French Silk Chocolate Pie

ATK's French silk pie

I’m sorry to have been absent this month.  I am very excited to have a great, new FT job!!  Then I also have my PT teaching job, three children, a husband, a dog….so, as you can imagine, November has been a bit busy. But, in a great way! 😀

I am happy to be the November hostess for What’s Baking.   I chose pie for the theme, figuring with Thanksgiving and all, it would be very fitting.  This year, we went to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving and of course, I was in charge of dessert.  I decided to make a French silk pie because it has been my favorite ever since I was a little girl and my grandpa would bring one from Baker’s Square every time he visited.  I hadn’t made it since college, then  using a Pillsbury pie crust and a recipe with raw eggs.  But, with three kids, I figured this would just not do.  So, I thought the cooked version from ATK would be the perfect solution. And, I would scrap the store-bought crust and make my own pastry crust.  Oh, I always have grand plans…

So, I set off to make Martha’s pastry crust that I made last Thanksgiving.  But, I either forgot or didn’t read the directions carefully that the prepared crust had to be refrigerated for 1 hour before baking.  At this point, it was already noon and there was no time for that. So, I just put the crust in the oven as is and hoped for the best. When time was up, to my dismay, the crust totally shrunk down to about 1/2 inch tall.  Yeah, no way was this crust going to hold the French silk filling.  Oh, geez.  Now what?  Thank goodness we had some Oreos and so I made a quick cookie crust.  Problem solved.

For the filling, you will need a hand mixer to beat the eggs and sugar over a double boiler for ~8 minutes until they reach 160 degrees.  Midway through this process, my husband yelled for me to come upstairs.  He didn’t sound too happy, so I turned off the stove, put the mixer down, and went upstairs.  There I see Justin, holding Alex with blue, purple and green marker all over his face, hands, and the walls of his bedroom. Apparently Alex crawled out of his bed after his nap, found his sister’s markers, and decided that he and his room were in need of a makeover.  So, Justin had to put out that fire, while I went back to my pie.  Luckily, the rest of it went off without a hitch.

The pie was ready just in time to leave for my mother-in-law’s house.  I hadn’t made the whipped cream and chocolate curls yet, but the kitchen was all a bustle in apps, turkey and sides preparation.  So, I figured I should have an apple bourbon drink and just wait until after dinner to finish my pie.  But, the problem is, I cannot take pictures inside.  No matter how I adjust the white balance on my camera or how I edit it, I cannot get the color right on indoor pictures.  Of course, after dinner it was dark, so I didn’t get a photo 😦  But, this pie was crazy delicious and went fast.  So, what the heck, I would just have to make another one.  I mean, after all, I was hosting What’s Baking, I chose the theme of pie and then I had no pie?  This could not be.  I can think of many worse things than having to eat two French silk pies in one week.

French Silk Chocolate Pie

Yield: one 9 inch pie

For the crust:

18 Oreo cookies

3 Tbsp melted butter

Place cookies in the food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Pour in the butter and process until well combined.

Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up the sides of 9-inch pie plate.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is fragrant, ~ 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Source: I combined the recipes from Martha Stewart New Pies and Tarts and Kraft.

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened

With an electric mixer on med-high, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks, ~2 to 3 minutes. Put the whipped cream in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Prepare a double boiler with a medium-sized saucepan filled with ½ inch of barely simmering water and place a large heat proof bowl on top. Put the eggs, sugar, and water into the bowl.  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until the egg mixture is thick and registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer, ~ 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat.  Continue to beat the egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, ~ 8 minutes.

Add the cool chocolate and vanilla to the cool egg mixture. Beat until incorporated. Beat in the softened butter pieces, a few at a time, until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape the filling into the pie shell. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls if desired.

Source:  Cook’s Country Feb/March 2009

For the sweetened whipped cream topping:

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Chocolate curls, if desired

With an electric mixer on med-high, whisk cream just until soft peaks form.  Add confectioner’s sugar and whisk until stiff peaks.  Spread whipped cream over the chocolate filling.

