo, in case you couldn't guess):

The cake recipe comes from the mum of this sweet (and super smart and talented) guy:

It's Autumn now. Pie season. Time for squash-y, nutty, cinnamon-y things. I've got one million irons in the fire, but still plan to bake when time permits. Otherwise I'll literally drive myself crazy. 

Next up: Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie. I just can't find anything wrong with that idea.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pi Day of the Century

3.1415926...Only in America was this a once in a lifetime (literally) kind of day. March 14, 2015, 9:26. So I needed to make a once in a lifetime kind of pie. Opted for the Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie. It wasn't nearly as labor-intensive as the link makes it sound. But I was HEAVILY concerned at one point that it was going to be a fail. Started with this lovely crumbled oat cookie crust:

Then filled it with a sugary, buttery filling. And during baking it started to look like the crust and the filling were sort of merging.

In fact, maybe they did. And maybe that turned out to not be a bad thing. It's not the easiest pie to get out of the pan, depending on whether it's cold or warm. But it's worth the struggle. It's unbelievably rich and delicious--a little like...salted caramel pie.

While I was having a panic attack about the Crack Pie, I decided I needed *something* to take its place if it was a fail. Can't have Pi Day with no Pie! I had seen this recipe for Coconut Custard Pie a day or so before I was baking, and it turned out that I had all the ingredients, so I just quick whipped this one up. And it was literally that easy--"I quick whipped it up".

I loved this one as well. I added more coconut than the recipe calls for, and it didn't feel like overkill at all. Not overly sweet, just simple and lovely. Nothing wrong with having two pies on Pi Day! Or any day.

TGIP Rating--Crack Pie--KEEPER. Need to try again to see if I can determine why the crust and filling...became one.
--Coconut Custard Pie--also a KEEPER. In fact, one I might want to play with a little bit. What would adding some lime zest do, I wonder?

Next up: I'm on a pie kick right now, but I want to make a savory one. Looking at this Spinach Pie. The fact that it wouldn't have my traditional crust (with lard) is actually kind of a bonus right now because it means maybe my vegetarian Thing 1 will eat it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

No Meat Mincemeat Pie

This is how this recipe started. 

It's an old Baker family recipe that's been handed down to me. It strikes me that older recipes are a little less exact than recipes we write now. Maybe baking was as much oral/practical tradition as it was written, I don't know. But this seems like a recipe written more as a reminder than as instructions for someone who has never made it before. At any rate, it's a dessert pie THAT CONTAINS MEAT. Which doesn't go over too well with my people.

But...I like the spiced fruits and other flavors in mincemeat. Everything except the meat. So I wanted to try a little revamp.

Here's what I came up with:

No Meat Mincemeat Pie (in progress) *click here for printable version*

Pie pastry for 1 9-inch, 2 crust pie
2 c. peeled and diced Granny Smith apple (½ inch dice)
1 c. golden raisins
½ c. dried tart cherries (or more)
¼ c. currants
¼ c. chopped figs (or more)
2 T. finely chopped lemon rind
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ c. white sugar
½ c. apple juice
1 T. cinnamon
¼ tsp. each mace, nutmeg, allspice
juice and grated rind of 1 orange
1 tsp. salt
1 T. bourbon
2 T. butter cut into 8 pieces

Stir all ingredients except butter together in a saucepan and boil until apples start to soften and juice is reduced by about half. Pour into a 9 inch pie crust and dot the top with butter pieces. Top with second crust (vented). Bake at 400 for 45 to 50 minutes.

You'll notice it's pretty unrecognizable compared to the original recipe. It's almost like the beginnings of the fruitcake I make. Which isn't a bad thing, in my opinion. Now, a couple of things: 1. This was my first attempt. There was *something* missing. Something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Possibly the depth the molasses brings. Next time around, I'm going to try adding a tablespoon of molasses and see where that gets us. I'm also going to add a little more of both figs and cherries (hence, the "or more" instructions). 2. This is kind of a "throw in what you like" pie. Don't like raisins? Leave them out! Prefer dried apricots to figs? Throw them in! I think the point is to end up with approximately this amount of dried fruit (2 cups total). Same with spices. You like ginger? Throw it in there!

