A Tale of Two Pies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Thanksgiving has finally arrived, but what pie crust recipe will yield the most flaky, delicious crust for all the pies I am going to be making? Pie crusts can be a big hassle. I have tried countless recipes with varying combinations of shortening, butter, oil, eggs, and even the odd ingredient such as vinegar, that promises to be “the best” or “the easiest.”

So this Thanksgiving, I decided to do a little test of my own. I made TWO pecan pies – identical except for the crust – and subjected them to rigorous double blind testing to determine which had superior taste and texture.

For the test, I decided to try out an all butter crust versus an oil crust. (Crisco shortening no longer has a place in my kitchen…med school has taught me that hydrogenated palm oil is very, very bad for you. Trust me, don’t eat it!)

Pie #1 was the clear winner on taste and texture. It was an all butter crust based on a recipe from simply recipes

Butter Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold
  1. Cut the butter into small cubes and place it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. This is quite important in putting together a pie crust that will be flaky and tender.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar
  3. If you have a food processor, feel free to proceed as in the recipe that I linked to above.
  4. As for me, I got out my pastry cutter (you could use a fork or couple butter knives) and went to town. With the flour mixture in a large bowl, add the frozen butter and begin cutting it into smaller pieces. Many people will tell you to get the butter “pea sized” or make the mixture resemble course crumbs. Well, some of my butter was pea sized (even larger) and some was more crumbly. It doesn’t really matter – just get most of the butter broken up and incorporated into the flour
  5. Add 4 tbsp of ice water and mix it in with a fork. DO NOT overwork the dough. We aren’t kneading bread here and do not want to develop the gluten in the dough. You’ll probably need to add another tbsp of water but this depends on the humidity of your kitchen.
  6. When the dough is JUST beginning to hold together (it is still going to be crumbly) put it in a large plastic zip bag. Form it into a ball and place in the refrigerator for about 15 to 30 minutes (this will give you time to make the filling).
  7. Roll out your dough with a rolling pin between two sheets of wax paper and a little flour if needed to keep it from sticking. Flute or crimp the edges.
  8. Fill as desired (I recommend pecan pie filling!) and bake according to recipe.

For those interested, Pie #2 was an oil crust from king arthur flour in which I used canola oil. Don’t get me wrong – this pie crust went together quite easily, looked great, and tasted good. But it lacked the caramely flakiness that only a butter pastry can provide. I’ll definitely pull this recipe out when I want a healthier, quicker alternative. But that day is not today…on to the pecan pie filling!

Pecan Pie Filling

1 cup Karo Corn Syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecans (optional – save about 10 nice looking pecans to decorate the top)

Pie crust (use the butter crust!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the pecans.
  4. Pour the filling into crust and arrange the extra pecans in a circular pattern on the top.
  5. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes

And here is the end result…

It is a far, far better pie that you see here than I have ever made before (sorry, enough with the Dickens references). But truly, the crust is flaky, the filling is SOOOOO sugary and ooey gooey. Happy holidays and enjoy!


CandyLand!! (and tempering)

Hello new readers!

Thanks for stopping by! We promise you won’t regret this, do you know why? We do: peppermint bark!! This bark was suggested and we were absolutely thrilled at the idea of trying to improve our photographing skills (iPhone 4…we’re missing a fancy camera :(…). What better subject than this bark!?

You know why else this bark was the best idea ever? It’s a great opportunity to talk about a disliked subject: tempering. Tempering is what you have to do to make your melted chocolate harden up again. Ever try to dip anything in melted chocolate chips and realize the only way you could get that chocolate shell was to stick it in the fridge but if you wanted to eat it at room temperature…forget it!!

Did it ever drive anyone else crazy that none of the recipes ever specified how to get the chocolate to harden? Did they just assume we all knew to how to temper? Well – we personally were infuriated and frustrated by it. What is that missing step? Tempering!

We forewarn you – you can get around this quite easily by buying candy coats at your local craft store – those melt and reharden like a charm but they do have a bad side: heart attacks. Did you hear us? H.e.a.r.t. A.t.t.a.c.k.s. They’re made with heart stopping palm oil so if you love your friends and family – it’s worth it to temper. Just read the notes in the recipe below and you’ll never have to wonder again how the chefs on tv magically got their chocolate to solidify at room temperature.

But seriously – back to more important things – like this bark. Black under white under RED AND WHITE!? Creamy and crunchy at the same time? Textures and colors!? Ahhhhhhhhh! It’s too much! No, it’s not – it’s beautiful, not to mention delicious.

