Showing posts with label pie crust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pie crust. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Congratulations to Lucy Burdette on today’s release of KILLER TAKEOUT, the 7th Key West Food Critic Mystery!

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: In the olden days, children, high school freshman girls were required to take Home Economics. (Boys were required to take a business class; our school had no wood shop.) We used the old soda fountain room for cooking classes. When lemon meringue pie day rolled around, I was the only girl in the class who showed up with all the ingredients for a pie crust and fresh lemons. I kid you not—every other girl brought in a pre-made pie crust or a stick of pie crust dough, and lemon pudding. Sister Diane was not amused—by me. Apparently I had violated instructions, or who knows what. To get a grade for that day’s lesson, I was required to make a pudding pie at home and bring it in for her to taste. I think she just wanted to eat more pie.

Ah, the scars. I can’t say that’s why I hadn’t made a lemon meringue pie again in more than 40 years, but when I stayed an extra day in Phoenix after Left Coast Crime to visit a friend, with a lemon tree in her yard, I was inspired. I stuffed lemons into every spare space in my suitcase!

Both crust and filling  recipes come from Williams Sonoma, with just a few minor changes. If you’re one of those cooks who shies away from pie because the crusts roll out looking like Idaho—a beautiful state, but not a good look in pie—don’t fear! This crust rolls out easily, with no breaking or crumbling. I roll crusts between two pieces of waxed paper—a trick I learned from my mother, not Sister Diane—which makes transferring the crust to the pie plate super easy. And for pie weights, use dried beans, then tuck them away for next time. Because I promise, you won’t want to wait 40 years to make this again.

Basic pie dough for a single crust pie:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons cold water (more, if you live in a dry climate)

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

To make the dough in a food processor, place the flour, sugar and salt in the large bowl. Add the butter and pulse to blend, then mix on low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix just until the dough pulls together, or “gathers.”

Place dough on a sheet of waxed paper or a lightly floured cutting board, shape into a ball, and flatten into a disk. I like to flatten it with my hands or the rolling pin, then top with another piece of waxed paper and begin rolling, from the center. Turn the paper or cutting board so you can roll it out evenly, to about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.

Makes enough dough for one 9-inch single-crust pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie Filling

8 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Finely grated zest of 3-4 Meyer lemons

Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate, fitting it into the bottom and sides. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under, then flute the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over, then line with aluminum foil and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375̊F. Place dough-lined plate on a baking sheet and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake until the dough looks dry and is barely golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and cool while you make the filling.

Raise the oven temperature to 400̊F.

In a small bowl, beat 3 eggs until blended. Separate the remaining 5 eggs, adding the yolks to the beaten whole eggs and putting the whites in the bowl of your mixer. Cover the whites and set aside at room temperature. Beat the yolks into the beaten eggs.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the cornstarch, then whisk in the beaten eggs, lemon juice, and salt. Pour mixture into to a heavy saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a full boil, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Be careful not to undercook or overcook the filling or it will separate as it cools. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. If you spot any bits of cooked egg white or lemon seeds, pluck them out with a fork. Stir in the lemon zest, then pour into the baked crust.

With a mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. One tablespoon at a time, beat in the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until the egg whites become a meringue with stiff, shiny peaks. Using a rubber spatula, spread the meringue evenly over the hot filling, making sure the meringue touches the crust on all sides (to prevent the meringue from shrinking). Swirl the meringue with the spatula to form peaks. Bake until the meringue is browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving, at least 2 hours.

Makes eight servings. In theory, anyway.

From the cover of GUILTY AS CINNAMON: 

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Pepper Reece knows that fiery flavors are the spice of life. But when a customer dies of a chili overdose, she finds herself in hot pursuit of a murderer…

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Strawberry Tart

by Sheila Connolly

The last of the local strawberries… I hadn’t been to a farmers market this spring, so I kind of over-indulged when I was in Northampton, buying two overflowing quarts of beautiful ripe berries.

