Everything’s Just Peachy (Or, The Pie Lady Speaks)

In a previous post, I promised to show you how to turn this…

Into this.

But first, a story…

Back in the trucking days, we didn’t get much “home time.”  The hubby and I were on the road together for weeks, or he’d have to head out for deliveries in one direction while I headed the opposite way.

Don’t get me wrong.  I relished the thrill of driving a big rig into the unknown, meeting interesting people and eating great food.  But, I missed my comfort zone — my kitchen — and the longing for “homemade” wouldn’t let up until I stood in front of my stove.

Everyone has their own idea of the ultimate “homemade” treat.  For me, it’s pie.  Maybe I watched one too many episodes of “Bonanza.”  The way Hoss’s eyes lit up when he spied a pie cooling on a window sill made me want to feed that man.  Or at least make him a pie.

After coveted weekends at home, we couldn’t possibly eat all of the goodies I made, so we’d bring them OTR (over the road) to share with our customers.  Enroute, I felt like a pirate with a booty of oven-lovin’ tucked under the sleeper bed. :)

Soon, our favorite customers became accustomed to receiving a homemade pie (or two) along with 50,000 pounds of steel, and it wasn’t long before they dubbed me The Pie Lady.

On trips when I was dispatched elsewhere, I’d send pies along with the hubby to drop off with the following instructions:  “Please put them in the break room so everybody gets a slice.”  (The fellow at the front desk had a real hankerin’ for pie.)

After one such delivery, my hubby returned to the steel yard to pick up a second load.  When he walked into the office, he caught the yard manager with a fork in hand, sneaking “bites” from his desk drawer.  He’d stashed a whole blueberry pie in his desk!  Another Hoss.

(Such is the power of pie.)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens.  But first, start your stove.

Back in the early pie-making days, I never knew when fruit pies were “done enough.”  Was the filling set — or soup?  Was it cooked — or crunchy?  Plus, I got tired of boil-overs, burnt crusts and fricassee’d fingers.  Ouch.

Then I came up with an idea:  “Why not cook the filling on top of the stove first?”  Not only did it take the mystery out of “doneness,” it ultimately cut down on baking time.  (Less time in the kitchen meant more time to play!)

I’ll interject “the recipe” here so it’s easier to follow along…

Homemade Peach Pie

5 c. sliced fresh peaches

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. butter

3/4 c. sugar, divided

3 Tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated)

Pinch of salt

Pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie

Extra sugar for “dusting”

First, peel yourself a mess of peaches. (For an easy “how to,” click here.  Thanks, Dara!)  Next, cut them in half, remove the pits, and slice them into 1/4″ slices.

Place the sliced peaches in a large non-stick skillet over low heat.  Sprinkle with water and half the sugar.  Dot with butter.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally.  (I use a wide spatula to “lift” the peaches from the bottom and gently mix them to retain their “sliced” shape.)

Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

This is generally when I make my crusts (while the peaches cook.)  Since everyone has their own “secret” pie crust recipe and some recipes require chilling, I won’t tell you how and when to make it.  But I will share my secret weapon.  Waxed paper.

I ran across this crust-making method many (many, many…) years ago and it was SO easy and SO non-messy, it made perfect sense.  Roll it out between waxed paper.  (I know, I know — it’s not “old school,” but it beats prying crust off of the counter or extricating it from your rolling pin.)  It also allows you to use less liquid — be it water, milk or cream.  Less liquid = flakier crust.

While you might have to experiment to get the proportions right, pie crust has never been easier, or as fast.  (Dare I say “It’s easy as pie?”)

Be sure to keep an eye on your peaches during this time!

Another crust-making tip:  You don’t need as much liquid as you think you do.  (If you overdo it, it’ll stick to the waxed paper.)  But, pie crust is forgiving and I’ve made many a “patched pie” that’s turned out just fine.  Take it a tablespoon at a time and trust that it’ll hold together once you start rolling.

Also, pie crust ala waxed paper makes it easier to transfer it to the pie plate — just peel off one side, “flip it,” center it and peel off the other side.  (Sorry, no photos to go with that tutorial.)

Now, preheat your oven to 400° F.

