Archive | November, 2011

Brown-Sugar Buttermilk Pie: Denver

26 Nov

Whelp. I was able to steal my parents’ camera after Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, so this blog will have pictures. What?! I am hoping to buy a new camera some time in the next few months (read: am begging for one for Christmas…come ooooon mom ‘n dad), so ideally my blogs will not suck as substantially as my last one did.  Anyway.

I thought that this pie was ok – I am not huge on custard pies, as I generally prefer summery fruit pies – however, this pie had a really nice texture and its simple flavor would have been good with some wildly-flavored ice cream. Actually, I think it would have been amazing with eggnog-flavored ice cream…do they make eggnog flavored ice cream? I hope so.

I didn’t make this for Thanksgiving, as Nora did.  I made a pumpkin pie for my parents/The Boy, because my father will literally riot in our house if there isn’t pumpkin pie to eat after dinner on this holiday.  I also made a special other dessert, and I’ll tell you about it at the end of this post. No cheating and skipping ahead.

The recipe was pretty cut-and-dry.  My pie crust was not very pretty. Nora’s was so neatly crimped! This is what mine looked like, because I am lazy, and no one is gonna see this pie but me and The Boy. Well, and you, blog-reader. So, I guess I owe you an apology for my ugly-ass pie.

The baked crust shell (ugliest):
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Finished pie (slightly less heinous but with un-smooth surface due to knife-test):
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In meek effort to redeem myself, the pumpkin pie that I made at my parents’ house on Thursday morning was BEAUTIFUL. I was so proud of it. I even cut out little leaves out of extra pie dough and decorated it. Photo evidence below, because I feel really smug about how pretty it was. Also, it was amazing. I rebelled against the evaporated-milk-in-pumpkin-pie bullshit and instead used heavy cream and half-and-half…it was AMAZING. It was so pumpkiny and not too sweet, which is usually my issue with pumpkin pies. Look at this lovely:

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Anyway, back to the point of this blog: Buttermilk Sugar Pie. It made a ton of custard, so I baked some extra in a little ramekin.

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Also, the texture was really silky and beautiful. See:

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With regard to the special dessert that I made on Thanksgiving: I usually make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, and one additional dessert every year. Last year, I made pumpkin-chocolate cupcakes, but they were sort of “too much”.  This year, I opted for Martha Stewart’s Cranberry-Vanilla Pavlova.  If you’ve never had a pavlova before, you haven’t been living. They’re essentially giant meringues (my favorite food) topped with freshly-whipped cream and fruit.  This was extraordinary, light, flavorful, and beautiful. It made a great Thanksgiving supplementary dessert, but it would be delicious for a christmas eve treat, too. Look at how pretty it was!:

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Brown-Sugar Buttermilk Pie: Portland

23 Nov
Like a zombie chef, I’ve got pie on the brain.

I made not one, not two, but four pies this week, with at least three more to follow. When holidays come around, I go crazy with the need to distribute my baking bounty. My victims this Thanksgiving: my sister, roommate, coworkers, neighbors, friends and my half-marathon training schedule.

Round 1: This week on Cooking By The Book, I had a special guest star: my little sister, Gail.

We made an early Thanksgiving side dish feast on Monday night while she was visiting Portland, complete with tomato-olive stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, Alton Brown’s homemade green bean casserole, cranberry-orange-apple relish.
And of course, for dessert, we had this week’s challenge: buttermilk brown-sugar pie with homemade whipped cream with Amaretto. The pie was delicious, and I have a sneaking suspicion it was the butter. Butter in the crust, browned butter in the filling. I’m obsessed.
During the baking fest, we stayed true to an annual Simon family tradition (of which there are surprisingly few; we’re a unabashedly unsentimental family) and watched the 1949 black & white version of Miracle on 34th Street, as well as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
Gail was in charge of the wet ingredients for the filling (she’s not as fond of crusts as I am).
I’ve always been tempted to try powdered buttermilk (you know, the package with the guy with the moustache), so I bought some just for this. It worked great, and now I can keep it in my fridge and use it whenever I need for banana bread, etc.

I finally learned how to crimp a crust properly (no more of that fork on the edge crap). Thanks, Internet! How would I have ever learned to bake without you? A sad observation, but very true.
The pie crust I usually make (to go with the pumpkin pie) has vinegar and calls for vegetable shortening, but I always use butter. For the buttermilk pie, I tried out the food processor variety with butter and water, and it was fine. I think I’ll stick with the vinegar variety, though.

Something about that one tiny tablespoon keeps it a nice rollable consistency and creating a flaky pastry with an interesting flavor dimension. Also, one of my coworkers told me about this awesome pie crust recipe (secret ingredient: vodka), which I know I’m going to have to try.

Round 2: Then on Thanksgiving Eve, I made it again to take to work, and the second time was definitely better than the first. (You can tell this one has a much better crimped crust because I did it correctly.) Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Pie (with a secret ingredient in the filling; can you guess what it is?) and Karo label pecan pie followed.

Round 3 (To be continued): For Thanksgiving Day, I’m planning pecan chocolate chip and pumpkin pies (to take to dinner), plus a sweet potato pie (for my neighbors).

Challenge #7: Brown-Sugar Buttermilk Pie

17 Nov

Next up, it’s pie time for Thanksgiving fare.

This year, I’m making millions of pies, including your standard pumpkin and pecan. But for early Thanksgiving with my sister (little Gail), we’re trying something new. It’s brown-sugar buttermilk pie, which I (again), borrowed from the Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart EVERYDAY Food. If I haven’t already, I would recommend buying the issue. It’s really well designed and edited (plus, I love pictures of food and new recipes).