There are only two of us at home these days, and that was a lot of strawberries. First round: the old stand-by, strawberry shortcake, with home-made shortcakes and plenty of whipped cream. Didn’t use up even half of the berries.

Also in Northampton, I visited one of my favorite used bookstores, The Raven, where I bought (1) a four-volume edition of the History of Middlesex County, published in 1927 (maybe only a Massachusetts genealogist can get excited about that); (2) Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which somehow I’d never read); and (3) two cookbooks. I can’t stop myself.

One of these cookbooks was Seasonal Fruit Desserts, by Deborah Madison, which had lots of nice recipes (I’m always on the lookout for new apple recipes). But what struck me was that there were not one but two new pie-crust recipes! I may have mentioned (often) that I am pie-crust challenged—these two may be numbers 14 and 15. But hope springs eternal!

So there I was with a pile of strawberries and a new pie crust recipe—but I couldn’t find a single recipe I liked. So I snooped around and combined several, and this is the result.

Strawberry Pie

The crust:

8 Tblsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, 
     at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of one orange (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour

Butter a 9" round or square tart pan.

Beat the butter with the sugar and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again until smooth.

Add the flavorings, then the flour, and mix just to combine. 

Scrape the batter into the tart pan (be sure to gather up all the bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl).  With an offset spatula, spread out the batter, pushing it up against the sides to make a rim.

If the batter is too soft to handle, refrigerate it for 10 minutes.

When making your tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the tart pan with the dough and set it on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until it just begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool (it will shrink down a bit).

Lemon Curd:

Wait, what’s that doing here? Call it mortar, so you have something to set your strawberries in, to bind them to the crust. (You could also use a simple pastry custard without the lemon.)

2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/2 tsp grated lemon peel

Grate the peel from the lemon. Squeeze the lemon to extract the juice. (One large lemon will provide both enough juice and peel for this recipe.)

Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a small heavy saucepan. Add the butter and the lemon peel. Place over medium heat and stir until the butter melts. Keep stirring until the curd thickens to the consistency of pudding, which should take about 5 minutes.

Place in a small bowl, then press plastic wrap on the surface (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill at least 2 hours.

Putting it all together:

Remove the rim from the tart crust and place the crust on a serving plate.

Spread a thin layer of the lemon curd to cover the bottom.

Arrange the strawberries on top of the curd.You can use whole strawberries, or slice them as I did (tastes good either way!). 

Melt some jelly (seedless—take your pick from any red jelly you like) and brush over the top of the berries.

Chill to set—then eat quickly! This tart gets soggy overnight.

P.S. The other pie-crust recipe from the Seasonal Fruit Desserts cookbook? A more typical rolled crust, but made with maple or brown sugar and a bit of whole-wheat pastry flour. Now, what kind of filling should I try?

Privy to the Dead, still in its first month. I promise there's nothing disgusting in the privy!

Have a wonderful (and safe) Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Alvina's Crumb Cake #FathersDay @LucyBurdette #recipe

Alvina's Crumb Cake, passed down from Bob Isleib to his family 

With father's day coming up soon, it's hard not to think of my sweet dad--I still miss him a lot. He was a great dad, and an interesting, funny man who was crazy about his family.

My dad and his darling wife, Mary Jane

My father did not cook much, but he was proud of the two recipes in his repertoire. One was his easy but controversial method for making pie crust, which he used to make occasional apple pies.

The other was this recipe for coffee cake. I love having the recipe card in his handwriting--a treasure in my box. Although I've canvassed my living relatives, no one is completely sure who Alvina was.

I made a few tweaks to his recipe including using cake flour which makes a finer crumb. I also added butter and brown sugar to the topping, and reduced the oven temperature. (I remember the cake often coming out crispy.)


2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 cups flour, cake if you have it
4 tsp baking powder
3 beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup Milk


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup additional flour

Preheat the oven to 350.

