Category Archives: pie

Saturday night’s all right for baking

Saturday night I started cooking and cleaning and I couldn’t stop. Which is really weird for me because, while I love to bake, I hate to cook actual food, and I loathe the vacuum even more. If you wandered into our house unannounced you’d think that two exceptionally lazy college kids live here. Dishes in the sink. Towels on the bedroom floor. Lots of thrift store/Target stuff (this one has less to do with lazy and more to do with the fact that Oliver is a magpie who never met a Goodwill he didn’t love, and I am a Target addict.) I’ve long thought that our relationship works because we’re the same kind of messy and so no one’s ever nagging anyone else.

I digress. Saturday. Ostensibly this fit of domesticity started because my cat brutally murdered a mouse. Our kitchen floor looked like a tiny Game of Thrones set – complete with a beheading. But, whenever I find myself scrubbing the baseboards with Lysol wipes at 10 on a Saturday night, you can bet there’s something else going on.  And there is. Something else going on. I will tell you about it later though. (Hand off the panic button Grammy. No one’s pregnant and no one’s breaking up with anyone.)

All you need to know for now is that resulting energy eventually lead to one of my more random and creative pies: apple/sweet potato with extra flaky crust. This was less a fit of inspiration and more a result of really wanting to bake, but not having any other ingredients to use. I was skeptical.

Side note: It's super hard to take a picture of yourself while holding two hand fulls of fruit.

Side note: It’s super hard to take a picture of yourself while holding two hand fulls of fruit.

But it actually turned out great:

Ugh, the lighting in the kitchen is the worst. But even still you can tell that this pie is badass .

Ugh, the lighting in the kitchen is the worst. But even still you can tell that this pie is badass .

I treated the sweet potatoes just like apples. Instead of mashing them and puree-ing them, the way you would for a traditional sweet potato pie, I baked them until they were soft enough to slice and then layered them into the crust just like apples. It’s been a while since I’ve broken down a recipe for ya’ll (normally I’m just a lazy ass and link you to past crust recipes) so I decided to do that below. Crust is first, filling is second.

The crust:

Let’s be honest, we’re all in this for the crust. I’m pretty proud at how good I’ve gotten at making them extra flaky and awesome. To make this one here’s what you’ll need to make a double crust:

  • A stick of butter. 
  • A stick of vegetable shortening. I used Earth Balance. You can use Crisco if you want.
  • 2 cups of flour.
  • 1 cup of cake flour.
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Teaspoon of salt
  • Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of ice cold water

To get ready to make this crust you should do a couple of prep steps. Cut up your fat into cubes and freeze it. I let mine freeze for at least 30 minutes because the colder the fat, the flakier the butter. Once your butter/shortening are cold enough you’re ready to begin:

photo (2)

Step 1: Sift your flour – both kinds – and cornstarch into a bowl. Mix in the sugar and salt.

Step 2: Mix your very, very cold vegetable oil into the flour with your hands. Knead it until it completely breaks up and is the size of tiny peas.

Step 3: Do the same thing with the butter. Butter gets colder than vegetable oil so this will take longer. My hands always get really tired. I don’t know if there’s an actual chemical reason for this or not, but I have also found that the crust is better and flakier if you follow this order, instead of mixing the vegetable oil and the butter oil in at the same time.

Step 4: Slowly knead in the water. This is something else I’ve learned. Used to just dump it all in at once. Now I mix the water in two tablespoons at a time and, again, it just comes out better. Knead the water in until you’ve used the entire half cup and the dough is clumping together in a flaky, but still held together, ball in your bowl.

Step 5: Divide the ball into two, smash each ball into a pancake about 1/4 inch thick, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

The filling

Great! Now you’re ready for the filling.  It’s actually a little bit tedious to make. Hang in there. Worth it. You will need:

  • Four medium size apples and an apple core-er. Is that a word? One of these.
  • Two medium size sweet potatoes and a peeler.
  • Whatever spices you like. I like cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and I used a tablespoon of each.
  • A tablespoon of agave nectar (which I like to use instead of sugar. If you like sugar, use that, but I don’t know how much you should use.)
Had to sneak my awesome rolling pin in there...

Had to sneak my awesome rolling pin in there…

Step one: Deal with the sweet potatoes. This is the tedious part, unless you happen to like peeling potatoes. Peel them, wrap them in tin foil and bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or so. Basically, you’re pre-baking these so that they don’t turn out raw when you put them in the pie with the apples which, obviously, have a shorter cooking time.  You’ll know they’re ready to come out when they’re easy to slice, but still firm.

Step two: Core your apples. Peel them if you want. I didn’t because after the potatoes I was burned out on peeling. Once the apples are cored slice them into thin slices and put in a bowl.

