Pies

Pie #7: Chocolate Cheesecake

Vive le Pie

Chocolate Cheesecake from The New York Times

Baking Notes

It was Labor Day and David was still on work travel. I had spent the last two days cleaning the apartment and clearing the cabinets of items that had gone untouched in a season. Enter two lingering odd-fellows: Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate and leftover graham crackers. Besides s’mores, graham crackers signal cheesecake. A quick search and I landed on this version from the New York Times.

This recipe is so, so, simple to prepare, and while it baked for an hour and a half, I went to go meet with a potential trainer and nutritionist about my fall workout plan (karma for all the pies). The only thing keeping this pie from perfection were the unmixed bits of white cream cheese from the bottom of the mixing bowl, which made for an interesting discovery upon cutting into the chocolatey center.

Tasting Notes

Holy wow. This cheesecake is rich and decadent and delightful. I took it into work after sampling a slice myself and had people stopping by my desk for two full days to rave about the creamy texture. The surprising question I received multiple times? “You clearly didn’t use Hershey’s. So exactly what kind of chocolate is in there?”

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Pies

Pie #6: Peach Pie

Peach Pie

Peach Pie, inspired by Joy the Baker, Bon Appetit, and Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Baking Notes

I have a bad habit of not really looking closely at recipes before I decide to make them. On Sunday at the farmer’s market, I grabbed 6 shapely peaches (which, fuck me, cost $17) and decided to make them into a pie. Once I looked at the recipe it turned out I only needed 3 of those peaches for a single pie, but I will never say no to more pie, and so I made double the filling. I decided to more closely follow the basic crust recipe in Four & Twenty Blackbirds this time around. The result was a drier dough that rolled out more easily without all the cracks I had been experiencing before.

But then I went off script: I decided to pre-bake the bottom crust out of fear that the liquid of the peaches would produce a soggy bottom. I used a glass pie plate again, and quickly found my pre-baked pie crust had again lost about half its size. I added the peaches to the now pre-baked crust, then completed my first lattice for the top crust. I am shocked by how incredibly easy it was (and how sorry I am that I let the lattice scare me from making pie for so long). The first pie (above) turned out beautifully, but was a little over-buttery due to the shrinkage.

Never fear—I still had enough peach filling left for a second pie. This time I did some sleuthing and discovered that a glass pie plate was more likely to cause the shrinkage, so I switched to a dark, non-stick pan instead.

I should note that at the time of the first pie, my in-laws surprised us with a short-notice two-day visit, and on a school night! When my in-laws are staying in our tiny apartment, it helps to stay busy. Preparing this pie and crust kept me occupied for a whole evening! Spend my Monday night boiling and peeling peaches? No problem.

Tasting Notes

After everyone left the next day, I sat on the sofa, pie pan on my lap, and ate a quarter of this pie in one sitting. In fairness, it was a rainy August day that felt a lot like fall, and I was in mourning. The perfection of this simple peach pie can not be overstated. Tart and smooth, it is quintessential summer.

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Pies

Pie #5: Plum Crustless Tart

Plum Almond Crustless Tart

Plum Almond Crustless Tart from PBS Food

Baking Notes

Overall, this was an easy, painless, and reasonably easy pie to make. I roughly ground the almonds in my mini-food processor, but would ground them further until they were truly fine next time. I did wonder if almond flour might have produced the same result, but decided not to experiment with it the first time around. I suspect amaretto is not something most people have around, but I happen to have a bottle of been trying to use for ages, and it provided a nice finish along with the apricot glaze. Like other recent bakes, the tart barely made it halfway up my tart pan. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m using the wrong size for these recipes…

Tasting Notes

Using my leftover mini-plums from last week’s farmer’s market haul resulted in delightfully tart and jammy cooked plums. The frangipane was courser that I would have liked due to my roughly chopped almonds, but that’s an easy fix for next time.

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Pies

Pie #4: Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust

Martha Stewart's Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Martha Stewart’s Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Baking Notes

It was Independence Day and I had a bunch of GMO apples to use. If I’m being honest, apple pie is my least favorite of the pies, with maybe the exception of coconut pie, which is just a downright aberration.

From the start, the crust was not cooperating. I think the temperature of our apartment is such that the time between practically frozen and completely melted is about a nano-second. I also cannot figure out how to roll dough so that it is evenly spread and breakage is minimized. Time to watch some YouTube videos.

But then, I forgot to scroll up on the recipe as I added the filling and forgot the butter.

And then, I used Trader Joe’s Quatro Formaggio—not cheddar—because it was there and why not?

By the time I got the crust to even just cover the pie plate (forget the fracking fancy edges), it was late. I saw that the pie needed to bake for 1 hr and 40 minutes, and then cool for another hour and a half, so I said screw pie, and went to bed instead.

Tasting Notes

You guys, I made an apple pie that tasted…good? The flavor of the crust definitely has a twist, but the bigger concern was the sort of toughness of the top crust. The baked apples were delightful—even without the butter.

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Pies

Pie #3: Blue Cheese Potato Tart

Potato and Blue Cheese Tart

Smitten Kitchen’s Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart

Baking Notes

Admittedly, I took a shortcut here and used a pre-made crust and almond milk instead of cream. My rationale was that I was baking two pies in one night and deserved this little cheat.

This tart was coming together beautifully, but I couldn’t get it to set. Almost an 1.5 hours of baking and I was still seeing jiggle and liquid. Some Google sleuthing taught me that the lower fat content of my almond milk is an issue here. I should have dissolved some flour early on to help thicken milk product during baking.

Tasting Notes

I rarely use milk alternatives in my baking because I don’t enjoy the nutty flavor it imbues, so although I hesitated at the first bite. Still, the blue cheese really came through here and made the almond milk less of an issue. I would make these again, especially when I have real dairy on hand.

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Pies

Pie #2: Secret Pie

Vive le Pie

I’m working on a project with a friend, so I can’t share any other details about Pie #2 at this point.

Check back in September, when I’ll be excited to share the result of my friend’s project.

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Pies

Pie #1: Apricot Tart

Apricot Tart

Martha Stewart’s Everyday Apricot Tart

Baking Notes

Ultimately this was a pie fail, but boy, was it fun to look at.

I purchased a tart pan because I wanted those uniform edges, and also because Great British Bake Off. My first crust attempt resulted in serious shrinkage in the oven. The second crust resulted in shrinkage as well, but was ultimately still deep enough to hold most of the filling.

So why am I showing you a picture of this pie in my fridge instead of on a beautiful stylized plate? It is because my custard never firmed, so I ate this pie from a bowl like so much melted ice cream. Huzzah.

Tasting Notes

It was over-sweet for my taste, but the apricots were delightful little gems. More apricots, all the time.

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