Best Pumpkin Pie

November 26, 2013

Best Pumpkin Pie - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies, and we have them at our house more than just for Thanksgiving.   I like to use Joy of Cooking’s recipe, which yields a crispy, flaky crust, and custardy, delicious filling that’s not grainy or soggy.  The key is the blind-baked crust, which is pre-baking your pie crust lined with foil and pie weights.  I like to do this with all of my one-crust pies, ever since I read about it in Joy.  It really does produce superior results.

Blind Baking a Crust - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

 

Blind Baked Crust with Egg Wash - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I have made only a few pumpkin pies in my time. It seems for holiday gatherings, others make the pumpkin and I bake apple or pecan-sweet potato pie – like this Thanksgiving!  And I usually follow Mom/Granny’s lead and use the recipe on the side of the can of pumpkin. 🙂  I’ve always been satisfied with the results, but then I’ve never had this version!  One thing I will say is that I think pumpkin pie is best made with canned pumpkin. Every time I’ve had it with fresh pumpkin puree, it seems watery. How about you Margaux? What are your thoughts on fresh vs. canned pumpkin?

Margaux says…

I definitely ALWAYS use canned pumpkin.  Not only does it seem watery with fresh, but often grainy and stringy.  Yuck.  It’s really not worth the extra step, because canned pumpkin is just that…pumpkin, no additives.  You would have to have commercial grade equipment to get it the consistency that canned is, which is perfect for pies.  I was happy to see that there was a little section about it in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living…their test kitchen came up with those same results.

Best Pumpkin Pie - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Blind Baked Pie Crust

1/2 recipe pastry dough, like this one

1 egg yolk

salt

Roll out pie dough.  Carefully place it in a 9″ pie plate, trim the edges leaving a 1″ hang over, fold it under and crimp.  Place in freezer and freeze for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take pie shell out of freezer and cut a large piece of aluminum foil.  Place foil into pie plate, shiny side down, carefully pressing it into the corners and leaving a good amount hanging over the sides.  Fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice (I keep dried beans on hand and use them over and over again).  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, and carefully remove foil.  Prick crust all over with fork and put in oven again for another 5 minutes or so, until the crust is golden.  Meanwhile, beat egg yolk with a pinch of salt.  When crust is done, brush with egg yolk all over and bake for another minute or two, until the glaze is set.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

A note about eggs in the recipe: If you like your pie more custardy, use 3 eggs.  If you like a stronger pumpkin flavor and a denser filling, use only 2.  I like to use 3.

2-3 eggs (see note above)

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or half-and-half

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

While mixture is sitting for a few minutes, place foil around the fluted edges of the crust (or use an aluminum pie sheild…one of my favorite kitchen gadgets).  Warm crust back up by placing it in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until it is hot to touch.  Pour filling into the hot crust, place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until center seems set but quivery, like gelatin, when you tap the side of the dish.  Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature.  Serve within one day, store in the refrigerator.

Whipped Cream

1 cup cold heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sugar

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium high until soft peaks form, no longer.  Serve dollops on slices of pie.  Store remainder in refrigerator in airtight container.  Whip with a wire whisk for 10-15 seconds when ready to use again.

Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We eat quinoa like it’s going out of style in the summer.  Now it’s finally fall (I don’t know about where you live, but in Chicago I thought summer was never going to end!), and I wasn’t ready to give up my go-to dinner starter, but I’m definitely not in the mood for more salads.  So this week I tested out a couple of quinoa side dishes (or in one case we ate it as the main dish with a poached egg on top) that were amazing!  They’re based on a recipe in one of my old Martha Stewart magazines for quinoa hash, which is where I got the idea for the poached egg.  These would be great also as side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner!  Especially if you have vegetarians or vegans in your family, as quinoa has a good amount of protein and can be eaten as a main dish.  I served the beet-sweet potato one with roasted chicken, and it was delicious as a weekend meal.

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Brussels Sprouts - sweet & Savory Kitchens

I see Aunt Suzy and I are on the same wavelength…her latest post is very similar to mine, with forbidden rice instead of quinoa.  Can’t wait to try that one out, too!  There are numerous combinations of things that you can toss with the cooked quinoa; these are just the two that I have made so far.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We are on the same wavelength! I almost put in my post that I thought the forbidden rice dish could be made with red or black quinoa! I can’t wait to try these.

Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, and sliced thinly
1 sweet potato
2-3 beets with greens, greens rinsed thoroughly and chopped
1 tbsp orange zest
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop sweet potato into 1/2″ chunks and toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread on 1/2 of a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil. Peel and chop beets into 1/2 chunks, toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt and spread on other half baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender, stirring halfway through, taking care not to mix beets and potatoes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté leeks and thyme for about 2 minutes, until they have softened. Add beet greens and sauté until wilted. Turn off heat and set aside until quinoa and veggies are done. Toss quinoa, roasted veggies, and leek mixture together in a large bowl with orange zest. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. shredded Brussels sprouts
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes and squash with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and place on baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, until tender, stirring about halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high and add Brussels sprouts. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes. You may want to add a little more oil to the pan by pushing the veggies to the side and adding it (I found the pan got a bit dry and added another tablespoon). Stir in oregano. Turn off heat. Combine quinoa with roasted veggies and Brussels sprouts mixture in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Spritz Cookies

December 24, 2011

Spritz maker

Margaux says…

A very fond Christmas memory for me is helping my Granny make spritz cookies. She is the one who taught me to bake when I was very young…we baked cookies pretty often, and she let me do a lot of the work. But spritz was my favorite! I loved twisting the top of the spritz-maker, squeezing out dough in cute little shapes. She let me pick the shapes, and most of them turned out being either too fat or too skinny. But the point was that she let ME do it, and I felt so proud! And then we got to decorate them with colored sugars and silver baubles, making them into perfect little Christmas treats.

