Summer Strawberry Pie

I don’t know why I haven’t told you about this before now. If you like ice cream (and I do, I really, really do), you have to try Blue Bell’s Summer Strawberry Pie. I’m normally into vanilla (boring, I know, but try it with Heath bits or homemade chocolate chip sea salt cookies), but this is crazy good. It contains little pieces of pie crust. So good. Their Ultimate Neapolitan is my other favorite flavor this summer. In Denver, you can get Blue Bell at Super Target and King Soopers (and probably other places, too, but that’s where we shop) (although King Soopers never has Neapolitan).

Don’t worry, this isn’t a sponsored post. I’m just all OMGICECREAM.

Peach Pie Recipe

After all this talk about pie, it was time for me to walk the walk, as they say. Do they still say that? I have no idea. Anyway, on a day with some of the nicest weather I’ve ever experienced, I spent the afternoon in the kitchen cursing at peaches. It turned out to be worth it, though, because the pie was delicious.

The pie crust is a family recipe, handed down through the generations. For all I know, it originated on the side of a container of Crisco. The filling is adapted from this recipe.

Peach Pie

Preheat oven to 450F.

Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening, chilled (I try to put the whole container of shortening in the refrigerator a few hours before I’ll start making the pie)
  • 6 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • for later: one egg and a bit of milk (1 to 3 tablespoons) beaten together, plus sugar (this is an addition to the original recipe)

Directions

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt together with a fork. Cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (I don’t have one of those pastry doodads, so I use a fork and/or two dinner knives, one in each hand.) Drizzle 4-6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture (I always need at least 6). Mix with a fork, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together. Gently gather the dough into a ball, then cut in half and form each half into a ball. Wrap each half in plastic wrap or put both halves into a large plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to do the bottom crust, remove half of the dough from the fridge, put it on a piece of parchment or wax paper, and smack it with a rolling pin a few times to flatten it a little. Cover with another piece of parchment or wax paper and roll out to your desired size. My trick with this is to let a corner of the wax paper stick off the edge of the counter so I can hold it in place by leaning my belly against the counter (sexy). Carefully put the dough in your pie pan.

When you’re ready to do the top crust, follow the same procedure but carefully place the dough over your pie filling. After putting the crust in place, do whatever it is you do to crimp the edges together. I’m no professional and just squish and try to make the edge of the crust look sort of decent. Then, poke holes in the crust, cut out some shapes, or do what I did today and use a cookie cutter to cut out a shape. If you’re fancy, do a lattice, but at this point in the process, I never feel like bothering.

Filling

Ingredients

  • 10 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into relatively uniform bite-sized-ish pieces (Note: The internet told me that the best way to do this is to boil the peaches for 1 minute then plunge into cold water and the skins will come right off. Lies, all of it. Well, that’s not entirely true. This procedure worked for 2 of my 10 peaches, which, full disclosure, were on the less-ripe end of the ripeness spectrum. Maybe this works better with really ripe peaches. In any event, I didn’t think it was worth it. Also, peeling, pitting, and slicing peaches into relatively uniform bite-sized-ish pieces is a pain in the ass, but worth it.)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, fresh from the fridge (not softened)

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugars, corn starch, cinnamon, allspice, and butter with a fork until, like the pie crust, the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour over your sliced peaches and mix everything together. Pour the peach mixture into the bottom pie crust and cover with the top pie crust. After your pie crust is assembled and you’ve poked holes/cut out shapes/cookie-cuttered, brush the top of the crust with your egg/milk mixture. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top of the pie.

If you want to be extra careful (I did today but I’m not certain it’s necessary), cover the outer edge of your pie crust with tin foil and put your pie pan on a cookie sheet before putting it in the oven (to catch drips — I didn’t have any, possibly because I have an extra-large pie pan). Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Decrease heat to 350 and bake for 30 minutes, removing tin foil after 15. Turn the oven off. Let the pie stay in the oven for 2 hours if at all possible, to make extra sure your pie will set up nicely and not be runny.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or nothing. It’s all good. Enjoy!

Here are some iPhone pictures. I always mean to at least try to take better pictures of food-related things I’m going to post here, but the truth is that I’m just not that dedicated.

peach pie

This is what the dough looks like when it’s coming together. At this point, you’re ready to gently gather it into a ball.
peach pie

Do you like my cat? (I have a set of Martha Stewart cat cookie cutters from I don’t even know when. I think this is the first time I used one of them.)
peach pie

This is after dishing out two big slices and one reasonable slice. It’s not the most attractive thing in the world, but as you can see, this pie is not runny. Also, it got rave reviews from Ben and Soren. Yay!

