Who doesn’t love pie? There is something comforting and soothing about making pie. The methodical rolling out of the pie crust, the frustrations of daily life easing every time you put your weight into the rolling pin as you turn and re arrange your pie crust is very comforting to me- and of course the ultimate reward is sitting down and savoring a warm slice with a glass of cold milk. The rain was falling the morning I made this pie, and I had the window screens open letting in the morning breeze. The simple pleasures and joys of life are so important, so if that means making pie for your loved ones or maybe just lazing around a rainy Sunday morning sipping coffee- remember to take the time and find your joy.
I always make extra pie crusts and store them in the freezer. I highly encourage this practice of squirreling away pie crusts in your freezer to save time. Every time I make crust- I make a double batch and save the extra crust. Another tip I like to give is write the measurements down for pie crust on a little card or sticky note and secure it to the inside of your cupboard. Once you’ve made the pie crust and you have the technique down you will memorize the ingredients and method. See my recipe for fearless pie crust.
yield: one standard 9 inch pie
one recipe of my fearless pie crust
5-6 cups fresh berries or (24 oz. defrosted and drained frozen berries)
1 Cup sugar
3 Tbsp. instant (also known as quick-cooking) tapioca
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1. Note: before rolling out pie crusts allow pie crust to rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling; this ensures that the crust does not shrink and is also easier to roll out. If making a standard pie top and not lattice make sure to pierce the top of pie crust a few times to allow steam to escape. Prepare one half pie crust in a 9 inch pie plate and set aside.
2. To prepare filling: In a bowl toss all ingredients gently until well coated and pour evenly in prepared pie crust. Dot with filling with about 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Top filling with second pie crust and crimp as desired. Brush pie crust with milk, heavy cream, or half and half (whatever you have on hand), and sprinkle granulated sugar, raw sugar or coarse sugar over top of pie. Chill prepared pie for 30-40 minutes before baking.
3. Bake pie at 400° F for 30 minutes, then decrease oven to 350° F and cover edges of pie with a pie shield or tinfoil until crust has browned and filling is bubbly. Remove pie and allow to cool over a wire rack.
Summer means lighter desserts since the last thing you want on a hot day is something heavy. Imagine a nice warm summer evening sitting on the deck sipping chilled moscato wine, listening to jazz and tucking into one of these tarts. The beauty is you can make these ahead of time; like the day before and enjoy a nice relaxing evening dining al fresco.
Adapt this recipe to make it your own with different fresh fruit toppings if you like. I’ve made this tart with raspberries before and it’s amazing. If you like- you can make one large tart as well. If you really want to save time, you can make both your tart shells and the pastry cream a day or two ahead and assemble them on the day of your party. Make sure to buy your berries no longer than a day before assembly to ensure a very fresh taste.
Shortbread tart Crust: (10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 1 9-10 inch tart)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/3 C confectioners sugar
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
(soft butter for brushing tart pan)
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed; cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla bean paste and combine briefly until smooth. In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt to combine. Add the flour mixture on medium low speed until the mixture is almost combined; there will be some bits at the bottom of the bowl. Stop the mixer and with your hands lightly mix the dough together to incorporate any little bits until it is combined.
Prepare the tart pan by brushing with soft butter and flouring the pan; tap out any loose flour. This step is key if you want to actually remove the tart crust from the bottom part of the pan; such as if you are giving it for a gift or putting it in a box to take to a party. The flour will ensure you can slip a thin spatula in between the crust and the bottom portion of the removable tart pan. Hey, if you are having your own party and you don’t plan to transport that sucker, then skip this step. There is enough butter in the tart crust that you will still be able to remove the ring without buttering or flouring the pan.
Press the dough into the tart pan until it looks fairly even. Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes before you bake it. I chill mine an hour so it helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked. Once the crust has chilled, dock the bottom of the crust very well all over with the tines of a fork; being careful not to go all the way through. This will prevent the crust from puffing as much as possible when baked, or you can blind bake your shells. Set the tart shells on a cookie sheet and Bake at 350 º F for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust looks no longer wet. You are not really looking for color. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the bottom of the tart shells lightly with a beaten egg white. Note: if your crust(s) have puffed up I like to take a the back of a rounded measuring teaspoon to quickly smooth out the crusts flat (for mini tarts) or an offset spatula for one large tart; then I brush with the egg white. The egg white will prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the tart crust cool completely on a wire rack.
