Apple Pie with a Cinnamon Roll Crust

apple pie cinnamon roll crust

Every fall for the past four years, my husband and I have gone apple picking. And each year the first culinary priority is a proper apple pie.

With apologies to salted caramel and brown butter, I like my apple pie plain and simple. Sounds straighforward enough, but it’s taken me a few tries to get this apple pie right to where I like it. I like lots of apples — lightly and classically spiced, tender but not mushy, sliced and not chunky, and not too sweet.

Normally with fruit pies I spring for a fun lattice top; but this time around, inspired by a photo I saw from dessert artist Linda Lomelino, I decided to gild the lily with a cinnamon roll crust. I used my favorite partially whole grain, all butter crust, but this technique should work with your crust of choice.

A few notes:

  1. Although I’ve written out this recipe as if I were doing this in one day, my current pie procedure is a 2-day process. This is mostly because the scheduling is easier for me (having an active kiddy-kins makes it hard to do all at once), but I actually think my crusts have turned out better with the extra chilling and relaxing. Here’s my process: the night before baking, I roll out my crusts. I line the pie plate with the bottom one. I roll out the top one onto a piece of parchment and transfer that parchment to a sheet pan. I also peel and slice the apples and start the maceration process. Then I wrap everything in plastic and chill in the fridge overnight.
  2. The cinnamon roll crust is quite easy to put together, but it can get soft with the extra handling and rolling. Just stick it in the fridge if it starts feeling soft at any point.
  3. My pie plate is on the deep side so this is the right amount of apples for me. If you have extra, just cook them on the stovetop and add to your oatmeal; or sprinkle some granola on top for a tasty snack! Or make a baby pie using your dough scraps!

Apple Pie with a Cinnamon Roll Crust

Makes one 9-inch pie

Crust Ingredients:

  • One recipe of your favorite 9-inch double pie crust, divided in 2 (this is mine)
  • 1.5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 50g / 1/4 c granulated sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3.5 lbs apples (about 6-8 medium-sized), peeled and thinly sliced (I like a combination of tart and sweet apples such as Gala, Northern Spy, Mutsu, and Cortland)
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 50g / 1/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 50g / 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • A couple handfuls of coarse sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/4 t allspice
  • 1/2 t coarse kosher salt
  • A few dashes of Angostura bitters, optional

To finish:

  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cream or milk and a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp coarse or pearl sugar

Method:

  1. Combine the sliced apples with the lemon juice, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Allow to macerate for at least one hour at room temperature (or up to overnight in the fridge).
  2. Roll out the bottom half of your pie crust and transfer to a greased pie plate. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2 to 1 inch border all around. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while preparing the rest of your pie.
  3. Drain the macerated apples into a colander set over a small saucepan to catch the juices. Bring the juices to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. It should be thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
  4. Roll out your top crust into a 12 inch round. Brush the melted butter evenly over the whole surface and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. Gently but tightly roll up the pastry into a log. (If the pastry is soft at this point, transfer to the fridge for a few minutes to firm up before proceeding.) Using a serrated knife, trim off the ends and cut the pastry into 1/2″ slices. On a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or Silpat, arrange the remaining slices into a tight circle. The slices should be touching but not overlapping. Gently roll out into a 10-inch circle (or large enough to fit your pie plate — it should be about 1/8-1/4″ thick). Transfer the parchment with your crust to a sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the pie.
  5. Combine the spices, salt, lemon zest, and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Add the drained apples and stir to coat evenly. Add bitters if using, and stir again to combine.
  6. Remove the pie plate from the fridge. Scatter a handful of coarse sugar over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the apple slices inside, trying to pack them in as tightly as possible and mounding slightly in the center. (I find if you take the time to layer the apples neatly and carefully with no big gaps, you won’t have the problem of a big gap between the filling and the top crust. It’s worth the extra few minutes.) Drizzle the reduced juices and scatter another handful of coarse sugar over the apples.
  7. Invert the cinnamon roll crust over the top and gently peel off the parchment / Silpat. Trim the top crust and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. It’s ok if there is a little separation of the rolls — they will serve as your steam vents. Chill the entire pie until the pastry is firm, at least 20 minutes.
  8. While the pie is chilling, preheat the oven to 425F with racks in the middle and bottom and a baking sheet on the bottom rack. Prepare the egg wash by whisking the egg and cream/milk together.
  9. When you are ready to bake, gently brush the egg wash all over the surface of the pie, followed with a generous handful of coarse or pearl sugar. Transfer to the bottom rack of the oven, on the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn down the oven to 375F, rotate and move the pie on its baking sheet to the middle rack, and bake another 30-45 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 3 hours before slicing.