Pulse the sugar, 2 sticks of butter, and flour together. (I used a stand mixer—small lumps are acceptable, even encouraged.) Remove one cup of this mixture for topping and in another bowl, cut in 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 stick of butter, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Set that aside.

To the original  mixture, add 4 heaping tsp baking powder and 3 beaten eggs. Mix well.

Mix in the milk and vanilla—do not overbeat.


 Pour into a well-buttered 9 by 13 inch pan and sprinkle crumbs over top. Bake for 35 or so minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out dry.


This is also delicious with a handful of fresh blueberries folded in before baking.

When she is not blogging and cooking, Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries!

Fatal Reservations, the sixth book in the series, will be in bookstores on July 7, but you can certainly order it now! And, to begin the countdown and launch the celebration, we will be giving away one copy of the new book--leave a comment with your email to be entered in the drawing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Alice's Classic Cherry Pie

Pie! Oh, we love pie! 

That's the opening line of the poem "Pie" by Susan Bright, from her collection Tirades and Evidence of Grace, which I found more than twenty years ago when it was reprinted in the UTNE Reader. A yellowed copy still marks the Pies section of my recipe binder. (No spoilers here, but it also becomes an unexpected performance piece in BUTTER OFF DEAD, the third Food Lovers' Village Mystery, out July 7 and available for pre-order now!)

“If you want to learn how to bake a good cake,” my father told young me, “talk to your Aunt Peggy. But for pie, watch your mother.”

I’ve confessed before, I did not grow up in a foodie family. I will not confess our sins here, but they were many. The bright spot? My mother loved to bake, perhaps a remnant of her German farm ancestry or her fond memories of afternoons with her grandmother in the 1930s. Whatever the reason, she picked up a fondness for pie that I nurture still.

And who doesn't love pie?

Every year in my childhood, my mother made two cherry pies for the Winter Carnival held at the Catholic high school. One year, a certain five year old ate all the crust around the edge of a cherry pie. Said child did not get to go to the Carnival that year. She is still pouting.

And I still love cherry pie. (I helped my mother move recently and was pleased to see she’d replaced the old wooden rolling pin with the red handles that always fell out, though she kept it. I snared them both.)

An aside: I loved to bake with my mother for the ritual of it. Which included wearing aprons. When my father’s mother died and we went to St. Paul for the service and family gathering, one of my aunts took me into my grandmother’s bedroom and told me she’d left me a gift: a box of cherry Lifesavers and a plastic apron. If it hadn’t rotted years ago, I’d show you a picture; I know it sported cherries. (There were others in the drawer as well; I suspect each of my girl cousins got one!) No wonder Luci the Splash Artist in my Food Lovers Village Mysteries cherishes vintage aprons. 

When I told my mother I’d made her cherry pie for this post, she told me a story I did not recall. The Christmas I was four, we went back to Minnesota, where my parents were from, to visit, and stayed with my favorite aunt and uncle—my father’s sister Lois and her husband Pete, coincidentally the parents of mystery writer Laura Childs. Aunt Lois made a pie. She came out into the living room holding a can of pie filling—which did not have a picture of the fruit—and asked my mother, “Can that child read?” I hadn’t seen the pie, just the can. But reading matters. How else would I have known we were about to celebrate with cherry pie?

Now, I am not one of those cooks who never uses prepared products—canned pie filling, for example—but I see no reason not to make your own pie crust. It’s honestly not that difficult. (A neighbor who envied my mother’s pastry prowess complained that her dough ended up looking like Idaho. Nice for a state; a problem for a pie.) Make sure your dough is damp enough to hold together—here in semi-arid Montana, where flour can dry out a bit, that sometimes means adding extra liquid. The oil or butter makes a dough easy to work with—it responds to the heat of your hands. I like to roll the crust between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper; you’re not actually rolling the dough, and it’s easy to flip it into the pie plate.

This recipe is also flexible. The Monday after Cherry Pie Sunday, we made a quiche. Why two pies in two days? Why not? I added fresh ground pepper and used half canola oil, half olive oil. And by golly, super fab.

