Top 10 of 2014!

It’s cliché, but it is hard to believe another year is over.  I’m happy to say I met my goal and did a lot more baking this year than last year.  This year I tried many new things.  There were some amazing results and some horrendous flops!  I like to post about them all, because not everything turns out and that’s ok, frustrating, but ok.

Here are what I think to be my best of 2014 as well as a few honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

I have 2 honorable mentions this year.  The first being, I was a judge at a Butter Tart Taste off!  It was an amazing day and I was so honored to be part of it.

20140503_135753

Second honorable mention is for my favourite cake this year.  I really liked how the Camera Cake turned out

20140528_221331

Here is a list of what I picked as my favourites of 2014

10.   S’mores Cups

20140612_090954

These little delights are so easy and very so tasty.  I first had S’mores Cups at the Relay for Life.  One of our team members brought them and I was hooked.  I searched the recipe and made them as soon as possible.  I am not a fan of real S’mores, but these are great!

9. Snickers Popcorn

20140717_192120

This is something I wasn’t entirely sure I would like.  Amy and I were having a baking day, cheesecake was our main delight of the day.  We needed something that didn’t need to be cooked for a family dessert.  Amy picked Snickers Popcorn. Unreal!  It was delicious, and so addicting!  I could not stop. 3 days later when the humidity had got to it I was still wolfing it into me. Excellent and will make again!  It always helps to have someone else to bring you out of your baking comfort zone.  I would have never tried this, but love it!  Thanks Amy!

8. Toffee Cheesecake

20140724_134737

This Toffee Cheesecake was made with the toffee candy I make, kinda like a Skor bar.  This was really good.  I’d definitely make this one again.

7.  Strawberry Pie

20140629_124309

I am starting to get the hang of this pie thing, my crust is improving.  This was my first Strawberry Pie.  It was good.  It got rave reviews from the pie fans of the family, and I admit, I liked it too.

6. OCC #6

20140818_193454

I have been slacking on my Oatmeal Cookie Challenge.  I have been searching for a very long time for ‘my favourite’ cookie. This Oatmeal Cookie is definitely in the running.  It has a great texture, holds its height and had great flavour. The best part? This recipe makes one cookie! Give it a try.

5. Cherry Pie

20140714_154812

This pie was amazing! Hard to believe 2 pies made the list this year.  I’d say this was the perfect Cherry Pie. Hope I can duplicated it next year.

4. Pumpkin Cake

20141013_140940

I am not normally a fan of pumpkin stuff but this Pumpkin Cake was good!  What made it was the cinnamon cream cheese icing. Amazing combination.  It was a huge hit at Thanksgiving.

3. Toffee Chocolate Bars

IMG_6428

These were amazing! I found these Toffee Chocolate Bars on Pinterest.  The picture caught my eye and I knew I had to make it.  They were a huge success.  I loved them.  The gooey middle layer was fantastic and I loved the sugary base.  Definitely worth a try.

2. Pecan Pie Cheesecake

IMG_6797

This Pecan Pie Cheesecake was by far the best Cheesecake I have ever made! The sweet pecan filling went perfect with the creamy cheesecake top.  This got rave reviews and topped everyone’s list as their favourite cheesecake.  You must try it!

1. Christmas Pudding with White Sauce

IMG_6771

Even though I just made this a few days ago, it was by far the best thing I made this year.  Not only was the Christmas Pudding absolutely delicious, but it brought back a family tradition that I can to carry on for many years to come.

I hope everyone had a great year and here’s to a wonderful 2015 filled with many delicious sweet treats!

 

Cherry Pie

20140712_155603

 

Another pie, this is the 3rd in 3 weeks!  I know, I have went on and on, in the past, about how I hated making pies.  Since then I have learned how to make a good crust, that seems to work out every time!  Everyone else in my family loves pie so they are always eager to try something new.

