Peach Pie

It’s peach season, so why not fix a tribute to the world’s oldest cultivated fruit. This glorious fruit (which has been cultivated in China since circa 2000 B.C.) is a symbol of immortality in Chinese culture and gifting one is said to bring joy and protection from evil1. Do you need any more motivation than that to start baking? Okay, also, no one would hate it if you brought this pie to a 4th of July cookout.  In fact, you might be doing them a favor, according to folklore.

Also, please note, I only have a handful of cookie cutters, two of them happen to be bat shaped. This will likely not be the last bat covered pie I post. I realize this is unusual and want to clarify: I like the look of bat drawings/outlines but actively avoid the actual, live creatures…though they are frugivores and would likely bake this pie, if they weren’t so busy eavesdropping.

Peach Pie

  • 1 recipe prepared, unbaked Fool Proof Sweet Pie Crust
  • 2.5 lbs peaches, washed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbs instant tapioca
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice

Preparation:

1. De-pit and slice peaches into a large bowl. You can remove the skins, if you prefer a less textured filling.

2. Add sugar, corn starch, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and lemon juice. Stir to combine.

3. Pour into prepared crust. Bake (with the edges foiled for the first fifteen minutes) for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the filling begins to bubble. Cool before serving.

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Banana Pudding Dessert

This classic Southern dessert is a summertime favorite in my family; I remember hanging around the kitchen until the pudding had cooled, afraid to miss the opportunity to lay out the Nilla Wafers and slop goo onto them. I am, frankly, always surprised at the taste of this dessert, considering the appearance (it won’t be winning any beauty pageants). Looks aside, this tastes awesome and is an incredible solution to the problem of wasting overripe bananas.

I chose to make my own vanilla pudding (to avoid another trip to HEB) and used homemade sugar cookies for the wafers, but store bought instant pudding and Nilla Wafers produce an incredibly agreeable result as well.

Banana Pudding Dessert

  • a dozen baked Fool Proof Rolled Sugar Cookies, or 1 box Nilla Wafers
  • 1 recipe homemade vanilla pudding (see below) or 1 box instant vanilla pudding
  • 6 unripe bananas, or more, if you like bananas

Preparation:

1. Layer sugar cookies/wafers on the bottom of a large bowl or individual bowls. Cover cookie/wafer with layer of pudding followed by a layer of bananas. Repeat until you’re all out of goodies. Refrigerate at least 3 hours (I recommend overnight) before serving.

Homemade Vanilla Pudding
  • 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2.5 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbs corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs butter

Pudding Preparation:

1. Place cream and 2 Tbs of the sugar in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Mix until stiff peaks form and transfer into a large bowl. Keep cool while preparing the rest of the pudding.

2. Manually whisk the rest of the sugar, corn starch, salt, egg yolks, and 1/2 a cup of the whole milk in the bottom of a saucepan. Once completely incorporated (make sure there’s no lumps of cornstarch stuck to the pan) add the rest of the milk and begin heating on the stove, stirring constantly.

3. Once the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, remove from heat but continue to whisk. If you’re doing this without the aid of an electric mixer, be prepared for a few solid minutes of stirring while this pile of goo cools. It’s super important to be constantly stirring here to avoid forming lumps. If you have a stand mixer, you can use the same whisk attachment and bowl as before, no need to clean it with soap and water.

4. Cut up dem nanas. Once the custard has cooled, use a spatula or wooden spoon to combine it with the whipped cream.

5. Layer pudding with bananas and wafers. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Fool Proof Rolled Sugar Cookie

These are the best, simplest rolled sugar cookies I have ever made. The dough comes together quickly, rolls out like a red carpet, and can be reworked and refrigerated multiple times. Perfect for the holidays, or any days.

Wish you had an awesome cookie cutter for any occasion? Check out this post to learn how to make your own!

Fool Proof Rolled Sugar Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Preparation:

1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. (Need some clarifications about this step? Go here > Creaming Method for a tutorial.)

3.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl often.

4. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes before adding half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on high for 30 seconds, scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat on high for another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the flour and repeat until dough is consistent.

5. To prepare dough for cookie cutters, tightly wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, then roll out on well floured surface.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 6-8 minutes (or longer, depending on the thickness/size). Cool completely before icing.

Carrot Pecan Pie

Aiming for a not-so-gooey-sweet version of pecan pie? Here’s your answer! The carrots bake into a rich base, much like pumpkin pie, only with a little more texture, and provide the perfect compliment (especially after chilled) to the candied pecan topping. Sorry, traditional pecan pie, but you’ve finally got some competition and this rookie pie is truly a delicious alternative.

