Orange-Buttermilk Chess Pie

I don’t know how your family works, but it is not unusual for me to receive in the mail an envelope from my parents chock-full of magazine articles.  I truly think my mother finds no pleasure greater than that of rrrrrrrrripping pages out of her favorite periodicals to slap a stamp on and send my way.  Last week I received one of these envelopes, addressed to “Kyler Bowling Enterprises” and filled with pages from a Country Living Magazine (really, Mom?) article on the perfect pie crust.

Challenge accepted.

The interesting thing about this crust vs. the crusts I’ve been making is that it calls for 7-Up instead of vodka or water.  The “chefs” at Country Living Magazine did much testing and felt that the bubbles in 7-Up created the flakiest crust.  Worth a try.

So, I know what crust recipe I’m going to use, now I need to choose a filling to put inside of said pie crust.  The article had five different State Fair Award-Winning fillings, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with one of those.  The one that sounded the best to me was the Orange-Buttermilk Chess pie.  I had talked about Chess pies with my mom, but had not actually made one, so I settled on that and made my grocery list.

Friday morning I got up and around, and took a look at the recipe so I could get the crust started.  And THEN I noticed that the instructions for the crust said that it should chill for 8 hours.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  So, I ran to the store and got everything I needed, came back, and got started, with the intention of chilling the crust for no more than 3 hours.

This recipe calls for the use of a food processor to cut the butter into the flour.  I was kind of stoked to not have to do this the old-fashioned way, which hurts the palm of my hand (first world problems), but quickly realized that it’s just a really quick way to have to clean out all the nooks and crannies of your food processor.

I actually think I "pulsed" one too many times and over mixed.

I actually think I “pulsed” one too many times and over mixed.

I grabbed my chilled 7-Up from the fridge, and, tablespoon by tablespoon, slowly stirred it in until I had sort of a dough-like consistency (it was a little dry, but I had hit my max number of allowed tablespoons), then patted it into discs to go in the fridge.

I don’t remember what I did while the crust chilled.  Likely there was a nap and some Candy Crush involved.  I think I also worked on some KC Local Week stuff, which is a really kick-ass project my friend Karie has put together that we’ve been helping with.  But mostly naps.  I set a timer for three hours, I do remember that.

When the timer went off, I rolled my ass off the couch and pulled it out of the fridge.

Hello, dough.

Hello, dough.

The recipe suggested rolling the dough out on parchment paper to avoid having to use too much flour, thus toughening the crust.  I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this before.  I’m a big fan of east solutions that make cleanup super easy.  It worked well, despite the fact that my first crust (the recipe made two discs) was total crap and cracked, ripped, and generally sucked.  I finally decided to scrap it by cutting it up, sprinkling with cinnamon sugar, and making pie crust cookies.  While those were in the oven, I pulled the second crust out (luckily I was making a single-crust pie) and tried again.  This time things went more smoothly, and I was able to actually get the crust into the pie pan.  Edges tucked and crimped, and back into the fridge for the recommended 30-60 minutes.  

While the crust chilled I got started on the filling, which consisted of mixing dry ingredients, then wet ingredients, then mixing them together.  


Cornmeal, sugar, and salt

Cornmeal, sugar, and salt.


Eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, melted butter.

Eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, melted butter.

Mixed and poured into the crust:

I feel like this picture could easily be used in an article in an actual magazine because it is a fancy action shot.  Except that it looks like a bowl of vomit.

I feel like this picture could easily be used in an article in an actual magazine because it is a fancy action shot. Except that it looks like a bowl of vomit.

This beauty baked for 55 minutes (about five minutes longer than the recipe called for) and made my house smell like an ORANGE GROVE.  We had to head out of the house as soon as it came out of the oven, but when we got back late Friday night we cut tiny slices (we had eaten a really big dinner) and enjoyed them.  

Plating probably shouldn't be done on a weird green plate.  This does not look very appetizing.

Plating probably shouldn’t be done on a weird green plate. This does not look very appetizing.


– It quickly became clear that this was ScottyTris’ favorite pie of all the pies, because within a day he asked me to make another one to take with us to Chicago this weekend. He was also not totally agreeable to sharing the pie with others but relented enough to let the Fahrenholz/Johnsons each enjoy a piece.

– The pie crust turned out really well.  The 7-Up did make it light and flaky, and also added a really nice sweetness without being too much.

-The texture of the filling is interesting – the cornmeal sort of rises to the top and creates a top layer that is a little crispy and chewy, while the eggs and buttermilk make a soft custard layer below.  This was the main reason I had avoided this type of pie – I’m not a big fan of the curdled egg custard type texture – but the juxtaposition of the chewy cornmeal top against the creamy custard layer was nice.

– The orange flavor was WONDERFUL.  I love citrus. LOVE.  and this tasted like an orange dream.  It had a little bit of the bite of tartness that an orange has, but also that sort of sugary sweet orange candy flavor.  YUM.  This pie will definitely grace my oven again!

Tomorrow we leave for a quick trip to my hometown of Chicago so ScottyTris can OWN the Chicago Triathlon (no Oprah puns intended).  So, there won’t be a pie this weekend, but I am hoping to find a lovely pie shop in the Windy City so we can still eat pie.  I really would like to go to Sweet Sensations, another one of the bakeries featured in Teeny’s book, but I map quested that shit and it’s WAY up at the north end of the city, nowhere near where we’ll be all weekend.  A good second option is the Hoosier Mama Pie Company, which is a bit of a trek from our hotel, but not nearly as far as Sweet Sensations.