Step three: Once your sweet potatoes are slice-able, cut them into slices the same width as your apples. Mix them in the bowl with your apples along with the spices you’ve chosen and the agave nectar.

Simple, except for the stupid peeling. Once this is done, you’re ready to roll out your crust. I use this method, although last night I was actually out of wax paper so I just used the “absolutely coat the dough and the counter in a ridiculous amount of flour method.” It worked ok.

Here’s how you assemble the pie:

Step 1: Roll out the dough for the bottom crust and transfer it to the pie pan using whatever method you find works.

Step 2: Fill the bottom crust with your filling. Some people just dump their filling right in all at once. I prefer to layer. I built a bottom layer of apples, a middle layer of sweet potatoes, and a top layer of apples.

Step 3: Roll out the dough for your top crust and transfer it to the top of the pie. I like to cut any excessive dough hanging over the edges off with scissors before I start shaping the crust.

Step 4: Shape the crust. This is kind of hard to do in my opinion. I basically just crimp it using my thumb and forefinger, but some people get really creative with it so go nuts.

Step 5: Bake. I baked mine at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. I accidentally burned the edges of the crust, so maybe do a little less time. I really think bake times depend a lot on your oven, so try 40 minutes and keep an eye on it.

And that’s how you end a night of furious stress-cleaning, cooking, and baking. I used to stay up all night having fun on Saturday. Now I stay up all night and bake. Weirdly, I’m ok with that.




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Happy Thanksgiving

I’m full & exhausted. Considering today a success because we had a table to eat off of (we didn’t always), and friends to share our food with.

I made this pie today out of a pumpkin I grew myself and my favorite extra flaky pie crust recipe. The insides were meh (starting to think I just don’t like pumpkin pie…) but the crust was amazing. The secret is cake flour and completely, rock hard frozen butter. Try it and let me know what you think:


Extra flaky crust: You’ll need regular flour, cake  flour, butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, salt and water to make this.

Step one: Combine one cup of all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour (the two kinds of flours = extra flaky).

Step two: Mix in a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt.

Step three: Cut in half a stick of very cold butter. The colder the fat, the flakier your pie. Mix with hands. Cut in 5 tablespoons of very cold vegetable shortening and do the same.

Step four: Sprinkle 1.4 cup of cold water and tossed together until you can make a ball. Flatten ball into a thick pancake, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate an hour. Go and make your filling.

Step five: roll out, press into pan, fill with filling and bake. (This pie was baked for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.)



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Stone fruit/blueberry pie

I’m eating the last slice of this as I type. Delicious. I’ve had a string of crust-related pie failures recently — too much experimenting/trying to go too fast – so it was nice to have one turn out this nicely.

The last time I baked, it was cupcakes and they took approximately one million hours to complete. Conclusive evidence that pie is better than cake – it’s way easier to make, tastes better and doesn’t take very long.

For this crust, I stuck with what I know: a simple, all butter crust. This is for a double crust pie:

  • 2 sticks of butter, really cold. I think this crust turned out so great because I got the butter super cold and then was just really patient with how long it took to break it up into the flour.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups of flour.
  • 1 cup of cold water.

To make it just do the following:

  • Sift the flour into a big bowl. Mix it with the sugar and salt.
  • Mix in the cold butter with your hands. Keep rubbing it into the dry mix until it’s really small – the size of a pea.
  • Mix in half the cold water. Knead the dough together with your hands. Mix in the rest of the water slowly, pulling the dough up from the bottom.
  • Form two balls from the dough. Squish into disks, wrap in was paper and put in the fridge for an hour.

This is what my kitchen looks like during the rolling of the dough. (Yes, that power outlet is installed upside down. That’s pretty much how the shack I live in rolls.)

The filling is also super easy:

  • Cut up a bunch (like four or five) of nectarines. Cut up the same number of apricots. Throw them in a bowl.
  • Throw four cups of blueberries in there too.
  • Mix with about a cup of agave syrup.
  • Mix with 1/4 cups of flour to thicken the fruit so it’s not all watery and gross.

Roll out the shell dough, transfer it to the pie tin. It was hot in my kitchen so I stuck the shell in the freezer for five minutes to make the dough easier to shape and more likely to hold up under two pounds of fruit. It was a good call.

I love how pretty a fruit pie looks right before you put the top crust on.

Then, on goes the top crust and the whole thing went into an oven pre-heated at 350-degrees for an hour. After 40 minutes, I turned the heat up to 400-degrees.

