Tag Archives: cream

Now THIS is a Pie

9 Jul

It could be a club, or organization, of sorts. The I-hate-it-when-I-make-HUGE-mistakes-at-something-I’m-good-at club. Can anyone else join? Or at least stick their head in to see what all the fuss is about?

With humbled conviction, I can say there are four things in life that I’m really good at: cooking, teaching, writing, and yoga. I guess we could bump it up to five things if eating is an area in which to excel. Or maybe even six if driving too fast is considered, but for arguments sake, let’s keep it at four. So when I completely, utterly, remarkably destroyed a pie on the 4th of July, I went down the list of excuses.

“I’m not a baker.”
“This was just plain silly to try.”
“It probably wasn’t going to be good anyway.”

North Florida backwoods fireworks boomed with each doleful attempt at an excuse. Then, right as Rob came over to give me a supportive hug, inevitable frustration took over.

“What the hell! What the hell was I thinking?!” I hissed at him (because he was near).

Rob’s arms quickly – and understandably – released as mine over-exaggeratedly flew around, and my mom graciously admitted that she wasn’t that hungry anyway, and my dad echoed the sentiment. Our progressive summer holiday dinner, where our house was the dessert stop, literally stopped.


This has happened before. Where I mess something up in the kitchen, and have to swallow verbal shrapnel for fear others in the vicinity will call the nutty-farm to pick me up over a failed pork roast. Or from-scratch citrus butter. Or seared scallops. Or fig pizza. But the best thing about these mess ups, is that I get to try again having always learned something.

That did sound a little afterschool special-ish; however, it’s true. With the scallops, for instance, don’t put a hard-plastic handled pan on a grill. It may just break completely off sending scallops flying all over the porch (sorry, Mom). And with the citrus butter, adding too much citrus breaks the clotted cream. Add a bit of salt and sugar instead. With the figs, well, just don’t add them to a pizza, and never ever yell into the oven at a pork roast because it won’t cook fast enough. Lesson learned: the pork will ignore you, and you’ll look like a raging moron.

Well, this latest mistake was a dessert mistake. I’m not particularly a sweet-toothed person, most of which I attribute to the fact that my mom couldn’t let go of the chimichangas while pregnant with me. Though in the summertime, I love, love, love Smores. So what better perfect summertime pie than a Smores Pie?

I planned the layers of the pie perfectly: graham cracker crust, then milk chocolate custard (in true Smores Hershey style), melted marshmallow, and then a meringue topping torched to resemble the most perfect, campfire-toasted mallow. Here was the problem: the custard needed to be baked at a certain temperature (preferably in a water bath), and the meringue needed to be baked at a different certain temperature to ensure the egg whites get fully cooked, yet still set to a fluffy, airy, topping. Here’s what went wrong: I double baked the custard in order to cook the meringue, which completely separated both the melted marshmallow and the custard, resulting in a soupy, gloppy, broken, slimy, inedible mess. Really. Not edible. Not exaggerating.

After the flailing arms breakdown, the 4th of July came and went, and the 5th of July was upon us with friends coming for dinner and to watch the Women’s World Cup Championship. So rather than wallow in kitchen disaster pity (like I am honestly still doing with the pork roast – seriously folks, it hasn’t been attempted since), I decided to try the pie again.

The deep breaths in the kitchen were audible. I reviewed: graham crust? Fine. Custard? Creamy and light. Melted mallows? Genius. Problem: Bleeping meringue. Solution: make a thick whipped topping instead. To get the toasted campfire flavor, cook the graham crust just a bit longer locking in some carbon flavor. Result? Pie perfection.

Our guests loved the pie, Rob loved the pie, I loved the pie – it was smores-y, creamy, dreamy, and everything summertime sweets should taste like. But, mostly I loved it because I had tried again and succeeded after an epic, epic fail.