Carrot Pecan Pie

  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 recipe Fool Proof Sweet Pie Crust
  • 1.5 cup pecans
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar

Preparation:

1. Boil carrots and vanilla extract in two cups of water until the carrots become tender. Drain and let them cool for at least five minutes.

2. Place carrots and half and half in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

3. Separately, in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, ground ginger, and carrot puree to the mixer. Blend until smooth.

4. Add 2 Tbs brown sugar and 3 Tbs butter to a saucepan. Stir and heat until bubbles begin to form and the syrup begins to thicken.

Add pecans and stir to coat. Sprinkle or arrange pecans on the top of the filling.

5. Foil edges of the crust for the first fifteen minutes of baking to prevent burning. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until the carrot puree has set and no longer appears gooey.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I’ll still never forget the sweet yet assertive tang of rhubarb pie I first tasted at Grace’s grandmother’s house in Vincennes, Indiana.  Later that night, I snuck to the kitchen while the family was enraptured by a street front Fourth of July parade and shoveled spoonfuls of pie into my mouth, straight out of the glass pan. It felt like a secret, this awesome taste I’d never experienced.

And so, I had an occasion to remember the pie from Vincennes when I saw fresh rhubarb in the produce department of the grocery store. I decided to add strawberries in my version for additional sweetness in the filling.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling

  • 2 cups fresh red rhubarb
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs minute tapioca
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg white for an egg wash over the crust (optional)
  • 1 recipe Fool Proof Pie Crust

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Thoroughly wash all produce. De-stem strawberries and cut into thin slices. Cut rhubarb into small cubes and place all of the produce in a large bowl.

2. Add sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla to the produce. Stir to fully mix all ingredients.

3. Pour filling into unbaked pie shell.

4. Brush crust with optional egg wash. Wrap tin foil loosely over the edges of the crust and bake at 350 degrees in the bottom third of your oven. After fifteen minutes, remove the tin foil and allow pie to bake for an additional 40-50 minutes or until the filling begins to bubble. Cool N’ Serve.

“Just Like Pop-Tarts®” Cinnamon Sugar Toaster Pastries

Craving pop tarts? Not craving high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or wheat starch? Here’s one for those of us who can’t shake the the craving for over-processed childhood delights and with this nine ingredient, from scratch recipe, we’ll have no reason not to indulge.

These turned out, much to my satisfaction, to taste almost exactly like the “real” thing. Oohwee, these taste awesome, warm or cold. Seriously even if you’ve never baked anything in your life just follow the below instructions and make these. Proof pressure.

Oh, also, I can’t take credit for this recipe, sadly. I simply pressed a few keys and found the absolute best looking/most entertaining blog, smitten kitchen, and subsequently, this recipe. Then I tried it, and well, took pictures, you get it…

“Just Like Pop-Tarts®” Cinnamon Sugar Toaster Pastries (adapted from this recipe)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter (cubed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tsp flour

Preparation:

1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Sift to combine.

2. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients above and use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until large chunks are no longer visible. If you’re not familiar with the biscuit method of combining fats and dry ingredients, click here.

3. Whisk one of the eggs with 2 Tbs milk on the side and pour over the butter and flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms and turn it out on a floured surface.

3. Knead the dough briefly to form a ball. Divide the dough in half and roll both pieces out into the best looking rectangle you can make. Aim for 1/8 inch thickness so don’t be afraid to roll it thin. If the dough becomes sticky and too pliable, refrigerate it before trying to roll it thinner.

Around this point you should decide how big you want each pastry to be. I used a notecard as a template, but you could go smaller for more bite-sized toaster pastries. If you do cut smaller rectangles, make sure to shorten the baking time and check on your pastries often while baking.

4. Trim the sides of the dough into a large rectangle using the notecard as a template. Cut the dough into as many rectangles as you can fit (I ended up with 8 on each piece of dough).

5. Prepare the cinnamon filling by stirring the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together until completely incorporated.

6. Whisk the final egg in a small bowl and brush it all the way to the edges of the dough. Spoon cinnamon sugar into the center of the pastry, leaving a small frame of exposed dough around the edges to seal the bottom and top of the pastry together. Top with another pastry rectangle and use a fork to seal the edges. Poke holes in the top to let steam escape while they are baking.

7. Refrigerate prepared pastries as you preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the pastries on a cookie sheet (they can sit rather close since they won’t expand too much) and bake for about 30 minutes.