I actually didn’t much like eating spritz cookies when I was a kid (I was more of a thumbprint cookie lover); I didn’t get a full appreciation for them until I was an adult.  But now they’re one of my favorites…little butter-citrus bites that are the perfect size.  I always make citrus-flavored (because that’s what Granny always made), but you can do all sorts of variations on them, which I will give instructions for below.  I got these recipes out of last year’s Martha Stewart Living December issue…it is very similar to, if not the same as Granny’s.

Lemony Spritz Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt until fully combined, about one minute. Add flour, and beat on low speed until just combined (do not overbeat). If tinting the dough, divide it into separate bowls and mix in the food dyes. Just make sure you’re not overworking the dough so that it doesn’t make tough cookies.

If you want to make vanilla cookies:
Replace citrus zest and juice with 2 tsp pure vanilla extract.

If you want to make chocolate cookies:
Replace 1/3 cup flour with 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, and citrus zest and juice with 2 tsp vanilla extract.

If you want to make spice cookies: (I think I’m going to try this next year-sounds good!)
Add 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, and 1/3 tsp freshly ground pepper when you add the flour mixture. Replace citrus zest and juice with 2 tsp vanilla.

To bake the cookies:

Knead dough briefly to soften. Fill a cookie press with dough and fit with disk to make shapes (Mirro made a great cookie press, you can find lots of them on Ebay). Squeeze cookies directly onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sanding sugar (optional). Bake at 350 degrees until firm, 12-14 minutes. Let cool completely on cooling rack before glazing (also optional…last year I glazed because I had time, this year I didn’t. I think they’re just as good without glaze. Granny never glazed. 🙂 ).

Vanilla and Citrus Glazes

For citrus glaze:
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp citrus juice
3 tsp finely grated citrus zest
3 tbsp light corn syrup

For vanilla glaze:
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk
3 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Dip tops of cookies in glaze, decorate with sanding sugars or small candies while glaze is still wet. Let set on wire rack.

Margaux says…

I’m not big on semi-homemade, at all, ever. Except for these cookies, so I guess I can’t say ever. But one taste, and you’ll agree. It’s one of those no-bake, super easy, make in minutes recipes like everyone seems to make around the holidays. And I usually steer clear of those. But I simply cannot stop eating these when they’re in front of me, and I have to have them once a year. It’s fudgy-peanut butter-crispy goodness. They’re one of my Aunt Gigi’s specialties, who is the original expert/ amateur baker in the family, and she always makes them for Christmas, along with several other perfect cookies, some of which I will post soon.

Scotcharoos

Butter a 9×13 pan.

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
6 cups Special K cereal

2 cups (one 12 oz. bag) semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups butterscotch chips

Heat the syrup and sugar just until it starts boil around the edges. Add the peanut butter and mix well. Add the Special K and spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together and spread over the Special K mixture. Let cool and cut into squares.

One 12-oz. box of Special K makes two recipes of bars.

Almond Shortbread Stars

December 12, 2011

Margaux says…

I saw this recipe in a Martha Stewart Living holiday issue ages ago…probably around 2000 or 2001, and I’ve been making them every single year since.  I think this is the best shortbread recipe I’ve ever had, probably because of the addition of almonds, which I love.  Plus, shortbread is my mom’s favorite cookie, and she loves almond, too, so even if I didn’t want to make these it wouldn’t matter because she requests them every year.  She just asked me tonight if I was planning on making “those shortbread stars,” while looking at me with eyes that said “you’re making those shortbread stars,” and it made me realize I should probably write a post about them with enough time for people to make them for themselves.  Trust me, your family will thank you.  Luckily, I happened to have photographed a plate of them last year!

I usually make a double recipe because they tend to disappear fast. And of course, you don’t have to make stars…you can make any shape you want!

Almond Shortbread Stars

2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup blanched almonds, pureed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk together flour and salt in bowl. Whisk together sugar and almonds in another bowl. Beat butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add sugar/almond combo and beat until combined. Add almond extract and beat again. Add flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Separate into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. Roll out into 1/4″ thickness. Cut out cookie shapes and place them on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden. Carefully remove cookies to cooling rack. When still warm, toss in powdered sugar. Toss again when cooled.