20140712_155625

This time I wanted to make a cherry pie.  The cherries are amazing this year and I figured I would give it a try.  After buying and extra basket of cherries everyone told me, ‘you can’t make cherry pie with those cherries!’ What?!?! To me a cherry is a cherry, beyond the fresh ones at the market and the maraschino ones you get in the jar I really didn’t know there were more.  Apparently there are.  Rumor is that you can ONLY make a pie with sour cherries.  At this point I am a little flustered as I have no idea what I am going to do with all of these cherries!

When I got home I take to the web in search of some baking answers, “can you make a pie with sweet cherries?”  YES, YES you can!!! There were tones of recipes out there, also tones for the sour cherries.  I’ll show them!….I hope….

This one I did follow a recipe, with so many people rooting against me I figure I better follow something!

Sweet Cherry Pie

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Sweet cherries
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3  cup caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoons cream
Your favourite pie dough

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF

2. I never know how much fruit to use and many of my pie dishes are different sizes.  This is how I measure how many cherries to use.  This many!

20140714_074609

3. Thoroughly wash and dry cherries

20140714_074719

4. Using your favourite pie dough, roll out and prepare your crust (I forgot to get a picture of this step)

5. Stem and pit the cherries.  This was something I had never done before.  When I eat cherries I always just spit them in a cup (classy I know).  As there were so many of them I looked up different ways of going about it.  I was quite surprised to learn there is an actual cherry pitter! It’s quite the tool. As a gadget freak like myself I may look into it.  I settled on these 3, a knife, a piping tip and an orange peeler.  They made it look so easy.

20140714_075154

The piping tip seemed like the best option to me, made total sense.

Using a very small tip (I used #2) place tip up and insert into stem hole

20140714_075236

Press down until pit pops out the top…..Not quite! I felt the tip slip off

20140714_075303

Tried a bigger one #5

20140714_075400

Not much better

20140714_075428

On to Plan B – the end of an orange peeler.  Just dig it out

20140714_075637

It worked, but was very time consuming and messy

20140714_075647

Plan C – My idea, a knife.  I treated it like an avocado.

Slice around the edges

20140714_081410

Twist and pull apart

20140714_081430

Pick out the pit

Prefect!

20140714_081440

I thought I would be an hour doing this – with this method – max 15 minutes

20140714_081821

6. In a large bowl combine cherries, almond extract, lemon, salt, sugar and corn starch

20140714_085154

7. Pour into your prepared pie shell

20140714_085546

8. Create a vented top, lattice or other

9. Lightly beat egg and cream. Bush over the crust

20140714_090306

 

10. Bake at 400ºF for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350ºF continue baking until golden brown and centre is bubbling.

It’s far from pretty

20140714_154316

 

11. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.  I am praying that the pie has set and I don’t end up with cherry soup!

20140714_154519

YAAAY!  No soup!

20140714_154653

Look at that!

20140714_154857

I would like to say YES you can make a pie with sweet cherries!  This pie was delicious!  I’ll be honest, I have nothing to compare it to because I have never had cherry pie but I can’t imagine it any better.

20140714_154956

The crust was rich and flaky and the filling was delightful.  Even though they were sweet cherries there was still quite a bit of tang, but not too much it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  The pie set perfectly, a slight run but not soupy.

I think I am getting the hang of this pie thing.  I may, and that is a big may be converted to a pie person.  I ate the entire piece!

20140714_155259

 

 

 

Strawberry Pie

20140629_093126

It is a wonderful time of year here in Ontario, all of the fresh local fruit is hitting the farmers markets.  Due to the very long winter we had this year, the crops are a little later than usual.  I was quite pleased with this years strawberries, they were delicious!

With my new found talent of making pie crust I thought I would give Strawberry Pie a whirl.  I had never made one before, so why not, eh.

Having never made a strawberry pie I took to the web to look for a recipe.  After reading about 80 (quite literally) recipes and debates over how to thicken the pie, which I might add some people have very strong feelings about, I decided to just wing it.