“Easy as pie.”

Classic Cherry Pie with Alice’s Double Crust 

This is not your classic butter-and-ice-water crust, though to my mind, it’s a lot easier. But this week, we’re not talking “best I ever ate” or “best according to the experts;” we’re talking food, memory, love. And this is it.

In a medium bowl, mix:
2 cups white flour
        1-1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour into a glass measuring cup (hey–they always used glass back then, and it does have a visibility advantage):
½ cup oil
1/4 cold milk

Pour liquid ingredients all at once into the flour. Stir until mixed. Press into a smooth ball. Flatten and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper.

(For a single crust pie, use 1-1/2 cups white flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup oil, and 3 tablespoons cold milk.)

Traditional cherry pies are made with a lattice top, but it’s far from necessary.

Now, if I were making this my way, and the fruit stands on the east shore of Flathead Lake were open, I would use either fresh cherries or local fruit canned for pies. But it’s April as I write, and we’re talking the Mom Thing. So I’m doing as she would do and using canned fruit.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make a double crust. Line an 8 or 9 inch pie plate with a crust. Pour in 3 cups of pie filling. Top with the second crust and seal. (That’s the cute pinch-y part that my mother had the patience for. I don’t. Your choice.) Since we’re not doing a fancy lattice, be sure to cut Xs or slashes to let the steam escape. Bake 50-55 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bottom looks baked, too. (Another advantage to a glass pie plate.)

Cool as long as you can, then eat. Vanilla ice cream is a bonus. But remember: the first piece is ALWAYS a mess!

Much as I love cherry, and apple, my absolute favorite pie is rhubarb custard, a classic from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. What’s your favorite?  

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for DEATH AL DENTE (Berkley Prime Crime), first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for BOOKS, CROOKS & COUNSELORS: HOW TO WRITE ACCURATELY ABOUT CRIMINAL LAW & COURTROOM PROCEDURE (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher. 

Coming in July 2015: BUTTER OFF DEAD, third in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries! (Available for pre-order now, in all formats.)

Connect with her on her websiteon Facebook, or on Twitter. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why Put Vodka in Your Pie Crust? Culinary mystery author Cleo Coyle has a clue...

This Vodka Pie Crust recipe has been around for a few years now. It was first developed by a team of cooks at America's Test Kitchen and subsequently published in a 2007 issue of Cook's Illustrated. Since then, the recipe has been tested, reviewed, adapted, and reprinted on blogs across the Worldwide Web.

For six year, I remained skeptical. Like many bakers, I have my own favorite pie crust recipes, including one with my own "secret ingredient" so why waste good vodka?

I'll tell you why: because one of my fellow crime-writing cooks here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Wendy Lyn Watson (aka Annie Knox), raved about it, and that was good enough for me. I printed out the recipe with plans to try it. Still more months went by and finally, on a day I craved an apple pie, I baked it up and was mighty impressed with the results. 

Wendy first shared the recipe, so I checked in with her. She gave me the green light to share it with all of you. 

The Famous
Vodka Pie Crust
(which is neither shaken nor stirred)

Adapted (with geek speak) and photographed by Cleo Coyle with thanks for the share from Wendy Lyn Watson via the original source of America's Test Kitchen (PBS) and Cook's Illustrated magazine

See the original recipe reprinted here 

in The New York Times

Yield: enough to make two 9-inch pie crusts
(one double-crust pie or two single-crust pies)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (12-1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt (I prefer ½ teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon Kosher salt)
2 tablespoons white, granulated sugar
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), diced
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, diced
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup ice water (My advice is not to use all of this, more below)


Step 1 – Mix the flour and fat either with a food processor or by hand. See directions for each method below…

A. By food processor: Place the 1-1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar into your food processor and process until combined. America’s Test Kitchen suggests 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until the dough begins to form uneven clumps (about 15 seconds). The dough will resemble cottage-cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape the bowl with your rubber spatula, evening out the dough around your processor blade. Now add the remaining cup of flour and pulse the processor blade until you've broken up the mass of dough. Pour this mixture into a mixing bowl. (If you're wondering why you can't just finish the dough in the food processor, America's Test Kitchen found that the processor overworks the dough after the liquid is added, which is why they direct you to transfer it to a bowl for the next step.)