Sweet Sensations’ Browned Butter Pear Pie

Well, this week has been non-stop busy, and I realized tonight that I hadn’t yet done my write-up about last Friday’s pie. Bad baker! So, without further ado…

This lovely pie comes from Teeny’s book. It’s a recipe that is directly from one of the bakeries in which she apprenticed during her pie sabbatical, Sweet Sensations in Chicago.  I love all things browned butter, and I also like pies (clearly), so despite the level of complication the recipe required (I made a S’Mores Pie – I can handle a complex recipe!), I went for it.  It also didn’t hurt that next week we will be in Chicago for the Chicago Triathlon, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to do a Pie Pilgrimage to Sweet Sensations while we’re there.  If not, Friday Pies will be on hiatus next week, and instead of a pie blog, I will likely post a link to ScottyTris’ race report.

Onto the pie.  I procrastinated quite a bit on Friday (NO WAY. #sarcasm), and though I made the crust early in the morning, I didn’t get started on the filling until after lunch, putting me in a bit of a rush to get things done.  I got to work thinly slicing the pears, which was time-consuming and hard on my back.  I tend to hunch over in an unnatural way while cutting produce, as well as make faces like this:

I always feel my face contort when I cut produce, but I had never before taken a picture to see what I looked like. Kinda wish I hadn't.

I always feel my face contort when I cut produce, but I had never before taken a picture to see what I looked like. Kinda wish I hadn’t. Also: don’t make fun of my wallpaper. I didn’t pick it out.

Here’s some pear action:

So many pairs of pears.

So many pairs of pears.

Chopping all those pairs.

Paring all those pairs.

Still life with pairs. Pears. Pares?

Still life with pairs. Pears. Pares? #homonyms

Once that pain in my ass was over with, I started to make the streusel topping. God, do I love a good streusel topping.  I think we could figure out all of the world’s problems with a good apple crisp.

So, after spending a good thirty minutes hunched over the cutting board, other time-suck things kept happening.  Including a microwave butter explosion (which was so loud I practically jumped out of my skin).

Cleaning this up was fun.  I swear to god I'd only put it in for 15 seconds, which I guess was 10 seconds too long.

Cleaning this up was fun. I swear to god I only put it in for 15 seconds, which I guess was 10 seconds too long.

Cleanup complete, I got all ingredients assembled:

Struesel mixin's

Struesel mixin’s

After dumping in the melted explosion butter, the streusel got set aside to wait until it was time for it to perform.

Moving on to the filling – This pie is slightly more complicated than your average fruit pie in that there’s fruit but also a pudding-like filling that is basically a really thin cookie dough.  Eggs, sugar, vanilla, flour, salt.  Add chocolate chips (and change the flour to eggs ratio) and you’d basically have chocolate chip cookies that probably wouldn’t get baked because I would just eat all of the dough and then feel sick.

First, browning the butter.  Which takes a while.  And is boring.  But smells nice.

Yellow butter.

Yellow butter.


Brown butter.

Brown butter.

(There was actually about ten minutes of stirring, stirring, stirring contained in that *POOF*)

While the butter cooled (I found out the hard way that, even after sitting for ten minutes it was still nuclear hot) I prepped the eggs and sugar – whirring them in the mixer until they were light and fluffy.  At that point I slooooowly added a tiny bit of the butter at a time, tempering the batter until I felt like it was safe to just dump the rest of it in.  I let it spin for a minute while I prepped the flour and salt combo, then slowly mixed that in, too.

Pretty much exactly like making cookies.

Pretty much exactly like making cookies.

While it was mixing, I pulled the crust I had made earlier in the day from the fridge so it could rest for a few minutes before I tried to roll it.  The recipe for this crust was a little different than Teeny’s regular crusts, and she recommended doing this because the dough can be rock-hard when it’s cold.

I scooped the filling into the big bowl of pears and mixed it around until things were well-coated.

This was a really good smell. I ain't gonna lie, I ate some of the filling coated pears.

This was a really good smell. I ain’t gonna lie, I ate some of the filling coated pears.

Rolled out the crust (which, even after resting for a few minutes was still a bit of a chore to get started on) and got it placed into the pie pan.  I think I’m really starting to get the hang of the tuck and crimp (when I can get the crust rolled out in a manner that allows for a tuck, or doesn’t have a million cracks around the edge).

I was pretty proud of this one.  My method uses one knuckle of my left hand on the inside against two knuckles of my right hand on the outside of the edge.  Seems to work pretty well, and I don't get stubby nail marks in the dough.

I was pretty proud of this one. My method uses one knuckle of my left hand on the inside against two knuckles of my right hand on the outside of the edge. Seems to work pretty well, and I don’t get stabby nail marks in the dough.

Pears, meet Crust:



Streusel topping, you complete me.

Yummmmmm 2.0

Yummmmmm 2.0

Popped it into the oven and then raced through a shower to get ready to meet some friends for dinner.  I like to live on the edge and risk a burned crust by not paying any attention whatsoever to my pie while it’s in the oven.  Also, I am pretty badass at multi-tasking.  Though ScottyTris would be more likely to call it “procrastinating”.  ScottyTris is highly logical and doesn’t understand how the creative brain works.