White Chocolate Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream)
yield: enough filling or 10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 9-10 inch tart
1 1/4 C whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. soft butter
4 oz. melted & cooled white chocolate
In a medium bowl place the egg yolks and whisk in the sugar until smooth. In a small bowl combine the flour and corn starch; stir to combine. Add this to your egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth. In a sauce pan bring together the milk and vanilla bean paste to a boil. Kill the heat. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper in about half of the milk a little at a time to your egg yolk mixture; whisking continuously to ensure the yolks don’t burn. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan, and on low-medium heat, whisk the mixture vigorously until the cream thickens; keep whisking and cook it for about one minute until it looks like pudding. Kill the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Whisk in the soft butter. If you think you may have any lumps you can pass it through a sieve. Skipping this step would make many a pastry chef cringe, but I’m a whisking maniac and am pretty fast so I skip this step. Whisk in the white chocolate. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.
Note: If after chilling you find your pastry cream is not thick enough- you did not let it boil long enough. You can always rescue it by returning it to the pan and make a small slurry of cold water and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch and bring to boil while whisking mixture.
To assemble: Place cold pastry cream into each tart shell, smooth the filling. Top with your berries/fruit. Brush with warm glaze (recipe below) and keep tarts chilled until ready to serve.
1/4 Cup seedless strawberry, seedless raspberry or apricot Jam
2-3 tsp. water
Heat the jam and water over low heat until mixture is thin. If using apricot jam; strain the chunks of fruit out.
This recipe is an homage to my Mom as she loves mincemeat. Everyone knows how I love mini sweets, so when I saw this recipe in Donna Hay it definitely spoke to me. I found the original recipe interesting but I tweaked the recipe quite a bit by adding in additional flavors such as Holiday inspired spices and a bit of brandy. Oh yeah~ don’t forget the brandy. They are divine!
Holiday Spice Fruit Mince Tassies
recipe: adapted from Donna Hay
yield: 20-24 mini muffin size tarts
1/2 Cup grated, peeled granny smith apple, (excess juice discarded)
1/4 Cup currants
1/4 Cup diced fine sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 Cup diced fine pitted dried dates
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsp. diced fine candied orange peel (optional)
1/4 Cup orange juice
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. (25 gm) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. brandy
Confectioners sugar (for dusting on top)
* 1 recipe of my cream cheese press in crust (per below)
For Filling: In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and let sit to absorb all the flavors for at least one hour. Stir mixture a few times during soaking time. Make the crust while the filling is soaking.
Prepare the tassies: Lightly grease a 24 well mini muffin tin(s) and press in cream cheese press in crust by pinching off an inch of dough and rolling it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a circle about 2 1/2 inches big. Press the crust into the prepared tin. If crust gets too soft while working, let chill in the fridge for a few minutes. Fill each well to the top with mince meat filling. If desired: Top each tassie with a star cut out by pressing scraps of dough flat and using a small cutter. Brush each star and edges of crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350° F for 30-35 minutes or until edges of crust are golden brown. Let cool in tin for about 5 minutes, then carefully remove to cool completely over wire rack. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired before serving.
*Cream Cheese Press in Crust
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed at room temp
1 stick butter, cubed at room temp
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
In a large shallow bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and cubed cream cheese. Using a fork mix to combine into one cohesive mass. Knead gently into a ball to gather up any scrappy bits of dough. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
You know those tiny little jars of jam or preserves you see when traveling? Well, I have a confession… I like to pocket swipe them. I can’t help myself. We were on vacation eating breakfast and there they were on the table just taunting me. A cute little display caddy full of jam. Okay- for the record I only pocketed 3 of them. Not too bad, right?
