Monday, July 25, 2011

Blueberry Custard Pie

This isn't a true custard pie (It does not contain eggs), but it has a layer of blueberries mixed with a dense layer of lightly sweetened cooked cream. It is not really creamy enough to be called a cream pie, hence the name. If you like blueberry pie but want to try something a little different, this might be just your thing.  It is very easy to make, but you have to use good fresh blueberries; frozen will not work well for this pie.

I want to give credit to the book that this recipe is adapted from, but I gave it away and cannot find the title on the internet. If anyone knows the name of the book let me know so I can give credit where credit is due (I think the title had "Dinner Parties" in it and it was an obscure book by a female chef/author).

1 recipe Pat-in-Pan pie crust
(You could also use a baked graham cracker or vanilla wafer crust for this)
3 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/3 Cup milk
2/3 Cup heavy cream

Preheat Oven to 400.F

Wash and pick over the blueberries, removing stems and any mushy berries. Spread on a paper towel to dry, then pour them into the pie shell.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. Add the milk and cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture over the berries.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until set in the center. (You may want to check the pie after 25 minutes or so to see if the crust edge needs to be covered with foil).

Let cool on a wire rack until room temperature, then refrigerate for two hours or until well chilled.

Serve with whipped cream on top.

Double Berry Pancakes

These pancakes are so easy and so delicious! The name "Double Berry" comes from the fact that they are blueberry pancakes with homemade berry syrup. The syrup can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, just warm it slightly before serving.

1 recipe of batter for Homemade Pancakes
1 1/2 cups Blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Set aside 1/2 cup of blueberries to use in the pancakes. Put the other 1 cup of blueberries, the raspberries, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the fruit breaks down and the mixture turns syrupy, about 15 minutes. Put the mixture through a strainer to get rid of seeds and large berry clumps. Set aside.

Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Pour batter onto the griddle, spacing pancakes about an inch apart. Drop about five blueberries onto each pancake. When you see bubbles AND the edges are drying slightly, it is time to flip. Serve hot with a dusting of powdered sugar and the berry syrup on the side.

Pat-in-Pan crust

This pie crust is a real time-saver! It only works for single-crust pies; ones that will have a topping on them instead of a top crust. It is sturdy and less flaky, so it is ideal for pies that need a sturdier crust, such as apple or berry crumb pie.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3 1/2 Tablespoons milk

In a 9-inch pie pan, combine all ingredients and stir with a fork until well blended. Then use your fingers to pat the dough into the pan firmly, working until you have covered the bottom and sides of the pan. Use your fingers to press it smooth and make an even rim along the edge. With a fork, prick the bottom of the crust to prevent bubbling. Bake as directed according to the recipe for whichever filling you are using.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Butter vs. Shortening - The Great Pie Crust Debate

If you look at a lot of cookbooks like I do, you'll see that cooking, like anything else, is all about trends. In my adult life I have been surprised to realize that even things you would never think of as "trendy" DO in fact follow waves of what is "in" or "out." Politics, parenting styles, and yes, Cooking.

And so we come to the trends of Pie Crust. Lard used to be the chief ingredient in American pie crusts, (those recipes now exchange lard for shortening in most cases). Then somewhere along the way we decided that the French way of making pie crust was superior - all butter crust (i.e. Pate Brise).

Nowadays there is a great debate among bakers, pastry chefs, and pie lovers about what makes the best crust. All-butter, shortening, or a combination of both? Lately the trend is definitely leaning in the direction of all-butter crusts. Pastry chefs and home bakers alike will proudly proclaim that their pies are made with nothing but butter in the crust. When did shortening get a bad rap? Was it Martha Stewart, with her 1985 book Pies & Tarts (to which I often refer for recipe ideas) that made people want to go all-butter, all the time? Was it even earlier? Or is it due to the recent findings that shortening, which contains trans-fat, is actually unhealthier than butter?

I don't know what has made the pendulum swing so far in favor of butter, but I'll make a confession: I like a shortening crust better. I know, I know, I am probably in the minority here. But although I have tasted many a delicious pie with an all-butter crust, my personal preference is for the lighter, flakier shortening crusts. I can hear the pastry chefs wailing that butter crust can be flaky when it is done right. True. But light? Not as far as I have tasted. Butter crusts are usually denser and richer in flavor, which to most people is a good thing. But not to me. I also find that butter crusts usually shrink more in cooking than shortening crusts do (but of course that can be helped by chilling the pie before baking).

Actually, my own flaky crust recipe calls for both, and the ratio is about 2 parts shortening to 1 part butter. It is deliciously light and flaky. The flavor, which butter lovers may consider a little bit bland, does not overshadow whatever filling I put in it. My husband, who always used to leave the ends of his crust abandoned on the plate, enjoys every crumb of this crust. And I always get a ton of compliments on the crust when I bring a pie to an event: Flaky Pie Crust

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

Homemade Ice cream cake is pretty easy to make. Take your favorite cake recipe(I used Sour Cream Yellow cake for this) and make a 6" or 9" round layer of it. You can use the leftover batter to make a few cupcakes, or make two layers and freeze one of them for later use. Line another round pan of the same size with plastic wrap. Take your favorite Ice cream flavor (Store-bought or homemade) and let it soften a bit. Then scoop it into the pan lined with plastic wrap, making sure to push the ice cream well into the corners. Put the pan into the freezer for a couple of hours to freeze again. Then unmold the ice cream, set it on top of the cooled cake layer, and re-cover the whole thing with plastic wrap. Let it sit in the freezer until you are ready to frost and decorate it. I used lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream to decorate this one, because the ice cream is so sweet that you don't need a heavy sweet frosting on top.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Icebox Cakes - cool summertime desserts

Well, this blog is called "Baking Outside the Box," so I am torn about posting recipes for Icebox "cakes". They are not baking, and they are not really from scratch, (or "outside the box") as this blog is supposed to be about. But they are SOOO good, and a nice alternative when you want to make a dessert but don't want to turn on your oven.

Although I had heard of Icebox cakes and pies, I had never made one. But my sister-in-law recently turned me on to this retro craze with her fantastic Eclair Cake, which was the simplest, yet most popular, dessert brought to a recent potluck party at my house. Yes, that cherry pie that took me hours to make? It was totally trumped by pudding and graham crackers! Ya gotta laugh.

Icebox "cakes" are usually made from some kind of cookie or cracker (i.e. graham crackers, Nilla wafers or chocolate wafers) layered with whipped cream, pudding, or both and then refrigerated overnight. The cream and the crackers meld together, turning the crackers soft and cake-like. Viola! A cool summer dessert with no baking required!

The most famous of these recipes is Nabisco's Chocolate Refrigerator Roll, with its iconic picture on the box of chocolate wafers (found in the cookie section of your local store). And if my sister-in-law agrees to let me post her Eclair Cake recipe here, you will find it in the recipe section.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July Cherry Pie

I cannot tell a lie. I was forced to use canned, not fresh, cherries for this pie. Not pie filling, but canned-in-water sour cherries. Because I could not find fresh or even frozen sour cherries anywhere in my area. So rather than use fresh sweet cherries (which I know from experience don't make a great pie), I used Oregon brand canned sour cherries, which still allowed me to make my own filling. It came out great! You can find the recipe in the recipe section.