After dinner, which included many margaritas, we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy with Joe VI (for the second time) and we were all a bit tipsy and goofy, which is the best way to see a movie for the second time.  Except for the super-serious fan boys sitting next to you.  They aren’t so into that.  The best part was, at the very end of the movie, after the credits, there’s a tiny little short funny bit that makes a VERY specific reference to a pop-culture thing that took place an era that we lived through, but that these fan-boys did not.  They had spent the whole credit-rolling talking about themes and characters and differences between the movie and the comics and other very deep, fan-boy things.  Well, when this specific pop-culture reference happened, they all sat there, blank-faced and confused, while us old farts cackled.

But I digress.

After the movie we came back to the house to devour some pie.  Shane stopped by, too, because that dude is not one to shy away from pie.  In fact, when I made the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, I gave him a piece to take home to his lovely wife, Heather, and found out the next morning that he went home and promptly ate that piece of pie without Heather ever getting to see it.  I guess I’m flattered?

Anyway, here is the pie BC (Before Cutting)


Golden brown and perfectly beautiful.

And here it is AD (After Devouring)

Thank you for your service, pie.

Thank you for your service, pie.

We had Karie and Dane over for dinner on Sunday, and they were kind enough to help us finish it off.


-Pay close attention to butter in the microwave. Cleaning it up from all 6 surfaces is not fun times.

-This new crust recipe was pretty simple and quite good.  It also rolled out fairly well without a ton of cracks and shape issues (though that might just be that I’m getting better at rolling it out?)

-I think I could have let this one bake a few more minutes.  The pears were still a little on the “al dente” side, as Joe put it (though he said he liked the crispness of the pears with the creaminess of the pudding filling holding them together).

-For as delicious as the filling was BEFORE baking, I was a little disappointed with the finished product.  It lost some of the brown-buttery nuttiness in the process.  I think it was Joe who asked if it was vanilla pudding, which is pretty much what it tasted like.  Not that vanilla pudding is a bad thing for it to taste like, but for all of the effort put in to browning that damn butter, I was hoping it would hold on to some of the complexity and depth of flavor that browned butter provides.

-Despite exploding butter and lack of browned-butteryness, I would totally make this pie again.  It was tasty, and not overly sweet, and HELLO? STREUSEL TOPPING.  ‘Nuff said.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

When this past Thursday night rolled around, I had not yet picked a pie to make the following morning. When Friday morning rolled around, I had no interest in making a pie. This is the first time in the course of this project where I just couldn’t gather any excitement about baking. I really just wanted to spend the day laying on the couch, reading a book and watching TV.  So, for the first half of the day, that’s exactly what I did.  Then, I happened across a recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie Dip, and wanted to make it.  BING! Found my motivation!  I decided that I couldn’t make the dip until I’d made a pie.

I had been thinking about the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie that we had at Petsi Pies in Boston, and went looking for a recipe, as there isn’t one in Teeny’s Tour of Pies.  Once I narrowed it down to this one, I ran out to the store to get the few things I would need and didn’t already have. (Shockingly, I already had a giant bag of local pecan halves in the pantry, and of course ScottyTris always has whiskey in the house)

One concession I allowed myself was the cheat of using my store-bought backup crust.  Now, to be honest, if you go look at the recipe, it actually CALLS for a store-bought crust.  So what I’m going with is that I was actually just following the directions.  The disappointing thing was that the crust barely filled the pie pan.  There wasn’t any overhang of the edge at all, so there was no way to fold and crimp the edges. Store-bought pie crust FAIL.

In case it helps, I felt dirty the whole time I was unwrapping this and putting it into the pie pan.

In case it helps, I felt dirty the whole time I was unwrapping this and putting it into the pie pan.

Then I set to work chopping pecans.

Chop, chop, chop

Chop, chop, chop

The chocolate chips and pecan pieces got sprinkled into the crust-lined pie pan.  I was already thinking this pie looked pretty tasty.

Why bother with the liquid? Let's just pop this in the oven as-is!

Why bother with the rest of the ingredients? Let’s just pop this in the oven as-is!

I put the filled crust into the fridge so it wouldn’t get all wilty (it was kind of hot in my kitchen), and starting making the sugar syrup.  I call it that, because it’s basically four different versions of sugar + whiskey.  I had texted ScottyTris before I went to the grocery to make sure it was ok for me to use his fancy Buffalo Trace whiskey. He gave me permission.


Dark corn syrup


White sugar


Brown sugar



This mixture has to come to a boil, and let me tell you – I am not a whiskey drinker, but the smell of all that sugar and whiskey was magical.  I paid pretty strict attention to the liquid as it boiled, because it kept trying to foam up over the edge of the pot.

I had a bit of a boil-over incident. There's still gooey sugar-whiskey stuck under the burner of the stove.

I had a bit of a boil-over incident. There’s still gooey sugar-whiskey stuck in the well under the burner which does NOT smell good when I use the stove.

Once the three minutes of boiling was up, I removed it from the heat and got to work on the egg mixture that would eventually get mixed with the sugar and whiskey.

Eggs, melted butter, cornmeal, vanilla, salt. Mix.

Eggs, melted butter, cornmeal, vanilla, salt. Mix.

