2013

29
October
2013

Top 8 Pie Recommendations for Fall

Apples, Nuts, and Maple...mmmmmm!

Dutch Apple Pie

Nothing like smashing your index finger in a car door to set back blogging and pretty much everything else you do with your primary hand.  So, Deep Dish friends, let me keep this brief!

The Fall season is upon us and it’s definitely pie time.  Here are my top 8 recommendations for pies to enjoy this season in no particular order:

Pick one or two and go!  All recipes are free at www.piepals.com

Watch for the November “Pie Pals e-Newsletter,” coming soon, where you’ll get suggestions on how to make and freeze fruit pies for easy holiday desserts, info on the Slow Food movement, Q&A on tapioca in pies, and the recipe of the month.  Not already getting the newsletter?  Sign up here.

Here’s to cozy and sharing pie love with family and friends,

Rebecca,

Your Pie Pal

31
July
2013

A Festival for Bread!

How great is that?!

Bread Festival, Paris

The aroma of bread, freshly baked and warm, was wafting from a huge white tent right next to Notre Dame in Paris.  That scent, even more than my curiosity, pulled me into “La Fête du Pain,” the festival of bread.  Where else but France, where bread is so fundamental, a cornerstone of the diet? Served at every meal in generous quantities, bread is one delicious business!

Their bread is delicate, flavorful, needing no spread of any kind.   It stands very well on its own.  Indeed, it is considered rude, gauche even, to ask for butter.

bagettesbakingedSo there was the white tent, beckoning.  I succumbed to the lure and became engulfed in the world of French baking.  Ovens lined the entire back wall of the long space and we, the hungry admirers, could watch baguettes turning golden.  We moved along the other side of the tent, with dozens of bakers busy at work in between:  kneading dough, rolling dough, shaping dough, tending the rising, tending the baking – all oblivious to those of us gawking and drooling nearby.

As we moved along the aisle, windows to the left revealed the spires of the famous cathedral, yet we couldn’t help but give our real attention to other chefs pitting cherries, peeling applies, sprinkling cinnamon, and stirring crème Anglaise.    Tarts and pastries were underway and coming out of the next set of ovens.  Oh, be still my heart.  I want that, and that, and that!pastriesed

Finally the counter for viewing the results of all that pastry pampering and an opportunity for making a purchase.  How to choose?  Will it be the apricot turnover, the apple galette, a slice of the raspberry tart or a whole loaf of fresh bread?   What would you choose?

InsideLaFeteedI chose an authentic community event.  The day was a national holiday in France and between the natives and the tourists, Paris was swarming.  The line to get into Notre Dame was 4 people wide and a quarter mile long, winding past the grandstands and down a narrow street.  Cathedrals are important places of worship, art and history and, at that moment, a festival full of life and vibrancy was more attractive.  “La Fête du Pain” was about something essential and universal, something humans make with love and creativity in the present moment to share with others.  

Choosing to live life in the present, whether it’s at a festival in the park or a walk with a loved one down one’s own street, is a way to acknowledge how grateful we are for life, how wonderful it is to be breathing and living today.  May your days be filled with such choices, and with the aroma of fresh, warm bread.

Cheers!

Rebecca, Pie Pal #1

 

23
July
2013

Fruit tarts and baguettes, oh my!

Watching What I Ate

Fruit tarts and baguettes, oh my!

I watched what I ate on a recent trip to Europe.  Yes, I watched as I ate croissants for breakfast, mopped up melted cream and cheese with French baguettes at lunch, bit into Swiss macaroons filled with Kirsch, and bagettesedinhaled delicate (yes, it’s possible) pizzas in Italy.  It was all sort of mesmerizing, really, all of those breads and pastries and calories, just disappearing in front of me. 

Then, they did reappear behind me.  I gained a pound or two while there, but my legs got stronger and thinner because of the walking, and walking, and walking, and walking.

One day, near the end of the trip, I told Havens, “The main thing is, I don’t want to walk as far today as we did yesterday.”  We walked further.  We were in Rome, after all, and were told we had to see the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.  We were staying in a neighborhood, Travestere, which looked on the map like a mile or so from the renowned chapel. 

We started late and did not beat the crowds.  It was mostly uphill and through narrow streets, with one spectacular panorama of Rome along the way.  New satellite dishes adorn ancient villas and fountains are likely to appear around any corner.

The wait to get into the Vatican with a line ¼ mile long and 4 people wide, would be 3 hours.  In the heat.  It was not for the socially claustrophobic!   I excused myself.  So, more walking.  I headed for the green river that runs through the city, and sought the solace of quiet, wide water and sidewalks shaded by sycamores.

Nearly back to the small hotel room with the orange curtains and red bedspread, I stopped for a cappuccino in a bistro with an outdoor patio.  A breeze carried the scent of honeysuckle and my eye rested on violet bougainvillea.  Ah, life is good.  And yes, I’d love a little cookie with that, thank you!

