About Me

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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

20 November 2012

Recipe: Streamlined Mother-of-All Pumpkin Pies

So back in the summer I posted a pumpkin pie recipe and I was all like, hey, Northern Hemisphere folks, just pull this out come November ... so guess what I'm doing?

Actually, I'm also updating this recipe, streamlining it, and including a much simpler (but just as delicious) pie crust recipe.  So here you go my darlings.  The best dang pumpkin pie you will ever eat, just in time for Thanksgiving!

The Mother-of-All Pumpkin Pies
Makes 2 pies

  • 2 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 20 tablespoons of butter (280 grams)
  • 4-10 Tablespoons of ice water
  • 1 egg, well beaten
Filling:  (Tweaked from this original recipe)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves -- if you can, use fresh ground.  I use a mortar and pestle and it's SO much better than pre-ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice -- again, I grind this fresh in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 of a nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs (to reduce fat/cholesterol, you can use 8 egg whites instead)
  • 1 1/2 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (Low fat is fine)
  • 2.2 pounds (1 kg) peeled and cubed butternut squash/sugar pumpkin *

  • *  You have to trust me on this one, use the cubed, peeled butternut squash you find at the store, unless you have the luck to find a sugar pumpkin.  The behemoths we carve don't taste nice at all.  You CANNOT tell that it's butternut squash and not pumpkin and it will taste SO much better than if you use canned pumpkin.  Trust me!

Begin with the crust:  Mix sugar and salt into flour. Cut butter into flour. Add just enough water to bind it together.

Wrap in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Now, the filling.  Steam your squash for approximately 10-15 minutes in the microwave until it is very soft. No need to add water.

This should yield you about 3 cups of pumpkin/squash mush, add all the other filling ingredients.  Blend everything together in a blender or with an immersion blender:

Now flour your counter well.  Separate your dough into 2 pieces and roll out 2 pie crusts. If there are gaps/rips in your crust you can always fix it with your pieces and/or with additional pieces.

Line your pie tins with your dough, and then add your filling.  Crimp the crust and brush with the beaten egg. It should be just perfect for 2 pies. 

Bake at 180C/350F for one hour, but start checking at 45 minutes.  The pie is done when a toothpick comes out clean out of the center of the filling.

And there you go, best pumpkin pie you'll ever taste!



16 November 2012

Home Sweet Home: The Perfect Apple Pie

But what is this?

Is Lorenita blogging again?

Yes, I know.  It's been a while.  But folks, let me tell you, Transatlantic moves are no joke.  It has been a crazy couple of months since we left South Africa.  The jet lag, the endless unpacking, the welcome homes, the malaise, the getting life back in order, the trying to find work, the birthdays, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

Oh, and then, just as I was beginning to get a little settled I decided -- like the crazy person I am -- to embark on this thing called National Novel Writing Month wherein you attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  In my case, I took it on in the hope of trying to hush my very loud inner editor.  Also, I think I have a bit of a masochistic streak (but that's just par for the course as a writer.) Anyhoo, it's been a great challenge that I'm still in the midst of.  So when I'm done with that, I do promise to get some more posts up with more frequency.  I still have to show you those beautiful Addo elephants!  And I know that our friends in SA wanted to see what life is like here in Minnesota.  So there will be all that.

For now, I am going to gift you with 2 of my all-time favorite pie recipes -- just in time for Thanksgiving! 

This first one is the one I'm most proud of since I created it using ideas from 3 different recipes and makes the yummiest and most crispy-crust-apple-pie ever.  I'll post the second (a streamlined version of my Pumpkin Pie) soon.  For now, enjoy the appley goodness!

It really is easy and is the foolproof way of avoiding a soggy crust, but a word of caution:  read through the whole thing before you start as I have notes about the timing and filling in the crust section ...

  • 8-9 medium apples, sliced medium-thick (the key here is to take the pie pan you'll be using and fill it with the raw apple slices. Fill it until it's almost overflowing because they'll cook down a lot.)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (raw is great)
  • a bunch of shakes of cinnamon
  • dots o' butter (about 1 Tablespoon total)

Here's what you want your raw apple slices to look in your pie tin, just about to overflow.

The method here is very important.

Put sugar in heavy pan with a little water. Cook till it caramelizes (keep a close eye on it and stir every couple of minutes, especially at the end). Add apples to caramel:

 Stir together quickly, add cinnamon to your liking (I shake a bunch in and taste -- probably about a teaspoon or so) and cook a few minutes till apples are soft (kinda "wilty" but not mushy):

Put apples in strainer (put a bowl underneath) and let them strain at least 5 minutes:

Collect all the strained juices:

See all that juice?  That's what would have made your crust soggy & puffy!

Take all those juices, put them back in the pan and cook down till it's almost a jelly.  Mix reduced juices ("jelly") back in with the apples:

Pour into prepared pie crust (raw), dot with butter, top with latticed crust (brushed with one beaten egg.)

Bake at apx. 350F/175C till golden on top. (About 30 - 40 minutes.)

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons of butter (141.75 grams)
  • 2-5 Tablespoons of ice water
  • one beaten egg
Mix sugar and salt into flour. Cut butter into flour.  Add just enough water to bind it together. At this point I usually make the filling, so I let the crust rest in the fridge. Then flour your surface and rolling pin (or old wine bottle like I had to do in South Africa!) very well and roll out your dough. If it breaks/cracks, no worries, it patches easily.  Fill and brush with beaten egg before baking for a nice, golden, shiny crust.

Note that for apple pie I make one and a half of this recipe -- I like a latticed crust because you see all the apple slices, plus it lets even more steam come out of the apples, once again, trying to avoid the dreaded soggy pie. So you need 1/2 the recipe to make a latticed crust. Or you could just double it to make a full top crust.

Here are the amounts for the 1 1/2 recipe:
  • 1 7/8 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons sugar
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 15 tablespoons of butter (141.75 grams)
  • 3- 8 Tablespoons of ice water
  • one beaten egg (you still just need one egg!)

P.S.:  A scoop of vanilla ice cream with this is heavenly!