Hope your Halloween week was fabulous. We handed out 1,000 pieces of candy to trick-or-treaters large and small, dressed up and not dressed up. I never get upset. If an adult comes to my door with a bag, I’ll give them candy, too. I know it upsets some, but I figure it’s one time a year that College Hill neighbors can show the rest of the city what we’re made of: pure holiday fun and hospitality. I enjoy seeing the costumes, greeting the people and spreading the candy until we run out.
You might have read last week that I taught pie classes this past weekend. Nineteen ladies came, made 20 pies, peeled/cored/sliced 64 apples, whipped up pumpkin brulee and made chocolate pecan, too. There might be some flour in my floor HVAC vents, but it’s so worth it.
Pie class is a tradition that officially kicks off the holiday season for me, and it makes me so happy. I get so much joy from seeing people’s proud smiles holding the pies they’ve made with their own two hands. My favorite is a long-time pie class attendee that says she gets extra gratification showing her mother-in-law she made that pie. You know, perhaps a little healthy competition isn’t all bad at the holidays. Keeps things interesting and lively.
You might wonder why in the world we made Thanksgiving pies so early. Well, they can be frozen. And who doesn’t love to have a leg up on a holiday? I’m working this year to be more organized and prepared than ever. My crusts are made and in the freezer for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve never done that before, but I’ve also never been as busy as I am now. This month marks eight years that I have been teaching cooking classes in my kitchen. I’ve taught other places before and once had the opportunity to purchase a ready-to-go school set up, but I just continually prefer to do it in the comfort of my own home. I think people like to come here, too. I don’t teach on a regular basis anymore, but I do truly enjoy it when I do. This weekend was prime example of that.
If you’ve been reading my column since it began in December 2016, you’ll have the pie crust recipe. But I included it just in case. The two recipes I included this week are from class: Chocolate Pecan from the beloved Wichita Art Museum’s “Artfully Done” cookbook and Pumpkin Brulee from Epicurious.com.
The Chocolate Pecan Pie is best served warm. Think gooey pecan brownie with a bit of coconut in a pie crust. Pumpkin Brulee is a richer version of a regular pumpkin pie with a crunchy sugar coating a la crème brulee. It’s irresistible, too. Don’t ask me to pick because I think you should make them both for your Thanksgiving gathering. And if you freeze them, do so before baking with the filling in a separate bag.
A few tips on the pie crust, since I can’t be there with you making it.
▪ You’ll purchase the lard in a 1-pound brick on the shelf near the Crisco. I use Morrell Snow Cap Lard.
▪ Lard must be refrigerated overnight so that it gets harder. Lard is a very soft fat, and if it’s not refrigerated, you’ll have a gooey mess on your hands (or in your food processor).
▪ Cut the 1-pound brick of lard into even quarters. I slice it so that it mimics butter sticks, but any way would work, I suppose, as long as it’s even.
▪ When mixing the water into the dough, you’ll want all of the ingredients to easily stick together (no flour left behind), and a soft, supple dough that isn’t sticky. Start with 4 tablespoons of water and add another, if needed. After 5 tablespoons, only add ½ tablespoon of water at a time. Often flour measuring is off if you need much more than 5 tablespoons.
▪ A jumbo cookie spatula is super helpful in lifting the dough off of the counter. Sold on Amazon.com.
Best Ever Pie Crust
Yields 1, double crust
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ cup chilled lard, cut into ½ inch cubes
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water
Blend flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Add 4 tablespoons ice water and mix with your hands until dough begins to clump together, adding an additional tablespoon of water if the dough is dry. Gather dough together.
Divide dough by half; flatten each half into disk. Put the disks into a plastic bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out on a floured surface.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 single pie crust
½ cup butter
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out single piecrust, place it in the pie plate and pinch the edges.
In a medium sauce pan, combine chocolate chips, butter, sugar, eggs, pecans and coconut. Over medium-low heat, stir until just melted. Be careful not to scorch. Remove from heat and pour into unbaked pie shell. Place several pecan halves, around the perimeter for decoration. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (will be moist in the center).
Artfully Done Cookbook
Pumpkin Pie Brulee
1 single pie crust
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
¾ cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out pie crust large enough to cover the pie plate and have a little overhang. Carefully move the dough into the plate and pinch the dough to crimp the edges. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.
Pierce dough all over the bottom and sides with fork. Freeze 15 minutes (can skip this if your crust has already been in the fridge). Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 12 minutes, or until sides are set. Remove foil and beans.
Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Whisk pumpkin and ¾ cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Whisk in eggs, then cream, spices and salt. Pour filling into warm crust. Bake pie until filling is set in center, about 50 minutes. (Use your oven light to check on the pie – when you open the oven you let the heat out and this leads to cracking of the custard). Transfer pie to rack, and let cool for 30 minutes. Then chill in the fridge for 2 hours or up to 1 day.
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle pie evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar. Broil until sugar melts and begins to caramelize, turning pie for even browning, about 1 minute. Let pie stand until topping hardens, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle pie again with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Broil again until sugar browns, about 1 minute. Refrigerate pie until topping hardens, about 30 minutes. Serve right away or keep refrigerated (no longer than 2 hours).