Pie Crust Perfection

The love of my baking life
The love of my baking life

Pie crust: something I’ve tackled quite a few times, but never been happy with. As someone who has never been a huge fan of crust anyway, I’ve gone back on forth on whether it was even worth making from scratch, since my homemade versions were rarely more appealing than something I could snag from the freezer section. Making them was time consuming, messy, and it always seemed like I was crossing my fingers in hopes that the final results were even edible. I read countless articles and referenced cookbooks, watched videos on shingling the butter into the flour, kept everything as ice cold as possible, and stressed about overworking the gluten.

Then I read The Science of Pie Dough from the Food Lab, and my mind was blown. It seemed too good to be true, that I could do most of the work in my food processor, and mix it more than I ever thought could be okay, and it would be easy to roll out and work with, AND still magically be tender and flaky?! No way.

Well, after making it yesterday, yes way. YES WAY. This will be my go to pie crust forever, and has turned me into a pie crust consumer because it was SO DELICIOUS. I want to make pie again and again and again. I’ll become the pie lady, and I’m more than okay with that.

Here is the recipe and all of the how-to’s. I used Kerrygold butter and my digital scale to measure everything (which is a baker’s best friend), but it was seriously so easy. Josh turned to me after his first bite with big eyes and just said “you did it.”

Exactly the reaction I was waiting for.

Chocolate Beer Cupcakes With Beer Buttercream Frosting

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Not the prettiest, but possibly the tastiest

A couple of weeks ago, a friend decided that someone in our circle needed to make cupcakes featuring the fantastic (and seasonal) Rubus Cacao beer from MadTree, our favorite local brewery. Considering how much this friend loves my cooking, it came as no surprise that he nominated me. Rubus Cacao is brewed with raspberry and cocoa nibs, so it was pretty much made for dessert. Honestly, this was the perfect scenario. I love to bake, but I don’t have a huge sweet tooth and never need a whole batch of some baked good just hanging out in my kitchen. A commissioned dessert to share with friends? Bingo.

I spent a few days reading up on recipes for beer cupcakes, of which there are a lot, but the recipe I kept coming back to was from Smitten Kitchen. For starters, I always know I can count on Deb’s recipes to be accurate and delicious. For another thing, she has so many followers that the comment section can be a goldmine for recipe tips, just to confirm that the recipe does work and to see how people have successfully modified it. I love to experiment with baking, but baking is also chemistry, and you need to know that you aren’t messing around with something that could greatly change the outcome (and create a kitchen disaster). Luckily, switching out a dark beer for another dark beer was about as easy at it gets.

For our Super Bowl party, I pretty much followed Deb’s recipe exactly, just subbing in the Rubus Cacao whenever she called for any booze in the recipe for the cupcakes and the buttercream frosting. I did skip the ganache recipe entirely though. I wanted to keep these a little more simple and let the flavor of the beer really shine, which it did. The raspberry flavor in particular came through beautifully. Also, this was just a really stellar cupcake recipe in general, and I can definitely see myself using it again in the future, with or without the booze.

In terms of what kinds of beer you can use, since I used a local brew, pretty much any beer that you’d enjoy drinking with a slice of chocolate cake would be fantastic.

For the complete recipe and a great comment section, head over to the Smitten Kitchen website. Let me know if you try it and what kind of beer you used!

 

Peach Thyme Sorbet

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When we lived in New York last year, our freezer was way too small to give up so much valuable space to the bowl of our ice cream maker, but one of the first things that went into our (slightly bigger) freezer in Cincinnati? That bowl, naturally.

It’s been looking at me resentfully ever since.

As part of my effort to best use our half bushel of peaches, I knew that I wanted an ice cream of some sort. I had thought about a peaches and cream situation, made with coconut milk of course, but decided that I wanted to really highlight the flavor of the peaches this round and make a sorbet.

A lovely hint of thyme in the background? Perfection.

This might even be Josh’s favorite thing I made from the peaches, which is really saying something. I mean, cake. Pies. So many peach things, and the sorbet wins.

Well done.

Peach Thyme Sorbet (inspired by this Sweet Plum Sorbet from Joy the Baker)

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • A little more than 1 pound of ripe peaches, pits removed and sliced into small chunks
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Small pinch of salt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Make sure your ice cream maker is ready to use. Freeze any part necessary.

In a good sized pot over medium heat, stir together the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the peaches and salt, and stir to combine. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the peaches have softened and started to disintegrate slightly (this can vary depending on the ripeness of your peaches).

Turn off the heat, and either transfer in small batches (CAREFULLY) to a blender/food processor, or do as I did and use your immersion blender right in the pot and puree until smooth.

Side note: if you don’t have an immersion blender, do yourself a favor and get one. They’re the best.

Add the thyme sprigs to the mixture and let cool in the fridge, overnight if possible.

When the peach goodness is as cold as can be, remove the thyme, and stir in the lime juice and vodka.. Pour into your ice  cream maker and process according to your machine’s directions.

Pour the frozen sorbet into a freezer safe container and let freeze until hardened, at least 4 hours.

Scoop and enjoy!