I couldn’t resist making a lil’ baby pie with the scraps…
applemini-1

Sourdough Pumpkin Hokkaido Milk Bread with Salted Honey Maple Butter

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed my recent obsession with sourdough. My sourdough starter has been the most successful thing I’ve grown; somehow we’re going on two years and it hasn’t died on me yet! This summer I decided to focus on maintaining a strong starter so we could have fresh bread for the long Canadian winter ahead. It’s been a dangerously delicious hobby!

Although most of my efforts have been on artisan hearth breads with a crispy, crunchy crust I’ve also been experimenting with sandwich breads which are easier for my still-relatively-gummy little guy to handle. This sourdough Hokkaido milk bread formula I found on The Fresh Loaf has been popular in our house — it’s delicious for sandwiches, but also simply toasted with jam. Or plain, fresh out of the oven.

In the spirit of pumpkin spice season, I thought it would be fun to try making a pumpkin version. I’m quite happy with how it turned out — just the right festive color! The pumpkin, to be honest, is there more for color and moisture than flavor; I think you could probably add a tablespoon or two more puree, though it’ll depend on the water content of your puree (I used store-bought).

As it is, this is a delightfully soft sandwich bread with a mild sourdough tang. We enjoyed it with salted honey maple butter, but it also made a mean grilled cheese. I think it would also make lovely dinner rolls for a Thanksgiving meal!

A few notes:

  1. I know a lot of people don’t have sourdough starter around; check out this recipe which uses similar ingredients but no starter. I suspect you could probably take your favorite Hokkaido milk bread recipe and add about 1/2 a cup of pumpkin — maybe hold back a couple tablespoons of liquid to start.
  2. I knead this dough by hand, and it starts out very sticky (sourdough or not). It also takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. You will think that it is never going to become a workable dough, but it will. I use this enriched bread dough technique for kneading and it typically takes me 10-15 minutes (it took longer the first time). Avoid the urge to add more flour as this will make your loaf dense. Just keep at it; it’s a good stress reliever! 🙂
  3. This recipe takes a long time from start to finish — about a day and a half (most of it is waiting). Because the dough is enriched it proofs even slower than “regular” sourdough.
  4. I am providing this recipe in grams as that is how I measure my breads. The correct ratios are important so I highly encourage the use of a scale!!!
  5. Bread baking is a skill that takes a lot of practice and I certainly am still at the beginning stages of my journey. But I am happy to try answering any questions you might have! And I’d love to hear if this recipe works out for you!

Sourdough Pumpkin Hokkaido Milk Bread

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf | Makes one 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf

Levain Ingredients

  • 18 g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 30 g milk
  • 56 g bread flour

Mix and ferment at room temp (73F) for 10-12 hours. When ready it should be puffy and domed and you should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

Final dough ingredients

  • 276g bread or AP flour (I used half KAF bread flour and half AP flour for a balance of chewiness and volume)
  • 34g granulated sugar
  • 34g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 5g fine grain sea salt
  • 110g whole milk, lukewarm
  • 85g pumpkin puree
  • 15g milk powder
  • Melted butter, for brushing
  • All of the levain

Method:

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp (73F) for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 3 or 4 equal parts and lightly shape each into a ball. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into an oval and roll up (like a jelly roll). Rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece into an oval again, along the seam, and re-roll as tightly as possible. Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise about 6 hours at room temperature. The dough should be well risen, puffy, and fill the pan about 80%.
  6. About 1 hour before baking, preheat oven to 400F. After the dough has finished proofing, transfer to oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through for even browning. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top to keep from burning. When the loaf is finished, immediately turn it onto a rack. Brush melted butter over the top and sides while the loaf is still warm. Allow to cool before slicing.

Salted Honey Maple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup softened, unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of honey and/or maple syrup (I used about a tbsp of each)
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Method:

Using a handheld mixer, whip butter and honey/maple syrup together until combined. Gently stir in a generous pinch of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon). Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with more flaky sea salt.