Strawberry Cupcakes

The other day, Soren sang the following while in the bathtub:

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday cupcakes!!

As far as I know, he hasn’t even seen a cupcake in like a month, since we were at his friend’s birthday party (for the record, he didn’t even eat a cupcake that day — he had a gigantic piece of the “adult” cake, which involved browned butter, chocolate mousse, and hazelnut frosting).

Today at dinner, he stood on his chair, giving his jambalaya the side-eye (Ben even used my recipe!), requesting cupcakes over and over and over (as toddlers are wont to do). The boy loves some cupcakes. And we didn’t have any, and even if we did we wouldn’t have given him one right then and there, and he pretty much got over it and ate at least some of his dinner, so that was cool.

At first, I took a hard-line position against sweets. Babies don’t need sweets, I thought. And that’s true. Babies don’t need sweets. I freaked out about whether to give Soren cake for his first birthday. Then I got over myself and gave him a homemade pumpkin cupcake. And then I realized that, hey, I enjoy dessert once in a while (if by “once in a while” I mean “several times a week”), and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with enjoying a little dessert.

So after working all day, running 6.3 miles at the gym, and hanging out with Ben and Soren for a bit, I made some cupcakes while Andre Miller got a shoulder contusion and the Nuggets were summarily dismantled by the Mavericks. Soren was asleep by then so he doesn’t even know the cupcakes exist yet, but boy will he be excited tomorrow.

I’d been wanting to make strawberry cupcakes for a while, but most of the strawberry cupcake recipes I’ve ever found on the internet are kind of horrifying and include things like jello, which, well, gross and not vegetarian. I figured I’d make my default vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting, but when searching for a strawberry frosting recipe, I found a strawberry cupcake recipe that didn’t terrify me.

So I made strawberry cupcakes, pretty much following the recipe (I used 2 eggs and the equivalent of 4 eggs of Ener-G egg replacer, because I didn’t want to use egg whites because it seems wasteful to just toss 4 yolks and I didn’t have any other use for them in the immediate future) with my usual altitude adjustments. I think I added extra strawberry puree to the frosting (I used what was left in the blender and didn’t measure it). I doubled the cupcakes and did not double the frosting, and it ended up being the exact right amount of frosting for the cupcakes. The cupcakes themselves are decent — mine came out dense (I suspect I might be overmixing) and the strawberry flavor is very, very subtle. The frosting, however, is the shit — it’s so good the cupcakes function merely as a frosting-delivery device so their lack of flavor is pretty much immaterial. Mmmmm frosting. It’s definitely worth adding to your dessert arsenal.

Holy crap I’m tired.

In other news, this is the greatest day in the history of days because Peyton Manning is coming to Denver and that means, if all goes well, Tim Tebow will be leaving Denver. I am so excited about this I was hoping everybody’s work would close and the whole city could go out for a beer to celebrate, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Oh well. There are plenty of good, Tebow-free days ahead of us. This is weird, but for the first time in years (since Josh McDaniels was hired as head coach), I’ll have no reason to hate the Broncos. I’m not sure what to do now.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

red velvet cupcakeFor some mysterious reason, I’m kind of obsessed with red velvet cake. I’ve only had it a few times and was never all that impressed with it because it doesn’t really taste like anything. I decided that making red velvet cupcakes that actually taste like something would be my baking project for January.

I hit up google and found this Smitten Kitchen recipe, which seemed good because she shared my issues with red velvet cake. Then I clicked the “adapted from” link to check out The New York Times red velvet cake recipe, which is exactly the same, word for word. (I noticed the same thing with her pineapple upside-down cake recipe, which, aside from omitting the cardamom, is an exact copy of the Gourmet recipe.) I thought it wasn’t cool to copy a recipe word for word, even if you link the original. What’s up with that?

Anyway, I followed the Times recipe exactly but for switching cake for cupcakes and using cupcake liners instead of butter and made the following high-altitude adjustments: decrease sugar to 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons and decrease baking soda to 1 1/2 teaspoons. I used this creamy vanilla frosting, which was kind of a lot of work but really good. Don’t cut this recipe in half — it didn’t result in the tragedy some commenters indicated but it wasn’t enough frosting. Also I recommend beating everything for longer than the recipe says — just a minute or two for the butter and butter and sugar and a good 5 minutes more at the end. The sugar granules went away after the 15-minute (exactly!) refrigeration.

So, if you’re in the market for good red velvet cake and coordinating frosting recipes, there you go!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

pineapple upside down cake

Although I’m a child of the 70s, I’d somehow gotten this far in life without ever having pineapple upside-down cake. Weird, right?