The fun/scary part came once the egg mixture was well-beaten.  Time to incorporate the still very hot sugar and whiskey syrup, hopefully without scrambling the eggs in the process.  I used a big spoon to take a few spoonfuls of the syrup and quickly whisked them into the eggs.  Then I picked up the syrup pot and carefully, slowly poured about 1/4 cup of it into the eggs, whisking the whole time.  Once I felt like the eggs had been well tempered, I poured the remainder of the syrup in, continuing to whisk it all together.  I got a little nervous for a minute, because it sort of looked like the eggs were curdling, but realized it was just pockets of air bubbles from all the whisking.

Get in there!

Get in there!

As soon as everything was as mixed together as I could get it,  (the syrup seemed to gather at the bottom of the bowl as soon as I stopped stirring) I carefully poured it into the pie crust, over the pecans and chocolate chips.



I wasn’t feeling too confident that this pie wouldn’t boil over, so I put it onto a foil-lined sheet pan and put it in the oven.  I checked in on it a couple of times, and after about 30 minutes, put my crust cover around the edge to keep it from burning.  After the maximum quoted baking time (55 minutes) it pulled it out and noticed that the middle was still wiggling just the littlest bit.  I popped it back in and quickly called my mom to get her ruling on whether it should bake a little longer.  The top was already quite dark, so I was worried that leaving it in longer would mean burning the top.  Her thought was that it would continue to bake a bit after it was out, so a teeny bit of wiggle ought to be ok.

So, I took it out of the oven, and then ScottyTris and I needed to leave to pick a couple of his colleagues up from the airport.  And then we had Oklahoma Joe’s.  And then we came home and had tiny slices of pie because we were so full from all of the BBQ.

Hours later, fully cooled.

Hours later, fully cooled, and with a hole in the middle where I started to cut it and THEN realized I hadn’t yet taken a picture.

On Saturday I finally made the Lemon Meringue Pie dip, which was delicious.  I made pie crust dippers and also had Vanilla Wafer cookies on hand, making it basically a deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie.  I didn’t take any pictures while making it, but I did take these:


The meringue was so pretty!


Between Lauren and the kids, ScottyTris, Shane and me, we took down a good portion of the dip. I’m eating the rest of it Right. Now. 

Late Saturday afternoon, I took the Pie and the dip over to Lauren’s house and got to eat slices of the pie with 7 and Miss M.  7 killed his piece, and Miss M shared with me (with a lot of “I hold!” while pointing to my fork, and me repeatedly saying “Auntie T does NOT want to have to give you a bath, so you aren’t touching this sticky pie with anything but your mouth!”


This one can be a bit picky with food, so I consider it a win when he wolfs down a piece of my pie!


This one will basically eat anything, so her opinion isn’t as coveted – but she sure is cute!


– I probably should have left the pie in the oven for a few more minutes, because when I cut into it, the middle was still a little bit soupy.  That said, the top was very crispy, so more time in the oven would likely have burned the top.  I’ll chalk this problem up to my crappy oven.

-The bourbon flavor is there, but it’s mostly overpowered by the chocolate flavor.  Which is just fine by me! In the long run, it was probably not worth using the expensive whiskey for this – the cheap stuff would have been just fine since you can’t really taste it much anyway.

-Because the crust wasn’t big enough to allow me to fold it over and crimp it, the liquid in the pie bubbled up and over, settling in between the pan and the crust, making the crust pretty soggy.  That and, when  went to make the pie crust dippers for the dip with the other half of the pie crust package, I noticed that the instructions on the box say to sprinkle both sides of the crust with flour if it’s being used for a pecan or other high-sugar content pie.  Oops.  Still tasted good, was just a little mushy on the bottom.

– Pecan pie has always been one of my least favorite of all the pies (I’d never gone out of my way to eat it before Petsi Pies), but it’s growing on me.  Add chocolate to it, and I’ll make it on purpose any day.

– I was shocked to realize that the store-bought pie crust wasn’t really any better than the crusts I’ve been making from scratch.  It’s definitely easier, but I didn’t find it to be superior in terms of flakiness or flavor.  So maybe I’m actually kind of good at this?!

Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie

This week’s pie came to me by suggestion of a friend who lives in North Carolina.  Megan is also a fan of pie, and sent this recipe my way early in the week.  Luckily I was, at that point, without any ideas as to what pie to make, so it was perfect timing.  The fact that it’s a citrus pie did not hurt it’s chances of getting made.

Another thing that appealed to me about this pie, is it’s North Carolina history. My parents live on the western border of North Carolina, my brother and his family live in Charlotte, my best friend lives in Greensboro, and my favorite place to be on earth is on the beach at Topsail Island.  Additionally, both ScottyTri’s Half and Full Ironman-distance triathlons (BRAG ALERT!) took place in Wilmington, NC.  So, to say I have some connections to North Cackalacky would be an understatement.  Though I didn’t grow up there, I certainly consider it my secondary home, and we find our way there for one reason or another almost every year.

I checked out the recipe at and on Friday morning I headed to the store to get saltines and sweetened condensed milk.  This recipe is probably the least complicated one I’ve done, as well as the smallest number of ingredients.

This time I actually thought ahead and put a stick of butter out to come to room temp before I left for the store.  I’M GROWING HERE, PEOPLE.