Hummingbird Cake

Celebrate spring with this delightful southern favorite. Named after the frantic, nectar-obsessed hummingbird, this cake is guaranteed satisfy your sweet tooth. And for those few, dedicated folks who’ve managed to give up sweets for lent, this might just be the perfect Easter indulgence. Crushed pineapple, bananas and pecans provides an interesting and appealing texture to this cake and is perfectly complimented by the rich, but not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. (And yes, I dyed some coconut shavings green to look like grass. So what.)

This cake is unreal. Undeniably delicious. Afterall, I wouldn’t break out my awesome Peter Rabbit cupcake kit (someone knows me very well) on any ol’ recipe.

So adorable, right? A prancing Peter Rabbit

Southern Living Hummingbird Cake

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (8 oz) can of crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups (about 4) mashed, overripe bananas
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional, used for garnish)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter (soft)
  • 16 oz (2 cups) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon. The goal here is to get all of the dry ingredients incorporated and to break up any lumps. A fork should work just fine.

2. Beat the eggs until they are foamy and add oil. Stir to combine. Set aside.

3. Mash the bananas in another bowl and add the crushed pineapple, vanilla extract and pecans. Stir to combine.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs and oil. Use a spatula to mix but stop when there are still some streaks of flour in the batter. Do not overmix.

5. Add the pineapple, bananas, pecans, and vanilla to the batter. Stir with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, but don’t overmix here either.

6. If you’re making cake, bake in buttered and floured pans for about 45 minutes. If you’re baking cupcakes it should only take 15-20 minutes.

7. While the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and soft butter until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you add new ingredients.

8. Cool cake completely (at least 2 hours at room temperature) before icing.

9. If you went the shredded coconut route, which I recommend, have it at the ready after icing. Garnish cupcakes by turning them upside down on the coconut, or sprinkle it over the top.

They look good with Peeps too!

Banana Walnut Bread

The only banana walnut bread recipe you’ll need (unless you’re vegan).

Banana Walnut Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 oz (1 cup) of butter
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups overripe bananas (if frozen, thawed)
  • 1.5 cups toasted walnuts
  • tin foil

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lay walnuts flat on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. They shouldn’t begin to brown in this time but they will take on a toasted flavor once cooled. I used always go for almonds as an at-work snack, but I must admit I’m totally falling for these toasted walnuts, as in, I look forward to getting to work so I can eat them.  So don’t not toast them.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine or sift the ingredients together.

3. Put the butter and sugar, both white and brown, in the bottom of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If you don’t have an electric mixer, the same technique can be accomplished with a bowl, a spatula, and a lot of willpower, but make it easy on yourself by letting the butter thaw to room temperature first. Mix until the two combine and begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl (as the butter will tend to cling) between eggs.

5. Add sour cream and vanilla to wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

5. Ok let’s get bananas. I usually freeze my brownish bananas once they are less than desirable and let them accumulate for an occasion like this, but you can also use unripe bananas without freezing them first. If you are working with frozen bananas, microwave them or leave them out to thaw them before use. Why, you might ask? Adding a frozen banana will lower the butter’s temperature (which we already spent a few minutes bringing to room temperature in all that mixing) and mess up that smooth texture we have going on. Mash the bananas with a fork and add them to the batter until incorporated.

^ Questionable…

Much better

6. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a spatula (making sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl) until about half of the flour streaks disappear. Add the toasted walnuts and continue mixing for a few more turns.

7. Divide the batter evenly between greased loaf pans (I spread butter all over the inside then sprinkle a little flour). If you prefer a crispier crust, sprinkle some sugar on top of the batter. Bake for 55-70 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven or until a toothpick is inserted in the middle and comes out clean. Check the loaf around 30 minutes in and if the crust is already a deep brown, cover it with tin foil to prevent burning the edges. Cool at least 20 minutes before slicing, unless you don’t mind if it falls apart a bit.

Rosemary & Blueberry Muffins

I discovered some rosemary growing in an outdoor decorative vase while craving blueberry muffins and, well, there you have it, Rosemary & Blueberry Muffins began. I knew that I appreciated the piney taste of rosemary in biscuits, and was oh so pleased to discover that this unique taste also compliments sugary batters. They’re a break from the conventional, sure, but just imagine how oven avant-garde you’re going to look…

I added lemon zest and rosemary to this recipe I found on the WWWeb. I was going for a crumbly muffin, so I chose a recipe which uses butter as the fat rather than oil (which tends to produce a lighter textured, cake-like muffin). I also chose this recipe because I was extremely curious of how easy it seemed to just melt all the wet ingredients together in a microwave rather than using the creaming method (where you cream the butter and sugar together then add eggs).  I wasn’t sure at all how these muffins would turn out after baking, so I decided to add some streusel topping because it simply never tastes bad and could prevent the tops from hardening when baked.