Here’s to enjoying summer! 

Warmly,


Rebecca

Pie Pal #1

26
June
2013

Snails in Pastry? Yuk!

Best Laugh in Europe

Snails in Pastry?  Yuk!

French snails.  Known as “escargot,” they are a delicacy, rich and a bit squishy, served drenched in butter and garlic.

Approaching the pastry case in a bakery on the Left Bank of Paris, I offered my finest, “Bonjour!”  Ready to order something in my hopeful French, the young woman asked, “What would you like?”   Set aback by her English, I was flustered and studied the case with a frown.  How to choose only one of those delectable, luscious, yummy pastries?  Only one?

My eyes settled on a huge spiral of perfectly baked pastry, swirled with a bright green and dark brown filling.  “Escargot,” it was labeled.  My eyes popped and my stomach turned.  Oh no, I thought to myself, oh, no, that’s just wrong.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” I ventured, hoping for reassurance that it wasn’t really snails.  “Oh, that,” she reassured me, “pistachios and chocolate.” 

And so it was, and I sighed with relief and started to laugh.  I laughed so hard I could barely speak to order one.  I laughed at myself for thinking the French would do such a thing, at myself for imagining snails in pastry, laughed at the green and brown filling that might have been. 

It was the finest pastry I had in France.  No, in all of France, Switzerland and Italy.

And what I really loved was the good hard giggle I gave myself.  What a lesson: an unexpected visual, an unexpected filling and flavor, all perfect, as French pastries are.  Just like life, when we’re open to the unexpected.

25
April
2013

Full Moon Pie

Spring Pies

Full Moon Pie

It’s a Full Moon!  The “moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie!”, right?  For me at least, it’s time to go outside and howl, or at least wave at the moon and be grateful for all of the blessings in my life! 

For what am I grateful?  First, grateful to be alive at all.  Yesterday I got the “all clear” report on a recent CT scan, meaning no melanoma has metastasized and I’m healthy as a horse.  Yeah!!  There’s nothing quite like that news…a new lease on life, again, an opportunity to look forward with delight and a sense of expansiveness and grace.  And then, too, I’m grateful for all of the love and fun and abundance in my life.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones, the ones who get good news like that from an oncologist.  Please send love and healing energy out as you can, in whatever way works for you, to everyone you know who needs it and even to those you don’t know – that whatever they may be suffering from will be relieved according to their highest good.

Meanwhile, if you know someone who needs a pie, make it and take it!  We’re in this together and the more connection we can manifest, the better. 

As we enjoy Spring and this full moon, here are some suggestions for spring pies:  Royal Rhubarb, Mocha Latte or Banana Cream Pie.  (Recipes for rhubarb and latte pies are at www.piepals.com, recipes section!)

Here’s to gratitude and beautiful full moons,

Rebecca

17
March
2013

More Good Bakers...More Good Pie!

New Bakers Get Crusty

More Good Bakers...More Good Pie!

More Good Pie!

That’s a motto to live by, isn’t it?  And we had GOOD PIE on PI DAY last week!

Several of us spent a whole evening at John and Bianca’s home, with laughter and pie coaching in abundance.  John honed his pie skills while Bianca made her very first pie ever!  Yay! 

John made a blueberry peach pie, after making homemade crust for the first time.  He's already known for making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkins, and now he can claim success with making the flaky crust, as well!

Beth, an experienced baker, made her favorite:  custard pie.  She added a piece de resistance, freshly grated nutmeg, to the top of the pie just before baking.

Havens, also an experienced baker, made a sour cherry pie and brought it to share.   We had three to sample:  the cherry, blueberry peach and custard!  Check these out in the attached photo.

Bianca and John were coached by yours truly, someone who finds great joy in sharing the how-to of pie.  They were very good sports!  They learned the chemistry of crust: the “keep it cold” rule, how to cut in the shortening in two batches using a pastry blender, and how to judge the consistency of the dough and to add just enough water (which varies from one day to the next, depending on humidity and such). They managed to roll the dough and get it into the pie plate without excessive cursing, and created a crust edge to seal in the juices and look pretty. Now they can make great pie crust any time! 

Bianca made a beautiful first-ever pie, a traditional apple pie in an all-butter crust.  It came out late at night, so we didn’t get to try it, but I’m quite sure it was fabulous. 

Special thanks to Janet for being our taster extraordinaire! 

If you, too, want to have the confidence to make perfect crust every time, you can learn everything you need to know with “Pie Crust 101,” a DVD with all of the tips and tricks and a recipe, created by me with the help of my film friends, “Film Feed.”  You can find it in the Pie Pals Pie Shop, where you'll also find aprons either made by a microentrepreneur or printed in a union shop.  Made in the USA, of course!