Garnish with chocolate curls just before serving if desired.  To do this, heat a thick bar of milk chocolate in the microwave for 15 second increments until it softens a bit, but doesn’t melt. Use a peeler along the long side of the chocolate bar to make the curls.  Don’t worry, it’s easier than it looks.

 Source: Martha Stewart New Pies and Tarts

Whats Baking Badge

Really Good Pumpkin Bread

Fall is here, so that means the wait is finally over.  It is now time to break out the pumpkin!  And just in time, I got the new Cook’s Illustrated magazine and saw a recipe for “really good pumpkin bread”.  Well, that sounds like a challenge to me.  Is it really good pumpkin bread?  I need to find out.  The weird thing about this recipe is that you actually cook the canned pumpkin.  This sort of takes the quick out of quick bread, but according to CI, it is supposed to remove the raw, tinny taste of canned pumpkin.  I never noticed that before, but whatever, I went with it.  I’m sure it also concentrates the pumpkin flavor, which can only be a good thing.  You add the usual fall spices of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, which together make the house smell absolutely amazing as the bread bakes.  You then sprinkle the batter with a delicious cinnamon streusel which gives a nice crunch and spicy sweetness to the top of the bread.

Jack and Sammie wouldn’t even try it.  Oh well, their loss.  My husband, Justin, a pumpkin bread connoisseur, loved it.  He said it wasn’t as dense as other pumpkin breads, but in a good way.  The baby also loved it.  I gave Alex a small piece at a time, so as not to make a big mess.  He kept coming back and enthusiastically using his hands to sign for more.  So is this really good pumpkin bread?  Yes, of course.  I mean, at least in my experience, the folks at Cook’s Illustrated are never wrong.

Really Good Pumpkin Bread

Yield: two 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaves (or you can use two 9×5 inch pans, but check for doneness 5 minutes early)

For the Topping: 

5 tablespoons packed (2 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

Using your fingers, mix all five ingredients together in small bowl until well combined.  The topping should look like wet sand.  Set aside.

For the bread:

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces

4 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine   I omitted

Adjust oven rack to the middle and preheat to 350F. Spray two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray (Pam).  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, ~ 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes so the cream cheese can melt. Whisk until you can’t see pieces of cream cheese and mixture is homogeneous.

Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to pumpkin mixture. Whisk to combine. Gently fold the flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined (some small lumps of flour are okay). Fold walnuts into batter, if using. Scrape the batter, half into each of the two sprayed pans. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, ~ 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove the breads from the pans. Let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source:  Cook’s Illustrated September/October 2012

Fresh lime sherbet

When I was a kid, my favorite flavor at the ice cream shop was rainbow sherbet.  I was one of the weird kids who picked through the sherbet not for the orange or the raspberry.  Nope, I loved the lime.  So, I had a bunch of limes to use and I found this recipe for fresh lime sherbet.  Perfect.  All lime, so no picking through rainbow sherbet for the good stuff.  I had never made sherbet before.  And, even though it sounds all fancy, it really isn’t any harder than making homemade ice cream.  After countless times of stinging hands and burning eyes from hand juicing citrus, I finally broke down and bought a juicer.  I know. What had I been waiting for?  This made the juicing process so much easier.  But, then I had to go ahead and somehow zest off part of two of my knuckles.  Ouch.  But, Sammie kissed them and now they are all better. 😀

According to ATK, sherbet is a cross between sorbet and ice cream, containing fruit, sugar, and dairy, but no egg yolks.  It should taste vibrant and fresh like sorbet, be smooth in texture but not heavy like ice cream.  So, how do you do make lime sorbet?  The first step is grinding the lime zest (Don’t worry. I only used the zest, pre-accident 😀 ) with the sugar and salt in the food processor to release the oils.  You then then add lime juice mixed with water (to reduce the acidity) and strain it so the sherbet is totally smooth.  The lime mixture is added to heavy cream that has been whipped to create the light texture.  You then churn the base in your ice cream maker and freeze it at least 3 hours before eating.  Ugh.  Three hours is a long time.  But, let me tell you, it was so worth the wait.  The sherbet is super creamy and tastes so unbelievably bold with fresh lime flavor.  Are you looking for the perfect, refreshing dessert to complete a delicious summer meal?  Well, I’m thinking this is it.