I set to work crushing up the saltines, which was kind of a satisfying thing to do.  Looking back, I probably should have crushed them a little more finely, but it worked out ok.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Next I added in the sugar, and then plopped in the stick of soft butter, cut up into chunks for ease of mixing.  Much like graham crackers and butter, and pretzels and butter, saltines and butter smell really good.

Smoosh, smoosh, smoosh.

Smoosh, smoosh, smoosh.

I got the mixture good and combined, and then pressed it into my pie pan.  I tried to really flatten it out, like I’ve learned to do with the graham cracker crust, but the cracker pieces were still a little big, making it difficult to really smash it down.  Into the fridge for 15 minutes…


Lotsa weird stuff in our fridge, including saltine pie crust.

…and then in to the oven until golden brown (about 18 minutes).  While it was baking, I played good housewife and got the vacuum out.  Normally that’s as far as I would get – getting it out.  But this time I actually vacuumed a few rooms.  I could have made a whole new dog with all of the fur I emptied out of the canister.  I did three rooms and had to empty the vacuum six times.  Gross.

Once the pie was done baking, I started making the custard filling.  This was the easiest filling I’ve ever made.  No slicing a million strawberries, or mixing cornstarch and sugar and allowing fruit to juice.  No double-boilers or simple syrups.  I dumped a can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/4 each of lime and lemon juices, and four egg yolks into my mixer and let them blend for a few minutes.

Three ingredient pie! Well, except for the three ingredients in the crust.  Six ingredient pie!

Three ingredient pie! Well, except for the three ingredients in the crust. Six ingredient pie!

Once everything was well mixed together, all that was left to do was dump it into the crust and bake.

                         IMG_4810 IMG_4811 IMG_4812

                         IMG_4813 IMG_4814 IMG_4815

Oven shot!

Oven shot!

Being a custard pie, this puppy had to cool completely before it could be cut, so I left it to cool for about an hour on the counter, and then moved it to the fridge.  When we were ready to serve the pie, I quick mixed up some homemade whipped cream to top the pieces with.

Real whipped cream is so easy to make, I'm not really sure why anyone buys the junk that's full of chemicals and preservatives (and expensive!).

Real whipped cream is so easy to make, I’m not really sure why anyone buys the junk that’s full of chemicals and preservatives (and expensive!).

This particular Friday happened to be Lauren’s birthday.  So we put the kids to bed, skipped the birthday song, and had first AND second dessert at the same time.  (Typically we put at least an hour in between first and second desserts)

Pie in front.  Chocolate birthday cake in back.

Pie in front. Chocolate birthday cake in back.



– The flavor palette of this pie is incredible.  The crust is salty and sweet, the filling is tart and tangy but very sweet. The whipped cream is sweet, and the sprinkle of sea salt is…well… salty.  All of this salty/sweet creates a perfect combination of flavors.  The saltiness perfectly balances out the overly sweet filling.  The crunch of the crust and the smooth creaminess of the filling balance each other perfectly.

– Like I mentioned, I definitely need to crush the saltines more next time.  There will still pieces that were a bit too big, making it hard for the crust to stay intact when cutting and serving.  Smaller crumb would also allow for a better press into the pie pan.  I’m already trying to think of other ways to utilize the saltine crust.

– The sea salt sprinkled on top of the whipped cream seems silly, but it makes a huge difference.  I didn’t use much, but it was so noticeable, in a good way.

– I used half lime and half lemon juice, but the recipe says you can use either or both.  I’d be interested to do just lime juice next time, as maybe it would make it more like a key lime pie in flavor.  All lemon might make it more like lemon meringue.  I liked the mix of the two, though.

– This is a pie best eaten right away, as the crust gets absorbs the moisture from the filling and gets soggy pretty quickly. We finished the last slices on Sunday, and by then the saltines had gotten kind of chewy and damp.

First slice out for the birthday girl!

First slice out for the birthday girl!

Sour Cherry Pie

One of the difficulties with making pies on Friday is that we always have a million things going on throughout the weekend, making it hard to get my blog posts written in a timely fashion. Also, as we’ve already established, I’m lazy. This past Friday I spent the day making two Tart Cherry Pies, and then immediately went to a BBQ and then to see a play, then Saturday morning we went out to Lawrence for packet pick up for a race ScottyTris would compete in on Sunday, followed by an all-city dive meet for our niece and nephew, then straight to a birthday party at the park for my friend Morgan, and then to bed to get up at 3:45am to head to Lawrence for the race, which was followed by lunch and then a movie, and then an early dinner with Joe & Lauren (including a margarita that was as big as my head). Honestly, after the movie on Sunday, I was beat, and got in bed and pretty much stayed there until Monday morning.

All that said, I am still making pies on Friday – it’s just hard to find the time to do my write-up right away. So, my dad needs to quit complaining, because I’m a busy grown up with busy things to do. =)

On Thursday, ScottyTris rode his bike to work in the morning, and then didn’t want to ride home in the evening, so I picked him up from his office. On the way home we stopped at the grocery to get some kitchen staples, and I figured I would check to see if the store had tart cherries, because if they didn’t, I would have to figure something else out for my pie. Then, something shiny distracted me and I completely forgot to check for tart cherries. So, I found a sweet cherry pie recipe, just in case, and Friday morning I headed back to the store to see what my options would be. Luckily, they had frozen tart cherries in stock, which Teeny’s recipe said were ok, so I got a couple bags and headed home

Sort of felt like cheating to use frozen fruit, but Teeny said it was ok!

