Monday, May 18, 2009

Razzcherry Pie

I am a cake lover, born to a family of pie lovers. Making pie does not thrill me the way making and decorating a cake can, but in most cases, my family would prefer I bring pie to our get-togethers. I'm making them so often now that I seem to have earned an unwanted reputation and have become, somewhat grudgingly, the designated pie maker amongst my friends and family.

This is how my Razzcherry Pie was born. Dad wanted pie for his birthday celebration last year, so I did an experiment to come up with a cherry & raspberry filling. Though delicious, it turned out pretty runny so I tweaked it a bit and tried it again for our belated Mother's Day barbecue this year (because, of course, Mom wanted pie instead of cake). It came out perfect so I thought I'd share the recipe now that I've worked out the kinks.

Veronica's Razzcherry Pie
Prepare to be razzle dazzled!

Almond Crust
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 16 pieces
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold
milk & coarse sugar for top crust

Rasberry-Cherry Filling
1 (10-oz) package frozen raspberries
2 (14.5-oz) cans sour pitted cherries, drained well (juice reserved)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp butter
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp red food coloring (optional)


The night before you make the pie, put the raspberries into a colander and set it over a bowl. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator and by the time you use them, they’ll be thawed and drained. Save the juice.

For the crust (which can be made up to two days ahead), I recommend using a food processor. Process the almonds until very finely ground—about the texture of cornmeal. Add the flour, salt & brown sugar, then pulse a couple times to combine. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal & pieces are no larger than peas. Sprinkle 4 tbsp ice water over the top and pulse until it starts to clump together & holds together when you pinch it with your fingers. Add additional water if necessary (I personally use 5 tbsp). Form the dough into 2 disks, dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Roll out one of the disks on a floured surface and fit it into a 9 inch deep dish pie plate, trimming off the excess (leave a ½” overhang if you will be using a lattice top crust). Set in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees & place one oven rack in the lowest position and one in the middle. If you only have one rack, put it in the lowest position.

Pour the collected raspberry juice into a 1-cup measuring cup (you’ll probably only have a few tablespoons). Add the reserved cherry juice until you have ¾ cup of liquid.

In a saucepan mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the juice and simmer over medium heat until filling is thick and clear (by clear I don’t mean the red will disappear, but that the cloudy appearance from the cornstarch will go away), about 4 to 5 minutes. Since you’ll be adding more liquid after it’s done cooking and the berries will break down and make the glaze juicier, you want to get it pretty thick. If it isn’t gel-like after 5 minutes, whisk in more cornstarch (1 tsp at a time) and cook for another few minutes after each addition until it’s very thick.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter, almond extract & food coloring until the butter is melted and incorporated. Gently fold in the cherries & very gently fold in the raspberries. Yes, the raspberries will fall apart but the more careful you are, the less likely it is they’ll turn to unrecognizable mush. Pour into pastry-lined pie dish and set aside.Roll out second dough disk and cut into 1/2-3/4" strips. Arrange the strips on top to make a lattice, trim them to the edge of the plate (slightly shorter than the overhanging edge), fold the edge over & seal. Pour some milk (I used cream) into a dish and use your clean fingertips to moisten the strips. Sprinkle the strips with coarse sugar (try to get it on the strips but it’s OK if some falls into the filling).

If you are just using a full top crust, seal & flute the edges, brush with milk/cream, sprinkle with sugar and cut steam vents so you don’t have a royal pie explosion in your oven.

Place pie on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, and then move to the middle shelf & reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. At this point, you MUST put an oven liner on the rack below the pie, or cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place it below, because the pie will most likely bubble over and make a mess.

Continue to bake until bubbling & the crust is a golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes more. Cool completely (best if made the day before serving) before cutting & serve with vanilla ice cream.

Will last several days on the counter & longer in the fridge.

