Friday, November 27, 2009

Pie-la-Palooza 2

I'm starting to think that my extended family's Thanksgiving feast should consist of nothing but desserts. We'd all have a lot more room for the fantastic pies, etc. that show up at our table if we didn't bother with turkey and stuffing first. Either that, or we need to just start with a dessert course around noon and then have the main meal when our stomachs settle, around 4. There were no less than 15 pies at this year's feast. Plus 3 pumpkin rolls, and three tubs of ice cream. It looks obscene, I know. It sounds obscene. It probably IS obscene. But, there are a lot of us. And I'm thankful that every single one of them is a part of my life. (not the pies, the people) (although, I'm terribly thankful for pies, as well!)

My contributions this year were the Pumpkin-Chocolate Tart you see on the left above,

Cherry-Chocolate Pie
(which the oldest says was better than the Pie Queen's Cherry pie--score!),

and Bourbon Pecan Pie with Cranberries (which the Pie King thought was too boozy (?!)).

I hope you all had a wonderfully Happy Thanksgiving and indulged in many delicious baked treats.

Next up: I'm going to try to make some mini pies. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bourbon Pecan Pie with Cranberries

I pity the cranberry. I truly do. It is much maligned. People think of this:

When they should think of this:

If less people were exposed to the first, the cranberry might not have been saddled with such a bad reputation all these years. I would like to "bring back" the cranberry. It is far underused in holiday desserts and other dishes. So, I was very excited to see this recipe involving cranberries, pecans, and BOURBON! My favorite! I wanted to give it a trial run before making it for Thanksgiving. And, success! It was delicious! I love the idea of toasting the pecans, it gives an extra boost of flavor. There is a LOT of sugar in this recipe. Enough that the pecans on top get nice and crispy with the sugar, almost like candied nuts. But that's a good thing. Cakespy said it best about the cranberries: "Adding a generous handful of tart cranberries (I know! Fruit!) to the Bourbon Pecan Pie worked on two levels: first, it tempered the extreme sweetness of the pecan-sugar-corn syrup mixture; second, it added a refreshing tang to the fiery, warming bourbon." And about the yourself (and me) a favor--buy good stuff. For novices, that means Maker's Mark, Knob Creek, or Buffalo Trace. Do NOT buy Early Times, Jim Beam, or, god forbid, Wild Turkey. You can really taste the bourbon in this pie--not the alcohol, the flavor of the bourbon. So, you need to use a bourbon that has a good flavor.

Bourbon Pecan Pie with Cranberries

1 single pie crust, blind baked (ingredients below)
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pecans, lightly toasted
3/4 cup dried cranberries (I used apple juice-sweetened; if possible, use the least sweet version you can!)

Rather Thick Single Pie Crust (adapted from Martha Stewart)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 tbsp. pcs., very cold
1/4-1/2 cup cold water


1. Prepare the pie crust. Put the flour, salt and sugar into a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks grainy. Then slowly, while pulsing, add the water until you can form the dough by pressing it between your fingers. Note: this can be done by hand as well. Decant the loose dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Using the wrap, fold the loose dough towards the middle and press with the back of your hands to form dough. Wrap and chill for at least 4 hours before using. Dough can be made ahead for up to one week. Before you're ready to bake this pie, blind-bake the pie crust for about 10-15 minutes at 325 F.

2. Ready to make the pie? Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F., baby!

3. When you're ready to prepare the filling, put the corn syrup and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat and add the butter, bourbon and vanilla. Let the mixture cool, and then add the eggs and whisk until smooth (don't add the eggs while the mixture is still very hot, otherwise you'll have scrambled eggs!).

4. Fill and bake the pie. Arrange the pecans and cranberries on the bottom of the crust.

Carefully pour the filling over them (some will rise to the top, like magic!).

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the filling is set; rotate the pan halfway through baking time. This pie allegedly serves about 8--however, what the recipe does not mention is that the 8 servings may be the same 2 people four times in one day.

As you can see above, I used dark brown sugar and dark corn syrup. I just think darker is better and more flavorful in most food situations. And, naturally, I used my own pie crust recipe. Because, damn, it's good. And look how flaky it is! If you haven't tried it yet, you should. Unless you're vegetarian--I'll work on that soon, promise.

TGIP Rating--Bourbon Pecan Pie with Cranberries--KEEPER! Needless to say, I WILL be making this for Thanksgiving. One of three desserts. I am very tempted (in my attempt to "bring back" the cranberry) to make the cranberry tart I made the very first time I made Thanksgiving dinner in my home (1995!), but one of the other desserts I'm making is this tart, and since I only have one tart pan---perhaps I'll make the cranberry tart for our Christmas Eve dessert-buffet-to-beat-all. And in the future--will I try this recipe with chocolate chips in place of the cranberries, for a CHOCOLATE Bourbon Pecan Pie? You bet your sweet bippy I will!