Must have turned out pretty good because Oliver won’t stop talking about it. It lasted us about three days and, surprisingly for a fruit pie, held up without getting mushy. Definitely a prize winner – at least relative to recent pie disasters that have come out of our kitchen.




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Rut buster

It’s no secret to anyone who has interacted with me the last couple months that I’m kind of stuck in a rut. Nothing’s wrong, but nothing’s really that right either. Everything just kind of is. That’s ok. Life can’t always be 100 m.p.h (which is how I prefer things) and I’m glad that nothing’s really wrong (although, it’d be nice to have an excuse for this perpetual case of the mean reds.)

Part of the trouble is a lack of inspiration. I’m still building my mileage up to any uncharted territory on my weekly long runs, I haven’t felt like baking and it just won’t f-ing stop raining. I’ve had a lot of stuff to do, but it’s just stuff, nothing wonderful or fun.

So this morning I decided to at least try to get inspired. I made the bed – my dad says it helps make a person feel better. I put on real clothes – not the running gear that’s typically my weekend uniform. When Oliver asked if I wanted to go shopping I said yes. With Oliver shopping = thrifting and since my thrift store attention span is one hour max, I usually say no. I’m glad I didn’t today.

Look what I found:

It’s a small, but welcome, rut buster. Inside are pages and pages of someone else’s grandma’s carefully written down recipes. I love it. I’m not totally sure how old it is, but there’s a soup recipe in here dated September 23, 1968. (In case you’re curious, it’s for “old fashioned” fruit soup and yes, it has tapioca in it. I’m convinced that food companies in the 60s and 70s just wanted to see how many disgusting tapioca and jello based foods they could trick America’s house wives into feeding their children.)

The cook’s name is nowhere to be found among her recipes, but we have the same culinary interests. The pages designated for “entrees” and “fish and poultry” are barely filled out, but she copied pages and pages of dessert recipes. Cookies, cakes, pies. Something called a “fattigman” which I think is maybe some kind of donut. Only one jello cake, thank god, though the cook does like custard much more than I do.

I’m excited about this find. I plan to make the desserts in here that don’t include custard and I’m looking forward to adding my own to it’s pages.

Then maybe someday, I’ll donate it back to a thrift store for some other bummed out, sweet-toothed baker in a rut to find.

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Pies I baked and never blogged

I just ran a marathon. It was amazing, horrible, fun, so hard and by far the most challenging physical thing I’ve done in my life. I can’t wait for the next one (in February.) I have a ton that I want to say about the experience, but I’m tired and weirdly sort of emotional about the whole thing so I think I’d better wait until tomorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy these pies I baked and never blogged. Work was bananas the last couple month – busy to the point where I honestly didn’t have time to think about this blog. Luckily, I did have time to bake.(It’s my favorite de-stresser activity and I was plenty stressed out so there were pies.)

First off, a pie that I neglected to photograph. I went through a vegan attempt earlier this year – not going so well at the moment – and so I wanted to make vegan pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. You might remember these beautiful babies from October during my bout with pneumonia. Well I turned them into homemade puree via this recipe from No Meat Athlete and then into this pie, also via NMA.

I have to say it was… kind bad. I definitely did something wrong because it was really dark and weird-looking and I also think the cashew butter was just too much. I plan on making pumpkin pie again this winter (my Papa loves it so I’m trying to figure out a way to make it low sugar or sugar-free for him) but I’ll probably use the traditional ingredients. I just couldn’t get the right creaminess. I made it for Thanksgiving and only two slices got eaten. That’s not normal for my pie and super not normal for Oliver and his brother. So – bad pie.

Luckily, earlier in the month for my friend Ren’s annual “friend thanksgiving” I made this apple pie and I was really pleased with it:

I definitely ate the leftovers with my hands the following Monday at work because I'm real classy.

I used my typical extra flaky crust recipe and for the insides used three variety of apples (just seasonal local ones), pumpkin pie spice (just a pinch -weird but good), a bit of cinnamon and some sugar. I really liked the mix of apple flavors and spices. I highly recommend it, but I’ll have to bake and more carefully blog another because I can’t remember all the steps now.

Good pie, bad blogger.

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What should I turn these babies in to?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been too sick to run (really – tried it Saturday, banged out five miles.. couldn’t really breathe for 4.5 of them) but I’m feeling really bleak about winter coming.

I think it’s because I had to wear tights to work this morning – I was hoping to last until November without them. Last night I also did the ceremonial putting away of the summer clothes. (Along with the ceremonial boxing up of things to give to my sister.) Both activities come with a ceremonial mess:


To cheer myself up I made pumpkin puree following this recipe from No Meat Athlete – it’ll probably turn into a pie at some point this Saturday. I’m trying to remind myself to revel in what is great about fall and try not to think about my poor pasty legs being shoved into black tights for the next 6 months. If nothing else I can take pleasure in planting spring flowers which will come out to cheer me up just when I’m sure I can’t take another second of winter.


