Challenge Accepted: IMPOSSIBLE PIE

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I found this recipe in the newspaper a little while back and thought it looked tempting enough to try. It’s easy peasy and totally delectable but it looks complicated and fancy when you serve it, and it is not a totally overpowering dessert, so you can always have seconds!

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The impossible part of this pie is that you mix everything together all at once and pour the very liquidy batter into your pan for baking, and what comes out ends up having three layers: a sweet fudgy layer at the bottom, a custardy layer in the middle, and the chewy coconut layer on top. Full disclosure: I never achieved the fudgy bottom layer, but I suspect it’s because I used a huge heavy pie pan (because that was the only one I had that was deep enough). Perhaps if you use a thinner pie pan you might have better luck – if not, the pie is still pretty effing good.

Heat your oven to 325°F and spray a 10″ wide and 2″ deep pie pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, and let that come to room temperature. Pro tip: if you only melt the butter halfway, then give it a stir, the melted butter will melt the non-melted butter and the non-melted butter will bring the temperature of the melted butter down faster and you don’t have to wait as long for your super molten burn-y melted butter to cool down. It’s like MAGIC. Or thermodynamics. Either or.

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Grab 4 large eggs out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature by plopping them in a bowl of warm water. While you’re at it, leave 2 cups whole milk (or a combo of milk and cream) out on the counter to warm up too. HEY PRESTO!

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Take 1 lemon and zest it and then juice it. Nothing super magic about that. It’s a lemon for crying out loud.

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Grab yourself a perfectly ordinary food processor (or is it?). Or a blender. Or do this by hand. I prefer the magic of electricity. Plop in your 4 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Then tip in (or do this first, the order doesn’t matter – this is just how I took the photos) 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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THEN tip in (or do this second, or whatever) your 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups whole milk, and lemon juice and zest.

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Give that a good whaz, THEN tip in (and this time it DOES matter the order because this has to happen after the whazzing) 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened dried coconut (I used unsweetened. It was fine.). Stir that around.

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Pour the batter into your prepared pan. There it is, all perfectly ordinary and homogeneous-ish.

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Shove that in your prepared oven (I used my convection toaster oven) and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the top is a golden brown around the edges and you can shove a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean (LIKE IT WAS NEVER DIRTY! AMAZING!).

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Pop that on a wire rack to cool. You can serve this warm but it cuts best if it’s been chilled first, so I recommend that. Keep any leftovers (HA) in the fridge, covered up.

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Even without that fudgy layer, this thing was still ballin’.

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Avocado Chocolate Mousse

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The other thing I made while we were in Florida was this amazingly simple (and kinda sorta almost healthy?) dessert. It was truly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. Now, here’s a caveat: I made it again once we got home to Ottawa and it was NOT as good.

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The avocados up here just aren’t as sweet as they were down south. So make sure you’re making this with the sweetest, ripest avocados you can find.

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But before that, rustle up some chocolate. I have here 7oz dark chocolate. This stuff has a touch of sea salt in it. If you don’t use salty chocolate I’d recommend adding a pinch of the stuff to the recipe. Bust up that chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool a bit.

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Grab yourself 4 ripe avocados.

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Scoop ’em out of the skin and plop them in a food processor. I had to use the baby food processor because that was all I had so I did everything in batches. If you have a normal-sized one then you can do everything in the one container. Tip in a couple tablespoons honey, to your taste. This was lavender flavoured honey and it was quite good.

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Add in as well a teaspoon or two of vanilla, just for flavour (people who think that chocolate and vanilla are binaries and can’t go together are crazypants). BLEND THE CRAPOLA OUT OF IT until you have green smooth lovely goodness.

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Now if you have a regular sized food processor, you can pour the melted chocolate into the avocados and blend, blend, blend. I only had a weenie baby food processor and I ran out of room.

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So here I am folding and whisking all that green and brown amazingness together. NBD.

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If you’re feeling fancy, before you serve the stuff, you can chill it and then whip it with a hand mixer to make it fluffy and moussey. And pipe it into cold pudding dishes.

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That missing spoonful was my uncle doing some Quality Control.

If you’re me you’ll dump giant spoons of it into room temperature dishes, top with whatever berries were in the fridge, and chill until dessert. You can see that my wee baby food processor didn’t do a super amazing job of making the pudding really smooth, but you can do better, right?

