January: Blueberry Peach Pie

Crust:

2 cups flour, pinch of salt, 1 Tbls sugar. Blend in Cuisinart. Add 6 T. Butter, blend til fine. Add 4 generous T. Crisco. Blend til well mixed. Slowly dribble in 3-4 T. of ice water. The weather will determine the amount. Blend until it holds together. Take out and finish forming on a sheet of waxed paper. Cut in half and shape into two rounds. Pastry has memory so shape those rounds. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Filling:

4 cups of fresh blueberries. 6-8 peaches thinly sliced. Squeeze over this the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Mix together 1 cup of sugar, 3 T tapioca, 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, and the grated rind of one lemon. Mix into the fruit and let sit while you roll out the crust.

Roll out the bottom crust. Place in pie plate. Pour in the fruit. Spread out evenly. Roll out top crust. Lay over the fruit. Seal the edges with your favorite technique. Cut 4 vents into the top crust. Dust with sugar.

Place in a preheated 400 oven on a heated baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes or until the fruit bubbles out of the vents. If your oven runs hot, be certain to turn the oven down after 15 minutes.

Serve with cinnamon whipped cream or Ben and Jerry’s Vanilla ice cream.

 

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NOVEMBER: Yankee Pecan Maple Pie

Ingredients:

Lemon Crust

1 & 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) well-chilled unslated butter cut into pieces
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 egg yolk
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 or 2 T. cold water

Filling

6 T. (3/4 stick) unslated butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 T. all purpose flour
1 cup pure maple syrup
3 T golden rum
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated lemon peel
2 & 1/2 cups toasted pecans, chopped coarsely
1 cup pecan halves
Vanilla-Rum Whipped Cream (see below)

For crust: Blend flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Using on/off turns, cut in the butter and lemon peel until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, add egg yolk, lemon juice and just enough water to bind the dough. Gather dough into ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in waxed paper and plastic. Refrigerate for at least three hours and up to 1 day ahead.

Roll pastry out on lightly floured surface to 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick round. Transfer round to 9-inch pie pan with 1 1/2-inch sides. Double edges over and crimp to form high, decorative edge. Refrigerate at least three hours.

Position rack on lower third of oven and preheat to 425û F. Pierce crust all over with fork. Line with parchment or foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Make until crust is set, about 12 minutes. Remove weights and paper. Continue baking until light brown, about 6 minutes more. Cool on rack. Reduce temperature to 350û F.

For Filling: Using electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add sugar and salt and beat until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs 1 at a time. Blend in flour, then maple syrup, rum, vanilla, and lemon peel. Fold in chopped pecans.

Pour filling into crust. Place pie on a foil-lined heavy baking sheet with rim. Arrange pecan halves around edge of pie. Place pie on baking sheet and into the oven, baking until filling puffs slightly in center, about 40 minutes. Cool completely on rack. Serve with Vanilla-Rum Whipped Cream.

Vanilla-Rum Whipped Cream

Makes about 4 cups

2 cups well-chilled whipping cream
3 T. golden rum
1 T. plus 1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Whip all the ingredients together in a large bowl until soft peaks form.

8 servings

 

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APRIL: Double Pie Crust

Pie season is almost upon us — time to brush up on our crust-making technique.

Ingredients:

2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp of salt
8 tbsp cold butter, cut in pieces
2 tbsp cold Crisco
4-5 tbsp ice water

Blend flour and salt in food processor.  Drop in butter pieces.  Blend till coarse cornmeal in texture.  Stop machine and add 2 tablespoons Crisco. Blend.  Slowly dribble in ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms.

Remove from bowl. Use the palm of your hand to bring together. Divide in half. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for one hour. Roll out.

Variations:

1. Instead of the butter and Crisco above, use 6 tbsp butter amd 4 tbsp crisco. Butter and shortening make pie crust much easier to roll and shape, and also flakier — lighter in texture and flavor. All butter has great flavor, but it softens in the oven and does not keep that crisp looking fluting. Your pie will bake to a deeper brown using more Crisco and less butter.

2. Add  1 tbsp sugar for a sweet crust.

3. Use 1 tbsp lemon juice instead of water. Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar are often used in crusts instead of 1 T. of cold water. I don’t have a technical explanation of the lemon juice, but I find that it compliments certain pies and completes the flavors. I use it if there is lemon or citrus in the pie itself. The apple cider vinegar is great for apple pies.

SINGLE TART CRUST   (for 10 or 12 inch tart pan)

1.25 cups of flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Crisco
3-4 tbsp ice water

Follow above method.

 

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OCTOBER: Deep Dish Phyllo Pie with Swiss Chard and Beet Greens

A friend of mine brought over a huge bag of Swiss chard and beet greens from her garden last week. I sauté these with garlic in the winter to serve on Polenta, but I wanted to do something different.  I remembered my Spanakopita recipe so I used that as a base.

