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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Momofuku’s Banana Cream Pie, only slightly butchered.

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I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix since LongJohn was born – it helps to pass the time while being forced to stay perfectly stationary for long periods of time. I figured going into this that I’d try to stick with documentaries – that way I could educate myself and if I was interrupted (which I often am) then I wouldn’t miss too much plot if they played in the background while I did something else. And so I’ve been watching a ton of cooking documentaries, and I just finished plowing through The Mind of a Chef. In the first season, the focus is largely on David Chang, owner of Momofuku in New York. One of the segments features his pastry chef, who whips up a banana cream pie like it was nothing.

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It looked so easy I figured I could do it even with LongJohn around. And then I had to think about that for a minute. This recipe involves making a custard, and uses four different kitchen appliances, some of them more than once. It really isn’t THAT easy, but it’s easy for me NOW to do. Talk to me five years ago and I would never have attempted this, or I would have addressed it as a challenge. It’s weird how much this blog has made me grow as someone who cooks things. But on to the pie, which is semi-easy if you’ve made things in the kitchen before. I set up a mis en place because I knew LongJohn could interrupt me at any time.

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I also took my butter and, because my microwave is all the way in the basement, I set it outside on my back porch in the sun to melt. I’m that lazy.

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Plus it was like 33°C, which is more than warm enough to melt butter.

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You like my squinty face?

And so it did.

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The recipe I used printed everything in weights (ounces and grams) so I’m going to use ounces here – my apologies. Get your kitchen scale ready. Start with 8 oz very ripe bananas (this is like two). These are the black ones that you chuck in your freezer. Pitch those into a blender together with 2 3/4 oz whipping cream, and 2 1/4 oz milk and blend the crap out of them until they’re lovely and smooth.

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Next, tip in 3 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz cornflour (I’ve come to realize that this is a Britishism for cornstarch, not masa harina, which I used – butchery #1), a pinch of salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Blend that again, scraping down the sides of the blender, until the colour is uniform.

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Pour that stuff into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. Clean your blender while this is going on.

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The recipe says to bring it to a boil but mine never did. Eventually it will be a very heavy paste that holds its shape. Pour the thick stuff back into the blender.

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Grab 2 leaves gelatin or 1 pouch gelatin (I thought a leaf equaled a pouch and used two pouches – butchery #2) and follow the instructions to make it “bloom”. When it’s ready, chuck it in the blender along with 1 1/2 oz butter and blend until smooth (again).

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Next, drop in 1/2 teaspoon yellow food colouring (otherwise your pie will be brown not  yellow) and blend again until the pie is artificially crazy yellow (it will get lighter later, I promise).

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Pour the yellow goo into a container and chill it for 30-60 minutes.

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While that’s happening, make the chocolate crumb for your crust (I actually did this first, because it made more sense to me). Preheat your oven to 300°F and stir together 3 1/2 oz plain flour, 1 teaspoon cornflour (again, cornstarch), 3 1/2 oz sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Tip in 3 oz melted butter (yay, the sun!) and beat until small clusters form.

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Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The clusters should be still moist but will dry out as they cool. In order for this to happen they have to be a bit bigger than what you see in the picture, because these will burn (so either cook them for less time or make them bigger – butchery #3). Apparently this makes more than you need for a 10″ pie so you will only use 3/4 of it but I didn’t want to waste it or store it so I used it all in my 9″ pie plate and it was totally fine.

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Once the clusters have cooled, chuck them into a food processor and pulse until they turn sandy and there are no chunks left.

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Tip these granules into a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

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Work that with your hands until the stuff is moist enough to knead into a ball (I did not do this because my poor carpal tunnel hands are killing me). Press that into the pan. I did it with just the crumbs and it was fine (butchery #4).

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Don’t forget to press it firmly into all the corners of the pan – you don’t want it to be too thick there.

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Now for the rest of the banana cream. Whisk 6 1/2 oz whipping cream and 5 3/4 oz icing sugar together until stiff peaks form (remember that it helps to chill your beater and the bowl beforehand).

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Tip in your cooled yellow goo and mix, mix, mix.