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This recipe serves four GENEROUSLY. Like, if you really like rich pudding you’ll eat your serving and love every second of it but kind of want to die afterwards. So maybe make it for six? Also keep in mind that this is best served the same day – we found that the next day the avocado flavour came through too strongly, but that was with the less-sweet avocados so what do I know?

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Molasses Oat Cake with Glazed Pineapple

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If you have checked me out recently on Instagram, you may have noticed that LongJohn and I just spent the last three weeks hanging out with my parents in Florida, where we both got a nice tan and the kid grew about four inches.

Really going to miss watching this yahoo enjoy the beach every day. #alidoesit

A post shared by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

I didn’t do too much cooking while I was there, but I did make one or two things, and here’s one of them. My dad was trying to clear out the pantry in preparation for their trip back to the True North, so in my efforts to help him get rid of a few things, I came up with this puppy. It’s a good cake for the winter or the summer (I think).

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish. Might as well polish off some of the brownies-from-a-box you made the day before. Gotta keep cleaning out that cupboard, right?

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Grab some butter (oh, the land where butter is always at a spreadable temperature!) and melt 3 tablespoons of it.

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Grab a small bowl and tip in 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Then assemble the rest of your stuff: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch ground cloves, 1/3 cup molasses, 1 egg, and of course your 3 tablespoons melted butter. You’ll see here as well about 1-ish cup fresh (not frozen) blueberries. If you use frozen blueberries the juice from the broken blueberries will get all through the batter and alter the molasses taste. It might also take longer to cook.

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Take all the stuff that isn’t in a bowl with oats or is blueberries and beat that together.

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Take the blueberries and tip them in the bowl with the oats and flour and stir that a bit. Coating the blueberries in flour prevents them all from sinking to the bottom of the baking dish.

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Plop the oats, flour, and blueberries into the molasses mix and stir until smooth(ish).

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Spoon that into your prepared dish and bake for 25-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. This timing will really depend on how thick the glass on your dish is. I cooked this in a convection toaster oven which I think is slightly hotter than it says it is, and so it was done in 25 minutes. Put the cake, still in the dish, on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Now if you want to make it fancy, grab yourself a nice ripe whole pineapple. The pineapple trivet is optional.

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Cut the top and bottom of the pineapple up and then slice off the skin.

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Cut the pineapple into quarters along its core, and slice off the core from the quarters.

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Cut each quarter lengthwise into three pieces. Too complicated? Just cut it up any way you would like. I’m not your mother.

Molasses Cake Pineapple 11Coat each one of the pineapple pieces in granulated sugar.

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Set those aside for a minute.

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In a large skillet or frying pan (or saucepan, whichever is your biggest), melt another 3 tablespoons butter.

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Cook all the slices of pineapple in the skillet on medium heat until they’re cooked through and kind of shrunken, about 8-10 minutes. If you don’t have room to cook them all in the pan at once, wait until some of them shrink before adding a few more slices.

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Remove from pan and set on serving plate. They will start to ooze thick sugary juice.

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Add 3 tablespoons water to the butter and sugar in pan and let it thicken, stirring, JUST until it starts to brown then remove immediately from the heat. It will continue to brown as you stir, off the heat.

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Drizzle that over the pineapple.

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You can serve them hot but if you leave the caramel on the pineapple as it cools it will slowly dissolve back into the juice, leaving a nice sauce you can spoon over the pineapple and the square when you serve it.

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Enjoy!

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Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Still Amazing Angel Food Cake

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We’ve made this cake before. Many times. But I thought I’d make it again for a dual birthday celebration we had a few weeks ago. This cake was for the Pie’s grandmother, who recently turned NINETY. The next cake on our list I made for Papa John, her son, who turned SEVENTY at the same time. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac and she’s also lactose-intolerant, so making her a special treat for her birthday was going to be a challenge I looked forward to.

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And why not actually go through the old traditional way where you make an angel food cake the same day as a devil’s food cake, so that you can use up all the yolks? So the devil’s food cake will be in my next post – stay tuned!

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Begin with your egg whites. Separate 12 eggs, saving the yolks for the chocolate cake coming up (you can freeze them), and bring them to room temperature. Normally I do this by leaving the bowl in a patch of sun on my counter but if you’re in a hurry, you can set the bowl in warm water and that’ll do the trick too. Don’t try to use pasteurized egg whites from a carton: they will not whip at all. I’ve tried.