Ingredients:

2 large bunches of Swiss cshard
1 bunch of beet greens
4 T. olive oil
1 bunch of scallions, sliced
1 lb ricotta
1/2 lb feta
6 eggs
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
1/2 cup of golden raisins, soaked and drained
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
4 sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped ( substitute the oil for the olive oil above )
Dash of pepper and nutmeg
1/2 lb phyllo dough
1 stick of melted unsalted butter  ( you may need more depending on how generous you are)

Wash  and stem the Swiss chard and beet greens. Discard stems. Slice greens crosswise.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute with the scallions until just wilted.

Mix the next group of ingredients, ricotta and nutmeg, in a large bowl. When the greens have cooled add to the cheese mixture.

Melt the butter. Using a 13 x 9 2.5 inch deep casserole layer 1/4 of a pound of the phyllo dough brushed with butter between each layer.  The phyllo will come up the sides of the casserole. Pour the filling into the dish. Layer the second 1/4 of a pound, again  brushing with butter between layers.

Fold the phyllo down the sides to seal the pie. Lightly make straight lines the length of the pan at 2.1/4 inch intervals. Do not cut through. Then cut diagonally across using the same measurement.This will make it easier to cut once it is baked and give you correct portions.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until the top is nicely golden. Can be frozen and reheated.

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NOVEMBER: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Thanksgiving is almost here and this is the recipe that my family requested, again! and again! and the year before….

Ingredients:

CRUST
1.5 cups of finely ground gingersnap crumbs.
1/4 cup of soft butter

FILLING
3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
3/4 cup of whole milk
1 can of pumpkin puree

MERINGUE
3 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar

Whipped cream for garnish

First, make your crust: Mix the gingersnap crumbs and butter, and press into a 9” pie plate. Bake at 375 for 6 – 8 minutes. Cool. I find that it is soft and has slid down a bit while baking. I often use a spoon to press it back up the sides and then let it cool.

Next, make your filling: Combine the brown sugar, gelatin, salt, and spices in a saucepan. Combine the milk and egg yolks, and stir into the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat until the mix comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add 1.5 cups (1 can) of pumpkin puree. Chill until the mixture mounds when you add a spoon.  Do not let it get too stiff.

Finally, make your meringue: Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks. Gradually add sugar. Fold the pumpkin mix thoroughly into the whites and turn into the crust. Chill until firm.

Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

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FEBRUARY: Cranberry Pear Pie

CRUST:

2.5 cups of all purpose flour
.5 tsp salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter
4 T. chilled vegetable shortening
4 – 6 T. ice water

Place flour and salt in Food Processor.  Pulse to mix. Add Butter cut into tablespoons, pulse until mixed. Add Shortening. Pulse again until the mixture is granluar.

Slowly add ice water a little at a time. Pulse until the dough comes together between your fingers. If it still crumbles add a bit more water.

Pour out onto waxed paper. Form into a large ball. Cut in half . Shape one half into a circle, the other into a square.  Refrigerate wrapped in waxed paper and a plastic bag 2 hours or until cold enough to roll.

FILLING:

2.5 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
1.25 cups of sugar
1/4 cups of water or cranberry juice
2.5 T. cornstarch
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cardamon
2-3 medium ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced thinly. Enough for 3 cups
1 T. unsalted butter
1 egg beaten with 1 T. milk or light cream for glaze
whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Put cranberries, sugar and liquid into a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir, and cook until the skins start to pop, about 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch, allspice and cardamom in a small bowl. Stir into hot cranberries and continue cooking and stirring until it comes to a full boil, thickens and the liquid looks clear.

Remove from the heat. Peel core and slice pears.  Add to the cranberry mixture, stir and let cool.

ASSEMBLY:

Preheat oven to 375
Place a half sheet pan into the oven.  This will help cook the bottom crust.

Roll out the round piece of pastry on a floured board into a 12 inch circle. Fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Trim the pastry to 1/2 inch of an overhang. Turn the cranberry pear filling into the pie. Dot with 1 tablespoon. butter.

Roll the rectangular piece into approximately a 10 x 6 rectangle. With a pastry cutter or sharp knife cut 12 – 14 strips, 1/2 inch wide and 10 inches long.  Weave the strips over the filling to make a lattice crust. I like to lay one set of strips down and weave the second set into the first layer. Crimp the edges together and decorate by fluting or pressing with your own style.

There will be extra crust. Roll the crust out and using a small leaf patter cut as many pieces as possible.  Transfer these to a parchment lined half sheet pan.

Carefully brush the lattice, the crust and leaves with the beaten egg wash. To prevent browning cover the edge of the pie with tin foil.