After the peaches have begun to soften, sprinkle the flour/sugar mixture over the top.  Stir gently to distribute and keep stirring!   (It thickens fairly quickly.)  When the filling becomes clear and bubbly, remove from heat and cool slightly.  Have your pie crusts at the ready and don’t overcook the filling; the fruit will cook down “just right” during the remaining time in the oven.

Carefully fill the bottom crust, then add the top crust.  (Don’t worry if the top crust looks like it’s “melting” — it’ll all work out, trust me.)  Trim the edges, crimp them, cut slits for steam, and sprinkle with with sugar.  Bake 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling starts bubbling through the vents.  Remove pie from oven and cool on a wire rack.

This method works equally well for apple and berry pies, bearing in mind that fruit differs in the amount of time needed to cook, depending on the variety you use.  (Sigh… so much information, so little time.)  It’s difficult to condense 35 years (ahem) of experience into one post.

If only I could make you a pie instead… 

What’s your favorite?

Last but not least, since this post is about sharing (or at least I hope y’all took it that way), please click on this link for ways to show the world it’s more blessed to give than receive.  Not everyone has it “peachy.”  I highly encourage you to read it — or better yet, link with a post of your own.

And while you’re at it, have a piece of pie.  There’s a little bit of Hoss in all of us. :)

Enjoying “home time” at last,

~ Kim

Saturday Night Sundaes

With just two of us in our household, I generally make half-batches of things.  But, we do end up with leftovers (and leftover ingredients) from time to time — especially when I bake.  Sometimes it’s just a tablespoon of this or a cup of that, but I enjoy “re-inventing” leftovers so they don’t go to waste.

With the number of heavy cream recipes I’ve posted lately, you must think I have a pipeline to the dairy, lol.  (A half-pint goes a long way at our house.)  We really don’t eat dessert 7 days a week, but I needed to use up the Creme de Cacao Whipped Cream (and the rest of the heavy cream…), along with a smattering of white chocolate chips.  Sometimes the best inspirations are the simplest ones.

Begin with an empty wine goblet…

Add two small scoops of chocolate ice cream (drizzled with Creme de Cacao, if desired) and a handful of White Chocolate Ganache stuffed raspberries…

Add a dollop of Creme de Cacao whipped cream, and a spoon…

Then sit down and ENJOY!

Raspberries with White Chocolate Ganache

(requires advance preparation)

1/3 c. heavy cream

1/3 c. white chocolate (I used Ghirardelli white chocolate chips)

Fresh raspberries

In a glass measuring cup, microwave the cream until just boiling.  (Watch so it doesn’t boil over!)  Add white chocolate chips; let sit for 2 minutes to soften.  Stir to combine. 

Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  When completely chilled, whip with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Place the ganache in a piping bag with a small tip.  Fill each raspberry (previously rinsed and thoroughly dried.)  Chill until serving time.

And if you have leftover raspberries…

Enjoying “re-inventing,”

~ Kim

Sweet Apologies…

Dear Readers,

In a previous post, I told you the Baker’s Company dropped the “apostrophe s from its German Chocolate bar.  I was wrong.

Cruising through the long-neglected baking aisle at the grocery store this past weekend (in anticipation of cooler weather, lol…), I spied the familiar brown and green package.  To my chagrin (spelled out before my very eyes), it said:  Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.  Oops.

I immediately rushed home with bar in hand to amend the error of my ways.  But first, I checked Wikipedia to make sure I’d read things correctly.  I hadn’t.

(Small consolation:  I was only half-wrong.  Which is better than being all wrong.  But I was still wrong.)

Wikipedia did indeed state that the “apostrophe s” was a thing of the past, but it pertained to the cake recipe, not the product.  (Apparently, German Chocolate Cake was easier to say than Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake.)

I’m sorry for misquoting you.  Please consider this my retraction.

As for the Baker’s Company (with profuse apologies for misrepresenting your fine product), I present a peace offering (in familiar brown and green):

Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Pie…

With Creme de Cacao added for good measure.  (One cannot apologize profusely enough.)

Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Pie

4 Tbsp. butter

4 oz. Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate

1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

1-1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. Creme de Cacao (or vanilla)

1-1/3 c. shredded coconut

1/2 c. chopped pecans

unbaked 10″ deep dish pie shell

1 pt. heavy cream, whipped with 2 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. Creme de Cacao (or vanilla)

Whole pecans for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter and Baker’s German’s Chocolate, stirring until blended.  Remove from heat.  Gradually whisk in evaporated milk; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour and salt; set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs and Creme de Cacao (or vanilla) and add to dry ingredients; mix until well-combined.  Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture until blended.  

Combine coconut and pecans; sprinkle them over the bottom of the pie shell and slowly pour in the filling.

NOTE:  Be forewarned, this makes a LOT of filling.  I used a shallow pie plate and ended up with more filling than pie.  (If this happens, simply pour the remaining filling into a buttered bowl and bake it alongside the pie; in the event it bakes faster than the pie, consider it a taste test.)

Back to the recipe…

Carefully transfer the pie into the oven — it’s very sloshy!  Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until filling is set and top is golden.  Cool 1 hour on a wire rack before cutting.  Garnish with Creme de Cacao Whipped Cream and whole pecans.

Refrigerate unused portion; bring to room temperature before serving, if desired (although it’s great cold, too.)

Adapted from a recipe I wrote out 30 years ago — most likely from a Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Bar box!  (Thank you.)

Enjoying the sweet sound of “I’m sorry…”

~ Kim

Fresh Cherry Shortcake with A Cherry-Cabernet Reduction

When it comes to baking, let it be known for the record that I’m a “from scratch” kinda girl.  However…

After our recent trip home, Mom included a “mix” in her farewell basket of goodies.  I was skeptical at first.

Shortcake from a mix?  With a mere two ingredients added?  Hmmm….

Clearly, this had to be pondered for awhile.  (Speaking of which, check out this post for a fun time spent musing.)

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

The “mix” begged to be reckoned with every time I opened the pantry door.  I finally succumbed.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce… Sturdiwheat All Natural Dessert Mix.  Simply add butter and water.  (Or in my case — unsalted butter, a pinch of Kosher salt, and a sprinkling of Turbinado sugar before baking.)

Just for “fun” (and because they were on sale),  I used fresh cherries (instead of the usual strawberries) and made a Cherry-Cabermet Reduction (because I can’t leave well enough alone.)

The end result even inspired the Man of Few Words to utter a whole sentence:  “This stuff is really light.”

Music to my ears.

Fresh Cherry Shortcake with A Cherry-Cabernet Reduction

For the shortcake:

1 (11 oz.) pkg. Sturdiwheat All Natural Shortcake Dessert Mix

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 c. water

2 T. Turbinado sugar (aka “Sugar In The Raw”)

For the filling:

1/2 lb. fresh cherries, halved and pitted

1 pt. heavy cream, whipped with 2 T. sugar and 1 t. vanilla

For the Cherry-Cabernet Reduction:

12 ripe, pitted cherries

1/2 c. water

1/4 c. to 1/2 c. sugar (I used a 1/2 cup)

1/2 c. Cabernet Sauvignon or other good red wine

Preheat oven to 375°.  Begin by preparing shortcake as directed on the package.  (I substituted unsalted butter and Kosher salt for the salted butter.)  Spoon batter onto a greased baking sheet to form 9 “mounds” and sprinkle tops with Turbinado sugar.  Bake at 375° F. for 15 minutes, or until golden.  Remove shortcakes to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, prepare Cherry-Cabernet Reduction.  Place a dozen pitted cherries in a small saucepan and mash with a fork.  Add water and sugar; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Mash cherries again halfway through cooking time.  Remove from heat.

Pour cherry pulp and juice into a fine mesh strainer over a heatproof measuring cup; press cooked cherries with a fork to extract juice.  (Discard the pulp … or eat it with a spoon … or spread it on hot, buttered toast… just sayin’.)

Return strained cherry juice to the same saucepan.  Add Cabernet; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until sauce is reduced by half.  (It should be thick and syrupy.)  Remove from heat.  While sauce is cooling, prepare the whipped cream.

To assemble the dessert, drizzle warm Cherry-Cabernet Reduction onto dessert plates.  Split the shortcakes in half (horizontally) and fill with a generous dollop of whipped cream and as many cherries as you like.  Nestle the shortcake “top” over that.  Garnish with a small dollop of whipped cream and a whole cherry.  Enjoy!