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Plop your 12 egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer with 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons vanilla (or however much a generous dollop is. I never measure vanilla).

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Beat that with the whisk attachment until it’s nice and thick and foamy, and then slowly tip in 1 cup granulated sugar while you beat it some more. It’s the sugar that makes the meringue here stiff and solid, so don’t skimp on it!

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The meringue should be stiff enough to support the weight of the beater if you took it off the armature and set it on top.

Once that’s ready you can set it aside for the moment and whisk together your “flour.” In this case, our tried-and-true combination for gluten-free gorgeousness is 1 1/3 cups icing sugar, 1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/4 teaspoon (a pinch) fine salt.

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Fold that flour mixture into the meringue mixture very carefully. You have to be gentle enough that you don’t smush the bubbles in the egg white, but thorough enough that you’re not leaving pockets of flour in the batter.

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Good enough.

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Smooth the batter into an UNGREASED angel food pan (can’t stress that enough, never grease your angel food pan or it will fall out on you).

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Pop that in the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and dry to the touch. If you see cracks, that’s good.

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Fantastic. Now take it out of the oven and invert it over a bottle or if it has feet, stand it on the feet. This keeps the cake from collapsing under its own weight as it cools. Once it cools it’s a lot more firm. The gluten-free version is always way squishier than the gluten-y one so this is very important.

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Here’s my issue: my angel food pan is actually NON-STICK. So as I was inverting it, the bottom segment shifted away from the sides and I bobbled the whole thing, dropping it with a clatter. KABOOM.

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At precisely that moment and not ten feet away, the Pie had just put his elbow down on LongJohn’s plate, spectacularly spattering his lunch all over the floor and wall. Windows too. That’s the kind of day we were having.

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So I made another one. Which meant that we had not just 12, but 24 egg yolks. And a busted cake. “I guess that means we’re having trifle for dessert tonight,” said the Pie as he scrubbed hummus off the wall.

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So that’s what we did. But that’s neither here nor there. I made the other cake. And it turned out even better than the previous one.

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You can see that the pan is trying its best to screw me over by separating. Jerk.

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Once the cake has cooled you can decant it from the pan and decorate it as you see fit. I usually whip up some cream and slather it all over with some fresh berries, but the Pie’s grandmother is also lactose intolerant, so I decided to try whipping coconut cream instead.

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Coconut cream is a bit harder to find in Ottawa than regular coconut milk, but I eventually tracked some down in the local health food store. I was told by the cashier that the trick in getting it good and whippy is to make sure the cream, beaters, and bowl are all extremely cold. So the 2 cans coconut cream went into the fridge overnight and the beaters and the bowl went into the freezer.

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I tipped the cream into the ice cold mixer bowl together with a few tablespoons icing sugar and a dobble or two of vanilla bean paste and gave it a whirl with the whisk attachment.

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It takes a while, and it doesn’t get as stiff as whipped dairy cream, but it sure tastes good.

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Slather that all over the cake. It’s a bit slippery so make sure to keep it in the fridge until you’re serving. Does anyone know if there’s some kind of stiffening agent you could add to make it stay put?

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Pop some berries on top and in the hole in the middle and we are good to go!

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Apple-Citrus Cranberry Sauce

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Oh hey, do you have a recipe for cranberry sauce for this weekend yet? I’ve been resting on the laurels of my chipotle cranberry mix but this year I wanted something a bit different and now this is my new favourite. This one is easier, too, which makes life better around the holidays.

Start with 2 12oz packages fresh cranberries, 2 large apples, and 2 large oranges. If you’d like a bit of extra zip, replace the oranges with grapefruit and go from there.

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Wash the cranberries and set them aside to drain.

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Peel the apples and cut them into small pieces (whatever size you would like to find dropped across your turkey).

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Zest and juice the oranges into a medium saucepan.

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Tip in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and give it a good stir.

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Tip in the apples and cranberries and heat over medium, stirring often.

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The liquid will simmer up and the cranberries will make very satisfying soft pops as they break open.

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Once you’re happy with your ratio of broken cranberries, remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to chill.

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This makes about 2 quarts, so plenty of sauce for dealing with leftovers!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Fruit Cookies for Fall

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I whipped these up for dessert at Thanksgiving and like all my made-up cookie recipes, they’re dead easy and use the same base. Experiment with what you chuck into them and enjoy!