Place the pie into the baking sheet in the oven. Place leaves into the oven as well.
Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil. The leaves should be checked at 20 minutes.  Bake these until golden brown and remove from oven. After 30 minutes remove the foil and continue baking until the crust is a golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

Decorate the pie with the pastry leaves, all around the edges or over the lattice. Be creative.

Reheat at 350 for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from “The Dessert Lover’s Cookbook” by Marlene Sorosky. If you can find this cookbook it is a winner.  I received it in 1987 for my birthday.

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SEPTEMBER: Cherry Ricotta Coffee/Dessert Cake

This recipe was in Bon Appetit this summer. Being cherry season I had to try it with cherries instead of the suggested raspberries. I always buy a bag and then cannot eat them all fast enough. This was a great solution.

Ingredients:

1.5 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup of ricotta cheese
.5 cup of sour cream or any combination of the two to make 1.5 cups
.5 tsp vanilla
1 stick, 4 oz, unsalted butter, melted
1.5 cup of fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half
dusting of sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line a 9 inch pan with waxed paper or parchment paper. Butter the paper or use a nonstick baking spray.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk ricotta, sour cream and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
Fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in melted butter. Fold 1 cup of cherries into the batter gently. Pour in to the pan. Scatter the last .5 cup over the batter.

Dust with regular sugar.

Bake until golden brown and the cake tester comes out clean. This should be 45 – 55 minutes depending on our oven. Wait 20 minutes before unmolding.

You can do this 2 days ahead wrapped in saran at room temp. I have also frozen this successfully.

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February: Poached Pears

One of my favorite winter desserts is poached pears with pound cake. No frosting, just the rich delicate cake and the red colored pears in their syrup. A beautiful presentation on a cake stand with the bowl of pears beside it. I make my own pound cake but if you are in a rush there is always Sara Lee!

Ingredients:

5 lbs of Bosc pears
1 lemon, squeeze for the juice
3 cups of Zinfandel, rosy or red
1.5 cups of sugar
1.5 cups of water
6 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks

Peal pears and cut into quarters or eighths. Drop in a bowl of water with the lemon juice while you prepare the rest.

Bring the wine, sugar, water, peppercorns and cinnamon to boil in a wide pot.

Let that boil for a few minutes. Drain the pears and add to the boiling liquid. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store the pears in their liquid in a covered bowl in the fridge. They absorb more color as they sit.

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March: Easy Pineapple Dessert

I had to go to a dessert event one night and chose to garden instead of bake. I came up with this in a hurry. It was even better the next night.

Ingredients:

1 Pineapple, cut into eighths and sliced
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger or to taste
1/4 cup ‘Craisins’ (dried cranberries) or to taste

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and marinate.

Season with more lime juice or salt to taste.

Chill thoroughly before serving. At this point I put in in a glass and drink it. To be more formal they suggest serving it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, basil chiffonade and black pepper.

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July: Pavlova

This is a wonderful dessert. Sweet and time consuming but well worth the effort. The recipe that I like the best is from Epicurious. I like it with either lemon or lime curd and fresh seasonal berries. If you do not have curd you can always fill with jam and top with whipped cream.

Ingredients:

1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 T cornstarch
3 lare egg whites at room temp.
3 T. cold water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 F with the rack in the middle. Trace 6 – 7 approximately 5 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. turn over and place on baking sheets.

Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt un a standing electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water, a little at a time, and rebeat until it holds soft peaks again.

Increase speed to medium and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all of the sugar has been added beat for another minute.

Add the vinegar and beat at high speed until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes more. If you are using a hand held mixer it might take longer.

Put the meringue into a piping bag with an open circle tip. Using the 5 inch guides, create a single bottom layer and then go out and up the sides two rounds. This is what will hold the curd in place.

Bake the meringue until it is a pale golden color and has formed a crust. About 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooded spoon. Cool the meringue in the oven for 1 hour before removing.

You can make the meringue 2 days ahead or bake and freeze by wrapping each serving gently and separately.

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September: Peach Cream Tart

Ingredients:

Butter crust for tart shell –  9 inch

3-4 peaches
.5 cup cream cheese softened
.5 cup ricotta
.25 cup sugar
a few grains of dried organic lavender

1 lemon, rind and juice
3 Tb. sugar for topping
1 egg

Apricot jam and lemon juice

Peach TartRoll out the crust for the tart. Freeze for half an hour. Prick bottom and line with aluminum foil, cover with weights.  Cook at 425 for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove weights and foil and let cool.

Whisk the cream cheese, ricotta and one egg. Blend in the sugar and a few grains of lavender.

Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skin starts to peel.
Remove to cold water bath and peel the peaches. The skins should slip off very easily.
Halve the peaches, remove pit and then cut each half into 6 pieces.

Line the pre-baked crust with the cream cheese mixture. Decoratively place the peach slices on the filling in a concentric pattern, overlapping as you go. When you have done this squeeze the lemon juice over the peaches.

