2 Good 2 Be 4bidden

I recently read a study about comfort food and stress eating.Men eat their favorite comfort foods to celebrate.  And the edible indulgences further raise an already elevated mood.

Yay men.Women crave comfort foods as remedy to the stress and gloom of bad days.

The result speaks to the tragically disordered thinking many women have about food.  That attempt to eat our way to serenity?

Yeah, not so much.  Rather than succor, we’re left with feelings of guilt.So women, instead of thinking of food as an antidote, let’s think of it as neutral; neither magical nor evil.  Healthful food that we need, and occasionally, some well-deserved, mindful indulgences.  Let’s take a page from men, with their uncomplicated, rational view of food.  It’s not our adversary, it’s not out to get us—it’s just food.Last month while judging at the King Arthur flour contest, I was lucky enough to sample one of the best bites, and possibly the very best pie I’ve ever been lucky enough to taste.  It springs from the confectionary mind of Melissa Bentley, of Zebulon, and recipient of my sweet tooth’s eternal gratitude.

Cookie Dough Cream Pie

For Pie Crust:cookie dough crust

1 ¼ cups white sugar

2/3 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 pinch salt

½ cup butter, melted

Cookie Dough:cookie dough pie 21 ¼ cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

¼ plus 2 Tbsp. cup granulated sugar

¼ plus 2 Tbsp. cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp. vanilla

2 ½ Tbsp. milk

½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For Filling:

cookie dough pie 3

¾ cups light brown sugar

1/3 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. salt

2 cups whole milk

3 egg yolks

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract


cookie dough pie 4

1 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.

Whisk sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Pour melted butter into the mixture and stir to incorporate. Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake crust in preheated oven until the sides are firm and the bottom bubbles slightly, about 10 minutes.

To prepare cookie dough, beat butter and sugars and in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Using some of the dough, make 8 small balls. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Reserve remaining dough.

In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, flour and salt. Stir in 1 cup of milk, mix until smooth, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining cup of milk. Temper the egg mixture with a small amount of the slightly cooled milk mixture then blend this into the larger saucepan with the cooling milk mixture.They sell tubs of chocolate chip cookie dough made safe by the removal of the eggs.  It’s meant to be eaten raw.

But, this pie.

It’s a gorgeous holiday dessert.  And a saner, much less embarrassing version of sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night, eating spoons full of cookie dough by the light of the fridge.Thanks for your time.

Year 3.1415

You get a pie!  You get a pie! You get a pie!  Everybody gets a pie!

Somehow, 2018 turned out to be the year of pie.  This year, The Kid has been busier than the Pillsbury Dough Boy making pastry. I love cake.  It’s one of my two favorite foods.  And cake can be homey and comforting; coffee cake and Bundt cake are two tasty examples.  But there’s something about pie.  It’s never fancy.  You never feel underdressed in front of pie.  You never feel judged or challenged by pie.Cake is a delicious, delicious show horse.  Pie is a puppy.  Pie’s just happy to be there.

So happy…

My dad was raised in Depression-era Pennsylvania; home of odd and obscure confections like shoofly, Montgomery, and Tears-On-Your-Pillow pies.  But I think his all-time favorite pie is raisin pie.  Which I think we can all agree, sounds both bizarre and unappetizing.  But we all have some insane childhood treat that we hold dear and would fight to both obtain and defend.

Mine is Goober Grape.  There is always a jar in my kitchen.  I eat it by the stress-obliterating spoonful.Image may contain: foodBut, back to the year of π.

For my dad’s birthday in March, The Kid made him a raisin pie.  He loved it.  Then he and my spawn put their heads together and decided that for Father’s Day, The Kid would create a new pie for her fruit and nut-loving Grampa: a dried cranberry pie with a granola crust.

One possible outcome.

I’ll let you know how it comes out.

For my mom, there was no question; it would be her absolute favorite, egg custard pie.  Last weekend we went to Greensboro bearing pie.

I’m not normally a huge custard pie fan, but it was delicious. But the crust that was a sensation.  It was insanely flaky, even in the center.  It was crispy, and it was delicious. Gramma’s Birthday Egg Custard Pie

egg custard

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 stick butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla

¾ cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

8-10 gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Mix all ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie crust.

Bake for 35 minutes or until uniformly puffed and lightly browned.

Let cool completely before slicing. Refrigerate leftovers.

Slammin’ Pie Crust

Makes 2 9-inch crustspie crust 5-5-182 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 ½ sticks cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 tablespoons cold water

2 tablespoons chilled Bourbon (Alcohol adds flavor and does not produce gluten in the flour.  Gluten is what makes bread dough stretchy [good], and pie crust tough and rubbery [very bad])Put all ingredients into food processor.  Pulse until it comes together in blueberry-sized pellets.  Turn it out onto floured surface and knead just until it comes together.  Gently shape into two discs and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to four days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to six weeks.When you’re ready to use, roll out into square.  Fold it into thirds, then fold in half.  This will increase the flakiness of the baked crust.  Roll into 9-inch circle, press into pie pan.  Thoroughly chill before filling to decrease shrinkage during baking.  Then fill and bake according to instructions. custard pieSo, if you, Gentle Reader somehow find yourself also observing the year of pie, you could do much worse than using this champ of a pie crust—it’s truly the best one I’ve ever had.  And I will keep you up-to-date on our very own annus scilis.Thanks for your time.