Blueberry Lemon Trifle

We have several diabetics in our Church group, with whom we joined last Saturday for a barbecue in the countryside. To accomodate their sugar abstinence, I brought two sugar-free desserts: rugelach & blueberry lemon trifle. Both desserts were enjoyed by diabetics & non-diabetics alike, but this is the one I will continue making for myself (Den can fend for himself--the trifle is mine!) because it's low in calories and it tastes FABULOUS! If you prefer to make this with full-fat and full-sugar (oooooh, I bet that would be even better!), follow the suggestions in parentheses.

Blueberry Lemon Trifle
1 sugar-free angel food cake (or 1 pound cake)
1 lemon, juiced
1 1/2 cups skim milk (or whole milk)
1 (8-oz) tub fat-free sour cream (or regular sour cream)
1 (8-oz) tub sugar-free cool-whip, divided (or regular Cool Whip/real whipped cream)
2 packages fat-free/sugar-free instant lemon pudding (or regular instant lemon pudding)
3 pints blueberries, rinsed & dried

Cut the cake into cubes and lay them out on a cookie sheet, then sprinkle the lemon juice evenly over them (I actually dipped my clean fingers into the juice & dabbed the juice on--you could use a pastry brush too) & carefully toss. Don't mash the cake--keep it as pretty as possible. This won't be as difficult with pound cake b/c it's not as delicate so you don't have to be as careful. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, sour cream & half of the cool whip until smooth, then beat in the pudding mixes until it starts to thicken.Set a few blueberries aside for garnish. Put 1/3 of the cake cubes in the bottom of a trifle bowl, sprinkle on 1/3 of the blueberries (1 pint), then spread 1/3 of the pudding mixture over it. Repeat two more times, then spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top & garnish with the reserved blueberries. Chill until ready to serve--can be made up to two days in advance--or just sit it down on the table and dig in.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Brownies Galore!

I went a bit brownie crazy early in the week and baked five 9x13-sized pans of three different kinds of them. I mailed two pans to a friend serving in Iraq (this required some mad packing skills & ingenuity on my part) for his birthday and the rest were frozen* until ready to use for two potlucks we were attending this weekend.

Here are the brownies I made (I dare you not to get a toothache after reading them): Mocha-Frosted Kahlua Brownies, Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies and Chocolate Caramel Walnut Brownies.

Although I'm partial to the Kahlua Brownies b/c they are my own recipe, I have to say that the Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies are my new favorite (yes, of all time!). The Chocolate Caramel Walnut Brownies are very decadent, but somehow not as refined (if a brownie can be called refined) as the former two--they remind me more of a juvenile treat but this doesn't keep them from being outstanding. Brownies with thick, gooey caramel and dripping with chocolate chips and walnuts? What could be wrong with that?
I have to apologize to all the people who are going to be aghast that I dared to use brownie mix instead of measuring out flour & sugar, but I just prefer the mix, people! I've made scratch brownies and I just don't like them as much. I guess I should try some more recipes before I set my mind against from-scratch brownies but why mess with perfection when it's this easy? If you're passionate about this subject and have a great recipe that you think would change my mind, please share!

Kahlua Brownies
These brownies are best-sellers at the Flying Pig Gift Boutique. It doesn't matter what kind of outlandish treats I bring in to sell, if the brownies are sitting there alongside them, the other stuff only goes after the brownies are sold out. Which never takes very long.

1 box fudge brownie mix (I like Pillsbury)
2 eggs1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 Tbsp. Kahlua
3 tsp. powdered insant coffee crystals**
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened

Make the brownies: mix up everything, spread in a 9x13 pan (grease the bottom only) and bake at 350 for however long the box says. Don't overbake unless you like dry brownies. Cool COMPLETELY before frosting.

Make the frosting: Microwave the Kahlua for 30 seconds or until boiling (I use a glass 1-cup measuring cup and fill it 1/2 way to the 1/4 cup line). Stir in the instant coffee and place in the freezer to cool. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute, stir and then give it another 30 seconds, stirring again. It should be melted but if not, cotinue this cycle in 30 second intervals. Once smooth, set aside to cool. Cream the butter then beat in the cooled chocolate. Last, add the coffee mixture and beat it until everything is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Spread over the cooled brownies.

