Curried Butternut Pasties

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I was invited to a pumpkin-carving party recently, and wanted to bring some kind of snack to contribute. I usually bring desserts (last year I brought these pumpkin cheesecake bars) but everyone brings desserts to these things, so I decided to go in a savory direction this time.

Butternut squash seemed the perfect ingredient to focus on for a squash-theme party, so I started with that. I wanted to keep things handheld and relatively neat to eat, so I knew I’d be enclosing the filling in a pastry, and after that it was just a matter of adding flavors I thought would work. Best of all, the prep time was relatively low since the filling ingredients were roasted together on a sheet pan.

As for the outside, I revisited the hot water crust recipe I used to make Paul Hollywood’s pork pies, since I’d been struck at the time by its flakiness and great flavor. To cut down on leftover scraps I cut my pastry into squares, which were folded diagonally to make little turnover shapes– but I’m calling them pasties here because 1) they sound more savory than “turnovers,” which always evoke dessert to me, and 2) I’m kind of on a Harry Potter kick right now and these remind me of pumpkin pasties (which were probably intended to be sweet, but whatever).

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Berry Cheesecake Galette

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Yup, it’s another recipe borrowed from Smitten Kitchen… I can’t help it, it’s my go-to source for tasty recipes and this one turned out so delicious (and pretty) that I couldn’t help sharing!

This galette is easy to put together, looks impressive, and tastes great served cold or at room temperature. The creamy cheesecake filling contrasts nicely with the tart berries (whichever kind you want to put in, fresh or frozen!), and the sugar-studded crust brings it all together. It’s kind of like a three-way cross between a danish, a berry pie, and a cheesecake, and it’s definitely going to be served at my next brunch gathering.

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Mini Pork Pies with Quail Eggs

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I’m a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show. I admit it. It’s just so much fun to watch, and there’s no backstabbing or drama– just baking. There’s not even a huge prize at the end, so it’s clear people are just in it because they love to bake. And aside from the wholesome enjoyment of watching something like that, I have fun seeing the quintessentially British recipes that come up every week. Like pork pies. Cute little mini pork pies with adorable tiny quail eggs in them. (Here’s the episode: it’s around minute 20 of the show.) I just fell in love with those, and when I decided to have a historical-themed picnic I knew that they’d be perfect.

I’d never made a meat-based pie before, and I’d definitely never made hot water crust pastry before, but I was willing to give it a shot! I found Paul Hollywood’s recipe* and got to work! Continue reading

Apple Galette with Cornmeal Crust

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So this is definitely the coolest kitchen gadget ever. It’s not high-tech, it doesn’t take up a ton of space, and it dates back to the late 1700s! My dad had one when I was a kid and I used to love turning the crank and playing with the resulting perfect spiral-cut apples. When I saw this one in a secondhand store for only $3.99 I knew it would be coming home with me.

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Frozen Key Lime Tartlets with Secret Ingredient!

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I am indebted to my dad for this recipe, as he’s always been one for making simple desserts that nevertheless end up tasting fantastic. (I still remember him blending up instant chocolate jello pudding with a peppermint Altoid and pouring it into a chocolate crumb crust– easiest chocolate pie ever!)  Anyway, he made me try this recipe the last time I visited home and I’ve been making it ever since.

The filling, which you can pour into a graham cracker crust to make a pie, into dishes to make pudding, or into mini muffin tins to make tartlets, is amazingly simple– you just blend together your basic ingredients and you’re set! I admit to making things a bit more complicated with a homemade graham cracker base, but the basic recipe is fantastic just as it is– creamy, tangy, perfect for summer. Plus, unlike other key lime recipes I’ve seen, it’s got (secret ingredient!) low-fat cottage cheese in it rather than cream cheese, sour cream, or egg yolks, making it a healthy (okay, slightly healthier) alternative to the standard dessert!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Emily’s Upside-Down Custard Pie

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Emily’s Runaway Imagination is one of Beverly Cleary’s lesser-known works, and it takes place on a farm in the 1920s or thereabouts. One of the scenes I remember best is where Emily (a little girl with a big imagination) bakes custard pie for a church potluck. She’d previously overheard someone say that the secret to a light and flaky pie crust was adding “a generous pinch of baking powder” to it, and she’s eager to demonstrate her newfound pie crust prowess.

“Two and a half cups of flour,” directed Mama. “Some salt — not quite a teaspoonful. Let’s see, some lard. You’d better let me measure that.” Mama came into the pantry and deftly measured the lard out of the lard bucket. “Now Emily, take two knives and slash through the flour and lard until it is as fine as corn meal.” Emily started to slash. […]
Quickly Emily added a generous pinch of baking powder and then, not certain how big a generous pinch should be, added another generous pinch to make sure. Then she slashed and slashed and according to Mama’s directions, added water, just a little bit. “There are two secrets to making good pie crust,” said Mama. “Use very little water and handle the dough lightly.” Emily smiled to herself because she knew a third secret. 

Unfortunately for Emily, once the pies come out of the oven, instead of the custard surface being “golden yellow and flecked with nutmeg,” the crust has risen to the top with the custard at the bottom. Her mother concludes that the custard filling was too liquidy to weigh the crust down (apples or raisins would apparently have worked better). No one wants to eat her “funny-looking” pie, until one of her neighbors remarks that the inversion will keep the crust from getting soggy… and then everyone digs in.

I always wondered as a kid if this would really happen if you added baking powder to a custard pie crust. Thinking about it now it doesn’t really make sense, since the custard would have no way of getting down through the bottom of the crust unless the crust had holes in it to let the custard flow through– without the holes even the puffiest crust would just end up pushing the extra custard over the top of the pan to spill on the oven floor. I could dock the crust, of course, but no one would dock a crust with big enough holes to let custard get through in any quantity– that’s just asking for the custard to leak and stick the crust to the pan.

I decided to give this food myth (if one can really call it that) the best possible chance of success by cutting a few 1″ circles out of the pie crust, allowing the custard plenty of space to run through and let the crust rise up to the top. I figured that if that didn’t work, nothing would.

Let’s see what happens!

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Chocolate Cherry “Cream” Pie

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(Don’t let the quotation marks in “cream” pie scare you– I promise that this recipe is creamy, rich, and delicious, despite being dairy-free!)

Did you know, before I heard of this recipe I’d never made a chocolate cream pie before? It wasn’t that I didn’t like the idea– I love chocolate and I love creamy, pudding-y desserts– but I just never got around to making one. I think it was partially because the recipes I saw fell into one of two camps– overly complicated, involving separating eggs and slaving over a hot stove to make custard; or extremely processed, relying on instant pudding and Cool Whip. Not that I have anything against instant pudding or Cool Whip– both are staples of my quick dessert repertoire– but “chocolate cream pie” seemed to call for something a bit more involved to live up to the decadence of its name.

Anyway, that all flew out the window when I heard of a chocolate cream pie recipe that called for only a few ingredients, one of which seemed so preposterous I had to try it. I’m always a sucker for a “secret ingredient,” and this was too good to pass up. What was it?

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