Easy as Pie

So, here’s the thing.

Dewey’s cake: Best.Cake.Ever.  If I lived closer to Winston-Salem, I’d weigh 800 pounds.

I love carbs.  Carbohydrates and the yummy fat that goes on and around them.  Heck, two of my favorite foods—potato salad and birthday cake, are both gloriously fat adjacent carbs.

A life-long love affair.  Petey Who?

But I have a big beef with the comingling of certain starchy types.  Namely bread or pastry with potatoes.  I don’t eat spud subs, potato pizzas or pie.  But it’s not because I don’t think they’d be tasty because I so think they would.  It’s something else entirely.

I guess we could call it nutritional conscience.

It’s like wearing way too much jewelry, driving a super flashy, crazy loud car, or beating a basketball opponent 75-13.  It’s arrogant, in-your-face, over-kill.  And no good can possibly come from it.  Whether it’s karma, the ultimate sin of tackiness, or the urgent need for a coronary by-pass, some things just ain’t fitting.Last time I was at Costco I picked up one of their dump truck-sized boxes of mushrooms.  I wanted to do something other than the usual mushroom vehicles of gravy, or salad, or soup.  I decided to make a pie.  The earthiness of mushrooms and potatoes make them perfect for each other.  But potatoes and pastry crust are a no-go combo.

So, I let the spuds be the crust.

Mushroom Pie with Hash Brown Crust

hash brown crust

For Crust:

4 cups shredded potatoes

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

salt & pepper

An hour or so before baking, grate the potatoes into a colander.  Sprinkle with teaspoon of salt, and stir so salt’s evenly distributed.  Let sit in colander for at least an hour.  Then place spuds into kitchen towel and twist it around to get the most water out you can.

Preheat oven to 450.  Pour melted butter into shredded potatoes.  Season.  Toss until everything’s well-coated.

Place spuds into 9-inch pie pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Press into bottom and sides in even layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn on low broiler and cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned and dry.

When done, remove from oven and set aside to make filling.


mushroom pie2 slices crispy bacon, fat reserved

24 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 yellow onion

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup low-fat milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Manchego, aged Cheddar, grated

15 gratings of fresh nutmeg

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 325.  Put mushrooms and onion into heavy-bottomed pot with butter, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Turn on medium-high and cook until totally dry and browned, stirring occasionally.

While the mushrooms cook, whisk together dairy, eggs, nutmeg, and cheese, reserving 2 tablespoons cheese.

Add tomato paste and Worcestershire.  When color of tomato paste has deepened, pour in wine, scraping up browned bits.  Cook until the veg are completely dry.  Spoon into potato crust and smooth top.

Slowly pour egg mixture over ‘shrooms.  Sprinkle top with reserved cheese, parsley, and bacon.

Bake for 25 minutes, then turn on low broiler and cook until set and lightly browned. mushroom pieRemove from oven and let sit 15-20 minutes before serving.  Serve with something green.  Feeds 8.

It was really tasty. It was less eggy than a quiche, but it did have a custard-y component.  And the watchword here is dry.  Make sure the shrooms are cooked to Sahara-level desiccation.  The drier the ingredients, the better the final product will be.

Because even though you may disagree with me about carbo-overload, nobody wants wet pie.

Wet pie.

Thanks for your time.



A baking lesson, plus there’s pie!

I have a dirty little secret.Despite possessing a fair hand in the kitchen, I’ve never made a pie with which I was happy.  I haven’t killed anybody, but nobody has ever asked for the recipe, or even seconds.  Humdrum pies are my cross to bear.  With grace and dignity I try to soldier on regardless of the back-breaking burden that fate has chosen for me (besides, my mom makes killer pies, and she’s very generous).

I acted as judge today at the NC State Fair.  The contest was Gold Medal Flour “Best Pie” Contest.  Because there were so many entrants, they broke us into 2 teams of 5 or 6 each. And we got down to work.Almost at the end of our team’s pies Lisa brought around a green silky pie with flecks of lime zest visible.  It was called a key lime fudge.  They gave us all pieces and we chowed down.  I and one other judge at my table loved it. It was almost like two pies in one.  The top layer was tart yet sweet.  The chocolate layer was silky and lingered on the tongue.  I never would have predicted that key lime and chocolate would be so delicious and my very faorite out of a huge assortment of pies.

And we had a ton of pie.  At the end of our voting, I realized that even though I was there to judge, I had gained something I can carry with me to improve every pie I’ll make from now on.

The first lesson is buttermilk does very flavorful things to a pie crust.

Don’t roll you crust out too thickly, or it will not cook, and you will have a pale dough-ey crust,

Don’t neglect salt in both the crust and the filling.Apples can be problematic, cut them small enough so that they are cooked through.  And taste them before you cook them. The last lesson was probably the most important.