Lesson learned: try again. It should be a kitchen motto, really. Even with food that turns out fantastic. Try again. It will be great again, or maybe even better! So with that, I’m sending summertime love and a sweet, sweet, do-over Smores Pie!



Smores Pie

  • 6 full Hersheys milk chocolate bars, chopped
  • ½ bag large marshmallows
  • 2 full sleeves honey graham crackers
  • 6 tbsp + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp good quality sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 c + ½ c heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 tbsp confectioners sugar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a food processor, crush up the graham crackers with 6 tbsp of butter, and ¼ tsp of Kosher salt. When finely ground, pour the grahams into a pie dish, reserving ¼ c of the grahams for topping at the end. Using hands or the bottom of a measuring cup, firmly press the grahams evenly across the pie pan, and up the sides. Bake for 7-10 minutes.

To make the chocolate custard, pour the chocolate into the top of a double boiler (or use a glass dish over a pot of boiling water. NOTE: do not let the water touch the bowl, or it will burn and separate the chocolate). Heat up the ½ c of heavy cream for 30 seconds in a microwave, or over the stove. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and stir.

While the chocolate is starting to warm, using a hand mixer, beat 3 egg yolks with 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Vigorously beat the egg yolks until they are fluffy, pale yellow, and form a smooth falling ribbon when falling off the beaters.

Once the chocolate has started to melt, mix it together quickly until smooth. Remove the top bowl from the heat, and place on the counter.

At this point, the eggs need to be tempered (if you immediately add room temperature eggs to the hot melted chocolate, you will curdle the eggs – yuck). While vigorously whisking the eggs with one hand, use the other hand to slowly ladle a stream of the melted chocolate into the eggs. Do this with 2-3 spoonfuls, or until the bowl with eggs feels warm (and may steam). Then, while continuing to whisk the chocolate, pour the egg mixture back into the bowl of melted chocolate, and completely combine. At this point, add the sea salt and the cayenne pepper to the chocolate, and mix thoroughly (it may sound strange, but the salt and hot pepper add a dimension to milk chocolate that is lacking on its own – it makes the flavor more rounded, while keeping the integrity of the milk chocolate smores taste). Pour the custard into the pie pan and place the pie pan on a sheet tray. Place the tray in the oven, and carefully pour the hot water left over from the double-boiler, onto the sheet tray making sure no water gets into the pie (this is called a bain marie and the hot water steams to help cook the custard evenly). Bake the custard for 35-40 minutes, until firm, yet still a little jiggly in the middle.

After the custard has baked, remove it from the bain marie and let it cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, start to make the gooey marshmallow layer by putting the marshmallows in a microwaveable bowl with the 2 remaining tbsp of butter. Heat the marshmallows in the microwave for about 20 seconds, or until the marshmallows just start to expand. Quickly remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the mixture until the butter and melted marshmallows combine to make one mixture. While still warm and pourable, evenly pour the marshmallows over the custard.

Put in the fridge to set for anywhere from 1 hour to overnight.

Just before serving, whip the 2 c of heavy whipping cream using a hand, or stand mixer. When just starting to get bubbly, add the vanilla extract and the confectioners sugar. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

Dollop the whipped cream on top of the pie, making a fluffy design, and sprinkle the remaining graham cracker crumbs on top.


When the boy is away, the girl will play…

29 Sep

Most of you know, or have figured out, that I teach, but I’ll give you some insight to Rob and my after work household conversations.  I tell stories of cute kids and the funny things they say, and Rob comes home and says, “Well, today I was tested on how close I could get to the top of a tree without hitting it.”  Quite a difference in topics, he definitely keeps me on my feet.  Rob is a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard.  He is stationed up here on the coast of Oregon for the next few years, and I have to say, his stories of flying through clouds, searching for lost boatsmen, and almost daily getting a free wildlife nature show watching whales breach and sea lions play, understandably trump mine.