 

My Strawberry Pie

Strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp, heaped corn starch
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg white
Your favourite pie dough

Directions:

1. I had no idea how many strawberries to use, so I used this many.  Just heaped the pie plate.

20140629_093324

2. Hull, wash and slice strawberries

20140629_094358

3. In a large bowl coat strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar.  Toss to make sure each berry is coated.

20140629_094448

4. Transfer to a sieve, for about a half hour, and allow some of the natural juices to drain – this makes for a less soupy pie

20140629_110336

5. Return berries to the large bowl, combine, corn starch, salt and castor sugar – stir well to coat berries

20140629_110610

6. Dump into your prepared pie dish

20140629_111324

 

7. Be creative and add a vented top to your pie.  I make them different every time.  Brush edges with egg whites to seal the crust.  Brush top crust and sprinkle with sugar, optional

20140629_112026

8.  Bake at 425ºF for 15 minutes.  Lower temperature to 350ºF for approximately 35 minutes or until crust is golden to your desired ‘doneness’

20140629_124309

 

Looks delicious!  This pie was for dessert when my grandparents came for dinner.  I was a bit nervous as I had never made one of these before and my Gramma used to make quite a few pies.  Poppa is a bit of a pie connoisseur, he loves his pie, so this one had some high standards to live up to.  I actually made a second dessert as back up in case this was a flop!

No flop here! This pie was as delicious as it looked.  Crust was perfectly flaky and tender.  The strawberry filling was great, it had a perfect consistency (according to Gramma).  Gramma said it was like the pies her Mom used to make, 🙂 Poppa said it was delicious and took the rest home.  I thought it was good. I am not a huge pie fan, or fruit in my dessert, but I ate a small piece so must have been good.   We were so into it, I forgot to take a picture after it was sliced!

Raisin Pie, Again

20140704_130742

 

I have not posted in quite some time, not because I have not been baking but because I was without my laptop!  Man, that was rough!  It is amazing how much I rely on this thing.  Anyways, all back up and running and excited to post what I have made.

We have been experiencing some ridiculously hot weather of late, 35ºC+ and I do not have air conditioning, makes for a hot house when baking.  Luckily it cooled down for a few days and I was able to make a few treats.

I asked my Poppa what he would like and he requested his favourite (and mine), raisin pie.  As mentioned in the initial Raisin Pie post, the recipe is secret, but I tried something new with the crust so I posted again.

Now that I am good at making crust I don’t mind making pies at all, in fact it is kind of fun, it is a whole new world for me.

As nice as it looks I strongly dislike doing a lattice top on my pie.  Cutting all the strips the same, weaving and lining up…blah.  In an attempt to make it look nice and still have the ventilation needed I used a cookie cutter and just placed the dough randomly on top.  I made it close to Canada day so I went with the Maple Leaf.

20140704_122527

I also made a few tarts.  I wanted some of the pie, but hate giving away a pie with a few pieces out of it, just looks tacky, haha.  This seemed like a good solution.

20140704_122557

I love how it still bubbles right out of the oven

20140704_130717

Looks pretty good

20140704_130753

Tarts came out pretty good as well

20140704_130804

Filling was perfect

20140704_183450

Oh my goodness these were delicious!  The crust was bang on, tender and flaky.

Looking forward to the fresh fruit season, the pie possibilities are endless!!!

Successful Raisin Pie!

20140418_141339

I think I have mastered the perfect raisin pie!  I made the perfect filling with Gramma’s assistance, she made the crust.  Then I made a great crust (not quite like Gramma, but excellent for me!).  Yesterday I put the two together and got this amazing Raisin Pie.  Yes, there are little bunnies on the top crust, I just didn’t have it in me to make a lattice top.  This just made it that much more of an Easter dessert 😉

20140418_115155

 

The filling was amazing, and the crust was quite good, very flaky

20140418_141403

 

Now I just have to learn how to make some more fillings, fresh fruit season will be here very soon.

 

Tenderflake Pie Crust

IMG_5631

I am a bearer for punishment, I am back trying another daunting pie crust.  I will not give up!  The last recipe I went with butter, I just assumed as with most things, butter is better!  WRONG!  It was awful.  This time I am going with Gramma’s suggestion ‘must use Tenderflake!’ Gramma has always made amazing pie crust.  I should have asked her last time but I was trying to surprise them with an amazing pie…..boy did that flop.  Always ask the experts and LISTEN to them!