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See? I told you it would get paler.

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Tip half the goo into your pie shell. Cut up another, less ripe banana (I used two because they were kind of weenie) and spread that around on the surface. You can get fancy with the layout but nobody’s going to see it.

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Add the rest of the goo and smooth it out. Make sure none of the banana pieces are sticking out because they will oxidize and turn brown.

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Chill the pie for a little while then serve and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!

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Cheater Key Lime Pie (Gluten Free!)

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If you’ve been following our shenanigans for a while then you’ll be familiar with my recipe for Key Lim Pie, which I have slowly perfected over time. It’s the Pie’s favourite pie that I make, so when his birthday rolled around this year I decided to do my best to make it again. The thing is, it’s been really hot, and I didn’t want to do much heavy baking. Also, LongJohn decided to go through the growth spurt from hell that week as well, so I had to make something easy that I could do while pretty much wearing him constantly.

I found a few recipes online for no-bake versions but one of them required the use of a frozen can of limeade, and the other was bottled lime juice and Cool Whip. While I DID still have leftover Cool Whip in the freezer from the pre-labour cheesecake, I was reluctant to cut TOO many corners. That meant that I was at least going to use real key limes in my recipe.

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And as Fussellette was staying with us at the time, we went with gluten-free Oreo-like cookies for the crust. This recipe makes two 9″ pies. Easy peasy.

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So start by chucking two packs of Oreos or Oreo-like cookies into your food processor with about 1/2 cup shredded coconut.

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Buzz, buzz, buzz. Then tip in about 1/3 cup softened butter and give that a whaz until you get crumbs that stick together when you press on them.

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Press the crumbs into two 9″ pie dishes and bake at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Let those cool completely. I did this pie over the course of three days, so the pie crusts were done on day one. If you really don’t want to bake at all you can buy a pre-made graham crust, but I like my key lime to have a chocolate crust and they really don’t have gluten-free versions of that at the grocery store near my house.

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Next, we deal with the limes. For two pies you’ll need 2lbs key limes. Grate the zest from each one. It takes for-freaking-ever.

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Next, you’ll need to juice them. This many limes should yield between 1 and 1 1/3 cups of juice.

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I did the grating and juicing while wearing a grumpy newborn. Pro tip: roll the limes between your palm and the cutting board before cutting them open to juice them. It bruises the little globule things that hold the juice and makes it easier for you to extract the liquid.

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When you’re ready to assemble (day three in my case), grab as well 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups Cool Whip (frozen), and 1 cup whipping cream.

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Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and stir to combine.

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Additional pro tip: frozen Cool Whip acts like a shovel and literally scoops all your liquids out of the bowl when mixing, so I would recommend breaking it into chunks first.

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Then you can taste your filling. I may have spilled some on the baby, but he was asleep and didn’t mind.

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Your batter will be whitish with green flecks. Totally not authentic, but nice and tart.

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Divide the filling between the two shells.

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Clean up your mixer after the filling explosion.

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Chill the pies for a couple hours until set.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

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While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

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The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

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Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

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I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

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Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

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While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

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In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

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When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

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Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

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Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

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Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

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Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

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Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

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Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

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Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

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Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Fast-Tip Friday: Drying Herbs

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If you’re lucky, you still have time to run out and grab the rest of your late-summer herbs from the garden and do something with them before it’s too late. If you’re me, then while you were out of the country for work the temperatures dropped below zero and now all your basil is a disgusting black mess.

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HOWEVER, there’s still hope for a good number of your other hardier herbs.

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Since the summer, I’ve been hauling baskets of herbs inside to process. Some end up in butter (because mmmm, butter), and some, like the lemongrass stalks you see in this basket, go in the freezer. But most of them, I dry. It takes almost zero effort on my part and then the herbs are there for me to mix and package as gifts: spice rubs and herbal teas are quick and easy to make.

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What makes it easiest is this handy-dandy herb dryer that I picked up from Lee Valley. Hang it somewhere out of the way with good air circulation (for us, that’s over the side of our main staircase), and then just shove it full of fresh herbs.