B. By hand: Into a bowl, measure out the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the fats (cold butter and shortening) and use a pastry cutter (or two knives) to cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients. I use a pastry cutter but (honestly) at some point, I always switch to clean fingers, rubbing the fat into the flour until the entire mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Step 2 – Add the liquid (where Cleo geeks out): This is the trickiest part of any pie dough. Too much liquid and you’ll get a tough crust. That’s why vodka is used. The liquid nature allows you to form and roll the dough easily, but vodka is only part water. It's also part ethanol--and, as the cooks at America's Test Kitchen realized, gluten doesn't form in ethanol. (Gluten is a protein in flour that you want to develop when making bread but never when making a pie crust because you'll end up with a tough, unappealing crust.) 

In the vodka crust, when the crust bakes the alcohol evaporates, leaving just enough liquid in the dough to form an extremely tender and flaky pie crust. That's why you’ll want to sprinkle all of the vodka over the flour mixture, but I suggest starting with only half of the recommended 1/4 cup of ice water. In other words, sprinkle all of the vodka and only 2 tablespoons of the ice water over the flour-fat crumbs.

With a rubber spatula, stir in the liquid, folding and pressing down. Use your best judgment on adding water at this stage: The dough should not be dry and crumbly. Nor should it be overly wet. If your weather is very humid, 2 tablespoons of the ice water may be all you’ll need to form a sticky dough. If your weather is very dry, you might need to add two 2 more tablespoons (for the entire suggested amount of ¼ cup). 

Divide your dough into two even balls and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each dough disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Step 3 - Roll the dough (more geek speak): When you're ready to make your pie, take out your disk and roll it out. I've been rolling out dough for years now (cookie dough, pie dough, doughs of all kinds) and I swear by my parchment paper method. Why? Because I never add more flour. 

This is why I hold back the entire amount of ice water in the vodka pie crust recipe. In the recipe notes at America's Test Kitchen, they actually suggest adding up to 1/4 cup more flour to the crust as you roll it out--that's because, if you use the entire 1/4 cup of ice water, your dough will be very wet and you'll need that flour to dry it out, but in my opinion, you also run the risk of toughening your crust more than you need to. 

As I said, I'd rather hold back a bit of water in this recipe and use my parchment paper method of rolling the dough, which is simply to place the dough disk between two pieces of parchment paper before rolling. 

Question: Won't the dough stick to the parchment paper? Yes. When dough gets warm, it sticks (because the butter beings to melt). This is easily remedied by chilling the dough again thus chilling and hardening the butter. So I simply slip the fully rolled out dough, parchment papers and all, onto a flat pan and slide it into the refrigerator for fifteen minutes or until chilled again. Once the dough gets cold, it loses its stickiness and I can remove the parchment paper easily and transfer the dough to a metal pie pan or glass pie plate. 

Bake your pie according to your specific recipe's directions. 

My three tips for you when baking: (1) Be sure to protect the thick crust edges from over-browning by loosely hugging them with aluminum foil or covering with a pie shieldI do this before placing the pie in the oven and remove the foil or shield in the last 20 minutes of baking so the edges will brown. (2) If blind baking an empty, single-crust pie, don't forget to weight the crust with pie weights or it will shrink back in a heartbreaking manner. (3) Brushing the top crust with an egg wash consisting of 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of milk, cream, or half-and-half will help the top turn golden brown.

This vodka crust is the tenderest I've ever tasted. My husband agreed. We both give it a big thumbs-up. Thank you, Wendy (and the ever-curious cooks of America's Test Kitchen)! 

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes.  


The Ghost and
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Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.