After deciding to go with Gramma’s suggestion, I still went to the internet to ‘see’ how it was done. Even though Gramma told me what to do, I need to see it in pictures.  I am such a visual learner, hence all the pictures I put in my posts. I like to see each step and the final product.  I will often pass right by a recipe if there are no pictures, it just does not work for me.  I am sure there are people who are just the opposite to me and can’t stand all the pictures I post.  Anyways..back to the pie crust.  After watching a few videos and looking at many blogs (researching I guess) I decided to go with “The Tenderflake Pie Crust Recipe” with Gramma’s tips and suggestions.

Tenderflake Recipe for Pie Crust

 
From inside of the Tenderflake Lard Package

Ingredients

5½ cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 lb Tenderflake® lard
1 tbsp vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Ice Water
 
Yield: 3 9-inch double crust pies or 6 pie shells. (I got 2)
 
Instructions

1. Whisk together flour and salt.

IMG_5526
 
2. Cut in Tenderflake with pastry blender or 2 knives until the lard is pea sized within the flour.

 
IMG_5592
IMG_5593
 
3. In a 1 cup measure combine the vinegar and egg.

 
IMG_5527
 
4. Add the ice water to make 1 cup.

 
IMG_5594
 
 
5. Gradually stir liquid into Tenderflake mixture, adding only enough liquid to make dough cling together.

 
IMG_5532
 
6. Gently gather the dough into a ball and divide into 6 equal portions. (i did 4)

 
7. Wrap the portions and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes (if you are using right away) or freeze for future use.

 
IMG_5610
 
8. When you are ready to use and the dough has chilled for at least another 15 minutes, roll out each portion on lightly floured surface. If the dough is sticking, chill again for another hour or two. The dough must be cold to be flaky!
9. Transfer the prepared dough to pie plate.

 
IMG_5611
 
IMG_5612
IMG_5613
10. Trim and flute shells or crusts and bake according to your pie recipe.

 
This time I went with Apple Pie.  Mom and Poppa both really enjoy apple pie, so I figured it would give it a go.  I found the filling recipe at Canadialiving.com – Grandma Thompson;s Prize-Winnning Apple Pie.

 

Apple Pie

adapted from Canadianliving.com

Filling:

8 apples, (such as McIntosh or Northern Spy)about 3 lb (1.5 kg)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsps cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt

Directions:
 
1. Peel and core apples; cut into 1/4-inch thick slices and place in large bowl.
IMG_5614
2. In a small bowl, toss together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
IMG_5615
 
3. Add to apples and toss to coat.

 
IMG_5616
 

4. On lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pastry to generous 1/8-inch thickness; fit into 9-inch pie plate. Trim to leave 3/4-inch

 
5. Scrape filling into pie shell
 
IMG_5617
 

6. Roll out remaining pastry.

 
7. Whisk egg yolk with 1 tbsp  water; brush over pastry rim.

 
IMG_5620
 
8. Fit pastry over filling; trim to leave 3/4-inch overhang.

 
IMG_5623
 
9. Brush egg mixture over pastry. Cut steam vents in top10. Bake in bottom third of 450°F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F; bake for 65 minutes or until bottom is deep golden and filling is bubbling and thickened.

 
IMG_5624
 
11. Let cool on rack. (Make-ahead: Set aside for up to 24 hours.)

 
IMG_5636
It looked fantastic, the crust browned up nicely and looked flaky, BUT the last one LOOKED GOOD too!   And now we wait for dessert…

 
SUCCESS!!!!!

 
IMG_5645
This crust was great! it was light, flaky and delicious!  I don’t think it will win any prizes, but there were no complaints with this one.  Poppa gave the ‘ok’ sign, and said it was much better!  Also, the filling was quite nice as well.  Who knows, maybe I’ll have a future full of pies!
 