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Start by whisking together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a dash of cinnamon. I put the cinnamon in not just for flavour, but also to help me determine if I’ve mixed in the baking powder well enough – if I can’t see streaks of cinnamon then that means there aren’t any streaks of baking powder either. Set that aside.

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In the bowl of a mixer, or by hand if you’re Hercules, beat together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until it’s stupid fluffy.

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Crack in 1 large egg and a dribble of vanilla and beat again until fully incorporated.

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Slowly tip in your flour mixture and beat on low until smooth and completely combined. The dough will be pretty stiff.

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Then grab yourself some of your favourite dried fruit!

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I tossed in rough handfuls (and remember we measured my handfuls and they’re precisely 1/3 of a cup) each of dried papaya, cranberries, golden raisins, and pineapple (though I tore up the larger pineapple pieces first).

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Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Roll the dough into smallish balls and space evenly on the baking sheet (they will not expand very much).

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, and then set the cookies on cooling rack to chill out.

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Enjoy!

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Happy Windfall Handpies

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There’s this tree in the green space where I walk with Gren and LongJohn in the mornings. It’s a beautiful old apple tree. I know it’s old because the apples on it are tiny and REALLY sour. But that doesn’t stop people from picking them – no sir. All the apples within a reasonable reach have been removed, so I scoured through the windfall after a recent storm and brought home about 15 or so more or less unscarred apples (because as you know I can’t resist stealing fruit from public places). I wanted to make turnovers, or handpies.

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Holy Hannah are strollers ever handy for carrying crap. And babies, I suppose.

This is the first bit of baking I’ve done while solo in the house with an active and demanding baby on my hands, so it was a challenge to test both my rusty cooking skills and my son’s patience threshold. All in all, it worked out for the most part. I also cheated and used puff pastry but can you really blame me?

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We didn’t cut the lawn for a long time and the long grass killed our mower. So now we REALLY need to cut the grass.

First, you need to peel the apples. I used about 15 of these tiny sour things but if you’re using regular apples maybe 3 large apples would suffice. Actually, before you peel the apples, you need to install the baby in his swing chair with Raffi for company. This will buy you about fifteen minutes.

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It takes a while to peel 15 tiny misshapen apples.

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Avoid the wormy ones.

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Chop the apples up roughly and sprinkle the pieces with lemon juice, both to keep them from going brown and to add some tartness to the mix (not that you really need tartness with sour apples). Wrap them up and set them aside.

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Next, whisk together 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.

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Tip your apple pieces into a pan with some liberal dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and some sugar. Use about 2 teaspoons sugar for each regular apple – for the sour ones I went a bit more generous and added about 6 tablespoons for the whole lot.

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Re-install your baby in a new location with new focal points. You’ve got another fifteen minutes or so.

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Cook the apples on medium heat until they’re bubbly and the liquid is starting to cook down.

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Tip in the cornstarch mixture (you may need to re-whisk it because it’s not a solution and the cornstarch will likely be sticking firmly to the bottom of your dish).

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Stir quickly in and watch the juices thicken.

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Remove from the heat and spread in a thin layer on a plate to cool. Attempt to put your baby down for his nap.

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After failing to put your baby down for his nap (strange how a logical argument does not work on a three-month-old), grab some thawed puff pastry (this stuff comes in a box with two rolled out squares in it) and use a rolling pin to gently expand the sheet. You want the pastry a little thinner than it comes standard.

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Cut the square into 9 equal(ish) pieces.

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Place a dollop of the cooled apple goo on each square.

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Mmm, cooled goo …

Carefully peel the pastry off the paper and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed.

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Puff pastry objects to being handled so roughly so they look a little demented.

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Give your baby a different toy to punch. Encourage him to yell obscenities at the toy (I don’t speak baby so that’s what I’m assuming he’s doing) to buy yourself some more time.

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On the second sheet, I didn’t roll the pastry out as much, and it was easier to remove it from the paper. They looked less demented.

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Crack and beat an egg and brush each of the pastries with a bit of egg goo. Set them on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

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Bake your pastries for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F and eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to hold in your hand. The demented ones stayed together better than the non-demented ones – just keep that in mind.

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Non-demented …
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Demented …

Enjoy!

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