Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

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Last week I re-entered surgical residency full time after a 2 year “research break”.  It was an abrupt transition going from ~40 hours a week, mostly at a desk, to over 80 hours at the hospital last week running around and operating.  By the end of the week I was exhausted!!!  But luckily I had the whole 4th of July weekend off to relax so I decided to recharge with a little baking and food photography.

Several weeks ago I took a one day food photography workshop with my food blog idol, Betty Liu, and Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm.  The workshop was amazing and I learned so many new tips and techniques for food styling-who knew crumbs were such a great styling prop?  Here are a few of my favorites from the workshop:

I was eager to test out my new food styling skills on my own so after a quick trip to Home Goods for some new props, I got down to work this weekend.  And what else to make for the 4th of July than pie???  Correction…mini pies??? (I think I have previously confessed my love for all foods that are miniature.)  I decided to go with blueberry pie and mixed it up a touch by adding cardamom and cinnamon…and then I got super patriotic by cutting out stars and stripes to decorate the pies.  The results were adorable and delicious!  Hope you all had a great 4th of July.  Feel free to comment below and tell me what you made!

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Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Cardamom Blueberry filling:

3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
2 1/2 tablespoon water (divided)
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch

1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling

For the crust: Mix flour, sugar,  and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

For the filling: Add blueberries, sugar, lemon, 1 Tbs water, cardamom pods (make sure to count how many you add so you know how many to retrieve later!), and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan. Alternatively, you can place cardamom and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth for easier retrieval. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture breaks down and starts to liquefy, about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove and discard all 10 cardamom pods and cinnamon stick- you may want to use a utensil so you don’t burn yourself!.  Mix corn starch and remaining 1.5 Tbs water together and then add to the blueberry mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely (may be done in the refrigerator).

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Assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one ball of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface. Use a 2.5-3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles for the pie. You should have about 10 circles depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Place these, evenly spaced, on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spoon some of the blueberry mixture into the center of the circle. Be careful not to place too much blueberry filling or the pies will overflow when the top is placed.

Brush the beaten egg around the edges. Roll out the second ball of dough and cut out the same number of pie circles. Cut a hole (or other shape!) in the middle and then make several slits in the pie circle to vent the pie while cooking. Place this circle of dough over the blueberry filling and use a fork to crimp the pie edges together. Brush the tops with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking racks. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Last weekend I spent the weekend visiting my friend in Philly and eating lots of delicious food (and shopping…).  Philly has an amazing food and cocktail scene and I probably arrived home about 5 pounds heavier!  While everything was delicious, my favorite meal was at Vernick Food and Drink near Rittenhouse Square.  The meal started with the perfect amuse-bouche: a tiny cup of the most delicious sweet potato soup I have ever tasted.  I would have been satisfied just eating an entire bowl of it for my dinner!  But then I never would have tried the toast with fromage blanc, the striped jack and avocado crudo, the parmesan custard, the black-pepper glazed octopus, the tagliatelle with duck ragout and last but not least, the amazing chocolate pumpkin pie dessert!

Their chocolate pumpkin pie was a rich, creamy dark chocolate pie with strong pumpkin spice flavors.  Served warm as a small  individual pie (enough for 2 or 3…or 1 🙂 ) it was the perfect end to an outstanding meal.  As soon as I had my first bite of the pie, I knew I had to try to recreate it at home.

I had recently seen a recipe in the November issue of Bon Appetit for a Pumpkin Caramel Tart and decided to modify it to try to recreate the Vernick Chocolate Pumpkin Pie.  Instead of making the caramel as the recipe calls for, I made a dark chocolate ganache and substituted this for the caramel in the recipe.  I altered the spices and then poured the filling into a simple butter pie crust, laced with more spices.

The final product was pretty good but definitely paled in comparison to the Vernick version.  The chocolate overpowered the pumpkin quite a bit so I’m planning on increasing the amount of spices I use in my next test run (or maybe adding ground cloves or all-spice).  I was also unhappy with the crust and plan to substitute for a graham cracker or gingersnap crust next time.  Any volunteers to taste test?

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Crust (makes 2 9 inch pie crusts, adapted from Bon Appetit):
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Filling (adapted from Bon Appetit Pumpkin Caramel Tart):
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate, no greater than 70%- I like using Ghiraddelli dark chocolate chips)
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs

whipped cream for serving

For the crust: Mix flour, sugar, salt, and spices in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Roll crust out on a floured surface into a 12-14 inch circle.  Fit into a 9 inch pie pan and crimp the edges.  Line crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove parchment paper and pie weights and bake for 5 more minutes until set.  Allow to cool.

