Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie

I have to wonder what is with the cream pies lately – first coconut, now chocolate, am I suddenly becoming obsessed with cream pies?  No, don’t worry – I think after this one I am done for a while, but I have to admit, they are pretty amazing.  So, I have been putting off writing about this for a while…but I don’t think I can hold it in any longer.  My husband is allergic to dairy products – not just lactose, but dairy.  I still am not sure I have completely grasped it – but maybe writing this will help it sink in.  So what exactly does this mean?  It means that I am going to start making more sorbet, and more deserts without dairy.  It doesn’t mean that I am going to stop baking with butter though…I can’t, and my girls would be very upset if I did.  So – from now on, there will be certain deserts that he can enjoy, and certain ones that I will enjoy with the girls.  I have already starting cooking without dairy – using a lot of coconut milk, and even coconut yogurt – and for the most part it has worked pretty well.  Stay tuned…but again, if you are not interested in dairy-free cooking, you will still enjoy my blog, I am definitely not giving it up.  I am completely crazy about all things dairy…and that will not change.

So back to this pie – this has dairy written all over it (I of course used real whipped cream instead of the non-dairy whipped topping the recipe called for) – and I didn’t even try to substitute.  I brought this over to a friend’s house, so I didn’t have to consume the entire pie myself with a little help from my very slender daughters.  The pie (from Cooking Light) was outstanding – the chocolate had a hint of cinnamon (thus calling it “mexican”) and the graham cracker crust was amazing.  It was probably the last chocolate cream pie I will enjoy for a little while, I am just really glad it was so delicious…always nice to end on a high note.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 cookie sheets), divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons egg white
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

To prepare the crust, reserve 1 tablespoon crumbs for topping. Combine the remaining crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well. Stir in egg white and butter. Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 9 minutes or until lightly toasted; cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup sugar and the next 7 ingredients (through egg yolk) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place the milk in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until milk reaches 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth.

Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 10 minutes or until mixture cools, stirring occasionally. Spoon filling into crust, and cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill for 3 hours or until set; remove plastic wrap. Spread the whipped topping over filling; sprinkle with reserved cracker crumbs.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie

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Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut cream pie has always been one of those desserts I have held in very high regard.  It is a multi-step process, that if done right, is completely outrageous.  I remember growing up my grandmother used to make a lemon merengue pie – and every time she served it I secretly hoped that she decided against the lemon flavor and went with a coconut filling.  No such luck.  Her lemon merengue pie was outstanding, but lemon desserts were not my thing growing up.  When I finally got my first taste of coconut cream pie, I was hooked.  It was amazing – the best diner food ever.  After that, whenever I would see it on a menu, I had to go for it.  I have had a lot of different kinds over the years, but have never attempted to make one myself….until now.

There is a bakery in downtown Seattle that serves the most amazing coconut cream pie – they use real whipped cream as the topping with big pieces of shredded coconut.  The problem is that it is almost too rich for me.  A few bites is all I really need to feel satisfied that I had an amazing dessert.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and what appealed to me the most was the fact that the topping was merengue instead of whipped cream!  It reminded me of my grandmother’s pie – the way I longed for it – with coconut cream in the middle instead of lemon.  This pie was incredible.  You would never know it was a light recipe – it tasted just as rich and creamy as you would want your coconut cream pie – but the merengue offered it a lighter balance.  Both girls went nuts over the pie – especially my younger one, who seems to take after me when it comes to sweets.  She ate it nice and slow – to savor every bite.  I loved watching her eat it.

So, give this a try – perfect for an afternoon BBQ or a fancy dinner party – just so versatile, and your guests will be very impressed – and happy that you saved them a few calories in the process…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute. Line dough with foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes; remove weights and foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring milk mixture to a simmer; immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl. Gather edges of cheesecloth; squeeze over bowl to release moisture. Discard solids.

Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Return milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 6 minutes, stirring to cool. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high-speed until soft peaks form. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250°. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high-speed until thick. Spread meringue over pie. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Top with toasted coconut before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Coconut Cream Pie

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Mississippi Mud Pie

I was in the kitchen making dinner, and my younger daughter comes in and asks, “Mommy, what are we having for dessert?”  I replied with, “Mississippi Mud Pie.”  She says, “Oh, but it doesn’t really have mud in it, right?”

When I studied in France, I lived with a french family.  She was a very interesting woman, and only had americans live with them for the status.  It was bizarre, but yes, it was very prestigious to have an american student living with you.  I have a seafood allergy, which I told her about immediately (since the first day I was there, I had a reaction to something I had eaten…and was not doing well).  The problem was I had to say this in french, and couldn’t understand a word she said to me for the first few weeks.  I just hoped she had understood what I said to her.

A couple of months later, a new student arrived – and I could tell that Madame was not too fond of her.  She came from Stanford, and I had to admit, spoke beautiful french.  One evening before calling her down for dinner, Madame said that we were going to play a little trick on her.  She was serving crab for dinner (which she knew I could not eat), but wanted me to play along that we were eating cat for dinner – and it was a delicacy.    Since I had already had it for dinner a month ago, I didn’t get any that evening.  Madame tried to pull this off, but you don’t get in for Stanford without being extremely bright, and she knew exactly what was going on.

Ok, so what does this have to do with Mud Pie?  I didn’t even both to try to fool my daughter and tell her that there was mud in it – although it would have been fun.  She is definitely at the age where she may have just believed it.

This recipe from Cooking Light wasn’t at all what I expected – it was more like a brownie – with a very crispy top – like merengue.  I served it warm, and the center was nice and moist, and very soft.  If you like undercooked brownies, this is the recipe for you.  The top – very crispy – it was hard to cut.  The crust really didn’t do much for me – it didn’t have a ton of flavor.  If I make it again, I will make it crustless – although it sure does like nice around the edge. 