Sort of felt like cheating to use frozen fruit, but Teeny said it was ok!

(Real talk: I also got two giant boxes of Golden Grahams – one for S’mores krispy treats for the BBQ we were going to that night, and one for ScottyTris and me to eat out of the box and put on ice cream)

This pie calls for Teeny’s Mom’s All-Shortening Crust, which is a huge departure from Teeny’s other crust recipes. This one uses no vodka, room-temp shortening, and warm water. It also does not require the typical vacation in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it out. I was making two crusts, so I got started on the first one… and it didn’t go well. I got the dry ingredients mixed together and cut in the shortening, and then went to add in the warm water, but after adding the maximum amount, my bowl was still full of dry, crumbly bits. It just wasn’t coming together. I sprinkled in a couple more tablespoons of water, and it finally sort of became a solid mass, but it was still very dry. On the second batch, I accidentally dumped in way too much water and ended up with dough that was a better texture in terms of coming together in a ball, but I was worried it was going to be too wet to roll out.

So crumbly.

So crumbly.

I put the crusts aside and got to work on the first round of cherry filling. The tart cherries had been thawing for a while, and I got them cooking on the stove and then added the sugar/corn starch mixture.

Starts out thin and milky, and quickly becomes a weird cherry ectoplasm.

Starts out thin and milky, and quickly becomes a weird cherry ectoplasm.

This required constant stirring for what the recipe said would be 15-20 minutes. Imagine my surprise when, five and a half minutes in, the mixture all of a sudden became thick and started trying to burn to the bottom of the pan! I quickly removed it from the burner and continued to stir so it wouldn’t scorch. After scooping it into a heat-proof bowl and adding some almond extract, I set it aside to cool a little while I rolled out the crusts.

Fortunately, the crusts weren’t too difficult, though the cracking around the edges made it impossible to get a good round shape. I was able to make it work, and patted it into the pan. After scraping all of the filling into the crust, I got to work trying to figure out the lattice top.


I had never tried a lattice crust before, and was afraid it would look terrible, but Teeny has step-by-step photo instructions in the book which made it super easy. My biggest problem is not cutting the strips very evenly, which gives it a lovely “drunk” look.

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With the first pie in the oven, I got started on the filling for the second one. This time I kept the stove temp a little lower so the cherries could cook a little longer before the corn starch kicked in, which seemed to work. The second set of crust went better than the first, as I had had the opportunity to practice on the first one. My lattice looked better, too… but I forgot to take pictures.

Around this time I realized that I really should have put my crust edge protector around the rim of the pie, because it had gotten very dark. I added it, and continued to let the pie bake. And then I got distracted by going to the bathroom and laying on the couch, and it overcooked (translation: BURNED). I was a lot more vigilant with the second pie, and it came out looking perfectly golden brown.

I was a busy baker - two pies AND S'mores Krispy Bars.  Note how the burned pie is hiding and the perfect pie is right up front.

I was a busy baker – two pies AND S’mores Krispy Bars. Note how the burned pie is hiding and the perfect pie is right up front.

This is what my a-hole dog does the entire time I'm making pie.  Guess who shows up as soon as it's out of the oven?

This is what my a-hole dog does the entire time I’m making pie. Guess who shows up as soon as it’s out of the oven?

The reason I made two pies was because I wanted to take one to the BBQ we were going to, as well as take one to share with my friend Bess, who we would be seeing that night at the opening of the play she directed. Bess had pie instead of cake at her wedding reception a couple of years ago, so I knew she would be excited to try my wares. And by wares I mean pie, perv.


Heyyyyy, Tom Sawyer! Bess did an exceptional job directing this production at The Theater in the Park, and has already, in just one weekend of performances, broken the attendance record for the season. There are more performances this coming weekend so check it out!


Well, of COURSE I made Bess pose awkwardly with the pie after the show. Why wouldn’t I? (Notice that Bess was the winner of the not-burned pie!)

       IMG_0229 IMG_1259Hufferstein Pie Action Shots!

– The all-shortening crust was good. I use butter-flavored shortening, and I think that makes a big difference. It was flaky (though a little bit tough from having to work it so much to add the additional water) and had a nice, light, buttery flavor that went well with the sweet and sour of the cherry filling.
– The filling was VERY thick. I’m guessing the amount of corn starch called for in the recipe was perhaps more than was actually needed. It was more like heavy jam than the typical lose, gooey pie filling. That said, it was still very tasty – just didn’t really feel like typical pie filling. The texture reminded me of those jam thumbprint cookies.
– The recipe called for four cups of cherries for the filling, but I think next time I’ll use at least 5, because once the filling was cooked down and poured into the crust, it didn’t seem like enough.
– I used raw sugar on one crust, and quickly realized that raw sugar is probably not the best thing to use, as it is sort of yellow-colored, which resulted in a sort of kitty litter crystal look on the top crust of the pie instead of a sparkly, angel dust look.
– I am a big fan of the cherry-almond flavor combo, and this pie was a little lacking. I think in the future I will slightly increase the amount of almond extract that I use. Not by too much, because the point is for there to be a hint of the almond flavor, not make it an almond pie with cherry flavoring.