When I realized it was the perfect dessert for a New Year’s Eve celebration that included 70s-friendly fondue, I figured I’d make a pineapple upside-down cake. It was very easy and very good! I used this recipe, with the following changes: (1) decrease cardamom to 1/2 teaspoon; (2) use canned pineapple rings because we couldn’t find a pineapple that was ripe at the last minute — canned pineapple also provides the juice, so that’s cool; (3) adjust for high altitude — decrease baking powder to 1 1/2 teaspoons and decrease sugar (in cake, not topping) to 3/4 cup; (4) use spiced rum because that’s what we had; and (5) sprinkle cake with rum after the kids get their slices.

Everybody had seconds, so I think that means the cake was a hit. I’ll definitely be making it again.

Oh hey fondue forks...Also, if you were wondering, yes, toddlers like fondue as much as they like messing with the fondue skewer things. (Recipe here — we omitted the cherry brandy, because who has cherry brandy sitting around and who wants to buy cherry brandy just to have a tablespoon to put in the cheese fondue you make once every 10 or so years.)

Also, happy new year!!

Yeti Cake

Yeti cakeSo, about that cake I made for my birthday. It was the best cake I’ve ever had in my life. At least I’m pretty sure it was. I can’t recall a cake I’ve ever had that was better than this one.

I followed this recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake pretty much exactly (I did not use Dutch-process cocoa powder because I was too lazy to make a trip just to get it and made my usual altitude adjustments, which here mean decreasing sugar to 1 1/2 cups and decreasing baking soda to 1 1/8 teaspoons). I generously buttered a nonstick bundt pan and sprinkled it with cocoa powder. After the cake cooled for a while, I picked up the pan and shook it, kind of vertically? Does that make sense? When I felt the cake move and heard it “thunk,” I could tell it wasn’t going to stick. I kept it in the pan, tightly covered with tin foil, overnight and frosted it the next day.

The most important thing about what I did is as follows: I used really good stout (as I mentioned the other day, Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (if you get a bomber of this, there’s enough for the cake and for the baker to drink some and share with a friend)). I highly recommend using a very good, very strong stout. Even with this super-rich beer, the stout flavor was pretty subtle.

This cake was even better than the fancy chocolate cake I made one time that required like $40 worth of chocolate. It’s moist and delicious without being so rich that you feel like you’re going to explode after eating it. Ben and I liked it so much I’m making it again to bring to our Christmas festivities tomorrow. Mmmmm, Yeti cake.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Usually when I want peanut butter cookies, I bust out Ye Olde Mom’s Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe, which as all recipes of the Ye Olde Mom’s Series, was written on an index card in the days when I dotted my is (Okay, that’s just hard. I know it’s not correct to apostrophe i’s, but if you don’t, it looks like I’m saying “is.”) with circles. Also I insisted that “@” meant “about” and didn’t really capitalize. (I think that’s why, to this day, I have no patience for people who don’t capitalize. Come on, man, that’s for high school, early college at the latest if you fancy yourself the second coming of e.e. cummings or some shit.)

This is probably the same peanut butter cookie recipe everybody in the world has had since the dawn of time, except those people who make the peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s kisses on them, which are very good but if you ask me don’t really need the kisses.

This time, I wanted a peanut butter cookie that reflects my new obsession with putting peanut butter in my oatmeal, so I guess that would be peanut butter oatmeal cookies. I turned to Chef Google and found something that sounded awesome: “Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.” The description did not disappoint: “These cookies contain peanut butter and oatmeal.” My midwestern sensibilities appreciate the adequate summary.

The recipe is here. I followed it but:

  • I used 1 cup softened butter and 1/2 cup shortening. (My “I don’t bake with shortening!” stance has been softened by the delicious pie crust shortening makes.)
  • I made the following high-altitude alterations: reduced sugar to 1 1/2 cup and reduced baking soda to 1 1/2 teaspoon; this worked well for this recipe.
  • I used my cookie scooper, which is larger than a teaspoon.
  • I was very half-assed about flattening the dough with a fork.
  • I preferred a baking time of 11 minutes instead of 12. Oops, never mind. The next day, the cookies baked for 12 minutes tasted better.
  • I put the dough in the refrigerator between batches to firm it up.

These are good! They’re not too sweet and they’re not as heavy as regular peanut butter cookies. The shortening gives them a hint of flakiness, which is kind of awesome. They taste a little healthier than regular peanut butter cookies (not saying they are, but they taste like it, but not in a bad way). I’ll be adding them to my dessert arsenal for sure!
peanut butter oatmeal cookies