But with those stories come the reality that my babe will eventually be deployed to some drug-intercepting boat off the coast of the Pacific, and weekly he stands duty awaiting those frantic adrenaline-laced calls of frightened lost or distressed fishermen, leaving me with a quiet little house all to my lonesome.  Although I do miss him and given the option, would prefer not sleeping alone, I am not complaining – I knew this was the life of a Coastie pilot.  Plus, it’s always worth it when he comes home in his flight uniform… *sigh*).

So yesterday was a duty day, and I had the itch.  The cooking itch that arrives when you wake up, and doesn’t become satiated until meals and treats are prepared with love and, of course, the freshest of simplistic ingredients.  I had promised Rob a salad to take for lunch, so I quickly grilled some sweet corn and zucchini, chopped up some leftover Tri-Tip steak diced some tomatoes and a green pepper, and opened/drained a can oforganic black beans.  Tossed in a bowl with some baby red lettuce, a bit of arugula, homemade tangy BBQ sauce, squirts of lime juice and s&p, and voila – A gourmet BBQ Tri-Tip Southwestern Salad…. all before 10:00am.

I got a call around 2:20: “Hey babe.  I landed.  Never flown in such bad weather, it was very hard to see.  The salad was delicious!  I love you!” Hmm.  The incongruity of the two statements – not being able to see when flying and enjoying a salad, along with the nonchalant nature of expression – just boggles me.  Nevertheless, I was glad he landed safely, and the salad made him happy.

Knowing he was safe and and sound, it was on to other things – sweet things, comforting things.  Chocolate Cream Pie with Banana Bread crust and Mushroom Pizza with oven-dried tomatoes.  Yum.

The oven-dried tomatoes are a nod to my new foodie friend, Chef Jardin of the Black Market Gourmet shop.  I walked into the store last Friday, wet and cranky from the standard Oregon rain that day, and was immediately hugged by a smell of something sweet, tangy, and warm. Jardin greeted me and I expressed my interest in the aroma, almost forgetting my reason for entering the store (I was looking for Truffle Butter).  We got to chatting, he shared his tomatoes (oh so sweet and chewy with the hint of charred caramelization on the edges), we conversed over recipes, and I left, sans truffle butter (I can’t find it anywhere here!).

Fast forward back to Sunday, I was thinking about my pizza – a mushroom “pesto” with salty anchovy paste, nutty parm. reg. cheese – what better time for the oven-dried tomatoes to make their subtle appearance?  So I cranked up the oven to a blaring 275 degrees, and drizzled olive oil, a bit of s&p, and let them be, wilt, and almost melt for about 2 hours.  The house smelled delicious.

While the tomatoes were doing their magic, I took to making the Chocolate Cream pie.  Oh MY so easy!  And so, so, soooo yummy.  I called my mom to tell her, it was so good.  I dare you to make this and not go for seconds.  And thirds.  And lick the plate.

Then, with Sunday night football on the tele, the best accompaniment had to be pizza – Mushroom pizza.  There is something so genuine about smelling foaming yeast, kneading dough, and the anticipation when you lift the towel to see the dough actually DID rise!  And then having the earthy mushrooms and salty cheese and sweet tomatoes to boot – YUM again.

So please keep reading – and try these out the next time you want to cook to impress…. or just cook for yourself!

Chocolate Cream Pie with Banana Bread Crust (serves 6-8)

  • The dry heels of banana bread (about 1 1/2 c, ground)
  • 2 c skim milk
  • 1/4 c heavy whipping cream (plus rest of pint container for whipping)
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 tbsp corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3.5 oz/100 g dark chocolate, chopped (I use bars from Trader Joes that are 73% cacoa solids
  • 2 tbsp confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor, grind up the banana bread until very fine crumbs.  Press the crumbs into the bottom of a spring-form pan, packing tightly.  Place in oven for 20 minutes, or until the crumbs have dried out, and set together.

In a medium-sized pot, mix the milk, cream, sugar, corn starch, and salt over med-high heat.  Stir occasionally for about 1 minute, until mixture starts to get bubbles around the edges from the heat.  Turn stove down to med heat, and continually whisk for the next 5 minutes.  The mixture will thicken considerably.

