25 January 2011

Potato Onion Cheese Pie

This picture is from a similar pie I made last summer, but the concept is the same! I wanted a nice savory pie for a pie party, and nothing says "comfort food" like potatoes and cheese. Noel chose the spices for this one, and they were genius. The pie had a beautiful yellow color and a warm, almost mustard-y, flavor. Whip up this pie on a gloomy day; it's the pie equivalent of a cozy blanket!

I used baby yellow potatoes, so the slices were bite-sized. If you use larger potatoes, you might want to cut it up so that it's smaller sliced. Of course, that would be completely up to you!

What you need:
Chilled dough for a double-crust pie
3 cups of sliced yellow potatoes
2 medium onions, diced
1 cup of crumbled sharp cheese (I used Gloucester)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

What you do:
Combine all your filling ingredients in a bowl and toss together until everything is evenly distributed.

Roll out the bottom crust and place in a well-greased pie dish. Spoon the filling into the pie. Roll out the top crust and cut a few vents into it, then place on top of the pie. Pinch the edges shut.

Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is golden, the cheese melted, and the potatoes soft - about an hour. Wait at least 15 minutes to slice into this one.

Eat your amazing pie!

21 January 2011

Apple Cranberry Pecan Pie

I did two versions of this pie over the winter holidays, and both were scrumptious cold-weather goodness. The first time I used cranberries and goat cheese; the second time I had to improvise the cranberries, with delicious results!

Here's what you need:
dough for a double-crust pie
4 cups of thinly sliced apples
a big handful of craisins
a big handful of chopped pecans
about 1/2 cup of spreadable cheese - I used a yummy farmer's market cheese, but goat cheese works great, too.
Spices - cinnamon and cloves, or whatever strikes your fancy. Probably about a 1/2 tsp of each.

Here's what you do:
While your dough is chilling, throw the craisins in a saucepan and cover them with brandy. Let them simmer while you chop your apples and get the rest of your ingredients together. They should get plump and soft. Drain them when they're done, but save the brandy for drinking purposes!

Put the apples, brandy-soaked craisins, pecans, cheese, and spices in a big bowl and toss together until everything is evenly distributed.

Roll out half of your dough and lift it into a well-greased pie dish. Fill it up with your apple concoction, then roll out the rest of the dough and cover the top of the pie. Cut some vents in the top crust, or do a nice lattice. Pinch the sides shut and make it look pretty if you're able (I'm not!), and it's ready to bake! Bake at 350 for 45 min. to an hour, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melty and the cranberries all bubbly.

Wait at least half an hour before slicing into your pie, then eat it up!

20 January 2011

Vodka Pie Crust

I keep getting asked about the vodka pie crust I always use to make pie, so here it is. Before discovering this recipe, I always had trouble with pie crusts - they would be too dry and fall apart when I rolled them out, or too wet and end up undercooked. Adding vodka to the dough means you can keep it moist enough to be easy to work with, but still end up with a perfectly light and flaky crust when the alcohol bakes out.

This is a double-crust recipe, which I originally got at Smitten Kitchen. That site has lovely photos and a step-by-step tutorial, but it is rather lengthy and complicated. And the whole point of the vodka crust is that it is easy! Here's how I do it:

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks of cold butter, cut into little pieces
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening (I prefer butter-flavored Crisco)
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup vodka

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then cut in the butter and shortening. If you don't have a pastry cutter, your fingertips are the next best tool for this job. Just combine until the butter is reduced to pea-sized clumps.

Sprinkle the water and vodka over the dough and lightly stir it together just until you can form it into a ball. If the dough seems too dry and crumbly, add another splash of vodka until it seems workable. The butter should not be evenly distributed; the clumps you see in the dough will melt when baked and create those tender flakes that make a good pie crust so tasty. Divide the dough in half and refrigerate it for at least half an hour before rolling it out for a pie. You can leave it in the fridge for a day or so, or in the freezer for... longer. When it is formed into a pie and baked, it will be buttery and flaky and oh so delicious!

Note: For a while I had the recipe memorized incorrectly, and used a whole cup of shortening in stead of 1/2 cup. The crust still turned out fine, with no discernible difference in taste. I went back to 1/2 cup after I realized the mistake, because I suppose I don't really need extra fat in my desserts, but I took two lessons from it.
1. Pie crust is not an exact science, so don't worry about it too much!
2. Extra butter or shortening never hurt anything.

Go forth and make pie!