Happy baking to all, and here’s to more good pie bakers! 

Rebecca

Pie Advocate

22
February
2013

Oscars Dessert: "Life of Pi" Pie

Fun, Easy Dessert for Oscars Party

Oscars Dessert:

 

What would be the perfect pie for sharing at an Oscars party?  What would celebrate the stars, the golden statuettes, the talented filmmakers and crew members who make that magic happen?  What would celebrate a good story well told, a story that moves us more than just excites our nerves for 2 hours?

How about a Life of Pi Pie?  Irresistible.  It would have to feature stripes, like Richard Parker (the tiger).  Maybe be blue like the ocean and sky?  Maybe rich brown, like Pi’s dark eyes?  Yes, that’s it:  chocolate chess pie – rich, dark brown -- with orange stripes. 

What would the stripes be made of, to have them be orange like the stripes on the tiger?  We want to complement the pie and not make it overly sweet like a frosting would.  So, start with orange juice, stir in just a little creamy peanut butter to give it body.  Maybe a little powdered sugar, but not too much, just enough to make it the right texture for making stripes.  Add a tiny touch of yellow & red food coloring to brighten the color a bit. Below is a little recipe.

This is easy!  Bake and let the chocolate chess pie cool entirely, then drizzle wide bands of the orange mixture to create the “stripes.”  Let it chill.  Roar when you serve it.

There you go:  Life of Pi Pie.

Have fun, Rebecca

Life of Pi Pie

Chocolate Chess Pie, made ahead and cooled completely.ChocChessedrjd

For the “Richard Parker” tiger stripes – approximate proportions:

2 T.      orange juice

1/2 t.    creamy peanut butter

3/4 c.   powdered sugar

Tiny touches of yellow and red food coloring.

Mix the juice and peanut butter until smooth.  Stir in enough powdered sugar until the mix is about as thick as you would make the frosting for sugar cookies (thick enough to stay where you put it but will still drizzle off a spoon or pastry brush).  Using the tip of a toothpick dipped into food coloring, add just a touch of food colorings to brighten the color to orange. 

Make stripes using a spoon or pastry brush, and chill until they set.

10
February
2013

Pie for Lovers

Ways to say "I love you!"

Pie for Lovers

Seduction can be simple.  As easy as pie, in fact. 

If you want to impress anyone, make a homemade pie.  If you want to get the attention of someone special, give him or her a Valentine’s pie.  Seduction is nearly guaranteed.

Americans do love their pie.  A survey[1] of Americans reveals that our favorites are apple, lemon meringue, pecan and pumpkin, with cherry, strawberry rhubarb and chocolate rounding out the pie chart. 

But, for Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to tailor your pie-giving to your talents and the recipient’s tastes.  Basic guidelines:  make it yourself, make it rich, and make it with love. 

Here are the 5 steps to wowing your way through Valentine’s Day:

1.      Without giving away your plans, find out what your lover loves:  Chocolate?  Lemon?   Pecans?  Raspberries?

2.     Make the crust if you can.  Buy a frozen one if you can’t.

3.     Make the pie early in the day (or the night before) so that it has time to cool and set.

4.     Pick a recipe at your level of experience that will still meet your partner’s fancy so that you won’t stress out:  easy, average or more challenging.  Find recipes at all levels and for all flavors at:  www.piepals.com

5.     Above all, don’t worry about how it looks.  The person receiving it will be so blown away that you might want to have a camera handy to catch his/her expression upon realizing you made this pie.

Suggestions:

1.      For chocolate lovers:  "Over the Top" Chocolate Mousse Pie (challenging) or Chocolate Chess Pie (easy)

2.     For lemon lovers:  Lemon Chess Pie (easy)

3.     For nut lovers:  Pecan Pie (average)

4.     For fruit lovers:  Raspberry Rhubarb (average) or Easy as Apple Pie (um, easy)

When it comes to making pie, there are some tips and tricks that make it easier the first few times.  Check out the “Tips and Tricks” section of www.PiePals.com.

Most people say the crust is the challenging part, and I would agree.  The main thing is to act with confidence and not let that crust manipulate you into defeat.  You are in charge.  True, a gentle touch is the best, but don’t give your power away, roll the dough too much or burst into tears.  Just roll it out gently, fix any cracks, loosen it with a big spatula, and roll it onto your rolling pin and then unroll it gently over the pie plate.  Lift it to let it fall down into the plate and then trim it with a dull knife against your finger.  You’ll be fine and so will the crust.

Oh, yes, the other big thing for a good crust is to make sure the crust is well-chilled before you put the filling into it and bake it.  It’s about the chemistry of when the fat melts, so just make sure the crust is well-chilled before baking.  Ta da.  There you go, you lover, you. 

This could be your most memorable Valentine’s ever.

Your Pie Pal,
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