Add about a tbsp of the milk mixture to the egg yolks, and whisk, and then add another tbsp.  This is tempering the eggs so they do not scramble.  When mixed, add the eggs to the pot, lower stove to low heat, and continually whisk for the next 2 minutes.  The mixture will thicken a bit more, and start to smell like sweet eggs.

Take pot off the heat, and add the chopped chocolate, continually whisking.  Set aside to start to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the rest of the heavy whipping cream into an oblivion with the confectioners sugar and the vanilla extract.

Measure 1/4 of the whipped cream, and, with a spatula, fold the cream into the cooling chocolate mixture.

Pour the filling into the spring-form pan and jiggle to even it out.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface (so a skin doesn’t form… unless you like the skin, but then you and George Castanza probably have a lot in common), and place in the fridge.

After at least an hour in the fridge, cut, dollop with the extra whipped cream, serve, and ENJOY!

Pizza Dough (makes 2 crusts)

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat four (plus more for dusting dough)
  • 1 1/3 c warm water (between 105-115 degrees)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp good honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 20-25 cracks freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • sprinkling of corn meal

In a stand mixer (fitted with a dough hook) or large bowl mix honey into warm water to dissolve, then add yeast.  Stir to lightly incorporate, and let sit for about 10 minutes.  When ready, yeast should be frothy and smell like sweet beer.  Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients, and oil a separate bowl with 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil.

To the yeast mixture, add 2 tbsp olive oil and, while mixing, add dry ingredients.  Make sure dough is well incorporated (use a spatula to wipe down the sides of the bowl if necessary), and when dough starts to come together in a ball, transfer onto a floured work surface.

Knead dough for 6-7 minutes, adding more flour if dough gets too sticky (dough should have a sticky feel, but nt so much that it won’t pull off the kneading surface).

Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean, dry dish towel and place in a warm spot to let rise, about an hour. (Usually when the dough is rising, I will prepare the toppings for the pizza.  Or, sit down with a glass of wine)

When dough is risen, lightly punch down and remove from the bowl.  Give a few more kneads for good measure, and divide dough in half.  NOTE: If you want to freeze dough, now would be the time to do it.  Wrap well in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag, releasing the air.  NOTE AGAIN: If you want an extra-chewy, lighter pizza dough, let rise again for another hour, and repeat twice.

When ready, evenly stretch out dough using your hands or a polling pin.  Sprinkle your pizza stone or sheet tray with corn meal, and place pizza dough on top.  If you like a thinner crust (I do), poke repeatedly and evenly with a fork.

** I bake most of my pizzas at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until outer crust is golden and firm.

Mushroom Pesto Pizza

  • 2 cartons Crimini mushrooms, wiped and sliced.
  • 2 tbsp butter (or olive oil if you want to go lighter.  I just like the nuttiness the butter gives the mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • a splash of dry white wine, about 1/4 c
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • 1 c Italian 4-cheese blend (can buy pre-shredded, or mix 1/4 each of: Mozzarella, Asaigio, Fontina, Parmesean Regiano.
  • 9 or 10 oven-dried tomato halves
  • s&p

Saute mushrooms in butter, until browned, about 10-15 minutes on med-high heat.  Addanchovy paste, thyme leaves, and mix.  Deglaze pan with white wine, picking up the brown bits, and reduce until almost no liquid is left.

Take off heat, and pour into food processor.  Pulse until finely ground – it will look the same consistency as pesto.  Spread evenly over prepared pizza dough.  Top with a sprinkling of most of the cheese, and oven-dried tomatoes, and then the rest of the cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the outside edges are golden brown and firm to the touch.  Serve!  Enjoy!!

NOTE: This pizza would be fantastic with a drizzle of white truffle oil before baking.  I would do it, but anything truffles are non-existent in this town!

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