Next Up: Pie-la-Palooza 2!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mama Vogel's Rum Cake

Mama Vogel knows what it's all about. Liquor in desserts. Smart woman.

I have a long-term project (that I haven't yet started) of recreating the Italian Rum Cake from Sarno's Bakery in Los Angeles. My parents used to order their rum cake for special occasions and it is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. But, sadly, no longer available. So, I need to figure out how to make it myself. There are a whole lot of pieces to the puzzle that have to be figured out one at a time. Then I have to put the whole thing together. I probably won't start on that until January. In the meantime...I saw a college friend at a party in Berkeley in September and told him my rum cake woes. A good move on my part, as he has all sorts of sources for rum cake recipes. This one is from Mama Vogel. A woman I'd love to meet someday. Because of this:

I am happy to share the recipe but with the realization that everyone will see what a fraud I am. It is made with a cake mix and with little extra doctoring. Can't get much easier than this. I would tell your friend that anyone who thinks they have to make something from scratch is just wasting their time and money. I also will share the secret that I begin in September to watch the grocery store ads. When I see a 'buy one, get one free' attached to any of the yellow cake mixes from the better known brands, I begin my stockpiling of mixes. I bake them in batches of 8 and then make a big pot of the rum glaze. Just ask Michael what the house smells like when I have this fully underway. There are also many stories related to the cake -- like one school not allowing the teachers to sample the cake until all of the students had left the campus for the day or the nurse who frowned on anyone imbibing but Steve found her wiping the glaze from the plate with her fingers and promptly licking them clean.

She bakes these in batches of 8, folks. Multiple batches of 8, from the sound of it. I admire such a woman. I can bake, but I can't bake like that. That takes will and fortitude. And a boatload of rum!

And here, with Mama Vogel's permission, is this wonderful family recipe:

Mama Vogel's Rum Cake *click here for printable version*


1 cup chopped pecans
1 box yellow cake mix (with pudding in the mix)
3 eggs
1/2 or 1/3 cup oil (according to the directions on the box of cake mix you use)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup dark rum (80 proof)

Glaze (enough for two cakes):

1/4 pound butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark rum (80 proof)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease (use spray) and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all cake ingredients together. Pour batter over the nuts and bake as directed on cake mix box (approximately 35-40 minutes). Cool and invert onto serving platter. Prick top and sides with fork.

Prepare glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Spoon and brush glaze evenly over the top and sides, allowing the cake to absorb the glaze. Repeat until the glaze is used up.

(literally dripping with glaze)

Yes, once again, I baked a cake that is essentially a dressed-up cake mix. Much like my Aunt Dorothy's beloved Wine Cake.

Which is exactly WHY I liked this recipe. I figured if I got such great results from that, why wouldn't it work just as well with rum?! This is a far cry from Sandra Lee--that, my friends, is a fraud.

At any rate, this cake is delicious. Rummy? Why, yes. Perfectly so. I love the pecans with the rum flavor. It's sort of spicy and warming and a little crunchy.

Yum. Mama Vogel apparently makes these for Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for her. She instructs further:

One secret I did forget to note on the recipe....... when putting the rum into the cake mix, I measure it kinda like a good bartender fills a shot glass...... pour it to the rim of the measuring cup and then keep pouring as you dump that into the mix. It probably gets about an extra quarter cup of rum when all is said and done and the secret to the extra moisture (and kick) in the final product.

THAT is a woman after my own heart. You are not a fraud, Mama. You are my hero.

TGIP Rating--Mama Vogel's Rum Cake--KEEPER! Rummy =Yummy.

Next up: Thanksgiving is almost here! I'm doing a trial run of this pie to see if it's good enough to make for my family.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 26: I know...

...the difference between wants and needs.





Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fruit & Nut Oatmeal Muffins

I found this recipe at Coconut & Lime and it's yummy.

You see, I found this Fruit & Nut mixture a while back at Costco:

and mr. and I have been living off of it ever since. I combine it with greek yogurt and fresh apples for breakfast. I stir it into hot oatmeal for breakfast (and pour a little half & half over the whole thing). We both grab handfuls throughout the day. In fact, my dinner wasn't really sufficient, I think I'll shove a handful in my face while I type this up! It has pretty much everything I love in it (except chocolate) (and mr.). So I got to thinking it would be delicious mixed in to an oatmeal muffin. Naturally, somebody smarter than I am beat me to the punch. In a way. All the better for you.