Pie Pilgrimage

This past Friday ScottyTris and I were on vacation in New England, so I was unable to make a pie… but that certainly didn’t stop me from eating some! Teeny’s Tour of Pies includes a handful of different pie shops across America where she went to apprentice at the feet (hands?) of great pie makers. One of those pie shops is in Boston, so when we were finalizing the plans for our trip a couple months ago, I asked our friend and host, Jill, if we would be able to make a stop at Petsi Pies.  A pie fan herself, she was eager to please.

Petsi Pies has four locations, three of which are cafes that serve more than just pies.  The one we visited is simply a pie shop and is in Somerville, a suburb on the North side of Boston, located just East of Cambridge. It’s a quaint little area full of funky shops, cute old houses that have been broken up into apartments, and my college friend, Arwen! When I told Arwen that Petsi was on the agenda for our Boston visit, she was excited because though she had eaten Petsi Pie before, but had never actually been to the bakery.

Arwen and me re-living our college days (with photobomb courtesy of ScottyTris)

Arwen and me re-living our college days (with photobomb courtesy of ScottyTris). We hadn’t seen each other in about 9 years.

The shop is in a tiny little storefront with an even smaller eating area off to the side that houses four little tables with chairs and a shelf housing a small selection of pie cookbooks. There’s an assortment of bars and cookies on the counter that look delicious. Behind the counter are racks and racks of freshly baked pies. You can peek around the corner past the pies and look back into the start of the kitchen, but you can’t see much. The staff was very friendly and helpful – I mean, how could you not be, really, when you spend the day making and selling pie?!


The outside.

The inside.

The inside. (The eating area is to the right – you can just barely see the doorjamb at the edge of the photo.

Super cute pie decor on the wall in the eating area.  Each pie is made out of cardboard!

Super cute pie decor on the wall in the eating area. Each pie is made out of cardboard, paper, and other crafty bits!

We picked Arwen up Saturday around lunchtime in Cambridge, where she is subletting an apartment while her Somerville pad is being renovated. Petsi was just a few minutes away, and we headed that direction with grumbly tummies ready for some lunch. Luckily, Petsi Pies offers sweet AND savory pies, so we each had a slice of Quiche for lunch, followed by a slice of pie for dessert (pie squared?!).

I had the Asparagus and Mozzerella pie for lunch, which was very tasty (and a good sized slice, too!).   ScottyTris had the Bacon, Leek, & Gruyere pie which had a wonderful smoky flavor.


Pie, pie, and MORE pie! Lunch should always come in slices.

After much hemming and hawing I finally decided to get a slice of the Strawberry Rhubarb with Crumb topping. This decision was only made once I had full confirmation from our crew that everyone else was getting a slice that I also wanted to try, so I would get to try four different kinds of pie. Arwen got the Peach Blackberry, Jill the Apple with Crumb topping, and ScottyTris ordered the Petsi Pies specialty, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan (which is the pie included in Teeny’s cookbook). With only five pies available for slices at a time, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan didn’t happen to be available for a single slice, but they did happen to have a little 5″ individual pie, which Scott was not too disappointed to have to order.

StawBarb, as I lovingly call it.

StawBarb, as I lovingly call it.

The Strawberry Rhubarb was the perfect mixture of sweet and tart, and the crumb topping was delicious – buttery and nutty and golden brown. The Peach Blackberry was a wonderfully sweet flavor combination, and the Apple had an incredible cider-like quality to it which made me wonder what spices they use. But, the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan was the winner of the day. It was decadently fudgey, while still being crunchy thanks to the toasted pecans. ScottyTris commented that the Chocolate filling was so thick and rich that it reminded him of ganache.

Mini Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie.  We had no trouble fishing this off between the four of us.

Mini Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie. We had no trouble fishing this off between the four of us.  I’m still having dreams about it.

After eating all of our pie, we were stuffed and had to get on to the next leg of our trip. By the time we got to Rhode Island, I was sad I hadn’t bought a pie for the road. We made up for it by going to a fabulous little bakery in Providence after dinner called Pastiche. My head almost exploded when I had to decide on just one dessert from the case full of beautiful pastries. (I went with the Rustic Peach Tart with Creme Anglaise, and it was heavenly, though I did have bites of Jill, Arwen, and ScottyTris’ choices, too)

This place was so cute, and located in the Federal Hill area of Providence, RI. I wish I had taken a picture of the dessert case!

This place was so cute, and located in the Federal Hill area of Providence, RI. I wish I had taken a picture of the dessert case!

Our trip overall was so much fun and filled with tons of laughter, delicious food, Paul Revere, and breeching whales. I hope we get to go back again soon, if only for some more Petsi Pies!

Bonus pic: ScottyTris and I took in a Red Sox game at Fenway with Jill, thanks to free tickets from our friend Ronnie.


It was great to get the experience of a Sox game (especially since they were playing the White Sox – this Chicago-bred girl didn’t know who to root for!), but it was definitely a lot different from a Royals game.  The Red Sox are much more about the game itself than about the spectacle around the game.  We couldn’t believe how quiet it was most of the game – no organ music, no batter walk-up music, no games in between innings. Just baseball.  ScottyTris loved it.

Apple Rhubarb Raspberry Pie in an Almond Crust

With this past Friday being the Fourth of July, I knew I needed to make a pie that was at least a little bit patriotic.  The original recipe for this pie (which I found on Pinterest) had a top crust made entirely of different sized star cutouts.  Very cute.  Also, the Almond Crust intrigued me.  So Friday morning I set to work on making the crust.  The elements that make it almond are ground almonds (I used Trader Joe’s “Just Almonds” ground almond meal that I happened to have on hand) and a teeny tiny bit of almond extract.