Don’t decide you don’t like a food unless you have tasted it. And don’t prejudge a food, or flavors, or people.  Even after living on this rock for more than a half century, delightfully, I am still able to have my socks knocked right off.

Melissa Bentley’s Key Lime Fudge Pie



1/2 Cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut

1 1/4 Cups Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour (plus more for rolling)

Pinch of Salt

1/2 Cup (1stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, cold

3 to 5 tablespoons cream of coconut, cold, as needed

Fillingchoc-lime-pie4oz Dark Chocolate, chopped

1 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1 (11oz package) white chocolate chips

1 Tablespoon sour cream

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1/3 Cup Key Lime Juice


Make the crust: Pulse the coconut in the food processor until finely chopped. Add the Gold Metal Flour and salt and pulse again. Add the butter to the mixture and pulse until butter pieces are pea-sized. Pulse in the cream of coconut one tablespoon at a time as needed, until dough comes together. Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, refrigerate for up to an hour. Preheat oven to 375. Roll the dough on floured space until it is 1 inch larger then pie pan. Press into a 9-inch pan, crimp the edges. Set a sheet of foil over crust and fill with pie weights and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until bottom is cooked, 10 more minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

Filling: In a microwave melt the dark chocolate and 3 tablespoons heavy cream, stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature about 15 minutes. Pour over pie crust and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

In a pan over medium heat, melt together the white chocolate chips and 1 cup heavy cream until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, lime zest and lime juice. Pour into the cooled crust and refrigerate for 30 minutes.I’d like to leave you with a tip.  If you need a heat source to keep something hot, hollow out a  large pumpkin, and cut holes around it, for ventilation.  Place a Sterno inside the pumpkin and light.  Then set you dish on top.  It’s very festive. Thursday I’m going back for another contest.  I’ll report back and let you know what happened.

Thursday I’m going back for another contest.  This time, it’s pecans (Woo Hoo!).  I’ll report back and let you know what happened.

Thanks for your time.

Melissa’s Pie

My paternal grandmother, Geraldine, made awesome pie crust.  The grandchildren would dance around for the little cookies she made with dough scraps, jockeying for position to score the first one out of the oven, gladly accepting the trade-off of burned little hands and tongues.

My mom makes great pies.  Lemon meringue, apple, and her world-famous pecan are only a few.  But her crusts come from the supermarket’s refrigerated section.

I always assumed that I didn’t have the patience to make crust from scratch, so on the infrequent occasions that I needed pastry, I used pre-made.

Evidently, they’ve been doing this for a long time…

But as I learned to cook, pie became my secret shame.  There’s nothing wrong with using pre-made, but not knowing how to make pastry was a hit to my ego, and a milestone I should have already passed.

Then I saw Melissa D’Arabian, a TV chef I admire greatly, make pastry dough on Food Network.  It looked do-able.  A French master baker/chef said that her crust was just as good as he could do.  So I tried and it worked like a charm.

I’ve made it probably 100 times since then and never had any problems.  It works great for single and double crust pies, and the hand pies that come from her dough are so pretty and tasty, I feel like I should pay someone for such glorious eats.

Melissa-inspired pie crust

pie crust

1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed and chilled

2 ½ cups + ½ tablespoon cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons very cold vodka (Vodka is tasteless in the cooked crust.  But feel free to add another kind to lend flavor to the finished product; bourbon for pecan or apple for example, or amaretto for peach pie.)

5-8 tablespoons ice water

Put the butter, flour, and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add vodka then water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each spoonful. Keep adding liquid until the dough just begins to gather into larger clumps.  Pour dough onto flat surface and lightly knead just until it comes together.

Divide dough in half and transfer into re-sealable plastic bags and pat into disks. Let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Or freeze for later. 

Before baking, chill formed dough for 30-60 minutes.  Bake at 425 degrees until golden, timing depends on size and shape of product.


Chicken pies that I made with homemade magic crust.

I add vodka to lower the chances gluten developing.  Gluten is the protein that makes bread dough stretchy.  It also makes for a disappointingly chewy pie crust.  The secret of a light flaky crust is to stop kneading the second you can press a portion of dough in your fist and it keeps its shape.

And you want the crust to be cold when it hits the hot oven.  This accomplishes two things.  The butter will melt all at once, and the steam that is produced will create little air pockets, which contributes to a flaky mouth-feel.  And there will be very little shrinkage, so the pie crust won’t retreat down the sides of the pie pan.

The kids rode around the neighborhood on my old pastry dough.

I have, in the distant past, produced pastry dough that was so overworked and tough the only thing it was good for was the sole of a tennis shoe or a pencil eraser.  So I can’t emphasize strongly enough how shocked and delighted I was the first time I made tender, flaky pie dough.

And I owe it all to my cooking crush Melissa.  I figured if it was her procedure, there’s no way I could fail.

Melissa D’Arabian, America’s kitchen sweetheart.

Thanks for your time.