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The mesh will allow air to circulate on all sides, meaning nothing gets mouldy or soggy, and some of your herbs, like lemon balm, will dry in a matter of days. And you didn’t have to do ANYTHING!

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Added bonus: for the few days it takes these herbs to start to dry up, the hallway smells like pizza or lemons or whatever we’ve got in the shelves.

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Freezer Pies

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What do you do when you have a big party coming up that requires lots of yummy baked goods, but you know that on the weekend in question you’re going to be way too busy to do anything as involved as make a pie? You take advantage of your freezer, of course.

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First you make up your favourite pastry dough. I always love the original Joy of Cooking version that you can find in a previous post here. The Joy also has some great information on how to make pies ahead of time by freezing them before baking.

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Then you make up your fillings. Here we opted for a vanilla peach and a strawberry-blueberry version. As long as you have about five cups of fruit, and then a couple tablespoons each of sugar, butter, and thickener (flour or corn starch), plus a few drops of lemon juice, then you can make any pie you want.

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We had a tool that Cait called a “strawberry effer-upper” (though she used a stronger word than “effer,” if you catch my drift) which handily slices your strawberries into several neat pieces. Cait’s sister Jules was very happy to take on the effer-upper role. She’s a little sadistic like that.

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Cait also made the error of purchasing clingstone peaches for our pies instead of freestone peaches, so getting the flesh of the fruit off the stone was a bit of a challenge. Eventually I discovered that if you cut wedges into the peach then it’s easier to pry off the sections.

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Once your fillings are made and mixed, leave them at least fifteen minutes to macerate.

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Ideally your dough has been chilling happily all this time and you’ve had a chance to roll it out and let it chill some more. The difference between a regular pie and a freezer pie is that when you plop the bottom shell into the pie dish, you leave a piece of plastic wrap on the bottom between the dish and the pastry. Honest.

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Then you fill your pie that is sitting on top of a layer of plastic wrap. This pie is quite tall.

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Seal it in with more pastry. Do not glaze your pastry at this point, if you’re into that kind of thing. You gotta wait on that.

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Now wrap the rest of it up in plastic wrap so it’s tightly sealed. Wrap again in foil and shove that into the freezer.

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When you’re ready to bake, haul the frozen pies out of the freezer. Preheat your oven to 425°F.

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I stored the strawberry/blueberry one on an angle so I did have a bit of leakage.

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Pry the pie out of the dish and peel off the bottom wrap.

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Plop the pie back into the dish (you can glaze it now if you wish) and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes.

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After ten minutes, haul it out and cut steam vents in the pastry.

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Then shove it back in the oven (this time at 350°F) for a further hour, until the pastry is light brown and crusty and the insides are bubbling out.

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Let those cool completely (or nearly completely) before eating. Yum!

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Mini Wonton Quiches

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I finally did get to have that finger-food brunch I was trying for. These wonton mini quiches were a big hit.

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I enjoyed cutting up all the vegetables super small to fit in the tiny muffin cup spaces.

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I did scoop the seeds out of the tomatoes to avoid mushiness.

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And I couldn’t decide on cheeses, so I went with both.

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I grabbed some fresh herbs from my very own backyard, because it’s actually spring now.

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In the end I had one set of quiches with mushroom, spinach, chives, and goat cheese, and the other was tomato, onion, cheddar, and cilantro. For amounts I kind of winged it, sorry.

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Anyway, preheat your oven to 350°F and line your muffin tins with two wonton wrappers each. Align them so they are at 45° angles to each other for the largest surface area. I didn’t do this but I would recommend greasing the muffin tins before you do this.

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Then I stuffed the tins with my vegetable-cheese mixtures.

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Then I started cracking some eggs. For 24 mini quiches I used about 14 eggs. I also added in a few tablespoons cream, some salt and pepper, and some grated parmesan. Gave that a good mixing.

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Then I ever so carefully poured the egg goo into the muffin cups.

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It’s hard to get it so it doesn’t go around the seal of the wonton.

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I baked them for about 15 minutes, until they were cooked through.

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Because I didn’t grease the pan it took some persuasion to get them out.

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But they were so good!

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And even great for a cold quick breakfast or lunch the next day!

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