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When life hands you cherries, make shortcake.

~ Kim

P.S.  Even though I’m proud to be an Okie, this shortcake mix (and many other fine products) are made in my home state of Minnesota.

Music, Inspiration, and Caramel Corn

Gumby here again.  Figured I better write something to keep the ol’ blog going.

(Don’t tell Kim I’ve been jumping on her keyboard.)

I see alot from where I stand — like how thrilled she was to bring home fresh Mozzarella and prosciutto and olives from Lovera’s Italian Grocery.  Made a nice looking antipasto plate for lunch, if I do say so myself.  (Sorry…  the camera’s bigger than I am, so I couldn’t take a picture.)

Lately, she’s been hitting the “other” keyboard (piano), too — something about helping a friend record a CD?  Whatever it is, she looks happy.

Music inspires her more than any other art form.  Except maybe for caramel corn.

(Yikes.  That close-up is bigger than me, too.)

Kim added honey roasted peanuts, so it was like homemade “Crunch & Munch.”  Good stuff.  (For the recipe, click here.)

In between practicing, she’s been watching movies (musicals, mostly) — it’s been too hot to do anything else.  Tell me about it.  How do you think the expression “rubber legs” got coined?”  Whew!  A little green guy could melt in this heat.

Here’s where she likes to relax.  Comfy and cozy.  And green. :)

Oops… movie’s over.  Time to lean on the ol’ paperweight.  Bye.

Filling in for Kim,

~ Gumby

P.S.  Woohoo!

Dessert In A Hurry

Who doesn’t like an easy dessert?  Especially one that requires no oven time whatsoever?

The answer to both questions is No-Bake Cheesecake.  But, I have to warn you — it disappears in a hurry.

Look!  The crumbs are flying off the plate!

Going, going…

(Sorry — no “gone” photo…)  I’m trying to beat the deadline for this give away.

You can, too, if you’re quick about it!

No Bake Cheesecake

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

6 oz. Mascarpone cheese, softened

4 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 can of fruit pie filling (your choice — I happened to have cherries)

1 graham cracker crust

Combine cheeses in a mixing bowl; beat until blended.  Add sugar and vanilla; mix well.  Carefully spoon into graham cracker crust.  Refrigerate 1 hour, or until firm.  Top with fruit before serving and there you have it! 

Enjoying life a slice at a time,

~ Kim

Granita Parfait

Nothing says cool on a hot summer day like a granita parfait.  With icy crystals of canteloupe and watermelon layered in a pretty glass, it’s a delight to behold and as refreshing as it looks.

(Chaise lawn chair and reading material optional.)

Granitas are a perfect way to extend summer’s bounty when you find yourself with more melon than you can consume.  A quick whirl in the food processor and a few hours (or overnight) in the freezer and it’s good to go.  The only utensils required are a fork to scrape the frozen fruit into ice-shaved happiness and a spoon to enjoy the results.

I don’t have an actual recipe (amounts are dependent upon the quantity of fruit you’re using), but here’s a basic “how to”:

Granita Parfait

Cubes of fresh melon (in this case, watermelon and canteloupe)

Sugar to taste, if desired (I didn’t)

Remove seeds and/or rind (if any) from melon cubes.  Pulse small separate batches in a food processor until liquified.  (Note to self:  Liquified fruit really gets to whirlin’ — fairly quickly, I might add!)  Be mindful of your food processor.

Transfer fruit liquid to a shallow glass pan or large plastic bowl; cover and freeze until firm.  When mixture is frozen, “scrape” the top with a fork until it yields an adequate amount of crystals for your serving needs.  (Note to self: Use a large enough bowl so you’ll be able to scrape it without flinging fruit crystals all over your kitchen counter…)

Store the “scraped granita crystals” in the freezer in separate (covered) containers until serving time.  Spoon into champagne flutes (layered as desired) and serve immediately.  And I do mean immediately…

Not only is this a refreshing treat, it’s a means to enjoy every last ounce of summer!

(Note:  When this post originally “aired,” I submitted it to a link-up that challenged folks to invent a summer dessert with 6 ingredients or less.  Here ’tis… Family Fresh Cooking.)

In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to my granita.

Aaahh… 

Enjoying life one frozen delight at a time,

~ Kim