Fig, Onion, & Labneh Galette

fig galette slicesWhen it comes to baking, I’m a bit of a control freak. I weigh my ingredients, temper my ingredients, mise en place as best as possible, etc. But when it comes to cooking, it’s a different story. Recipes are rough guidelines. “Seasoned to taste” is how I like to roll (i.e. the name of this blog, “cook til delicious”), with many meals being inspired by the contents of the fridge.

This galette is baked, but was definitely created by my “cooking” self. Originally I had planned to make a fig frangipane galette, but decided last minute to go more savory because, ahem, I didn’t have anything planned for dinner. To be honest, I didn’t precisely measure anything when I made this. (I wasn’t planning on blogging it until an Instagram photo of it sort of exploded, and multiple people asked for the recipe, haha.) This whole thing was definitely fridge-inspired. I had half a pie crust left over from this galette, plus a carton of figs hanging out. My labneh obsession is still going strong so labneh was the easy choice here; but I’m sure ricotta or even bleu cheese would be excellent as well — or even a bit of yogurt and sour cream mixed together. So consider the following “recipe inspiration” — honestly, with fresh figs and pie crust you can’t go too wrong.

Fig, Onion, & Labneh Galette

Makes one medium galette | Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • A batch of your favorite single crust pie dough (I used this one)
  • 1/3 cup labneh
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • A dozen medium fresh figs, some halved and some quartered
  • Leaves from 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil / butter, for the onions
  • Balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water or milk, for egg wash
  • Balsamic syrup* for drizzling, optional

Method:

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out your pie crust to about 1/4″ thick in whatever shape you want. Trim the edges if you prefer, or leave them a bit ragged for a more rustic look. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
  2. Caramelize your onions. Over medium heat, warm some olive oil / butter in a medium non-stick pan. Add the onions, a pinch of salt and sugar, and turn heat to low. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized (20-30 minutes). Add some balsamic vinegar towards the end of cooking, if desired. Set aside.
  3. Mix labneh with the white parts of the scallion (reserving the green for garnish) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove chilled pie crust from the refrigerator. Spread the labneh over the crust, leaving a 1.5-2″ border on all edges. Scatter the caramelized onions evenly over the labneh. Arrange the figs, cut side up, over the onions (I put the halved ones around the edges and the quartered ones in the middle). Scatter the thyme leaves over the figs. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling, and crimp to seal. Return to the fridge to chill until pastry is firm, at least 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Prepare egg wash. When ready to bake, brush edges of pastry with the egg wash. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Cool slightly. Garnish with reserved scallion, some flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic syrup. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

*For the balsamic syrup, I put about 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar plus a couple spoonfuls of sugar in a small saucepan and boiled it down until it reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

baked fig galette

Late summer galette

galette-bakedAnd just like that, it’s mid-August.

This summer — this whole year, really — has been a bit of a blur. Is it new parenthood? I don’t know. I do know that all of a sudden I’m looking up ideas for first birthday cakes and wondering how we made it here so fast.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I still have about a month before that first birthday, so it’s time to take advantage of this late summer fruit. Pies are usually my go-to for using up ripe and unphotogenic fruit, but I thought I’d go for quick(er) and rustic and opt for a galette this time around. After making this I wondered why I don’t galette more often. They’re easy and unfussy, and also the perfect size for our Sunday night family dinners. While I’m certainly not giving up pies, I do think galettes have earned their spot in the dessert rotation.

galette-unbakedMy favorite pie crust recipe these days is half all-purpose flour, one quarter spelt, and one quarter rye. The whole grains really pair well with fruit and lend a depth of flavor. I’ve also started adding a couple of turns to my pie dough right after mixing (like making puff pastry) — it makes the final rolling out a lot easier and adds some nice flaky layers. The crust recipe below will make enough for one double crusted pie, or two medium-sized galettes. It keeps in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for a few months (well-wrapped).

This recipe is very forgiving. Use more or less sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit, or change the fruit altogether. I think a nectarine + blackberry combo would be amazing, as would peaches + plums.

Late Summer Galette

Serves 6-8 | Adapted from Apartment 2B Baking Co.