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Sweet potato pie

I’m really excited about two things right now. It officially feels like fall (I love seasons! Being from AZ does that to you) and this cookbook I picked up in Louisiana this week:

Yummmmmmmmmmmm. Yum.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to bake today. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Obviously, southern pies are pretty much the antithesis of eating vegan — a goal of mine until after the marathon — but I was happy to discover that with a couple of adjustments I was able to make a fantastic sweet potato pie.

Whenever I’m trying to convert a recipe to vegan I struggle the most with finding a substitute for eggs. Yes, bananas and applesauce often work… but, they aren’t always right consistency wise. So, I’m really grateful to my colleague Jenny for introducing me to this egg replacer. (It’s potato starch.)

1.5 tablespoons of the mix + 2 tabelspoons of hot water = one egg.

I also really like the 70s color scheme on the box. It was a theme of the day, see:

I've had this dress since I was like 20. It will never stop being the best dress ever.

This pie is easy to make and if you’ve made pumpkin pie before, the ingredients are going to seem really familiar to you. An important note : I definitely Portlandized the ingredients — for example, egg replacer instead of eggs, Earth First instead of butter, powdered soy instead of powdered milk, agave instead of sugar, whole wheat flour –so I’ll list the truly Southern ingredients in parenthesis. Since anything lacking at least a pound of butter can’t qualify as real Southern cookin’ I suppose this sweet potato pie is just inspired by the South.

As a side note, I recommend having The Wonder Years on Netflix streaming while baking. I think that was a key ingredient for my enjoyment in baking this pie.

Here’s what you’ll need for the filling:

  • 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes. I used the white sweet potatoes. Next time I think I’ll mix in some yams just to have some color.
  • 1/2 cup of agave (1 cup sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Just a note? I think next time I’d actually double or triple these amounts for more flavor, especially since I don’t use much sugar.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of soy powder (evaporated milk.)
  • 3 tablespoons of egg replacer, whipped to foam with hot water (2 eggs)
  •  3 tablespoons of Earth Balance (butter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients ready to get mixed together. Those pumpkins aren't part of it - they're sitting there waiting for me to do something with them later this week.

Some of the steps to make this filling take a while, including the first step: prepping the potatoes. We all know there are just some prep tasks that really suck. Pitting cherries. Grating lemon zest. Peeling potatoes. Suck, suck, suck. So, I recommend the following method to make the peeling process easier:

Step 1: Boil the potatoes in a big pot. (Or if you’re like me and lack a big pot, two small pots.) Bring the to a rolling boil, turn down the heat a big and let them cook until they’re very, very tender. I found this took about 30 minutes.  While the potatoes are boiling, I recommend going and making your crust.

Step 2: Once the potatoes are very, very tender, drain them and set them aside until they’re cool enough to handle. Slide the peels off like so and put into a big mixing bowl:

Peeling potatoes made easy.

Step 3: Mash the potatoes. This is easiest if you have a food processor. I do not have a food processor, so as usual, I mashed them up with my hands. It took forever to get them smooth, which was ok with me since my crust needed to refrigerate anyway. If you’re in a hurry though you should definitely use a processor.

Step 4: Combine the spices, salt, evaporated soy (or milk) and whisk. Add the egg replacer (or just eggs) and mix it all together evenly. Add the melted Earth Balance (or butter) and vanilla and mix evenly. Finally, add the whole mix to your sweet potatoes and mix until the ingredients have combined evenly.

Step 5: Pour into your crust and bake at 375 for about an hour.

It will look like this when done:

Well not exactly like that since the pie in this picture has three slices missing....

As for the crust, here’s how I made mine this time. You’ll need regular flour, cake  flour, butter (or substitute if you’re me), vegetable shortening, sugar, salt and water to make this.

Step one: Combine one cup of all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour (the two kinds of flours = extra flaky).

Step two: Mix in a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt.

Step three: Cut in half a stick of very cold Earth Balance (you can use butter.) The colder the fat, the flakier your pie or so my Southern pie cookbook tells me. I need to look up the chemistry of that one. Mix with hands. Cut in 5 tablespoons of very cold vegetable shortening and do the same.

Step four: Sprinkle 1.4 cup of cold water and tossed together until you can make a ball. Flatten ball into a thick pancake, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate an hour. Go and make your filling as instructed above.

Step five: roll out, press into pan, fill with filling and bake.

Finally: enjoy!

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