 
Categories Pie

Pie Crust – Attempt #1

IMG_5379

Raisin Pie….Just like Gramma?

From past posts it is obvious that I am NOT a pie maker!  I can’t seem to make a nice crust.  To be honest, I am really not a pie fan, so I have not taken the time to learn how to make a good one.

Poppa has been asking for a raisin pie for a few months now, and the expert (Gramma) has not taken the bait.   I decide I would jump in with two feet and ATTEMPT a raisin pie, just like Gramma.  About a year ago I made raisin pie with Gramma, but she already had her amazing crust made, we just did the pie filling.

I love making new things but I am terrified about this one.  1) It’s for Poppa, 2) it’s Gramma’s recipe, hope I do it justice, 3) I don’t make pie!, every attempt prior to this I have been unhappy with.  People tell me it’s good, but I know it is not.  I would so much rather someone tell me it is not good, or they don’t like it, then them lie about it!

So I strike into the world wide web in search of a rich and flaky pie crust, there had to be a million, which one to choose? Many are similar with slight variations.  The one big debate I fond was whether to use butter or lard.  I read about both, watched a few YouTube videos and decided to go with butter, because what isn’t better with butter?  I settled on a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.  I had tried a few of the recipes from that website in the past that were amazing!  This recipe gave many tips and explanations and it was also very simple, very few ingredients….now to see if it is as wonderful as said to be.

Pie Crust

From Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

Directions:

1. Fill a 1 cup measure with water and add a few ice cubes or put in the freezer while you get the rest of your ingredients read

2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt

IMG_5348

3. Cube butter and add to flour mixture.  Cut in with pastry cutter.  ( I had to go on the hunt for this, way back at the back of the drawer, again, I don’t make pie)

IMG_5353

4. Cut until butter is pea size, you want visible butter

IMG_5354

5. Start by drizzling 1/2 cup  of the cold water over the butter and flour mixture.

IMG_5356

6. Using spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there .

IMG_5358

7. Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together

IMG_5359

8. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 1 hour

IMG_5366

9. 3 hours later. Roll out and prepare for your pie filling.  I followed my Gramma’s Raisin Pie Recipe that I made with her last year

Looks pretty good!

IMG_5368

10. Bake until golden brown

IMG_5375

Looks delicious!

IMG_5374

At this point I am so excited!  The pie looks fantastic and smells even better.  I can hardly wait for it to cool for dessert.  When I brought the pie down to my parents for supper everyone was thrilled that I made pie, especially Poppa!  They all know my past problems with pie, by the looks of this one we were quite optimistic.

Mom cooked a fantastic supper, as always, but we all saved room for a piece of pie. Time for dessert!!! There were many ooohh’s, and ahhh’s when I brought the pie to the table……..and it all went down hill from there…..

The high point of this pie was the look of it.  Looks pretty good doesn’t it? Well, our eyes were the only things that were impressed!

I went to cut into the crust, it wouldn’t cut!!! after several attempts I resorted to a bread knife, FOR PIE!!  It was then that my heart sank, and we had a bit of a laugh about it.

IMG_5384

Everyone gets a piece before me, as I am serving. Poppa is eating it up, Gramma is picking away at it, and says it is good.  Dad is eating it, says the inside is awesome but the crust is no good (finally someone is honest) and Mom said no good! I finally get my piece, awful!!!!  Worst. Crust. Ever!  I couldn’t even eat it!  Poppa was a trooper, he ate the whole thing, dunno how he did it.  We all agreed that the filling was fantastic!  I have definitely nailed Gramma’s raisin pie FILLING.  I don’t know what I did wrong, but this didn’t even taste like crust, it kind of reminded me of puff pastry, awful puffed pastry I might add.  I am glad others had success with this recipe but unfortunately I did not!

As Poppa said “don’t give up!” and I wont.  It did make for some good laughs and a story to remember.

So….Raisin Pie….not so much like Gramma’s

Anyone have a pie crust recipe to share???  PLEASE!!!