“When you are paying for an expensive hotel and the breakfast is included in your price, you are allowed-you paid for it”.
[That’s what The Husband said]
Just so you can get the full mental visual effect of what was going through my mind as I threw those puppies into my tote bag]. You know I’m a jam hoarder-I’ve talked about this before. It’s the perfect “crime” for me since living in Taipei the refrigerators here are very small and don’t allow me my full jam hoarding tendencies. There is no room in the fridge for such jam collecting.
For this recipe, pick your favorite preserve and use up the little bits of jam you have hanging out in the chill box. You know you have at least 2 of them in there right now with sad tiny bits in the bottom. Try to steer away from anything too sweet as the frangipane tastes best with something a little on the tart side. Sour cherry jam, red or black currant, apricot, or raspberry all work well. You can freeze any leftover frangipane filling. Frangipane tastes pretty darn good just right off the spoon too. I’m just sayin’…
Frangipane-Jam Mini Tarts
(makes about 2 cups of filling)
90 gm unsalted butter, softened
100 gm castor sugar
100 gm finely ground almonds (almond meal)
1 Lg. egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla or vanilla bean paste
1 tsp. orange zest
(sliced almonds for garnish)
Jam/Preserves of your choice (I used apricot and black currant)
1. Make the pastry ahead of time as per below. Prepare a mini muffin tin by placing a round of pastry into each well; crimp or mark the edges of pastry as desired.
2. Make filling: In a medium bowl combine the soft butter, sugar and ground almond meal. Add the egg, extract, vanilla and orange zest and beat with a spoon well to combine.
3. Fill your unbaked tart shells almost to the top and then top off with about 1/2 tsp. of jam or preserves. Sprinkle with a few sliced almonds. Bake at 350° F or 180° C for about 14 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely. Sprinkle with Icing sugar if desired.
Shortcrust Pastry Dough
4 oz. all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 oz. unsalted butter cubed small, kept cold
2-3 Tbsp. ice water (amt. as needed)
1. In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt and butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add in just enough water one tablespoon at a time by stirring with a rubber spatula until mixture comes together. Gather mixture together into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes to chill before rolling out. Roll out pastry thinly and cut into rounds.
What is it about Spring that sneaks up on you? You wait for it forever, and then suddenly…WHAM! here it is. Full on. Warm weather, and allergies. You have to take the good with the bad sometimes to appreciate the good. Spring has always been my favorite season. When I grew up in Michigan it seemed like forever before the winter thaw came, but when spring finally did arrive it was glorious. Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that signals Spring is finally here. You almost feel compelled to make something with it as it is not about for very long. I have to admit I’m a bit more intrigued with the color of it than the taste, but when you combine it with something sweet; such as the ever popular combination of strawberry you get something amazing. Throw in a few other flavors like orange and ginger and it makes a great pie. Note–this recipe also makes enough filling for one galette if you like to make just one pie.
Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies
yield: ~ 18 3 inch hand pies (will also make one large 9 inch round galette)
1 recipe fearless pie crust or your favorite pie crust recipe
1 Cup diced fresh strawberries
1 Cup diced fresh rhubarb
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 C sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
egg wash: one egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp. milk
coarse sugar for sprinkling top
1. In a small bowl combine the sugar, vanilla bean seeds, ginger, and cornstarch then set aside. Roll out the pie crust and cut out 3 inch circles. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place pastry rounds onto sheet tray 2 inches apart. Mix the diced fruits, orange zest and sugar mixture together. Top each pastry round with 2 teaspoons of filling (being careful not to include too much juice) and brush edges of circles with egg wash. Take a round of pastry for the top and stretch it out slightly larger by pressing around the edges with the heel of your hand and place over the top of the fruited round, press down and around the filling with your finger to seal edges, then crimp with a floured fork. Cut a slit in the top of each pie, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Freeze the pies for 10 minute while you preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Remove the pies from the freezer, redo the slit in the top if needed, then bake the pies at 400° F for 20 minutes until pies are golden brown. Let pies cool on the tray placed over a wire rack.