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies
Recipe from Betty Crocker with instructions modifed by me.

1 9x13 pan of brownies, cooled (if using a mix, be sure to substitute melted butter for the oil)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
Directions:Beat filling ingredients until smooth and spread evenly over the cooled brownies. An offset spatula is almost required for this task as the filling is thick and hard to spread. Microwave the topping ingredients in 30-second intervals, stirring between, until smooth (should only take a couple times). Cool 10 minutes, then spread over the filling layer. Again, I would never try this without an offset spatula. The layer has to be spread very, very thin and I can't imagine doing it without one. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before cutting--you want the chocolate on top to be hardened so that the brownies cut easily. I cut mine frozen and that worked fine.

Chocolate Caramel Walnut Brownies
Recipe from the back of a generic sweetened condensed milk label

2 boxes of fudge brownie mix

Caramel Topping
1/2 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
dash of salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups walnuts
2 cups chocolate chips

Prepare the brownies according to package directions (except substituting melted butter for the oil) and stick them in the oven to bake according to the package directions. As soon as they're in, start the caramel topping.

Melt the butter in a heavy 3 quart saucepan. Stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Blend in sweetened condensed milk, continue stirring, and heat to 245 degrees (approximately 10 minutes). I heated mine to 250 degrees to no ill result. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let caramel cool while brownies finish baking.

Pour the caramel over the brownies when they come out of the oven. Scatter the walnuts & chocolate chips over the top and let cool completely before attempting to cut into bars.
Veronica's Notes
*I don't know if naked brownies freeze well, but I've never had a problem with frosted brownies. They retain their moisture and texture perfectly and are never any worse for wear after defrosting. They are a perfect make-ahead treat in any instance when you need to make-ahead or just want to make something to keep on hand in case of emergency.

**If you are measuring the crystals before turning them to powder (with a coffee grinder, morter & pestle or just crushing them with a rolling pin), measure a tablespoon.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eat Your Mistakes...or feed them to your mother-in-law

Today I tried to make a white chocolate buttercream based on my own recipe for chocolate buttercream which is just equal amounts of chocolate and butter and nothing else. I have no idea whether this would actually work, because I made so many mistakes in making this simple buttercream (one I've made a hundred times with regular chocolate) that to actually describe them would be tedious. Let's just suffice it to say that I tried to fix it by microwaving the mixture after blending it and when the white chocolate and butter separated and refused to go back together, I tried to fix it again by adding powdered sugar. I ended up with a thick sort of dough that obviously would not work for my purposes.Feeling the velvety texture with my spatula as I mixed it, I thought the soft dough might make a nice truffle center. So I tasted it. That settled the matter. What was once the beginnings of a white chocolate buttercream had suddenly transformed into the beginnings of white chocolate truffles.I rolled the dough into small balls and froze them to harden them up for easier handling.

I went the easy route and dipped them in almond bark. (Dark chocolate would contrast nicely with the sweet center, but I didn't want to go out and buy it.) Then I melted some white almond bark in a disposable pastry bag* and drizzled it over the top of the truffles to pretty them up.

While I was zigging and zagging, I thought, "Hmmmm....these would make great gifts!" And I haven't bought anything for mother's day yet. So I boxed them up and now they're in the fridge, ready to give to my Mom and mother-in-law on Sunday. They don't have to know that their gifts started out as a disaster!

Black & White Truffles

1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
dark & white chocolate for dipping & decorating

Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Beat in the powdered sugar. Roll the dough into balls and freeze until hard, about 10 minutes. Dip in dark chocolate (you can mix a little shortening, butter or parafin with it to make it shiny) and then decorate with white chocolate.

*You can buy disposable plastic pastry bags at Walmart on the cake decorating aisle. I get a pack of 50 and I think it's less than $10. They're awesome b/c you can stick chocolate in the bag, microwave it, then snip the end and squirt the chocolate out to decorate with. You can also use them for drizzling anything, like frosting or glaze.