For the filling:  Scald the cream over medium heat in a small saucepan until bubbles just start to form.  Pour over the dark chocolate in a medium heat resistant bowl.  Allow to stand for about a minute and then whisk chocolate and cream together until smooth to make a ganache.

Mix pumpkin puree, brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, spices and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly mix in the chocolate ganache.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely in between each addition until smooth.

Pour filling into prepared pie shell.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until edges are set and center barely jiggles.  Cool on a wire rack.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Top with whipped cream if desired.

Store in refrigerator.

Summer Berry Pie

Happy belated 4th of July!  This 4th of July I was unfortunately had the pleasure of working a 24 hour shift in the emergency room.   Generally, alcohol plus hot weather plus holidays equals lots of trauma (aka drunk people doing stupid things like driving, riding motorcylces, getting into fights or attempting to jump over bonfires) so I was prepared for the worst.  Luckily the shift was relatively uneventful.  So uneventful that I actually had time to sit down and eat dinner (a huge luxury).  My colleagues and I tried to find a BBQ restaurant that would deliver to us on 4th of July but were unsuccessful…so we settled for Mexican food…and pie!  Nothing says “America” like a burrito and a side of berry pie!  This pie uses an all butter crust and is filled with sweet strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.  Topped with sweet corn ice cream (stay tuned for my upcoming post), it’s the perfect summer (or 4th of July) dessert!

Summer Berry Pie

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.
 
Filling
 
5 cups of berries
3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs flour
juice from 1/2 lemon
 

Assembly

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out  a disk of dough on a well floured surface into an 11 inch diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Place dough into a 9 inch pie dish. 

Fill pie with berry filling.  Roll out second disk of dough and place on top of filling.  Crimp the edges together.  Brush top with egg wash and make several slits in the top to let the steam out while it bakes. 

Tip:  To prevent the edges from burning, I like to cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil.  Fold a large square of aluminum foil (to cover the entire pie) in fours.  Cut the center out so that when you unfold it, the foil will cover just the edges and allow the rest of the crust to brown.  (see pictures below)

Bake pie for 40-60 minutes until crust is brown and filling is bubbling.  Let cool for 1 hour before serving.  Enjoy!

Crack Pie

Crack pie? Yes! Crack pie! With a name like that, how can it not be good?  And don’t worry…there isn’t actually any crack or illegal drugs involved in its creation…

For my second foray into the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, I decided to try their signature pie.  I had to see what all the fuss was about!  This pie was created by Christina Tosi, last minute, on a whim as she was trying to make dessert for “Staff Meal” at WD50.  What she thought was sure to be a flop, was ravished by all her fellow chefs that night and became an instant favorite.  (This is in stark contrast to our “9 o’clock meal” that we are served at the hospital- free hospital cafeteria leftovers that always seem to include instant mashed potatoes and some sort of mystery meat.)

One of the great things about this pie is that most of its components can be made ahead of time (which is great for busy surgery residents!).  The other great thing about this recipe: it makes 2 pies!  Because what is better than 1 crack pie? 2 crack pies obviously!  This pie does require some “specialty” items such as corn powder (ground freeze dried corn) and milk powder (sold in regular grocery stores- look for it in the baby formula isle), but they are worth it.

I will confess that I was a little worried about my pie during the baking process.  Actually, I was a lot worried!  The directions say to bake for 5 minutes after lowering the oven temperature to 325 and if still too “jiggly”, to bake for an additional 5 minutes.  After these additional 5 minutes…and another 5 minutes…and another 3 minutes I felt my pie was still too “jiggly” but was getting quite brown on top so I took it out of the oven.  It actually firmed up quite nicely once it started to cool which then caused me to worry that I had left it in too long and overbaked it, the cardinal sin of baking!  So I crossed my fingers as I brought it in to work the next day for a colleague’s birthday.  But fear not!  The pie had the perfect combination of a rich, gooey, salty-sweet butterscotch-like filling paired with a crunchy, oat cookie crust…and, man, was it addicting!  I snuck up to the surgical floor in between all of my cases to steal a piece.  By the end of the day, the pie was long gone and my belly was a little too full on cracktastic, sugary goodness.  Luckily, I have another pie waiting for me in the freezer :).

Click below for the recipe.

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