Fresh Lime Sherbet

Yield: 1 quart

1 tablespoon lime zest
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons vodka or Triple Sec (I used vodka)
2/3 cup heavy cream

Process the zest, sugar and salt in your food processor until it’s damp, 10 to 15 one second pulses.  Combine the lime juice and water in a large measuring cup.  With the machine running, add the juice-water mixture in a slow, steady stream.  Continue to process until the sugar has dissolved completely, about 1 minute.   Strain the mixture through a nonreactive, fine-mesh strainer into a medium, freezer-safe bowl.   Stir in the vodka (or Triple Sec) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill in your freezer until the mixture is very cold (about 40 degrees F), 30 – 60 minutes. Don’t let the mixture freeze.

When the mixture is cold,  using a whisk, whip the heavy ream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Whisking constantly, slowly add the cold juice mixture in a slow, steady steam down the edge of the bowl and into the cream. Immediately start up your ice cream maker and add the juice-cream mixture to the canister; churn until it has the consistency of soft serve ice cream, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Transfer the sherbet to an airtight storage container; press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.  The sherbet can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week.  To serve, let the sherbet sit at room temperature until slightly softened and an instant read thermometer reads 12 to 15 degrees.

Source: The New Best Recipe

Cook’s Illustrated Individual Coffeecakes

My kids just love those little Hostess Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cakes.  I have to admit, I kind of love them too. 😀  When I saw this recipe for individual coffeecakes in The Quick Recipe, that’s exactly what it reminded me of.  You get the same soft, fluffy little cakes perfectly complemented by a sweet, cinnamon streusel ribbon.  So good.  I just love that you can have warm coffee cake muffins on the table in a mere 45 minutes!!  I also love that you can just grab one and go and not make a total mess because the streusel is contained on the inside.  You should see my kids faces after they eat, well, just about anything. So, that’s always a plus for me.

My son, Jack, for the first time in his 6 years of life, slept until 9am!  I was upstairs with a hot pad on my aching back from carrying around my little butterball baby, Alex, all the time.  So I didn’t get to see him eat one.  Later, when I asked him if he liked the muffins, he said they were so good.  Who made them?  Come on silly, Jack.  Who do you think made them?  They must be pretty delicious because usually when I try to make a homemade replica of something I buy in the store, my kids don’t like it.  It’s just not the same.  Heck no it isn’t the same….it’s better.  But, they never see it that way.  In this case, I’m sure the chocolate chips and the glaze tipped the scales in my favor.  Sorry, Hostess.

Cook’s Illustrated Individual Coffeecakes

Yield:  12 cakes

1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour   DIVIDED

1/2 cup  packed (3.5oz) dark brown sugar    DIVIDED    I used light

1 cup (7oz) granulated sugar

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

semisweet chocolate chips- (to sprinkle on top of the streusel)   optional

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350F.  Spray a standard muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and all of the granulated sugar in the work bowl of a food processor.  Combine the mixture in five 1 second pulses.  Remove 3/4 cup of the mixture and place it in a medium bowl.  Add to it the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and the cinnamon, mix to combine, set aside.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour to the mixture remaining in the food processor work bowl along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Combine the mixture in five 1 second pulses.  Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture breaks down into small pebbly pieces that resemble wet sand, about ten one second pulses.  Add the eggs and sour cream and process the mixture until it is well combined and thick, about eight 1 second pulses.