Mix the rind with the 3 Tbl sugar and sprinkle on the peaches.

Bake at 350 for 40 – 50 minutes or until the peaches are bubbly and set.

Let cool.

Cook .5 cup of apricot jam with a little lemon juice to thin it. Let it come to a boil. Strain through a fine sieve. Using a pastry brush carefully spread the thinned jam over the peaches and let set.

I garnished mine with Borage flowers.

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December: Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

When I was young my parents would often take us to NYC during  the Christmas holiday vacation. We always stayed with my aunt and uncle on Central Park West. Around the corner from their apartment was a little bakery that made Nesselrode Pie. If I tell you that I have been trying to replicate this recipe for the last umpteenth years I am not joking. You used to be able to buy Nesselrode in a jar. Probably you could find it on Amazon. This is the closest that I have come and I am going to stop here. So far everyone who has tasted it has given it the thumbs up. So try this for the holidays and wow your guests.

Ingredients

Cookie Dough

.5 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
.75 tsp vanilla
1.5 cup sifted all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
.25 tsp salt

Pie

4 oz cream cheese
4 oz almond paste
1 lb container ricotta, whole milk
.25 cup sugar plus one tablespoon
dash of salt
1 tsp almond extract
4 large eggs
2 oz chocolate chips
1 oz. chopped citron – soak citron in brandy overnight.
1 oz Cognac or Amaretto
.25 cup toasted sliced almonds

9 inch springform pan
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

I have made this with both Cognac and Amaretto. The Cognac flavor disappears into the cake. The Amaretto leaves a distinct almond finish.

Preheat the overn to 350

Cookie dough crust:  Cream butter and then add sugar and cream thoroughly. Add egg, beat well and then add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and add to butter mix. Stir until well blended.  Shape into a flattened ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for .5 – 1 hour.

Remove from frig and roll out on a floured board to 14 inch round.

Place in a 9 inch round springform pan, bringing the sides up about 2 inches. Pat into shape.

Be patient doing this. I have often had to roll it a second time as it can split.

Pie filling: Soak the citron and Cognac overnight. Cream the cream cheese and almond paste together until semi-smooth. Add the ricotta, sugar and salt.

Drain brandy, and add citron and almond extract to the cheese mixture. Gradually add eggs and Cognac to the mix.

Fold in the chocolate chips and toasted almonds.

Gently pour the mix  into the prepared crust in the springform pan. Smooth if necessary. Bake in the oven 45 min – 1 hour.  Let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Gently remove the outside of the springform pan and dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Cut thin slices to serve.

Serves 16 – 20.

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Empress Rice

I know that you are all thinking chocolate for Valentines day, but think again and try this recipe for Empress Rice. A  little complicated but well worth it said my vegan friend who had two helpings.

Ingredients:

1.25 cups white rice
1 cup water
2.5 cups light cream or half and half or 3.5 cups whole milk
1.5 tsp vanilla extract, or .5 vanilla bean, split
.5 tsp salt
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
.5 cup cold water
.75 cup fine quick dissolving granulated sugar
2 Tbl Brandy, Cognac or Ginger Liquor  which is what I used the last time that I made this. The original  recipe calls for Maraschino liquor which I did not have.
3 cups heavy cream, whipped
2 cups mixed candied fruits, such as citron, orange or lemon peel, candied cherries, soaked in the liquor or brandy and then drained.
Strawberries or raspberries for garnish
1 pint whipping cream for garnish

  1. Empress RiceWash rice well and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place in a large saucepan along with water and cream or milk, vanilla bean, and salt. If you are using vanilla do not add at this time.
  2. Simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring every few minutes. Cook until tender but not overdone, about 15 – 20 minutes for converted rice.
  3. If using vanilla extract stir it in now. If using the bean remove it from the cooked rice and scrape seeds into the mixture.
  4. Let rice cool to lukewarm. Do not drain. Turn into a large bowl
  5. Soak gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes, or until soft. Set over hot water in a double boiler until completely dissolved, stirring frequently.
  6. Stir gelatin into lukewarm rice mix, along with sugar, and brandy of your choice.I used the liquor from the drained fruit. Chill about 15 minutes, or until mixture thickens but does not set.
  7. Beat 3 cups heavy cream until stiff and place on top of the rice mixture. Sprinkle with drained candied fruit and fold all in together using a rubber spatula.
  8. Rinse an eight or ten inch cup ring mold or fluted bombe, do not wipe dry, and fill with the rice mixture. Chill overnight in the frig.
  9. To unmold, wrap the outside of the mold with a cloth wrung out of hot water. May need several applications to come out. Turn onto a decorative plate.
  10. Whip whipping cream and pipe onto rice mold. Decorate with fruit. If the rice unfolds perfectly just pipe the top with whipped cream. As mine did not, I also piped whipped cream in to the center  and covered with fruit.

Serves 16 – 20

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