Galette Crust Ingredients (Makes enough for two galettes):

  • 1 1/3 c / 170g all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 c / 170g rye or spelt flour, or mix of the two
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 255g very cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c ice water

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Add the butter and quickly rub it into the flour with your fingers until some pieces are the size of peas, some lima beans. Flatten the pieces of butter by squeezing them between your fingers. If the butter gets too soft / melty at any point, stick the mixture into the fridge for a few minutes before proceeding.
  2. Add the cider vinegar to the ice water and gradually add to the butter-flour mixture, a couple tablespoons at a time. Mix until the water is evenly distributed and the dough holds together when you squeeze it. You may not need all the water; you may need a tablespoon or two more.
  3. Dump the entire mass onto a work surface and divide into 8 equal parts. Using the heel of your hand, drag each part across the work surface. Essentially you are creating sheets of butter in your dough. Once you have flattened all eight parts, stack them together and pat into a rough square. (If your dough feels sticky at this point, transfer to the fridge and chill about 10 minutes before proceeding.) Lightly flour your surface and roll into a rectangle about 8″ x 11″. The dough may be a bit crumbly, but that’s fine. Gently fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. Then turn the dough so the seam is at the top and parallel to your body. Repeat this process 1-3 more times. Divide in half, then wrap each half in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, before using. (You can also freeze the dough at this point and defrost in the fridge the night before you want to use it.)

Galette Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 1 c peaches, pitted and sliced (about 2 medium, or half a pound)
  • 1/2 c raspberries
  • 1/2 c strawberries, diced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 c peach or berry jam
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Assemble the galette:

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of your dough into a rough 12-13 inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare your filling.
  2. Zest half a lemon into a medium bowl. Add the granulated sugar and saffron, if using, and rub the lemon and saffron into the sugar with your fingers until you can smell the lemon. Add the salt and cornstarch and mix to combine. Add the fruit to the bowl and toss gently to combine.
  3. Remove crust from the fridge. Spread the jam in the center, leaving about a 2-inch border around the edges. Top with the fruit, leaving any excess juice behind. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling, pressing gently to seal. Chill until pastry is firm, at least twenty minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400C.
  4. When ready to bake, brush crust gently with the beaten egg and sprinkle a generous handful of turbinado sugar over the top. Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, rotating pan once for even baking. Allow to cool before serving.

galette-slice

Momofuku-Style Peach Pie Cake

momofukupeach
It’s my birthday this week so I made myself a cake. If you’ve hung out around here at all you’ve probably noticed I really like making cakes (possibly more than eating them…), so honestly I was quite excited to do so. Originally I had planned to make a pretzel cake because I LOVE pretzels. But then we went peach picking and ended up with a refrigerator full of peaches; and hence this peach pie cake was born.

I started making Momofuku-style cakes this past spring because my husband really wanted their chocolate malt cake for his birthday; and I can’t stop! Honestly, they are super fun to make and not as horribly difficult as they might appear. As long as you have the right tools and pace yourself (I usually spread the process out over days), they are totally doable for a home baker.

My biggest tips for making a Momofuku-style cake:

  • Get the right tools. Two things definitely worth sourcing are a 6×3 cake ring (I found mine at a local cookware outlet) and 3-inch acetate (I get mine by the foot at a baking supply store; it’s super cheap). You *could* probably get away with a similar sized springform pan and parchment paper, but if you plan on making more than one I’d say it’s worth it to get your hands on the real goods. The acetate will give you nice clean lines and will make your cake-stacking more secure.
  • Other notes on tools:
    • I bake cake layers in a regular 9x13x2 cake pan.
    • I use ziplock bags with a corner cut off to squeeze out the more liquidy layers (i.e. liquid cheesecake). The first couple times I just used the back of a spoon; but the ziplock is a lot easier, especially getting stuff right to the edges (which is key to getting the cool naked-cake look).
    • I use a small offset spatula to spread the layers as evenly as possible.