Margaux says…

You can’t have Halloween without sugar cookie cut-outs.  Actually, you can’t have Christmas or Valentine’s Day without them either, if you ask me.  This sugar cookie recipe is my absolute favorite.  Aunt Suzy gave it to me when I was 11 years old…it came along with a bunch of other “must have” recipes, a recipe box (that I still use, by the way), a large pot for steaming or cooking pasta (which I also still have, and still use), and “how to cook” tapes made by her.  Other than the pasta cooker and the recipe box, this recipe is what I have used the most out of that gift. I love that she was the first person to get me interested in cooking! It was like we were destined to have a blog together someday (although, that word didn’t even exist in 1988).

I think this recipe is my favorite because of the addition of sour cream and nutmeg.  The cookies turn out crisp, but not too crisp, and have great flavor.  They’re perfect with vanilla frosting, which is what I prefer to use over royal icing or a powdered sugar and milk glaze-type icing.  They may not look as perfect with the frosting over the icing that turns hard and smooth, but they sure taste better!

Sugar Cookies

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. Cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add flour alternately with sour cream. Form dough into ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 6 hours to overnight. Divide dough into 4 parts. Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or grease them. Roll out dough to 1/4″ thick. Cut with cookie cutter. Bake plain or with sugar on top (if you’re not icing), 10-12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on cooling rack. Frost.

Vanilla Frosting

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar, beat until mixture is starting to clump together in pea-sized clumps. Add vanilla and 2 tbsp milk, beat on high speed until creamy and uniform (scrape down sides of bowl as needed). Add more milk if needed, and food coloring if desired. Frost cookies, let sit for about an hour so that the frosting will set (but it won’t get completely hard because of the butter). If adding sanding sugar or sprinkles, do so right away before the frosting gets a hard crust on top.

Margaux says  . . .

I want to make EVERYTHING in the November Martha Stewart Living issue.  Yes, I love Martha Stewart.  The magazine is beautiful and smart, and has tons of good recipes in it (most of the time).  I realize that it’s not cool to like Martha Stewart, but I don’t really care!  It’s the only magazine I get, and I’m proud of it. November’s issue was the best one in months…every page has delicious looking goodies that I can’t wait to make!  This is the first of many things I’ll be trying out from it.

I absolutely love pumpkin anything, and make lot’s of pumpkin treats all through the fall.  The goat cheese frosting is what stood out to me in this recipe, plus the quince compote sounded really interesting, as I’ve never tried quince before!  You could do the cake without the compote, and it is very tasty.  But the compote really makes the cake, I think…it adds a little extra sweetness, and is a nice light balance with the heaviness of the cake and frosting.   The frosting isn’t super sweet, which I love, but for you sweet tooths out there, I would add a little more powdered sugar.  The batter is very thick-not a typical cake batter.  And it took mine much longer to bake than 35 minutes-more like 45.  But the oven I was using wasn’t completely accurate, so make sure you check it at 35 first!

I made this for my Aunt Annie’s 70th birthday party, and we were at my mom’s house down in central Illinois, so I had to “rough it” while baking.  I only had a hand mixer, and the lighting in her kitchen is pretty dim.  She hates cooking (although her kitchen is beautiful!), so she doesn’t have all the luxuries I’m used to.  However, it was lucky that I was there because she has 8″ cake pans, and I don’t!  So it worked out perfectly.

I am definitely going to make this particular cake recipe a regular for fall!  I love the addition of fresh ginger.  I usually make a pumpkin cake at least once every fall season, and the one I’ve been using isn’t nearly as good!  It would also be a good recipe to use for brunch muffins…plain, no frosting or topping.


Pumpkin Layer Cake
from Martha Stewart Living November 2010 issue

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans and parchment
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups solid packed pumpkin (from one 14.5 oz. can)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Brush two 8-inch round cake pans with butter; line with circles of parchment, and brush with butter. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Which together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt.
2. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin; add vanilla and ginger. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk, and beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down side of bowl as needed. Divide batter between pans.
3. Bake cakes until golden brown, pulling away from sides of pans, and until a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes (mine took about 10-12 minutes longer than that!).  Let cool in pans set on wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert cakes on to racks. Let cool.
4. evenly spread half the goat cheese frosting on top of 1 cake. Top with the second cake, and frost top with the remaining frosting. Top cake with some quince-ginger compote, and serve remainder on the side.

Goat Cheese Frosting

Makes 3 cups.

1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Beat cheeses until combined. Gradually add sugar, and beat until smooth and creamy.

Quince-Ginger Compote

Overly ripe quinces may not retain their shape as the simmer, so it’s best to use ones that have just ripened.

3 cups off-dry white wine, such as Riesling
1 1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (from one 2-inch piece)
3 lbs just ripened quince, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Bring wine, water, sugar, and ginger to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add quinces. (Add more water if needed to cover fruit.) reduce heat, and simmer gently until quinces are tender, 25 to 45 minutes, depending on ripeness of fruit.
2. Transfer quinces to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Bring liquid in saucepan to a simmer, and cook until slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. (This part took me about 15-20 minutes…you really need to cook it down quite a bit to get the right consistency. Remove and discard ginger. Stir in lemon juice. Pour syrup over quinces. Let stand until cool. Refrigerate if desired.