Category Archives: Pie and Pastry

Foolproof small batch biscuits

Strawberry shortcake

I started writing about strawberry shortcake, but quickly realized that the real star was the the easiest and foolproof small batch biscuits I made. Even if you don’t have strawberries, give the biscuits a try.

Whenever strawberries are in season i always plan on baking with them. Except I always end up eating them straight out of the basket because let’s be honest, it is the best way to eat a nice route strawberry. As a kid i would lightly dip them in sugar before eating them letting the sugar dissolve slightly in my mouth before biting into it.

I’ve been seeing strawberry shortcakes pop up everywhere (June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day) and I got a hankering to make some.

With 2.5 people in the household, I only need a recipe for 2. I found a recipe in my Small-Batch Baking cookbook and made it quickly. The dough was a bit of a disaster and called for too much liquid so I had to add in more flour. The next day when I re-read the recipe, it was me who messed it up. I like to scale all my flour and I ended up only putting half the amount called for. When I re-did the recipe, they turned out, but I liked my accidental ones better! The extra fat made for a delectable buttery biscuit.

With a bit of recipe testing, I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my tastes. The biscuits are foolproof, just pay attention to cues. You’ll want a batter that’s sticky, but not soupy and you’ll want to bake it until it’s a light golden brown. It’s an extremely forgiving recipe and even this “nervous chef” can still turn out a decent one. You can reduce the sugar (omit to make savoury ones) and probably even omit the baking powder and still have them turn out. I halved the flour and so these are a wee bit smaller than the original. If you want a larger biscuit, double the flour and cream, but leave the rest of the ingredients the same. Because it only makes two, you can get creative without worrying too much about ruining a big batch. They’re so fast and easy to make that you can have fresh biscuits everyday like I have for the last 3 days…

Strawberries vary in sweetness so this recipe is very loosely written so you can do everything “to taste”. Super ripe sweet ones won’t need much sugar.

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Butter tarts

Butter tarts

Summer always reminds me of cottages and butter tarts. Butter tarts are of Canadian origin and taste similar to pecan pie, but with runnier filling. Every individual has their own preferences about what makes a good butter tart. For me, I can’t stand raisins in mine while for others it’s essential. Pecans or walnuts and a not too runny filling for me is perfect.

This is the easiest crust to make ever. It uses shortening (lard is even better) so it doesn’t lose its shape. For pie crusts I always use butter, but it’s just not the same when making these tarts. I made minis because it was for a party. After making the mini size I found that I preferred this size better. I only end up eating half of a regular sized one anyway.

Here’s a pro tip for getting out your tarts from your muffin pans: use small strips of parchment at the bottom. All you have to do is pull the tabs.

This recipe is a mash up of 2 of Anna Olson’s butter tart recipes.

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Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie

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Originally published at Sweetspot.ca.

Pumpkin pie sits high on the list of my favourite treats and it’s a Thanksgiving staple for me.

I chose a recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The cookbook is filled with (over 300!) of her most treasured recipes. It’s a hefty book and I love the details that she puts into the recipes such as storing and serving instructions.

A sour cream pumpkin tart is a nice twist on the traditional pie. The added sour cream makes it extra creamy and by making it into a tart transforms this to an elegant dish. There will be extra filling for you to make mini tarts.

I found this pie subtle in spice and that the rum gave it a good spike of flavour. This dessert is worthy of being on any Thanksgiving menu.

What are some of your favourite Thanksgiving traditions?

Sweet Tart Dough

Makes enough for one 9-inch crust

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer—it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

In French, this dough is called pâte sablée because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that’s what sablée means). It’s much like shortbread, and it’s ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.

The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan. You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners’ sugar makes it finicky to roll. I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover (see page 491 of the book).

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)

very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed—press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress—it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

Filling

2 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Lightly whipped lightly sweetened cream, for topping

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sour cream

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons dark rum

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat and put the pie plate (or tart pan) on it.

Put all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and process for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Alternatively, you can whisk the ingredients together vigorously in a mixing bowl. Rap the work bowl or mixing bowl against the counter to burst any surface bubbles, and pour the filling into the crust.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F and continue to bake for 35 to 45 minutes longer (20 to 25 minutes for a tart), or until a knife inserted close to the center comes out clean. If you don’t want to create a slash in your masterpiece, tap the pan gently—if the custard doesn’t jiggle, or only jiggles a teensy bit in the very center, it’s done. Transfer the pie (or tart) to a rack and cool to room temperature.

Serving: Pumpkin pie and whipped cream are naturals, and if you’ve tested the pie’s doneness with a knife, you might want to serve the whipped cream as a cover-up. I like this pie chilled, but others are fans of it at room temperature—decide for yourself.

Storing: Like most pies, this one is best served the day it is made. However, you can make the pie early in the day and keep it refrigerated until needed.

Kitchen tips:

For the smoothest pumpkin pie, process the filling in a food processor.

Spices lose their potency after awhile. To get the best flavour, make sure your spices are fresh.

If you can, splurge and use good rum as you will be able to taste the difference.

 

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Spicy Pumpkin Pie

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

I may have missed baking a pumpkin pie for Canadian Thanksgiving, but at least I’m in time for the American one.

This is from King Arthur Flour. Apparently Canadians prefer their pumpkin pies spicier compared to their American counterparts. I’m a fan of the spicier ones myself. Do you have a preference?

The flavours meld much better the next day. If I had to serve this, I’d make the pie one day in advance.

Recipe here.

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Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

I always get suckered when I see things claiming to be the “best”. I then feel obligated to try it and to see if the claim is true. Most of the time I’m pretty disappointed with the outcome.

So when I saw the cook book Beat This saying that it had the best recipes, I had to test it out.

With strawberry season at full peak, the strawberry pie recipe was meant to be. Instead of rolling out the crust, you just press it in making the whole process less time consuming. I had doubts that the crust would turn out, but it actually does. The downside? If you haven’t given your pie pan a good greasing, it’ll stick and crumble when you try and slice it out. The dough turned out to be much more powdery looking than I had hoped for. I think you can add a bit of water, but I left mine as is to see if it would turn out (and it did).

Strawberry Pie

After the crust is cooled, the you beat heavy whipping cream and cream cheese that then turns into a light and fluffy filling. The strawberries aren’t baked, so make sure you’re using the best you can find.

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie from Beat This

Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Salt

Filling
3 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Topping
1 quart strawberries, hulled
1/2 cup currant or seedless raspberry jelly

Directions:
1. Have a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Generously butter a 9 inch pie pan.
3. Mix the pastry ingredients together until the dough starts coming together. It will still be a bit powdery looking, but once baked it’ll be fine.
4. Press in the crust and prick it with a fork in a few places.
5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.
6. Whip the cream until soft peaks form and add the other ingredients until combined.
7. Pour into crust, smooth it out and chill for an hour.
8. Put the berries on the filling, points up. Melt the jelly on low heat and use a pastry brush to put the glaze on.
9. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

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