Tips for cake assembly:

  • Make the cake portion at least a day early and chill it thoroughly in the fridge or freezer before cutting out rounds / assembly. Cold cake is a lot easier to handle.
  • Make sure you have enough room in your freezer AND fridge. These cakes are 5-6 inches tall, which is quite a bit of freezer real estate. The cake needs to be frozen overnight and defrosted in the fridge for at least 3 hours, so plan accordingly (I’ve been caught madly reorganizing at the last minute; it’s so stressful).
  • Pace yourself for sanity’s sake. The nice thing about Momofuku cakes is that a lot of elements can be made ahead. For this cake, I made the pie crumb on Tuesday; the pie filling and cake on Wednesday; and the liquid cheesecake and frosting on Thursday. I assembled on Thursday, froze overnight, and served Friday night. I’ve never tried to do everything in one day. It’s probably possible, but knowing myself I’d get baked-out halfway through and wouldn’t enjoy the process. Plus, the dishes would be out of control…
  • Write out your cake anatomy before assembly. It sounds kinda lame, but I find it super helpful to list out the cake layers and quantities so I don’t screw the order up. Way easier than scrolling on your computer with sticky fingers.

Baker’s Notes:

Momofuku cakes are…intense. This is generally a good thing — the unique mix of crunchy / sweet / salty / creamy is what sets them apart, in my book. But sometimes they are a little TOO intense in the sugar department. Obviously these cakes are special occasion desserts and “treat yourself” and all that, but I actually prefer them a little less sweet. For this cake, I:

  • Used a cake base that isn’t too sweet (see recipe below).
  • Used half labneh and half cream cheese in the liquid cheesecake recipe. I also cut the sugar to 1/2 a cup, and used just 1 Tbsp of milk (to account for extra liquid in the labneh).
  • Reduced the sugar in the pie filling recipe to 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar.

In the end, I was very happy with the level of sweetness and would make these adjustments again.

Hope that helps — go forth and cake!

Momofuku-Style Peach Pie Cake

momofukupeachvertFollow the recipe for the Momofuku Apple Pie Cake, except…

  • Make 1/3 a recipe of this cake for the cake portion.
  • Replace apples in pie filling recipe with an equal weight of peeled, diced peaches and reduce sugar if desired (see Baker’s Notes, above).
  • Use milk in place of the apple cider soak.
  • Add some sprinkles if you want to be extra festive.

In summary, cake anatomy from bottom to top is:

  • Peach Cake
  • Milk Soak
  • Liquid Cheesecake
  • Pie Crumb
  • Peach Pie Filling
  • Peach Cake
  • Milk Soak
  • Liquid Cheesecake
  • Pie Crumb
  • Peach Cake
  • Pie Crumb Frosting
  • Pie Crumb & Sprinkles

Labneh Panna Cotta

labnehpannacotta
I really like experimenting in the kitchen, but I’m also kinda cheap. The contents of my fridge inspire many of my food experiments (and dinner plans). Lately I’ve been on a labneh kick. And as much as I really like labneh on toast, sometimes you need to mix it up a bit. I’ve also been on a cake and cake decorating streak. And while I love the process of making fancy layer cakes, sometimes you want a dessert that takes less than 10 minutes and zero oven time. This, my friends, fits that bill.

This panna cotta is on the thicker, more pudding-y side. It’s also quite lightly sweetened, making it breakfast-appropriate in my book. You can dress this up or down as you like. I think panna cotta is improved with some contrasting textures, so I like adding toasted nuts, granola, or even some Momofuku cornflake crunch. Some fresh fruit is also excellent; or even just a drizzle of honey. Let your fridge inspire you.

Labneh Panna Cotta

Serves 4-6 | Adapted from A Brown Table

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk, low or full fat (I used soy)
  • 80 g / 4 tablespoons honey + extra for drizzling, if desired
  • 7 g / 1 packet gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 1 lb labneh, lightly whipped

Method:

  1. Place the milk in a small saucepan along with the honey and vanilla and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the milk is heating, sprinkle the gelatin in a small mixing bowl containing the cold water. Allow the gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes.
  2. Once the milk has come to a simmer and the honey is dissolved, remove from heat and add the bloomed gelatin, stirring to combine.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into a large mixing bowl containing the labneh. Whisk to combine evenly, ensuring no lumps remain. Divide the mixture among serving glasses, or into a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours until firm.