Ingredients

Crust

  • 4.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar
  • 2  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 2 1/2  tablespoons  vegetable shortening
  • 2  tablespoons  chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4  cup  ice water
  • Cooking spray

Filling

  • 3  tablespoons  butter
  • 1  ounce  semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 4  large egg whites
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 3.4  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/3  cup  Dutch process cocoa
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking powder
  • Dash of salt

Preparation

To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 ounces (about 1 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 4.5 ounces flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until blended. Add shortening and chilled butter; pulse 6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly pour ice water through food chute, processing just until blended (do not allow dough to form a ball); remove from bowl. Gently press mixture into a 4-inch circle; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Unwrap and place chilled dough on plastic wrap. Lightly sprinkle dough with flour; roll to a 10-inch circle. Fit dough, plastic wrap side up, into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Fold edges under, and flute.

To prepare filling, place 3 tablespoons butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 30 seconds or until butter and chocolate melt, stirring well to combine. Place vanilla and egg whites in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until foamy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar; beat until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). Gently fold melted chocolate mixture into egg white mixture.

Weigh or lightly spoon 3.4 ounces flour and 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and dash of salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Fold flour mixture into egg white mixture. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Serves 10

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mississippi Mud Pie

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Pumpkin Pie

The organic dilemma.  It is a hot topic – one I think about often.  I switched over to a CSA market basket where I get all organic fruits and vegetables every week.  I pretty much only buy organic milk for my kids.  But, for the most part – organic foods are just more expensive, and I am cheap.  If I happen to be at Whole Foods picking up a few things I need (ok, I guess I can’t be that cheap if I shop at Whole Foods, but really you can get some good deals there), I will pick up some items that I would ordinarily get at Trader Joes.  I did just that for this Pumpkin Pie – and it was very interesting.  I picked up a container of organic sour cream (it was actually on sale, and a very good price) as well as a can of organic sweetened condensed milk.  When I opened the sweetened condensed milk, I noticed that there was a hard layer on the bottom that I could not scoop out – I have never seen that happen with the Eagle Brand that I normally use.  Also – when I whisked in the sour cream – little tiny bits did not get absorbed.  Ok, so maybe it was not the fact that it was organic, but I have never had that happen to me with the non-organic brands I use.  Still, the pie came out fantastic – but I am sure it would have tasted great using non-organic products as well – I just felt so much better knowing that there were no pesticides or other chemicals in that filling – or would the 350 degree oven have killed them off anyway?

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit and thought the filling looked perfect – although I wanted a cookie crust, so I borrowed a recipe from my neighbors for theirs – and what a great combination.  The spice cookies with that pumpkin filling was a fall harmony in my mouth.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1/3 cup crushed Anna’s orange spiced cookies
  • 2/3 cup crushed Petite Beurre cookies
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T sugar

Filling:

  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs

Spiced Cream:

  • 3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 2 T sugar

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Combine all crust ingredients in a food processor.  Press into a 9″ pie plate using the bottom of a glass.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Whisk pumpkin, condensed milk, sour cream, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and allspice in a large bowl to blend.  Whisk in eggs.  Pour into crust (there may be some filling left over).

Bake pie until filling is puffed around the slides and set in the center, about 55 minutes.  Cool pie on a rack.  (Can be makde ahead.  Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, or cover and chill overnight.)

Beat whipping cream, cinnamon, ginger and sugar in a bowl intil peaks form.  Spoon large collops around the endge of the pie and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here: Pumpkin Pie

 

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Old-Fashioned Lattice-Top Apple Pie

What happened to the Granny Smith apple?  I remember growing up my grandmother always told me that Granny Smith apples were for baking.  I made lots of crisps and pies with Granny Smith apples – before I discovered that using a variety of apples was actually better.  About 10 years ago I found this recipe for a lattice-top apple pie in Bon Appetit (which I adapted below) – and it called for Golden Delicious apples.  I was surprised – I had never cooked with those.  Living in the Pacific Northwest – we never have a shortage of apple varieties.  I went to the store, picked up some Golden Delicious apples, and proceeded to make the best apple pie I have ever tasted.  I still use a variety of apples when making a crisp – but when I make this pie (which I now do every Thanksgiving – even when I was 9 months pregnant and as big as a house) I only use Golden Delicious apples, the way the recipe calls for. 

Now for some commentary on the picture…I was taking pictures of the pie when my older daughter walked in with my niece.  They thought I should get an apple to put next to the pie – and then take a picture to show what the pie was made out of.  They asked what kind of apple I used so they could get the same variety – but I had used up all the Golden Delicious apples.  They grabbed another one and said that no one would notice.  So, for any of you that are apple experts – I know, that is not a Golden Delicious apple – but yes, I used them in the pie…

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, diced
  • 6 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • Milk
  • Additional sugar

Preparation

For crust:
Blend flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 tablespoons ice water one at a time and process until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather into ball; divide into 2 pieces. Flatten each into disk. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.)

For filling:
Position rack in lowest third of oven and pre-heat to 400°F. Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add apples and toss to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold edge under, forming high-standing rim; crimp. Add filling. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into twelve 1-inch-wide strips. Arrange 6 strips across pie. Form lattice by arranging 6 strips diagonally across first strips. Gently press ends into crust edges. Brush lattice with milk. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar. Bake pie 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue baking until juices bubble thickly and crust is deep golden, covering edges with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool on rack 1 hour. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand on rack.)

For a printer-friendly recipe, click here: Apple Pie

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