Rosemary & Blueberry Muffins

  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 Tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 oz of butter
  • 3 cups blueberries (frozen are A-O.K.)
  • the zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbs fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and finely chopped

Streusel Topping (optional, but recommended)

  • 3/4 cup
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)

Preparation:

1. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Toss blueberries in the flour to coat.

2. De-stem and chop rosemary until you have 1 Tbs. Zest the lemon and place both in a microwave safe bowl.

3. Add the sugar, milk, sour cream, and butter to the rosemary and lemon zest and microwave in 30 second intervals, until the butter is completely melted and the liquid appears oily.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour melted concoction into the middle. Stir a few times and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, but make sure to leave some streaks of flour in the batter. Don’t overmix!

5. Mix all the ingredients of the streusel topping together in a bowl (do it). I used a fork at first to combine the ingredients, but later used my hands to melt the butter a bit because I’m impatient. You’ll know when to stop when all the ingredients combine.

6. If you’re using paper liners, get ’em in place and fill to the rim of the paper. If you don’t have any, coat the tins in butter and lightly dust them with flour before filling with batter. Either way, top with streusel and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick is inserted in the middle and comes out clean.

Excellent Elephant Ears

This sugar coated puff pastry cookie may seem daunting at first (the puff pastry preparation is somewhat lengthy) but it’s totally worth the effort. Resist the urge to add cinnamon or another spice to the sugar, it might interrupt the delicate caramelized butter flavor.

All you need is this Instant Puff Pastry recipe (a truncated version of the traditional) and sugar. The puff pastry will yield four times more than you will need for the cookies, so good news, you’ll have plenty. You can either make a boatload of cookies, or freeze the dough for later use, which I recommend. Puff pastry dough is extremely versatile and easy to use once it has been prepared – I made Spinach, Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Turnovers with mine, but more on that later, it’s cookie o’clock.

Quick & Easy Puff Pastry (Recipe adapted from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker)

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4.5 sticks or 18 oz. cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cold water
Elephant Ears
  • 1/4 recipe Quick & Easy Puff Pastry
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Tin foil or parchment paper to prevent sticking

Preparation (you will need a food processor):

1. Sift flour and salt together in a bowl. Place in bottom of food processor fitted with metal blade.

2. Cut butter into small chunks and add it to flour and salt. Pulse twice.

3. Remove cover and use a spatula to stir dry mix from the sides of the bowl. Cover and mix again until crumbs appear.

4. Add the cold water to the food processor and pulse again. Use the spatula to clean the sides of the bowl, refit metal blade and pulse again.

5. The dough will still look crumbly and unset, but it is important not to overmix. Invert the bowl on to a well floured surface and corral the dough into a rough rectangle with your hands.

Dust the dough with flour and press (don’t roll) it with a rolling pin to flatten.  Lift and turn the dough 90 degrees and press it again, re-flouring the bottom if it begins to stick.

6. Roll the dough into an 18 inch square and divide it in half to make two rectangles (about 9 x 18 inches each).

Roll one rectangle to make it 12 x 18 inches. Fold the left third of the dough over the middle third and the right third across over that.

Roll the dough into a tight package from one of the short ends then repeat the process with other half of the dough.

For the elephant ears, we will only need 1/4 of the recipe, so divide each roll in half and wrap all four chunks of dough tightly with saran wrap. Refrigerate a quarter of the dough for at least an hour and thirty minutes. (The remainder may stay refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen and defrosted for later use).

7. Sprinkle your work surface with about half of the sugar and press the dough into the sugar to soften it, turning it 90 degrees until the dough is soft enough to roll out. Making sure to keep both the dough and the work surface generously sugared, roll the dough into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle.

8. Trim the edges of the dough with a knife.

Fold the longer sides of the dough a little less than halfway (about 1.5 inches) towards the middle.Repeat with the opposite side until there is a half inch gap between the two folded pieces.

Fold each side over again so that the ends meet in the middle, being careful not to stretch the dough and break it.

Flatten the formed dough with the palm of your hand, cut it in half, and wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Scrape excess sugar into a bowl.

9. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or tin foil. Remove dough from refrigerator and place it on a cutting board. Use a thin blade to slice the cookies into 1/2 inch slices.

Dip each slice in sugar before arranging it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the rolled dough has been sliced, sugared, and arranged.

10. Bake the elephant ears until they have puffed and caramelized (about 10 – 15 minutes). Cool elephant ears before serving. Store in airtight container.