Berry Balsamic Pie + Pie Tips

berry pieSummer is here, which for me means it’s farmers’ market season! One of our favorite Saturday summer activities is going early to our local market and letting the fresh produce inspire us for the next week’s meals. I especially love checking out (and sampling) the fresh berries — I can eat them like candy. And then, of course, there is pie. Delicious berry pie.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on improving my pie game. My first couple of homemade crust attempts were pretty scary and not so pretty, but each time I’ve learned something new and I finally feel like I’m getting it down. I know there are a million tips out there for making perfect pie crusts; and I think every pie maker eventually learns what works best for him or her. But for what it’s worth, here are some things that have helped me improve my pies.

Cold ingredients = more tender, flaky pie crust. Everyone emphasizes this because it’s true. I chill my flour and freeze my butter at least 1/2 an hour before mixing up a crust. If you ever feel your butter starting to get too soft, just stick your operation in the fridge for 10 minutes so you don’t end up with melty butter.

Fraisage and roll. I’ve started using these techniques for my last few crusts. It’s not necessary, but it does seem to make the crust flakier and easier to roll out in the end. I especially recommend these couple extra steps with partially whole-grain crusts.

Chill out. Pies bake up best from a chilled state. Your crust won’t shrink as much and the lattice you spent so much time doing will have a better chance of not collapsing into your filling. I like chilling my completed pie at least 20 minutes before baking (or until crust is firm). You can also roll out your bottom crust the night before and chill it in the pie plate, covered. Chill your lattice strips before weaving too; they’ll be easier to work with.

Macerate your fruits. With fruit pies, toss your fruit with a few tablespoons of sugar and let sit for an hour or more. This will draw out the juices which you can either leave behind or boil down and add to your pie in a concentrated syrupy form (i.e. your pie will be flavorful but not soggy from all the excess juices).

Take it easy with the decorations. I love looking at beautiful, fancy pie crusts on Instagram and Pinterest; and designing a fancy top is a great way to flex your creative muscles while making a traditionally rustic dessert. Just be careful not to overhandle your crust and go too thick on your cutouts / braids / lattice. Otherwise your top crust will take a lonnng time to bake and end up being tough and gross; and that would just be sad. Also, if you do want to make one of those extra fancy crusts with the braids and lattice and cutouts, plan to make at least 1.5 times a regular amount of crust. (For the pie pictured here I used a normal double crust recipe but used every last scrap.)

Happy pie making!

Berry Balsamic Pie

Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds

For the crust:

  • Your favorite double all-butter double pie crust (9-10 in.); I like this for a classic all-butter and this for a partially whole-grain

For the filling:

  • 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 lb. mixed berries, rinsed and quartered if large (5 to 6 cups) — I used a mix of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries
  • 1 small baking apple (such as Northern Spy or Golden Delicious)
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. minute tapioca, finely ground
  • A few grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water or cream and a pinch of salt)
  • Demerara sugar, for finishing

Method:

  1. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the berries. Stir gently to combine and allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Roll out half of your pie crust and place it into your greased pie plate. Refrigerate while preparing the filling. Roll out your top crust and either leave whole or cut lattice strips if desired. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet and refrigerate as well.
  3. Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a box grater. Drain the berries of excess liquid and combine with the shredded apple.
  4. Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar and Angostura bitters. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, tapioca, black pepper and salt. Gently fold the sugar mixture into the berry mixture.
  5. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the lattice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks at the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  6. Brush the pastry with the egg wash; if your pie has a lattice top, be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn). Sprinkle with the desired amount of Demerara sugar. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

Labneh Cheesecake

cheesecake fullI’ve been lactose-intolerant for 20 years. I’m not allergic to dairy; am fine with butter, yogurt, and eggs (whew!); and can handle small amounts of milk / cream baked into food. But I can’t drink a glass of milk or eat a normal ice cream cone without unfortunate consequences. Although there are lots of dairy alternatives nowadays, there are a couple of things I’d resigned to just living without — delicious melty cheese on pizza and cheesecake.

Lately, though, I’d been pondering the idea of using labneh — or yogurt cheese — as the basis for a cheesecake I could eat. Strained Greek yogurt can be a delicious accompaniment to cake, and even added to whipped cream for extra flavor; so it seemed like it was worth a shot.

cheesecake sliceGuys, this recipe is a game changer for me. I actually ate a whole piece of cheesecake without worrying about stomach issues and ENJOYED IT. It was smooth and creamy and subtly tangy. It also went over well with people that aren’t lactose intolerant — a good sign in my book. Oh, and as far as desserts go, it’s quite healthy!