Orange Chocolate Brownie Cookies with M&Ms: Portland

17 Nov

Call me a cookie convert. For the longest time I had eschewed making cookies because I considered them time-intensive and associated them mainly with roll cookies. But drop cookies are awesome, and these are some of the best homemade cookies I’ve ever had.
The orange peel, cocoa powder and M&Ms combine to taste just like a chocolate orange that St. Nicholas used to leave in my stocking every Dec. 6. They’re quite perfect for holiday baking, and they made me feel quite nostalgic.

Here we have our standard wet-dry separation, followed by integration (I’m trying to get better at framing these cooking shots in a more interesting manner, hence the close-ups).

I used an ice cream scoop to form the cookies, and it worked almost perfectly. Though I might make them a bit smaller next time (story of my life). But on the cookie sheet before baking, they looked pretty delicious. And like usual, I saved a bit of the cookie dough for later.


While I waited for these chocolate orange delights to bake into brownie beauties, I took part in my latest entertainment enterprise: watching all 100 movies on AFI’s Top 100 movies list. It’s not that grand of an undertaking, though, as my parents had me watching and appreciating classic movies since I was old enough to stay awake for an entire film.
During this baking experience, I watched “All About Eve,” a drama about an aging actress who befriends a young fan and in the process, struggles with her relationships and career. The plot’s not really the important thing, though; it’s the characters.
After 15 minutes in the oven (and only a little disaster), they’re gooey like a brownie, crunchy like a cookie and taste like Christmas.

Orange Chocolate Brownie Cookies with M&Ms: Denver

13 Nov

This is about to be the shortest and dullest blog post in the history of the world. My camera is broken, and without thinking, I made these cookies while The Boy was at work, so I didn’t have any photo-taking apparatus – and I just didn’t even think about it! There is one picture of the finished product. So….yeah. Sorry about that.

These cookies were ultra simple to make, and turned out DELICIOUSLY. I followed all the instructions, though I gotta tell you: I was suspicious of the melted butter. I thought it was going to make my cookies like hard little rocks. WRONG. They turned out the right mix of chewy and fluffy and crunchy.

I was also almost too lazy to put the orange zest in. I mean, zesting a whole orange? You gotta be kidding me. What am I, some kind of freaking ZEST MACHINE? (Zesting anything is not that hard – I was just having a SUPER lazy day).  I am so glad that I added the zest, though, because the orange-ness was definitely the best part of these cookies. My batter was a bit dry at the end, too, so I juiced the orange and added that in, too. dee-lish,

The cookies turned out very well, and are on their way to the University of Wyoming as we speak. Here’s a picture of the afore-mentioned care package!

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Challenge #6: Orange Chocolate Brownie Cookies with M&Ms

7 Nov

I feel bad picking this, since my last pick was also a cookie recipe, but I need some sturdy, delicious cookies to pack in a care package to my friend Shelby, who is a freshman at the University of Wyoming this year. I remember living in a dorm room, and though I secretly kind of enjoyed it, nothing made a day better than a care package. Plus, shelby’s had roommate issues – something I never really had a problem with (see photo evidence below of Nora and I enjoying roommatehood freshman year, and then one from our house four years later).

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This time, we’re making Orange Chocolate Brownie Cookies with M&Ms. This sounds a bit like gilding the lily, I think, but Shelby has a sweet tooth (and so do I). The recipe is from probably my favorite cooking blog of all time, so you should explore around the Crepes of Wrath and fall in love with it, too.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies: Portland

6 Nov


As has been well established, I love pumpkin. But I think this may be my last pumpkin foray of the season (well, until Thanksgiving demands a pie). Coincidentally, even though I had four recipes to choose from online, I found a recipe for “Pumpkin Chocolate Whoopie Pies” in this month’s issue of Everyday Food (the Thanksgiving issue was too good to pass up, and there’s actually some pretty good stuff in there). The only thing I was missing for this one was heavy cream, but I left it out, and they turned out tasting fine (albeit a little less airy).

As you can see, I like to bake on Saturdays and watch my Thursday/Friday shows. Here’s David Giuntoli looking sexy in “Grimm,” set and filmed in Portland. If you’re not familiar with the show, the premise (which I’ll admit sounds goofy) is that the Grimm fairy tales are true and happening in real life. It’s a crime drama that’s pretty nerdy, with a hint of cultural and historical literacy.
I used a spoon to shape my pies into something resembling a cookie, but sort of looking like mashed sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. The dough was super easy to mix together, and I very much like drop cookies because they’re so simple.

The frosting, on the other hand, was something of an experiment. I didn’t have all the ingredients to make one of the frosting recipes I found, so I improvised with what I had — marshmallow fluff, cocoa powder, half and half, powdered sugar and caramel. You can see there are some big chunks of caramel floating around, which taste great but are difficult to eat.

The pies turned out well, though near the end I starting making them really huge. Next time, I’ll make sure not to get to carried away with my scooping.

I didn’t assemble them all at once because the frosting was so runny. I figured it would keep me from eating too many anyway if I had to take all that time to frost one. Next time, I’ll probably stick to a recipe for the frosting, as the consistency left much to be desired. A little gooey and messy to eat, but they sure are delicious!
But now that pumpkin season is “over,” it’s time for me to move on to my next seasonal fixation: squash. This week: Spaghetti squash casserole.