Flour, almond meal, salt, sugar (I added the sugar - it wasn't in the recipe).

Flour, almond meal, salt, sugar (I added the sugar – it wasn’t in the recipe).

I added ice water and vodka (also not in the recipe, but it has worked well for me, so I just replaced about 1/3 of the required water with it).  At first the dough was very dry and crumbly, so I added just a little bit more water… and all of a sudden I had kind of a gluey mess.  I did what I could to pat it into two discs, put it in the fridge, then promptly went to the grocery to get the fruit and a backup store-bought crust (We had a busy afternoon planned, and I didn’t have time to make a new crust.  If the first one was indeed ruined, I would just have to go against my instincts and use a ready-made crust).

I had gotten some Braeburn apples, rhubarb, and a couple little pints of raspberries at the store.  Peeling and slicing apples used to be my least favorite thing, but last year (thanks to my friend Heather) I discovered a magical little machine that you cram an apple onto, and it peels, cores, and slices an apple ALL AT ONCE.  Needless to say, I made a LOT of apple crisp last fall and winter!  This made the chore of prepping the apples for this pie super easy.  All the fruit went into a big bowl, to which I added the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon mixture.

Apples and raspberries

Apples and raspberries



At this point I covered the fruit mixture with a towel because we are dealing with a small fruit fly problem in our kitchen, and pulled the questionable dough out of the fridge.  With a good amount of flour sprinkled on the rolling surface and the dough, it turned out ok, and the store-bought crust got to stay in the fridge.

Not too shabby.  Those specks are the almond meal, not evidence of our fruit fly problem.

Not too shabby. Those specks are the almond meal, not evidence of our fruit fly problem.

Next was pouring the fruit into the crust.  It’s not a Friday Pie without almost dropping the fruit-filled bowl into the crust and smashing it, so after I fixed the smushed edge, I continued to move the fruit into its new home, while trying to keep the liquid that made it into the crust to a minimum.

Another magical shot where I must have grown an extra arm. I truly don't remember how I took this photo.

Another magical shot where I must have grown an extra arm. I truly don’t remember how I took this photo.

Packed full with fruit!

Packed full with fruit!

When I went out to the grocery to get the fruit and back-up crust I also made a quick stop at Joe & Lauren’s, because my pie pan was there.  I also borrowed Lauren’s star-shaped cookie cutter to use for the top crust.  It would have been fun to have more than one size star cookie cutter, but I don’t do so well at thinking ahead, so just the one stolen from a friend would have to do.

Basically the only thing making this a Fourth of July pie.

Basically the only thing making this a Fourth of July pie.

I started cutting stars and laying them out on top of the fruit.  I kept it pretty simple, and I think it turned out cute.

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After about 25 minutes in the oven I pulled it out to turn it around for even baking, and noticed that it was REALLY watery.  Like,the top crust was just sitting on a puddle of water.  I grabbed some paper towels and tried to sop up some of the liquid, because it was starting to bubble over the edge and down between the pan and the crust.  I got some of it out, but realized I would never be able to get it all, so I just put it back into the oven to finish cooking and gave my mind over to the idea that this pie might not work out like I had hoped.  When I finally took it out, the filling had firmed up a little, but there was still quite a bit of liquid in the filling. Scott and I headed to a Fourth of July party at a friend’s house, and left the pie to cool.  When we got home the filling had firmed up more, which was great.

The real test came the next day, when we headed out to Pomona Lake for some fun camping times with Scott’s family.  We brought the pie out after dinner and cut into it.  My sister-in-law, Amanda, has a thing against fruit pie (but I love her anyway), so I brought her a couple of frozen single-serve Chocolate Cream Pie slices so she would’t feel left out of the pie extravaganza.  I was pleased to see the filling was pretty solid and well set when I cut into it.  I passed around slices, and everyone seemed to like it, except for my nephew, Sam, who apparently takes after his mother, and had one of her Chocolate Cream Pie slices instead.

Many Patriotic!  Much tasty!

Many Patriotic! Much tasty!


– The crust turned out ok, though it wasn’t incredibly flaky, and frankly, didn’t really have any almond flavor.  I think if I use this crust recipe again, I’ll increase the amount of almond extract I use.  I’m glad I put the sugar in, because I think without it the crust wouldn’t have had much flavor or sweetness at all.

– Scott made the point that the first couple of bites tasted very perfumey, which I agreed with.  The flavor was very strong and kind of flowery, and not really in a good way.  But, after a few bites, I guess the taste buds get used to it and it’s not as noticeable.  That said, overall this was not a the top of my list in terms of favorites.  I don’t think I would go out of my way to make it again. Not when there are S’mores Pies to be made!

– I liked the star-spangled crust, but all the different pieces and layers made it a little bit hard to slice without making a bit of a mess.

– My niece commented that she liked the pie a lot and made sure to tell me that she ate her whole piece, so that was sweet.  I think she was trying to make up for her little brother not wanting a piece.  🙂

Camping, Pie-Eating Action Shot!

Camping, Pie-Eating Action Shot!

We spent our weekend pretty much burning the candle at both ends, which is why I haven’t had time to write this until now. Sorry about that.  This pie-maker also has a social life!