Fruit & Nut Oatmeal Muffins
from Coconut & Lime (this is the original recipe verbatim, but I changed the order of ingredients to reflect the order in which they're added to the mixture--mainly for me. Otherwise I lose track of what I've done.)
*click here for printable version*


1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 egg

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit

1/3 cup quartered, skin-on almonds


Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour one 12 well muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk together the spices (including salt), flour, baking soda, sugar, baking powder and oats. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the egg, oil and buttermilk. After it is thoroughly mixed, pour in the dry ingredients. Stir to combine. Fold in the fruit and nuts. Divide evenly among 12 muffin wells.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, serve.

I scooped out a heaping cup of the Fruit & Nut mixture, picked out the almonds and walnuts, coarsely chopped them, and then folded it all in. You could use whatever mixture of dried fruits and nuts you like. The spices and the oatmeal are a great combination that can stand up to whatever you want to throw at them.

TGIP Rating--Fruit & Nut Oatmeal Muffins--KEEPER--Make every week-er.

Next up: Mama Vogel's Rum Cake. Oh, you have no idea.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 25: Remember when...

...I had that really bad year? When my body did all sorts of strange and unexpected things? And every remedy my doctors came up with actually made the situation considerably worse? And, in addition, gave me emotional symptoms akin to postpartum depression? And remember how throughout that whole year I baked, especially pies? And remember how making that pie dough became like therapy? Something I knew I could control. Something that didn't cause me physical pain. Or, for that matter, emotional pain. Yeah, I remember that too. Doesn't seem like it was very long ago. I love baking. It soothes my weary...whatever...body/mind/soul.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jack-o-Lantern Pie PLUS!

Although the Pumpkin-Chocolate Tart turned out spectacularly delicious, I wanted to try another idea: a simpler and more rustic version of a chocolate pumpkin pie, with a traditional crust. I used this recipe and spread 1 cup of chocolate chips in the crust (just like I do with Cherry Chocolate pie) before pouring the custard in.

And then after it cooked and cooled I gave it a face.

Pretty easy, eh?

I genuinely liked both versions. I can't say that I prefer one over the other. I guess it would depend on what sort of mood I'm in.

But...but...spiker...(you sputter)...there's nothing new here! Give us a little something that we haven't seen before!

Okay. But, I have to admit, this is me taking credit for someone else's work again. And it's not a dessert. But it is baked. Or roasted. Whatever. It's cooked in the oven. This is a well-loved recipe in my extended family. My cousin, The Phlebotomist is responsible for the original recipe, which is a variation of a sausage-rice casserole (I don't know, I've never made sausage-rice casserole). My sister, The Quilter, is responsible for some of the ideas in the updated version. And then I ran with it.

Dinner in a Pumpkin *click here for printable version*


1 small-medium pumpkin, top cut off and cleaned out

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 onion, chopped

1/4 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 4-oz. can sliced mushrooms (drained)

1-1/2 c. cooked rice

1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts (drained)

Brown ground beef and sausage. Add onion. Drain.
Add soy sauce, brown sugar, soup, and mushrooms. Simmer all for 10 minutes.

Add rice and water chestnuts. Spoon all into pumpkin. Put lid on and put in baking or serving dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until knife goes easily into side of pumpkin. Poke a couple of holes in the bottom of the pumpkin after 45 minutes of cooking so that some juices can drain.

Serve, making sure to scrape some of the pumpkin off the sides to combine with the casserole.

Updated (fresher, less fat/more fiber):

1 small-medium pumpkin, top cut off and cleaned out

1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey

1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage (or you can use turkey Italian sausage, if you can find it)

1 onion, chopped

1/4 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. half and half

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced

1-1/2 c. cooked brown rice

1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts (drained)

salt and pepper

Brown ground turkey and sausage. Add onion. Drain. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, half and half, and mushrooms. Simmer all for 10 minutes, until it starts to thicken slightly.

Add rice, water chestnuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon all into pumpkin. Put lid on and put in baking or serving dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until knife goes easily into side of pumpkin.

Serve, making sure to scrape some of the pumpkin off the sides to combine with the casserole.

I use this kind of rice:

And I prepare it according to these directions. And we live off of it. Quite literally.

I really loved it using the updated method. It was fresh and natural tasting. Not heavy or oily. The texture and mild taste of the pumpkin with all the other flavors and textures is just perfect.

TGIP Rating--Jack-o-Lantern Pie--KEEPER
--Dinner in a Pumpkin--KEEPER for sure with the updated version.

Next up: Fruit & Nut Oatmeal Muffins. I need a little breakfast variety.