Peppermint Bark

1 lb dark/semi/milk chocolate
1 lb white chocolate
smashed up candy canes
1 teaspoon of peppermint extract
       1 candy thermometer (with measurements around the 80-100F marks) **must have**
       1 rubber (not wood) spatula

Before we start – make sure your chocolate is in bar form not the chips that you get in bags (very important).

First: Temper the semisweet/dark chocolate. Reserve 1/3 of your chocolate for seeding (don’t melt it). Melt the rest of your chocolate to 115F over a double boiler. If you don’t have one – ghetto it up as described in my previous entry. Use that thermometer! Do NOT bring it up over 115 and keep stirring with your rubber spatula. Once you’re at 115, quickly remove from heat and add in 1/2 tsp of your extract (at this point, feel free to get lost in the blissful smell that is chocolate and peppermint) Transfer to a heat proof surface and keep stirring adding in that last 1/3 un-melted chocolate. Stir, stir, stir until the temperature has dropped to 80F. Use that thermometer! Then the most important part! Return the chocolate to heat for a few seconds until it’s back up to 88-90F. Do NOT go above 90F.

Now your chocolate is tempered! You can use this now for dipping anything and it will get that beautiful hardened shell!! Secret revealed! For this bark, spread it out evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and stick it in the freezer for 5 mins.

Second: Temper your white chocolate. Do the same thing as for the semisweet but bring it up to 110F, lower down to 80, and only back up to 87F. Use the remaining 1/2 tsp extract and layer it on top of the semi-sweet sheet.

Finally: sprinkle that crushed peppermint on it, cool to harden, and break into bark

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!!!

***you can make these bars like we did with two chocolates, or you can do it with just one! Just adjust the extract accordingly **


Food Blog? Who us? Couldn’t be!

Hello World!

Two medical students here, using our time in our tiny kitchens as little islands of sanity in our lives (mostly baking, some cooking). After Elyse had to endure sitting next to me day after day, lecture after lecture as I clicked through food blog after food blog – we decided – why not start one? (Thanks to our lovely English major friend for the naming of said blog!)

Elyse gets to use her college photography skills, Sam gets to use her deep inner fat child, and we both get to share our love of these beautiful culinary creations that we like to call – Baked Goods!

So for our first entry we wanted to try something from a blog that Sam is personally obsessed with. What blog you ask? Well the Blue Eyed Baker’s of course! (http://www.blueeyedbakers.com). They may have replaced Sam’s fanatical obsession of the lovely Giada de Laurentiis or even the sisters of Georgetown Cupcakes.

Being caffeine dependent medical students – what better recipe to start with than these decadent espresso brownies? (There is no better recipe – rhetorical question). These beautiful creations were adapted a bit from the original blue eyed recipe by replacing half the chocolate chips with white chocolate and we coated them with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar

Ahhhh!! the beautiful scene of powdered sugar cascading down a moonscape of chocolate ooey-gooey-goodness!
How did we make these babies you ask? well ask no further! (but please don’t forget the original geniuses: BEB)

Better than Coffee Brownies

2 cups dark brown sugar
1 ½ sticks (¾ cups) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups  all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips, 6 ounces white chocolate chips

Set that oven to 375F.  Grease and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan (I get a huge kick out of buttering a pan followed by flouring – it leaves the most beautiful footprint of flour where butter once stepped).
Dissolve your espresso in 1 tbsp of boiling water and just put to the side
Melt the butter and sugar over heat. You can do this either in microwave as suggested as the Blue Eyed Bakers or do what I have always done – ghetto double boiler!!! I take a heat proof mixing bowl and set it over a pot half filled with water. Set the heat to med-high and mix as the heat transfers without burning your precious sugar. Once the mix has melted into a delicious dark brown molasses heart-stopping mess, remove from heat, mix in dissolved espresso and cool (on the counter or in the fridge).
While your butter/sugar mixture is cooling – mix your dry ingredients in another bowl. Then, after the sugar and butter have cooled to room temperature – add the eggs and vanilla (to avoid scrambling the eggs)
Finally – incorporate the flour mixture and finally your chocolate chips and pour your chunky yet velvety  chocolate yet coffee filled batter into that lovely buttered and floured pan and bake for 25 minutes.  I took the BEB advice and took these babies out a little before 25 minutes letting the carry over heat do the rest of the work and man, did they turn out OOEY GOOEY.  p.e.r.f.e.c.t.i.o.n.
**Ideas: we replaced half the chocolate chips with white chocolate but given the holiday season – feel free to spice it up with caramel chips, mint chips, pecans, walnuts?! We may try adding some cocoa straight into the batter next time too!**
Hope you all enjoyed our first post – we so enjoyed making it. Happy Eatings!!!