Place enough batter (about 2 TBSP) into each muffin cup to cover the bottom surface of the cup, but rise no more than 1/2 inch up the sides.  Sprinkle with about 1 1/2 Tbsp streusel mixture over the batter.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top if using.  I used mini chocolate chips for half the batch.  I didn’t use all the streusel.  Cover with an additional 1 to 2 Tbsp of batter, or enough to fill the cup to 3/4 full.  Bake until light golden brown and the cake feels firm, but springs back when touched, 20 to 24 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time.  Invert the cakes onto a wire rack and cool 5 minutes.  Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with Quick Confectioners’ Sugar Icing below..Serve immediately.

Quick Confectioners’ Sugar Icing:

1 cup (4 oz) confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp water

I added a splash of vanilla

Whisk the powdered sugar, water and vanilla together (if using) in a medium bowl until smooth.  Place a piece of wax paper underneath the wire rack of cakes. Spoon about 2 tsp glaze on top of each upside down cake (narrow end facing up).  Make an X in the glaze so it runs down the sides of the cake in 4 places.  I prefer to drizzle the glaze on top.

Source The Quick Recipe

Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes

Strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit.  Unfortunately, you can’t get great fresh strawberries year round.  Now that strawberries are in season, I made sure to pick some up at the grocery store so I could make a dessert highlighting them.  I wasn’t sure what though, so I pulled a few books off the shelf, including Cook’s Country 2006 annual, and found these brown sugar berry shortcakes.  I just loved the idea of using brown sugar to sweeten the berries, the shortcakes and the whipped cream.  While these shortcakes may look difficult to make, the dough comes together rather quickly in the food processor.  Some of the berries are crushed and sweetened to make a sauce for the berries and then you make sweetened whipped cream.  A few steps maybe, but all of them actually quick and easy.

I honestly don’t think I have ever had real strawberry shortcake.  Before today, strawberry shortcake to me was one of those little sponge cake cups that come in plastic wrap sold by produce, topped with strawberries and Cool Whip.  When I asked my daughter, Sammie, if she liked strawberry shortcake, she told me, “Yes, I love HER!”  So, I guess we were both a little confused.  But, at least, I have been corrected.  I will not make that mistake again.  These are strawberry shortcakes.  Period.  😀

Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes

Yield:  6 servings

Fruit: 

6 cups of mixed berries (strawberries- hulled, halved and sliced, Raspberries- whole, Blackberries- halved, Blueberries- whole, currants- whole)    I used just strawberries

4-6 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

Shortcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder    Due to the large amount, I recommend using aluminum free for better taste.

1/2 tsp salt

8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled

1 large egg

1/2 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp unsalted butter melted (to brush shortcakes)

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Brown-Sugar Cream Topping

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For the fruit: 

Crush 6 cups berries and brown sugar in a large bowl with a potato masher.  Fold in the remaining 4 cups of berries and let sit at room temperature until sugar has dissolved and berries are juicy, about 30 minutes.

For the shortcakes:

Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and preheat oven to 375F.  Line rimmed sheet with parchment paper.  Pulse flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until no lumps of sugar remain.  Scatter chilled butter pieces over the top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 7 pulses.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Whisk egg and sour cream together in a small bowl.  Stir into flour mixture with a rubber spatula until large clumps form.  Using your hands, knead lightly until dough comes together and no dry flecks of flour remain.  Be careful to not overwork to keep your shortcakes tender.

Using a large (#10) ice cream scoop, scoop 6 dough rounds onto the prepared sheet.  If you don’t have a ice cream scoop, do your best to divide into 6 even pieces and use your hands to gently form into semispherical shapes.  Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.  I would start checking at about 20 minutes.  Cool the shortcakes on baking sheet x 10 minutes.  (Cooled shortcakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept on the counter for up to 24 hours.

For the topping:

With an electric mixer, beat heavy cream, sour cream, and brown sugar to stiff peaks.  Split each shortcake in half, using a serrated knife, and place the bottoms onto individual plates.  Spoon some fruit onto the bottoms of each shortcake, top with the whipped cream, and cap with the shortcake tops.  Serve.

Source:  Cook’s Country June/July 2006

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