Posts tagged ‘desserts’
Pumpkin pie has been on my A-list forever, and I’ve never understood why we relegate it to the holiday menus between November and January 1st. Delicious? Check — Simply and swiftly made? Check — Made from accessible inexpensive ingredients? Check — Popular? Check! Perhaps its automatic inclusion on menus that require turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce gets in the way of our ability to think outside the holiday box. Grocery stores, farms stands and farmers’ markets around here have been stacking up gourds all week, and placing this year’s pumpkin supply out in full view of the Halloween crowd. The jack-o-lantern pumpkins decorating the marketplace telegraph the arrival of autumn nicely, and they serve carvers well as a canvas for scary faces. But if you’ve tried using the standard pumpkins for cooking, you know that their texture and flavor leave much to be desired, piewise. Farmers’ markets often carry old-time pumpkins, varying in color and shape from the bright orange standard, and tending to have thick, sweet flesh which is ideal from a pie-making point of view. Butternut squash makes a grand alternative to pumpkin in most any recipe calling for cooked mashed pumpkin or pumpkin puree. I love it peeled and cut into large chunks as an ingredient in Thai-style curries, and for roasting along with parsnips, carrots garlic, and onions. These days I’m finding it peeled and chunked up in the produce section, making it a quick fix for curries, for roasting, and for simmering just until tender enough to mash to a puree. From there I season it with salt and either butter or Asian sesame oil as a fall sidedish, or stir it into this fine, spiced fall pie.
Nancie’s Butternut Squash Pie
1 unbaked 9-inch piecrust
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
3/4 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup honey, dark corn syrup, maple syrup, or molasses
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to combine them well. Combine the butternut squash, milk or half-and-half, eggs and honey or syrup in a medium bowl. Stir all this up with a whisk, an eggbeater, or a large spoon, until everything is evenly combined. Stir in the sugar-and-spices mixture and mix it all together evenly and well. Pour this mixture into the unbaked piecrust and place it in the oven 450 degree oven on a lower rack. Bake 10 minutes, and then lower the heat to 325 degrees F. Continue baking until the filling is firm and the outer edges of the pie puff up nicely, 35 to 45 minutes. (The very center can still be a bit jiggly but overall the pie should be firm and set.) Set the pie on a cooling rack or on a folded kitchen towel to cool to room temperature.
One of two recipes in Southern Pies with no crust to keep it all together, this makes a homemade dessert within reach even when time is short and attention to detail isn’t an option. Not that every pie in the book is quick and simple; that’s just where we’re starting off Pie-a-Day Month, like the warm-up before that 5-K run I haven’t been doing the last few years. Meringue, cooked fillings, and layered grandeur will be in the mix by the time we’re in the double-digits of October, so stay with me and you’ll find Butterscotch Pie, Coconut Custard Pie, and Black Bottom Pie taking center stage, each one well worth the investment of time they need. But this here pie, named in the book as “Amazing Coconut Pie” and widely known as “Impossible Pie”, takes the cake (sorry, irresistible pun there) in terms of do-it-now cooking. If you keep a supply of shredded coconut on your pantry shelf, and stay stocked up with eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla, you will always be under an hour away from a lovely little sweet finale, one which travels well if a covered dish/potluck is in your plans. If you have an ovenproof pie pan, such as a Pyrex pie plate, that is the ideal vessel for this pie, as it allows for browning all around the pie, and makes it easy for you to see how things are coming along even on the bottom and sides. If you don’t have one, and you love baking pies (or think you might — having the tools you need can help pie-baking-love blossom), consider adding one to your kitchenware supply. I have a sturdy and beautiful blue ceramic pie plate, an ovenproof glass pie plate, several sturdy dark-metal pie pans, and a teetering stack of aluminum pie pans, all of which you will see as Pie Month unfolds in this October of 2010. Expect this pie to puff up as it nears baked-status, from the outer edges into the middle, and then fret not when that handsome grandness disappears with nary a sigh of farewell. It’s the nature of custard pies, and it’s one of your clues that things are progressing as they should and that doneness is near and to be monitored more closely from then on. But the state of almost every pie (every one I can think of, but I could be missing some so I shall qualify) is to be flat and sensible and plain, excepting of course those lovelies whose lot it is to carry crowns of meringue or whipped cream, and as I said, we’ll get to that. But for today, it’s sweet and crunchy coconut in plush custard, easily and speedily made; and as for those of us here in Pie Month Headquarters, what with the milk and eggs taking center stage, those last 2 slices on the kitchen counter could make a special occasion cereal-free breakfast, just for today.
Nancie’s Magic Coconut Pie
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten well
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded and sweetened coconut
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch pie pan (a deep-dish pie pan is ideal), with butter, vegetable oil, or shortening. Combine the sugar and flour in a medium bowl, and stir them together well, using a fork or a whisk. Add the milk, melted butter, beaten eggs, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything together well. Add the sweetened coconut, and stir until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Pour the coconut pie filling into the prepared pie pan and set it on the bottom rack of your 350 degree oven. Bake until the pie is golden brown, puffed up, and firm throughout, (the center may jiggle just a bit); this should take between 35 and 45 minutes. Set the pie on a cooling rack, or on a folded kitchen towel, and let it cool to room temperature.
Though I’ve had my author copy for a month, and the Chronicle Books warehouse has been shipping out advance orders for a couple of weeks, today is the official start of publicity month for my latest book, “Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan”. I haven’t gotten over it yet, not even close — still picking it up, flipping through, stopping to read something here, or gaze at a photograph there, happily and proudly distracted. The words and recipes come from my hands and brain, but the images and design come from artists who make magic, who take my creation and render it into something visual, tangible, and inviting, something that catches the eye of bookstore patrons and bookclub members and online browers and says “Hey! Notice me!” in a most delicious way. My gratitude to master photographer Leigh Beisch and her team and to designer Anne Donnard of Chronicle Books is bountiful and rich, like meringue piled high on a lemon meringue pie. To celebrate the publication of “Southern Pies”, I’m planning to make a pie everyday this month, and put it out on the virtual windowsill right here in my blog for you to share, visually at least. Some pies will be from this book, and some will be from friends, from vintage cookbooks, maybe even from vendors at the farmers’ market who have some autumn fruit to share. From today, October 1 until October 31, it’s pie season here in Piedmont North Carolina, so let me know what pies you love, and what pies you’d like to see. They don’t even have to be Southern — they just have to be pies that please and delight you in some way. Here we go…!