No-Butter Butterscotch Pudding

9F0BF675-DE04-4AF6-9D4C-E581C3C98F59   Every once a blue moon, you’ll see a recipe, know that you already have all of the ingredients necessary, make it, and eat it all in one day. One glorious day. When Deb from Smitten Kitchen recently posted a recipe for butterscotch pudding, I immediately started to wonder if it’d be good with coconut milk in place of the milk. As I continued to read the recipe, I discovered that Deb had already suggested switching out the dairy for coconut milk and coconut oil. SOLD! I surprised Josh with serving of pudding when he got home from work, and he loved it so much that he ate the entire thing standing in front of the fridge, and scraped up the remnants with his finger. I’m not sure there’s any higher praise. I topped one with some whipped coconut cream, but our favorite topping combination turned out to be mini semisweet chocolate chips and flaked sea salt. The added crunch and the mix of the salty and sweet… heaven. This might be one of the most dangerous recipes I’ve made, mainly because I have these ingredients on hand at all times. Consider yourself warned. Also, I definitely recommend pre measuring the ingredients and having them ready to go. Sugar burns quickly. No-Butter Butterscotch Pudding (recipe from Smitten Kitchen) Makes 4 servings

  • 1.5 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 generous pinch of sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk, very well shaken and smooth
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the brown sugar. Let it heat up and bubble a little, stirring often. Don’t let it burn or start to smoke, which can easily happen (I actually had to throw out my first oil/sugar mixture. My b). Add the salt and cornstarch and stir to combine into a thick paste. Whisk the coconut milk into the paste in a small, steady stream. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently until it starts to simmer. Let it simmer for at least a minute, still stirring, until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. This is a good time to (carefully) taste the mixture and see if it needs any more salt. Divide the mixture into 4 glasses or pudding cups and let chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Top with whipped coconut cream, chocolate chips, flaked sea salt… whatever you’d like.

Tim Tam Slam

So… today’s post isn’t really a recipe, and it’s kind of a tease, since the key ingredient can be hard to find in the US, but it’s one of our favorite desserts.

Meet: The Tim Tam.

Eat: The Tim Tam Slam

I introduced Josh to this treasure years ago, and now he’s every bit as hooked as I am. Sadly, it’s not always easy to find Tim Tams in the US, but I have a few options for you.

For one, stores like World Market or Jungle Jim’s, sometimes even Publix or any store that has a British/Australian section might carry them. We got ours this time at Jungle Jim’s, and they even had a wide variety of flavors. I’ve had both the classic chocolate cream and the type with the caramel center, and I prefer the classic. The caramel doesn’t always melt well, which is just cruel and throws off the texture.

Your other option is to wait until January, when Pepperidge Farm should be releasing their version in the US. They normally sell them for a few months around the holidays every year, so I’m not sure why they’re waiting so long, but I saw it on their FB page (which is apparently a thing) that they should arrive in the beginning of the year.

In terms of beverages to dip them in; coffee, hot chocolate, and peppermint tea are all excellent choices, though I’m sure it would really work in just about any hot drink.

Find them, stock up, and start slamming.

Cocoa Coconut Bites

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I’m not entirely sure how I haven’t posted this recipe yet, since we’ve been eating them regularly for years now.

Actually, I do know: I’ve never once made them myself.

I know, I know. Ridiculous. Josh just makes them so perfectly, and why mess with a good thing?!

These treats definitely fall into the “so delicious that I forget how healthy they are” category, which is always a win.

Josh topped this last batch with flaked salt (which we had on hand for salty honey pie) after baking them and now that needs to happen every time. Salty sweet just hits the spot

Cocoa Coconut Bites (recipe from Sprouted Kitchen)

  • 1 1/2 c. dried, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 c. natural cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. grade b maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • Flaked sea salt (optional)

Combine the coconut, cocoa powder, and oats in a mixing bowl. Add the syrup, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon and stir well to combine everything.

At this point, place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Josh has found that he prefers to leave it for at least an hour. This will make it a little harder to work with due to the coconut oil solidifying, but it makes it easier to make really compact little bites.

After the time has passed, preheat oven to 215.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop or measuring cup, form the mixture into roughly 1 inch balls, making sure to pack them as tightly as possible. Place them on the baking sheet and bake them for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. If you’re topping with sea salt, sprinkle that on after they’ve cooled for a few minutes.

We like to keep these in the fridge, but they also freeze really well! Just remember that if you keep them at room temperature, they will be a little messy due to the coconut oil.

Salty Honey Pie

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While this summer was all about yeast, and my love for it will continue to grow (as yeast does so well), I thought that pies might be a fun little project this winter. I mean, what’s more cozy than pie?

This pie… this pie is what the southern classic chess pie wishes it could be. A simple sweet pie is the foundation, but with the addition of a vanilla bean, honey, and a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt, it’s  just taken to a whole other glorious level.

While I, wretch that I am, cheated and went with a store-bought crust this time, I will absolutely make the crust from scratch next time, as I’m sure that the pie even is more heavenly with tons of buttery, flaky goodness

The recipe, and all of her pie crust technique, can be found on Joy the Baker’s website.

I’m thinking it might even need to replace pumpkin pie on our Thanksgiving table.