I made this with homemade labneh (lowfat Greek yogurt strained for 24 hours – Liberte brand). I suspect it’ll work fine with store-bought labneh; though as it is the main ingredient you’ll want to go for a good quality one with a nice firm texture. I topped mine with salted caramel sauce, but imagine it would go well with any number of toppings (you could go fairly sweet if you prefer as the cheesecake itself is mildly sweet).

This recipe is quite easy, though for best results make it a day ahead so it has time to set overnight in the fridge. This improves the texture of the cake and makes for easy slicing.

Salted Caramel Labneh Cheesecake

Makes 1 six-inch cheesecake | Adapted from Hungry Couple NYC

For the base:

  • Your favorite graham cracker crust (I used a half recipe of this one, swapping out toasted walnuts for the pistachios)

For the filling:

  • 250 gr / 1 cup labneh (lowfat or full-fat; storebought or homemade), room temperature
  • 60 gr / 1/4 cup lactose-free sour cream, full-fat, room temperature
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t pure vanilla etract
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 50 gr / 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 65 gr / 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • hot water, for the water bath

For the topping:

Salted caramel sauce, storebought or homemade

Method:

  1. Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 6-inch springform pan or cake ring with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare your graham cracker crust, pre-baking and cooling completely if needed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your pan for a water bath by wrapping your springform in a double layer of foil and placing in a large roasting pan (or a larger cake pan at least 1/3x bigger).
  4. Mix together labneh and sour cream on medium speed until smooth.
  5. Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Sift in cake flour and sugar and mix on low speed until just combined.
  7. Add egg and mix on low speed until just combined — do not overmix, but the batter should be smooth and uniform in color.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
  9. Transfer pan to oven and fill the larger pan with 1/2 – 1 inch of hot water.
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes, until edges are firm but center is still a little jiggly. Turn off oven and allow cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from water bath and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. Once completely cool, refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight before de-panning.
  12. Spread top with salted caramel sauce (or your topping of choice), slice, and serve!

Raspberry Lime Pie

full-topped
One of my pet peeves is having little bits of ingredients taking up space in the fridge. It seems like I always have a touch of sauce or cream or frosting leftover and I feel wasteful throwing it away. The bright side is that this forces me to get creative with dessert flavor combinations, and I end up making things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

This pie, for example.

swirlOriginally I’d planned on just making plain old key lime pie, as it’s one of David’s favorites. (Confession: I’ve never been able to easily find key limes, so I always use plain old limes…someday, someday.) But I had a couple spoonfuls of raspberry sauce leftover from one cake, and a handful of crushed pistachios from another. And also some sour cream from…something. So in they all went. I’m quite happy with the end result — it’s a nice springy twist on an old standby.

I’ve never been very happy with my graham cracker crusts — they’ve either shrunk or bled butter. This adaptation from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook has been the most successful to date. I’ve also found freezing the crust before baking helps minimize shrinkage, and you can use a piece of parchment paper to gently “fix” slumps or unevenness while the crust is still warm.

Raspberry Lime Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie | Adapted from Milk and Smitten Kitchen

Graham Pistachio Crust Ingredients

  • 190 g / 1.5 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 35 g / 1/4 c crushed raw unsalted pistachios
  • 20 g / 1/4 c milk powder
  • 14 g / 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 g / 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 55 g / 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 55 g / 1/4 cup heavy cream

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to evenly distribute.
  2. Whisk butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss to evenly distribute. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand.
  3. Press evenly into a greased 9-inch pie pan. Freeze crust until hard, about 10 minutes.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes in preheated oven. If crust slumps during baking, use a piece of parchment paper to gently reshape it while still warm. Allow crust to cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Raspberry Lime Filling Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 14-ounce (396-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup (155 ml) fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen tiny key limes or 4 persian/regular limes)
  • 2 T seedless raspberry preserves or jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 1/2 tablespoons. Beat zest and egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened again, about 3 minutes more.
  3. Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined. Pour filling into graham crust.
  4. Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, drop dots of raspberry preserves on top of filling. Use a toothpick or knife to swirl into the filling.
  5. Bake pie for 10-15 minutes, until set but not browned on top at all. Let pie cool completely before adding topping (ideally, chill at least a couple hours in the fridge).