I guess it really needs a new name. Spicefruit Pie? You people must be more clever than I am--come up with something!

TGIP Rating--No Meat Mincemeat Pie--KEEPER/EXPERIMENTER. I need to try some more options before I'll call this one finished. And I need to have the Pie King try it.

Next up: Well, as you probably know, this Saturday is the ultimate Pi Day (3.1415). Seems like I need to make an epic pie. I've been wanting to try Momofuku's Crack Pie for ages. Now's the time.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Those BAKED boys. They're pretty much mad geniuses. This cake is all the evidence you need. It's made with purple yam powder. Ube. Yeah, I had never heard of it either. And when I think of a delicious cake, it's not usually one that involves yams. Let alone purple yams. 

Powdered Ube


What do purple yams even taste like? I still have no idea. Here's the thing: maybe it's just spending a lot of time with recipes written by these guys, or maybe it's something different in their writing/creating for their newest book, but this felt easy. Like, almost boxed cake mix easy. And it turned out perfect. Perfectly rounded layers. Lovely, velvety texture. The taste? So delicious and hard to describe. Sweet and a little earthy and tangy from the frosting (I think it could use half again the amount of frosting, but that might just be me). Rich without being heavy. Also--beautiful to look at (although the line between purple and gray in food is *very* thin). 

Go here if you want to see the recipe itself as well as photos by someone who *actually* knows how to bake and make things look pretty and then take gorgeous pictures of them.

Tried but I'm no Sweetapolita

TGIP Rating--Purple Velvet (Gonzo) Cake--KEEPER.

Next up: I had a request over the holidays for a mincemeat pie. Which. I've never made. So I didn't feel like I could make one to order. About to fix that and figure out this mincemeat business. It's my Dad's favorite but I've never been much of a fan. I'm going to call that "I tried it once when I was a kid and it was yucky so I never gave it a second chance". I want to make it from scratch, of course, not use jarred stuff, but I'm still in search of a recipe. If you have one, toss it my way.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I Baked a Bunch of Stuff

I suppose, really, all my posts could have that title. But the truth is, I've baked so much random stuff since the last time I blogged, I found photos that I can't remember what they're of (other than the obvious "that's a cake"). So, here's a bunch of good stuff for you:

October started with these churro cupcakes made for a celebration in honor of my Grandmother. It would have been her 100th birthday. She was a Los Angeles gal, so the theme was "Grandma's LA", which included places like Olvera Street (hence the churro cupcakes), Philippe's, Chinatown, etc. My aunt brought the most beautiful pinata I've ever seen (Grandma used to bring them to every family party), as well as some homemade Almond Cookies that I need to make myself. They were so delicate and delicious.

The cupcakes are my go-to white cake recipe (from the BAKED boys) with a little cinnamon added to the batter, topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting and a piece of churro and cinnamon sugar sprinkle for decoration. So easy. So yummy.

In an unprecedented turn of events, not only did we have TOO MANY cupcakes (I know), but I also had tons of leftover frosting. So I decided to make this Spiced Zucchini Cake to put under the frosting. And then topped it with toasted pecans. Also ridiculously good. Especially for something filled with vegetables.

In the middle of the month, Prima turned 15 and wanted Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for her party. I used a full bottle of this good stuff:

and ended up with the most brilliant red Red Velvet I've ever made. So beautiful. And they were perfect in every other way as well. 


Used the same cream cheese frosting I used for the other two recipes, except I omitted the cinnamon and added vanilla and almond extracts. More deliciousness.

Then at the end of the month my sister (the yogi) visited for her 50th birthday celebration and I made this Toasted Coconut Cake for her. There's a lot of people in my family, so one dessert is never enough. I thought I'd give these brownies a try, they're supposed to taste just like Hostess Sno balls. Well. You can never really go back to your childhood, can you. They were fine, just not really anything like a Hostess Sno ball.

The coconut sure did end up looking pretty though. I'll have to use that trick for something else in the future.

And that's a wrap! 

Next up: It's pie season! I'm heading out tomorrow morning for my clandestine lard pick-up and trying to decide what pies to make for Thanksgiving. Prima wants Cherry Chocolate and Seconda wants Chocolate Pecan. I want to maybe try something new as well, thinking about these specifically, but I'm still on the lookout...