Happy Thanksgiving!

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It is a beautiful fall weekend in southern Ontario, perfect for a Thanksgiving holiday. Before I could go outside to enjoy it, I baked up this beauty, a Pecan Pie for tomorrow’s family feast.
Happy feasting everyone! I hope a slice of your favourite pie makes it to your plate this weekend.

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Ontario Peach Pie

IMG_0015The year has been passing by at light speed, taken up with work, a few vacations, and all the little things that use up a day. I’ve gotten quite a few questions lately about my blog. Why haven’t I posted much this year? What am I drinking? The truth is probably two-fold- I’ve amassed quite a portfolio of favourite wines and recipes and don’t always have new food and drink to share, and having a computer-heavy day job can be a drain on the creative juices.

But if there’s anything that might get a cook’s energy back up, it is late summer and early fall in Ontario. Having grown up a prairie girl, I am amazed every year here when the bounty begins to roll in. Niagara peaches are one of my very favourite treats, but they tend to come in huge baskets and ripen all at once. Every August at this time I search for a random peach pie recipe, and then think, why haven’t I posted this so I’ll know what to make next year?

IMG_0017This year I found two good recipes: One for the #1 Best Pie Crust Ever and the other for Mama Thornton’s Peach Pie, both from the Food Network. The pie crust uses butter and shortening and has definitely replaced my old standard Crisco recipe. The butter makes the dough less crumbly and easier to work with, and browns up so beautifully I could hardly wait for the pie to cool before slicing through the crisp crust into the peaches below. The peach filling is fantastic- gooey but not runny and just the right amount of sweet. The only change I made was to double the lemon juice and add a splash of vanilla extract.

So, if you have peaches ripening en masse at this very moment- I hope a peach pie is in your future.

Double Chocolate Pudding Pie

I love a creamy, dairy based dessert. Since I can’t eat dairy anymore (or at least now seriously limit my intake), I often feel left out at dessert time, or end up cheating so as not to disappoint a host- or myself.

When I saw a chocolate pudding pie recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen, a tasty vegan blog, I had to give it a go. I made a few changes, which I think made the recipe even better, but I thank the brilliant IsaChandra of PPK for giving me a starting point.

This pie is so chocolatey and creamy, and the coconut milk so undetectable, that anyone will love it. I fed it to a crowd a few months ago at a bbq, and every piece but one disappeared- I didn’t let the dairy free secret out of the bag. I really think the oreo crumb crust perfects the recipe.

Ingredients

Crust
1 1/2 cups oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 cup vegan margarine (or butter), melted

Filling
750 ml canned coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch of salt

Topping
Cool Whip, whipped cream or other whipped topping

Directions

1. Mix melted butter and oreo crumbs together in a pie pan, press them into the pan to form the crust.

2. Bake the crust at 350F for 10 minutes.

3. Combine a small amount of the coconut milk and all of the cornstarch in a medium saucepan, whisk to mix. Alternately, shaking them together in a small jar works well to get rid of any lumps.

4. Add in the rest of the coconut milk, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk to combine.

5. Bring the mixture to a boil while whisking. Once boiled, lower the heat to simmer, and whisk until it thickens, around 5 minutes.

6. Once thickened, stir in chocolate chips and vanilla, stir until the chocolate chips melt and everything is combined.

7. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. If the mixture has any cocoa or cornstarch lumps, pour it through a fine mesh sieve and your pudding will be silky smooth.

Cool the pie in the fridge, and place plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. It will take 2-3 hours to set. Before serving, smooth on some Cool Whip or other topping, and decorate with berries or chocolate shavings if you desire.

Adventures in Pie Making

Apple Pie

The crispness in the air has me thinking of fall, and all the great things you can bake once the summer is over. A friend was baking apple pies this week, and while I’m too far away to try a slice of hers, she made me keen to try my hand at pie making.

I have never made my own pastry before, always feeling like it’s too finicky to tackle alone. My mom makes a great pie crust; in fact many of my favourite childhood memories are of pie making with her. I would sit across the counter, make mini pies from the scraps, and often eat quite a bit of the dough. I’m not sure what was so tasty about raw pie dough; I tasted a piece today, and I must say the appeal has worn off!

When it came to crust making today, I decided to go for shortening as a base because I really dislike both the idea and taste of lard. I thought about just following the Crisco box, but instead did some googling and came across a Canadian Living recipe for “Perfect Pastry.” It uses both butter and shortening, as well as some vinegar, egg yolk, salt and cold water. It was fairly simple to mix together, and came together into a dough without much effort at all.

The rolling was not quite as easy! I rolled the crusts between 2 pieces of parchment to try to decrease the mess and sticking, but the paper just moved all over the counter. Luckily Kevin was around to hold the parchment still. I managed to get 3 crusts out of a recipe for 2, and so my 1 pie became a couple.

First I made an apple pie- 4 peeled and sliced Gala apples tossed with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp lemon juice, mixed together and surround by pastry goodness. I baked it for 15 minutes at 425F and followed that up with 45 minutes at 350F.

Then I made a pecan pie with my leftover crust. I found a recipe that didn’t call for corn syrup, an item that I consider fairly useless in the world of modern cooking. This pie filling recipe can be found here. I baked it for 10 minutes at 400F and then 35 minutes at 350F.

Both pies smelled heavenly baking- the cinnamon in the apple and the vanilla in the pecan wafting through the air and taunting me. Unfortunately for me, the pies are for company, and not afternoon snacks. Let’s hope they last!

Pecan Pie

Domesticity

Cooling the pie before adding whipped cream.

This Friday afternoon, as I made a key lime pie for Kevin’s mother’s birthday dinner, I reflected on being a modern woman.  I can identify with feminist theory, and believe that women are powerful creatures who really can achieve anything (given the opportunity).  It seems, however, that this school of thought can sometimes (hopefully unintentionally) devalue traditional female roles. I consider myself to be empowered and equal, but that morning while I was at work, all I could think about was getting home to make my pie.

It’s ironic that a 1950s housewife may have envied my employed and independent life, while her main role was on the homefront.  But all I could think while I used my new hand mixer to make the pie filling was how right it felt, me alone in my kitchen, making a treat that will bring happiness to someone else.  The female role of care taker seems inescapable, and I don’t know if it’s because society has told me I should be that way, but lately I have been wearing this hat well. Earlier this week I bought several yards of lovely blue flowered fabric and sewed new covers for our 2 Poang armchairs and matching foot stools.  I cannot describe the pleasure it gives me to stand in the living room and think “I made this.  It cost next to nothing and it looks damn good!”

The re-covered Poang set.

If only my junior high school Home Economics teacher could see this post! I think she foreshadowed my domestic nature back in grades 8 and 9, because she gave me the “Home Ec Award” both years. I found that a bit embarrassing at the time (although since I did not take Shop class it’s not as though I could have won that award), but now I wish I could dig out my silly little medal and photograph it for this post.  Today I wear the crown of domesticity with pride, perhaps because I have no children to make it a chore for me, and hope to always cherish my stereotypically feminine skills in the kitchen and at my sewing machine.

Cheers to all the other Domestic Goddesses out there!  May we always have the opportunity to have careers, so that while we’re at work we can daydream about all the fun we could be having at home.