Topping Ingredients

  • 3/4 – 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sour cream (optional)
  • Lime zest and crushed pistachios (optional garnish)

Method:

In a medium bowl, beat cream until soft peaks are formed. Add sugar and sour cream, if using, and beat until desired thickness (do not overbeat). Spread over top of chilled pie. Ideally, pie should be chilled at least another 2 to 3 hours with the cream on top so that it can fully set before you take a slice.

slice

Chinese Swiss Roll

sliced swiss roll

Sometime last year, I thought it would be fun to make a Swiss roll. Even though my family didn’t eat much cake when I was growing up, we did all enjoy these roulade cakes from the local Asian supermarket — usually plain, but also coffee or chocolate flavored. If you’ve never had one before, Swiss rolls are a light and fluffy sponge cake usually rolled up with whipped cream. They are a nice, not-too-sweet dessert that pairs well with coffee or tea.

Anyways, my first Swiss roll attempt was a flop. The cake broke when I flipped it out of the pan. It tasted ok, though the bake was a bit uneven (probably because I didn’t rotate the pan and slightly underbaked it). I didn’t try again until last week, when I was looking for a recipe to use up some whipping cream from my last cake.

Second attempt: also a fail. The cake made it out of the pan in one piece, but it stuck to the paper and broke when I tried to roll it.

At this point, it became less about actually wanting to eat Swiss roll and more about wanting to BEAT MY NEMESIS. I read a bunch of Swiss roll recipes and tips and decided to try a different baking method. I was really careful about measuring out all the ingredients ahead of time and prepping the various baking utensils and surfaces. And…success! The cake came out in one piece and actually resembled a roll when all was said and done. I tried again a couple days later just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it worked again! Very exciting.

untrimmed swiss roll

Some things I learned:

  • Measure out all your ingredients ahead of time and read the instructions through to the end a few times. The batter isn’t hard to put together, but it does require you to move quickly so your batter doesn’t collapse.
  • I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for best results.
  • Watch the cake carefully at the end, checking every 30 seconds or so when it’s near the end. Because it’s so thin, it can go from underdone to overdone just like that. That being said, make sure the cake is completely done before you take it out our you’ll end up with gross mushy cake.
  • I’ve tried to explain the rolling process below, but it’s easier to watch it. This video from Fine Cooking is helpful.

uncut swiss roll

Chinese Swiss Roll

Serves 8

Ingredients

Batter A

  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 85g / 1/3 c milk, at room temperature
  • 55g / 1/4 c neutral oil
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g / 1 c cake flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Batter B

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar

Other

  • 1-2 tbsp icing sugar

Filling & Garnish

  • 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 3-4 tsp caster sugar or to taste
  • Icing sugar, optional garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a 13″ x 9″ inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Batter A:

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, caster sugar and salt into a thick batter. Pour in milk and mix well. Pour in oil and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Sift in cake flour and baking powder into the batter and stir slowly into a thick batter. Do not overmix.

Batter B:

  • In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy. Slowly add in the caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

Combine:

  1. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. When they are almost combined, add another 1/3 of the whites. When almost combined, add the final 1/3. Fold gently, but thoroughly. When you are finished, the batter should be a uniform color with no streaks of white remaining.
  2. Immediately pour batter into prepared oven and spread evenly with a knife. drop the tin on the counter several times to pop and large air bubbles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes, rotating pan once after 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
  3. While the cake is baking, prepare a clean linen tea towel (larger than the cake) and measure out some icing sugar.
  4. As soon as the cake is done, run a knife around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the cake. Spread the tea towel over the cake, and place a large sheet pan or cutting board on top of the tea towel. Invert the cake onto the towel. Gently remove the parchment paper. Starting on a short end, gently but tightly roll the cake up with the towel inside. Allow cake to cool completely inside the towel.
  5. When the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream and sugar to taste to stiff peaks. Gently unroll the cake and remove the towel. On one short end of the cake (whichever looks more curled), use a sharp knife to score three parallel lines about 1/2 a centimeter apart (this will help the rolling process). Spread the cream evenly over the cake, leaving about an inch around the edges so the filling doesn’t seep out. Starting from the scored end, gently roll the cake back up. Transfer seam side down to a serving plate, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

To serve

  • Slice the ends off the cake and dust with additional icing sugar if desired.